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Category: Elbowoods, ND

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.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

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.

Susan Webb Hall 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.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

This church was featured in our book, Churches of the High Plains.

Susan Webb Hall 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.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Looking out on the cemetery from the bell tower.

Susan Webb Hall 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.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

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

Susan Webb Hall 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.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

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.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

The marker simply reads “Bell Porcupine”

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

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

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

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

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Wells Homestead, Rural Elbowoods

Wells Homestead, Rural Elbowoods

During our trip in July of 2014 we had the opportunity to visit several places that once stood in Elbowoods, North Dakota, a town erased from the map when the Garrison Dam flooded the Missouri River Valley. Not far from the Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church, this homestead, settled by the Wells family, sits vacant. Diane P. commented about this place on our Facebook page and filled in many of the details.

The homestead was settled by “the late Ralph Jr. & Olive Wells […] The late Ralph Wells Sr. also lived there until he passed away. Ralph and Olive were my Uncle and Aunt. Ralph Wells Jr. served as our Tribal Chairman for the Three Affiliated Tribes in the early seventies and died in office.”

The Wells grandchildren have fond memories of this place. One of them, Swadeau H. also commented on our Facebook page about living in this house.  She said:

This house pictured was our old family home. Things were never the same after it was relocated due to the dam. It’s amazing that it was a really good sized house but had no electricity or running water.

Today, this homestead sits empty, very far off the beaten path. We’re not sharing the exact location of this one for privacy reasons.

well-homestead

We had actually never heard of this place and we weren’t aware of its existence until I discovered it by accident as I was looking for abandoned places near Lake Sakakawea in Google Earth.

Wells homestead, rural Elbowoods

It’s an unmarked, unmaintained field road that takes you out to this site, and even then we couldn’t drive right up to it. We got out and hiked the final quarter mile through thigh-deep prairie grass.

Wells homestead, rural Elbowoods

You can do a lot more reading about Lake Sakakawea and another town lost to the Garrison Dam project by checking out our posts on Sanish and the Four Bears Bridge.

Wells homestead, rural Elbowoods

The setting where this old homestead resides is idyllic. If I was going to live on the prairie, this is exactly the kind of pastoral, green landscape I would seek out.

Wells homestead, rural Elbowoods

Do you have our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains?

Wells homestead, rural Elbowoods

Wells homestead, rural Elbowoods

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