Fargo Churches: Then and Now

This slideshow features historic photographs of several of the churches of Fargo, accompanied by recent photographs, which allow for side-by-side comparison. The recent photographs were taken by Scott Becklund in 2012. Mr. Becklund attempted to recreate the original location and angle of the archival photographs. Most of the churches retain some of their original character, while some have been demolished.[divider scroll]

1. Elim Lutheran Church- 321 9th Street North. (Left) Photo taken from Clara Byers’ Scrapbook, 1937, courtesy of NDSU Archives. (Right) Elim Lutheran Church, 2012. Taken by Scott Becklund.

2. First Congregational Church- 224 8th Street South.  (Left) Photo taken from Clara Byers’ Scrapbook, 1937, courtesy of NDSU Archives. (Right) Site of former First Congregational Church, 2012. Taken by Scott Becklund. None of the original structure remains. It was demolished in 1979.

3. First Presbyterian Church-  650 2nd Avenue North.  (Left) Photo taken from Clara Byers’ Scrapbook, 1937, courtesy of NDSU Archives. (Right) First Presbyterian Church, 2012. Taken by Scott Becklund.

4. Gethsemane Episcopal Church-  204 9th Street South.  (Left) Photo taken from Clara Byers’ Scrapbook, 1937, courtesy of NDSU Archives. (Right) Site of former Gethsemane Episcopal Church, 2012. Taken by Scott Becklund. The cathedral burned beyond repair in 1989.

5. Grace Lutheran Church- 821 5th Avenue South. (Left) Photo taken from Clara Byers’ Scrapbook, 1937, courtesy of NDSU Archives. (Right) Grace Lutheran Church, 2012. Taken by Scott Becklund.

6. Methodist Episcopal Church- 906 1st Avenue South. (Left) Photo taken from Clara Byers’ Scrapbook, 1937, courtesy of NDSU Archives. (Right) First United Methodist Church, 2012. Taken by Scott Becklund.

7. Plymouth Congregational Church- 901 Broadway North.  (Left) Photo Mss 48.1.25, courtesy of NDSU Archives. Taken c. 1920. (Right) Plymouth Congregational Church, 2012. Taken by Scott Becklund.

8. Pontoppidan Lutheran Church- 309 4th Street North. (Left) Photo taken from Clara Byers’ Scrapbook, 1937, courtesy of NDSU Archives. (Right) Pontoppidan Luthean Church, 2012. Taken by Scott Becklund.

9. St. Mark’s English Lutheran Church- 400 Roberts Street. (Left) Photo taken from NDSU Libraries (http://library.ndsu.edu/fargo-history/churches/st-marks-eng-luth.htm). (Right) Site of former St. Mark’s Church. Building was demolished, c. 2000. Photograph by Scott Becklund, 2012.

10. St. Mary’s Catholic Church-  619 7th Street North. (Left) Photo 2023.M-4, courtesy of NDSU Archives. Taken c. 1935. (Right) St. Mary’s Cathedral, 2012. Taken by Scott Becklund.

11. Swedish Baptist Church- 300 4th Street North. (Left) Photo taken from NDSU Libraries (http://library.ndsu.edu/fargo-history/churches/swede-bap.htm). (Right) Site of former Swedish Baptist Church. Photograph by Scott Becklund, 2012.

12. Unitarian Universalist Church- 121 9th Street South.  (Left) Photo 2003.2.3, courtesy of NDSU Archives. Taken c. 1935. (Right) Unitarian Universalist Church, 2012. Taken by Scott Becklund.

-Zach Jendro, Digital History 2012

 

The First Lutheran Church

The First Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church

The building was first built as the First Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church, cornerstone being having been built in May 26, 1895. It was designed by the Hancock brothers, George nd Walter, and served as a church until about 1919, when it was removed and replaced by a funeral home [Courtesy of the North Dakota State University Archives].

Like other religious groups, Lutherans populated the landscape in large numbers, which brought about the need for a communal place of worship.  Members established a church in which they aptly named First Lutheran Church, located in the area of 400 Roberts Street.  The church was built with an open porch and there were several wooden homes built next to this church.

As with most of the other early religious structures, the main and most noticeable consistency was the very large and high steeple; it is as if the churches were made to be seen stretching into the heavens.

This church is different from others in that that it was built with an outer decor consisting of wood frame.  This picture also shows that the surrounding residences were made of both wood and brick, thereby indicating that the skills and trades of many populations were getting supplies from both river and rail.

Most likely, the wood came from mills in Minnesota.  Judging by the original land plot and other historical records,  R.L. Frazee in Frazee, Minnesota, was dedicated to producing lumber and turned out building supplies  that was eventually loaded to rail for the west.  Some of the wood later would be committed to the United States Government to build the First Pony Express as the rails pushed West.

In summary, the first people to form the new community of Fargo were rich in both tradition and a history that they brought from many points of origin all over the world.  With immigration to Fargo also came the traditional beliefs that resonate within each culture and also made a permanent mark on the surrounding community.  Rich with tradition and deep in history, the community of Fargo grew into a stable and robust community greatly influenced by the cultural diversity of immigration and migration.

With diversity came the freedom of religion. The early settlers held the ideals of western movement and ultimately established a similar base of faith and beliefs that  grew quickly and expanded the country from coast to coast; faith and religion were very important in each and every landscape that marked progression from the Fargo area to the Puget Sound.

As testaments to the faiths that motivated early settlers, their beliefs never faltered and many of the early churches still carry on the traditions of their interpretation of religious and today’s skyline still holds their steeples in our prayers and in the community’s sites.

Rusty Ouart, Digital History 2012

The First Methodist Church, 1874

The First Methodist Church, 1909

The First Methodist Church, pictured here in 1909, was preceded by the congregation’s original building constructed in 1874 [Courtesy of the State Historical Society of North Dakota]

First, this picture of the First Methodist Church indicates that it was built in a dense growth of older trees.  This would indicate that it was taken close to water and not deep into the prairie.  Therefore, there was no retreat for the early settlers of Fargo if faced with outside threats.

Next, the windows are exposed and remarkably made of stained glass.  Not only were the new settlers resilient, but they showed that they had less common resources like stained glass.

This picture also indicates that many church builders chose structures with wood frames and concrete footings and were not primitive; they even used mortar and expensive brick. For example, the First Methodist Church (pictured above) located on Broadway represents a religious building with a steeple and the entrance is on the right front side of the exterior.

Also, the attention to detail at this time in history shows how fast the growth escalated and progressed.  According to the photograph, communication lines are running, thereby demonstrating a significant measure of growth within a relatively short period of time.

Knowing that from 1871 to the date of this 1909 picture, the  38 years from rail and working treaties, it is obvious that the progress of making the small prairie tent city to one that now holds such infrastructure such as concrete and brick facades and a diversity of churches is quite a remarkable feat.  The city of Fargo by 1909 was full of bustling populations and advanced architecture of brick churches highlighted congregations’ dedication to their individual heritage and the diverse backgrounds in the growing city.First United Methodist scott_01

Rusty Ouart, Digital History 2012

Gethsemane Cathedral

Gethsemane Cathedral photo

When Episcopal Bishop William D. Walker was appointed, he chose Fargo as his See City and Gethsemane Church became Gethsemane Cathedral.  In 1893, the church was located on the southeastern corner of Second Avenue and Ninth Street South and had 175 members. The Rev. F.B. Nash Jr. was the rector.  The building was the only wooden Episcopal cathedral in the United States.[1]Gethsemane

 Heather Brinkman, Digital History 2012


[1] Caron, John. “Fargo, N.D., History Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU.” Fargo, N.D., History  Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU. North Dakota State University, 2004. Web. 30 Oct. 2012

 

The Unitarian Church

Unitarian church photo

The Unitarian Church was organized in February of 1890.

It was located on the corner of Ninth Street South and Second Avenue.

This photo was taken in 1899 and Richmond Fisk, D.D. was the minster at the time.[1]Unitarian Church

Heather Brinkman, Digital History 2012


[1] Caron, John. “Fargo, N.D., History Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU.” Fargo, N.D., History  Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU. North Dakota State University, 2004. Web. 30 Oct. 2012 <http://library.ndsu.edu/fargo-history/churches/unitarian.htm>

 

St. Mark’s English Lutheran Church

Rev. Ulery photo
St. Mark's English Lutheran ChurchRev. W.F. Ulery came to Fargo in 1885 to start a Lutheran church whose services were done in English as all of the services offered in the area where in the people’s native tongues.  He persuaded the Southern Railway Depot to allow him to use their building to teach Sunday School.  During his two years of teaching Sunday school he raised the $2,000 needed to build a church proper on a three lots on the corner of 8th street and 4th Ave north.  The construction on the church started on July 25, 1886 and the first service was held on May 18, 1887.  There were 10 members of the congregation at that time.[1]St marks English Lutheran_01

Heather Brinkman, Digital History 2012


[1] Caron, John. “Fargo, N.D., History Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU.” Fargo, N.D., History  Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU. North Dakota State University, 2004. Web. 30 Oct. 2012 <http://library.ndsu.edu/fargo-history/churches/st-marks-eng-luth.htm>

 

Pontoppidan Lutheran Church

Pontoppidan Church

On December 14, 1877 25 charter members met in the home of G. Johnson to organize this church and came up with the name Pontoppidan Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation.  The name was changed in 1878 to the First Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fargo and changed again only a month later to Pontoppidan Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  The foundation of the church was laid in August 1878 at 415 3rd Street North and was completed in the fall of 1879.  It was lost in the fire of 1893.[1]Pontoppidan

Heather Brinkman, Digital History 2012

[1] Caron, John. “Fargo, N.D., History Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU.” Fargo, N.D., History  Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU. North Dakota State University, 2004. Web. 30 Oct. 2012 <http://library.ndsu.edu/fargo-history/churches/pontoppidan.htm<

 

Plymouth Congregational Church

Plymouth Congregational Church photo

 On April 25, 1885 the Plymouth Congregational Church was organized by Revered William Ewing.  The congregation had 10-12 original members, but by 1893 it had grown to 50 members with Reverend A.H. Tebbets as its pastor.  Reverend O.C. Clark built the first church on Ninth Ave North near Tenth Street, but the building was moved to the west side of Broadway between 8th ave and 9th ave in 1884. That building was blown down on July 7, 1980 by a gale.  The church was rebuilt again at a cost of $3000 and was dedicated on December 21, 1890.  [1]Plymouth Congregational_01

Heather Brinkman, Digital History 2012

[1] Caron, John. “Fargo, N.D., History Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU.” Fargo, N.D., History  Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU. North Dakota State University, 2004. Web. 30 Oct. 2012 < http://library.ndsu.edu/fargo-history/churches/plymouth-cong.htm>

First Norwegian Lutheran Church

Norwegian Lutheran Church photo

A group of Norwegian immigrants settled in the Fargo-Moorhead area in 1871.  Many of them were living in tents located in the river town district.  The first service for this group was held on October 4, 1872 by Rev. Niels T. Ylvisaker in a Moorhead home.  The congregation named itself Moorhead Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation at that time and built their first church in 1874.  They were forced to sell the building because of the financial hardship it caused and rent meeting facilities in Fargo.  They changed their name another three times before landing on the current name.  The congregation was finally able to build another church in 1895 on the corner of Roberts Street and Fourth Avenue North for $14,000.  At this time their membership had grown from 31 to 283 people.[1]First LutheranChurch

Heather Brinkman, Digital History 2012


[1] First Lutheran Church. “History” 2009. web. Oct. 30, 2012  <http://www.flcfargo.org/aboutus/history>

The Swedish Baptist Church

Swedish Baptist church photoThe First Scandinavian Church was founded in 1883.  It held its services in Norwegian.  The Swedish population left the church because of the language used for services and formed their own church on August 1, 1891: the Swedish Baptist Church.   The members of the Swedish church were A.J. Solestrom and his wife, Nels Johnson and his wife, Mrs. Anderson and her two children, Charles Wiklund and his wife, Lars Loren, Annie Nelson, and C.A. Hedlund.  Before a church could be built, the members met in a building that had once been a saloon. Unfortunately, before the first church could be used it was destroyed by the fire of 1893.  By that time, they had 60 members and the pastor was ON Lind.  They rebuilt the church for a cost of $5000 and it was located on the northwest corner of Third Avenue and Fourth Street North.[1]SwedishBaptistChurch_01

Heather Brinkman, Digital History 2012


[1] Caron, John. “Fargo, N.D., History Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU.” Fargo, N.D., History  Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU. North Dakota State University, 2004. Web. 30 Oct. 2012.< http://library.ndsu.edu/fargo-history/churches/swede-bap.htm>

 

First Baptist Church

First Baptist Church was organized on January 27, 1879 by 26 people who were meeting at Chapin’s Gall on NP Avenue.  Their first pastor was a supply pastor, Rev. George Vosburgh, who only stayed for a few months.  The church was incorporated on July 20, 1881 and a new building started in the summer of 1881.[1]First Baptist Church photo  Many involved in the divorce rush during the early 1890’s found a home at the church because of “the eloquence of Rev. Cook and the musical ability of his wife who directed the choir.”  When the topic of divorce came up in a sermon, the temporary members seemed to give little notice and still continued to attend the church.

Many involved in divorce rush during the early 1890’s found a home at the church because of “the eloquence of Rev. Cook and the musical ability of his wife who directed the choir.”  When the topic of divorce came up in a sermon, the temporary members seemed to give little notice and still continued to attend the church.[2]FirstBaptist_01

Heather Brinkman, Digital History 2012

[1] First Baptist Church. “Our Church Over the Years.”  Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://firstbaptistfargo.tripod.com/history.html>
[2] First Baptist Church, Fargo, N.D. 1978. History of First Baptist Church, Fargo, North Dakota, 1879-1979. Fargo, N.D.: The Church.

Bishop Shanley Comes to Fargo

View showing St. Mary’s Cathedral and the bishop’s residence at right. The cathedral and his residence were key indicators in the growing importance of Catholicism in Fargo. [North Dakota State University Archives, Digital ID: rs003060]

When Bishop Shanley first came to North Dakota, the Catholic diocese was based in Jamestown.  Shanley found Jamestown quite problematic to operate out of due its poor location in respect to travel throughout the diocese, a problem that could be solved by moving to Fargo.  In addition to the transportation issues, Shanley also saw better potential for growth in Fargo, which resulted in the move to Fargo in 1891.  He was not necessarily impressed with the state of affairs in Fargo, but with great dedication Shanley managed to turn it into a thriving congregation. When the fire broke out in 1893 the Catholic Church was saved, but much of the city was left in ruins. Although Shanley desired to build “a cathedral fit for worship”, he  deemed the needs of Fargo’s citizens to be more important. At the point of the fire, several thousand dollars had been raised to construct the new cathedral and it was this money that was used to aid in the recovery effort. It was not until May 30, 1899 when the new cathedral was finished. The cathedral not only offered Catholics a place fit for worship, but also provided Fargo with a landmark they could be proud of.

Since Shanley had arrived in Fargo, one of his main goals was to promote unity among Catholics and all Christians in North Dakota. Following one of his lectures, an unnamed newspaper editor wrote that his goal was to “…brush away the cobwebs of widespread prejudice prevailing amongst English-speaking people against the Church of Rome the priests and the Pope… He had nothing but the kindliest feelings… but his talk was interspersed with rich roasts of the backsliding, the drunkard, a criminal, and the unbeliever. The Bishop held his audience almost spellbound by this intensely interesting discourse for nearly 2 hours”[1] These sentiments were reaffirmed when Bishop Shanley was invited by Methodist Rev. Eugene May to lecture on the Pope to an audience of non-Catholics.  Shanley was also quite concerned with what he saw as the two greatest evils, liquor trafficking and the divorce laws.  He dedicated special attention to reducing these evils throughout his career.  Having seen the inability of the government to enforce prohibition in North Dakota, he advocated voluntary pledges of sobriety and making the saloons “pay for their sins”. In regards to the divorce laws, he saw them as a threat to marriage and helped to represent the concerns of many religious leaders in Fargo to the state government. It was his efforts, along with those of many other North Dakota religious leaders, that led to the amendment of these laws in 1899.

– Scott Becklund, Digital History, 2012


[1] Weber, Gerald Michael. 1951. John Shanley: first bishop of Fargo. St. Paul, MN: St. Paul Seminary. 102.