Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

By / July 22, 2014 / Elbowoods, ND

Officially, this church is now known as Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church. It once served Elbowoods, North Dakota, a town now-submerged under Lake Sakakawea, as part of the Fort Berthold Indian Mission which dates back to the 1870s.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

The church was organized in 1899 and this building built in 1926.  It was relocated in 1953 to a spot on high ground, nearly eight miles north-northeast of Elbowoods, to escape the rising waters of Lake Sakakawea.  It is just off ND 1804, about fourteen miles west of Roseglen, and it is one of a number of structures which were relocated from Elbowoods.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

The state historical society has a photo of five young girls standing on the steps of this church in the twenties to forties era here.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Charles Hall, an Englishman with a thirst for spreading the gospel set out for so-called Indian country in 1874. He married his first wife Emma Calhoun, who died a few years later, then remarried Susan Webb, the namesake of this church. The late Reverend Harold Case wrote a book called “100 years at Fort Berthold” in 1977 which tells the story of Elbowoods. Charles Hall died in 1940.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Just inside the front door of this church is a very tight passageway with a ladder leading up into the bell tower.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Terry decided to go up and get a look. He wore a camera while making this climb, so we’ll have video coming soon.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Looking out on the cemetery from the bell tower.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

It’s an understandably sensitive subject when you’re talking about people’s remains, but the appearance of this cemetery suggests some of the deceased who died prior to 1953 were originally interred elsewhere, then relocated to this place, presumably to escape the coming flood. I haven’t spent enough time at the library to know the full-story, so please leave a comment below if you know more.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

This monument dedicated to the Hall family stands in the center of the cemetery.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

It reads: Emma Calhoun Hall. Born 1850 — Died 1881. She was the first to give her life as a missionary for Christ among the Mandan, Gros Ventre and Arichara Indians.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

The marker simply reads “Bell Porcupine”

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

This marker was so weathered, I could only make out the word “died” on the headstone.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

It reads: Austin White Duck. Born Mar. 1st, 1903. Died December 24th, 1909.

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

About Author

Troy Larson

Troy Larson is a father, husband, author, photographer, publisher and devoted cat person. Troy is the President of Sonic Tremor Media and co-founder of GhostsofNorthDakota.com



Charles Hall, whose monument you show, a Congregational missionary, active in the YMCA, moved out here to work with Native American youth — thus we have Charles Hall Youth Services. He was largely responsible for getting a bridge to be built in 1922 across the Missouri River at Elbowoods which was called the Four Bears Bridge and was later moved to be near that new town the Army Corps of Engineers laid out when it flooded the valley. That new town never changed its name and is still New Town.

John Xavier

Thank you for posting this gallery. I hope someone has a record of these deceased so their memories of lives on this earth are not forgotten. Again, thank you, from a former Mountrail County resident..

Tim Johnson

So lovely to see the photography. Because I grew up in McLean County, these pictures give me a real sense of place. The photos of the cemetery remind me of the old South Saint Olaf Church site and cemetery south of our family farm. As always, thanks.


Great photos. Really captures the vastness and lonliness of the plains. Imagine being out there in 1880, homesteading perhaps, the middle of winter with the wind howling across the pairie…

Rev.Richard. Miller-Todd

I am a Congregational minister in Iowa so it is wonderful to see some of the church buildings and hear of the history concerning the Elbowoods Church. Thanks for the pictures and mention of the book telling the history of the area. Your objective is noble!

Nellie Mahto

I for one, am not the least bit offended about this. My mother told me about this church and the Christmas’s that were celebrated in it. The Sundays they went to town to go to church. Yes it was upsetting and the effects that scarred my mother from the flood was devastating to her. She would always say, I can’t go home. But history is important and thank you for documenting this.

Rod Cymbaluk

I read a book years ago, Cadillac Desert, it’s about the building of the dams in the US. It is a great read! For anyone affected, you will remember it forever!


I think you guys are wonderful and love what you do..remembering the past for the future is the reason to do what you do


Thank you for tours of forgotten & unknown history in North Dakota. I love the history of both North Dakota & Montana.

Jon K

Thank you for your wonderful work. Even tho I’m not a North Dakotan (I came from eastern Mont, west of Sidney)
I still appreciate your great work. I hope someone is doing that for Montana.
Now I have a question: Sometime ago (2-3 years) while listening to ND Public Radio, we heard of a book someone wrote about about people being moved. One of the stories in the book was about a lady who went to town after being cooped up on a ranch all winter. She stayed a bit longer than she intended, as she met some friends she hadn’t seen all winter. When she arrived home, in the dark, fairly late, she could not find her home, barns or family. The story goes that while she was in town all day, the government (or some body) came and moved all of their buildings and such to place where they would be safe from the rising Dam waters.
Does anyone out there know about this book? The title, author, whatever. I would like to get a copy of that book if possible.
Thanks for any help in advance
Jon K

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