The cornerstone for this church along County Road 5 reads “Bethel Hauges Norsk E.V. Luth. Kirke, 1915”. Put more plainly, that’s Bethel Hauges Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church. The building is located in northern Wells County, about 10 miles east of Harvey, and although the cemetery is still active, the building stands abandoned and boarded-up. In the place where the Lord’s word could once be heard on Sunday mornings by 80 or 100 parishioners at a time, Bethel Lutheran awaits just one more potluck.
Although there were open windows into the basement, it was clear someone wanted visitors to stay out, so unfortunately, we did not get to see the inside.
To paraphrase a comment from someone on our Facebook page, you can almost imagine kids playing outside on a sunny summer day, with the organist playing near an open window, and the scent of ham and potatoes drifting on the breeze.
This church is right in the middle of what could be described as a hotspot for abandoned places. Other places we’ve photographed — Manfred, Hamberg, and Bremen, for example — are all within a short drive. Mostly, they’re remnants of North Dakota’s vanishing railroad transportation culture, from a time when there had to be a town every eight miles along the tracks so the steam locomotives could refill their water tanks. As the automobile came into use, small towns started to wither, and places like this fell into disuse.