Losing a church building – even one that hasn’t been in use for decades – can be hard for its former members to take.
Jim Olson went to Parshall today to talk with two people who remember the Elbowoods Church and what it meant to the people of the Three Affiliated Tribes.
(Jim Olson, KX News) “It’s a church with a long history that’s not always been sitting here. The Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church burned to the ground, ending that long history, on Monday.”
(Ed Hall, Former Church Member) “There’s a lot of history.”
Ed Hall grew up going to Elbowoods Congregational Church – back when it and the community of Elbowoods existed in the beautiful valley of west-central North Dakota.
(Ed Hall, Former Church Member) “It’s hard to explain the impact of that Garrison Dam.”
For Hall, the impact was far-reaching. The dam flooded his tribe’s land and forced everyone and everything to move out.
(Ed Hall, Former Church Member) “Everybody scattered. Everybody got moved. And the churches and cemeteries went here, but the membership went all different directions.”
The church building, erected in 1926, ended up here – just south of what’s now Deepwater Bay on Lake Sakakawea. The cemetery associated with the church also was moved. Including the gravesite of Charles Hall – no relation to Ed – but the founder of the church.
(Marilyn Hudson, Tribal Historian) “I grew up probably about a mile away from this church.”
Marilyn Hudson is a tribal historian who lived near the church when it was in the valley. Although she didn’t attend – she was Catholic – she always admired the building.
(Marilyn Hudson, Tribal Historian) “It wasn’t just a place of worship. It was a place for community activity.”
Hudson says she was shocked at the news that the building – even though it had been vacant for many years – had burned down. She’s hoping the cornerstone – still in place in the ruble – can be saved.
(Marilyn Hudson, Tribal Historian) “If it could be salvaged and kept, that would be a good part of the church.”
(Ed Hall, Former Church Member) “We had plans to restore that church…”
Ed Hall was working on a plan to bring the building back to life with a project scheduled for August. But the fire has ended that dream. He says, considering all the tribes’ people have endured in the past 70 years…
(Ed Hall, Former Church Member) “It’s just another event…”
(Jim Olson, KX News) “And so this storied church building that survived a flood and being moved now sits in ashes. Jim Olson, KX News.”
Ed Hall has a major project underway concerning all of the cemeteries on the Fort Berthold Reservation – he’s creating a computerized system to help descendants trace their family history and find the exact location of loved ones whose grave sites were moved when Lake Sakakawea was created.