Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

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

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

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

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

Comments
9 Responses to “Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church”
  1. Mike says:

    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.

  2. John Xavier says:

    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..

  3. Tim Johnson says:

    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.

  4. Richard says:

    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…

  5. Rev.Richard. Miller-Todd says:

    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!

  6. Shaunalea says:

    It’s awesome that you took interest in my family and heritage. I wish you had done research at Parshall or Newtown ND about the flooding of Elbowoods and the reservation. There is a museum in Newtown over by four bear casino you could of check out. The Fargo forum did an article a few yrs back about the flooding. When the lake is low u can still see the top of the houses showing threw. From what I understand It was very sad and tragic time when the govt took the best farm land back and then flooded everything. The people had no choice but to leave with the assistance of the govt and only days to move bf they flooded. So they moved what they could from homes and relocated some of the cemetery but not much. I do know it broke everyone’s heart when they watched their homes and loved ones being covered by water. Mine still breaks when I think about it. They separated families from the homes they knew and built and from their buried their loved ones. Then had to rebuild again. I am a bit upset about you being in my private family cemetery and taking pictures.

    • Troy Larson says:

      Shauna Lea, I’m sorry we upset you. I’d like to mention a few things. First, the cemetery is not private. So we have as much right to be there as anyone. It’s a public place. Second, there are no houses still standing underneath the lake. That’s a common misconception among people who’ve heard stories about the flooding of Lake Sakakawea, but weren’t actually there for it. All of the buildings in Elbowoods, Sanish, and others were torn down or moved. They were not left standing under the water. Third, the residents of these places had MONTHS (in many cases a YEAR) to move, not days. I’m not defending anything that was done, just correcting the inaccurate information you’re throwing out here.

      At any rate, I suspect these aren’t really the things you’re upset about anyway. We’ve seen dozens of people just like you, who are just mad that we had the nerve to visit and talk about your favorite place. That’s your issue unfortunately, not ours. We’d like it if you became a fan of the site, but we understand if you’re offended by what we do and decide not to come back.

      We won’t be removing anything or changing anything we’ve said. If you think someone wants to take legal action, I’ll be happy to put them in touch with my company attorney. Have a nice day.

      • Nellie Mahto says:

        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.

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