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.
Update: This church was reportedly burned by an arsonist in 2019.
The church was organized in 1899 and this building was erected in Elbowoods 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 behind the newly constructed Garrison Dam. 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.
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.
This church was featured in our book, Churches of the High Plains.
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.
Looking out on the cemetery from the bell tower.
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.
This monument dedicated to the Hall family stands in the center of the cemetery.
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.
We visited this place to pay our respects to those who came before us, and to shine a spotlight on a place that had a prominent part in the settlement of our state, but is forgotten or altogether unknown by most. Unfortunately, our visit was seen by a few as an unwelcome intrusion by outsiders, and we’re told a fence has been erected around this church in the time since, and visitors are not welcome.
The marker simply reads “Bell Porcupine”
This marker was so weathered, I could only make out the word “died,” and the “Porcupine” name on the headstone.
This marker reads: Austin White Duck. Born Mar. 1st, 1903. Died December 24th, 1909.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy