As we wrap up our Hidden History series, we found ourselves at the Burleigh-Emmons County line heading to church – -and not just any church but a historic church.
Its congregation is small but is still active.
Founded in 1885, the church is commonly referred to as Glencoe Sloan, but its full title is the Glencoe Sloan Memorial Presbyterian Church. It was eventually named for Reverend Issac Oliver Sloan.
Once upon a time, Glencoe was a town in North Dakota named by members of several families who emigrated from the town of the same name in Scotland. Karen Macdonald, who’s been a church member since the 1970s, said though the town no longer exists, the church does and with it an impressive distinction.
“It is the oldest church in North Dakota still holding services, that’s very important, in the original building,” Karen Macdonald said.
The church is located in Burleigh County. The nearby Glencoe Cemetery is in Emmons County. However, the two entities were never meant to be associated with one another.
“The individual who donated the land for the cemetery did not want the church. He wanted it to be a community cemetery we assume. So, he wanted to govern them separately,” Macdonald said.
In the church’s history, you’ll find a long list of ministers and former members. But all its history isn’t just on paper; you can see it for yourself.
If you visit Glencoe Sloan, you’ll be able to see Reverend Sloan’s pulpit, made from the packing boxes in which the pews were shipped. You’ll also be able to see the Bible, given to Reverend Sloan, still in use.
Not in use though are all the pews. There are 24 congregants registered, with about 11 to 15 coming every Sunday. You also won’t see a permanent pastor. Right now, the church relies on lay ministers.
“The farms have gotten bigger, the farmers have gotten older. Their children have moved away. We’re place-bound. We don’t have a community that we can draw new members,” Macdonald said.
Despite being a small church in size and number, Macdonald and her fellow worshippers said what has kept the doors open for so long is all of the financial resources, prayers, and love of neighbor.
“Well, it’s family,” Richard Irvine, Glencoe Sloan Memorial Presbyterian Church Elder, said. “I’ve known everybody here all my life, except Alan. He’s newer.”
“When you leave California and you come to a place like this, it’s like Heaven,” Alan Wilson, Glencoe Sloan Memorial Presbyterian Church Treasurer & Elder, said. “So, after a little bit of time, we bought our own spread down the road here when I retired. We live here full-time now and I’ll never go back. This is home for me.”
“I decided I wanted to go to a Presbyterian Church and Glencoe was here and we started coming,” Nancy Laschkewitsch, Glencoe Sloan Memorial Presbyterian Church Member, said. All three of our kids went to Sunday school and were confirmed here and I just keep coming.”
“This is where my family is, my children, my grandchildren, my friends. It’s home,” Macdonald said.
Though the church is named after Reverend Sloan, it was initially named in honor of Reverend Albert Barnes, who Sloan looked up to. Barnes was the director of the Union Theological Seminary in New York for 30 years.