SOURCE: An Illustrated History of the Counties of Rock and Pipestone Minnesota by Arthur P. Rose, Northern History Publishing Company, Luverne, Minnesota, 1911. Transcribed by Mary Kay Krogman.
Ten church societies maintain organizations in Pipestone, as follows: Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist, German Evangelical, Catholic, Episcopal, German Lutheran, Norwegian Lutheran, First Church of Christ, Scientist; and Seventh Day Adventist. With the exception of the Scientists, all these organizations have church edifices.
The religious history of Pipestone began almost simultaneous with the settlement of Pipestone county, for it is recorded that on June 25, 1876, when there was only a handful of men claiming Pipestone county as their home, Rev. E. H. Bronson conducted religious services in C. H. Bennett's little office building on the Pipestone townsite. During the following year Rev. Bronson and J. M. Bull, who was converted to the Christian religion at the meeting of 1876, held occasional services at Pipestone, but there were not regularly assigned pastors or church organizations until 1878. The first denominations to enter the field were the Presbyterians and Methodists, who began their labors at about the same time. The former were the first to have regular preaching services, but the Methodist society was organized a few weeks before that of the Presbyterian.
The pioneer of Methodism in Pipestone was Rev. J. T. Suffron, who arrived with his household goods from Luverne on September 18, 1878. On the first Sabbath after getting settled in his new home he conducted services in the school house. At the Minnesota conference, which convened in Minneapolis October 5 of the same year, Rev. Suffron was regularly appointed to the charge, his territory embracing Pipestone county and Flaudreau, Dakota territory. At the first quarterly conference, held in Reuben Clark's store building Saturday evening, October 29, a church organization was brought about.6 Of the first Methodist service and his experiences during the first two years of his service in Pipestone county, Rev. Suffron, in an article prepared for the press in February, 1904, said:
Of the pleasurable reminiscences that come to mind is our first public church service, on the first Sunday morning after getting on our homestead. Then, as the first appointed pastor of the county, I gave my first discourse-possibly by some called a sermon. The talk was based on "Pure Religion and Undefiled," etc. House of worship, a little frame, boarded-up school house, some 12x14 feet, standing not far from the present stand pipe. Having no floor, the pulpit was the virgin prairie soil. Congregation, 14. Instead of oil finished oak pews, we had nail kegs with pine boards, one side of which was planed. We had "all things common"-very common. As winter came on I had as an associate pastor the venerable "Father Thayer," of the Presbyterian church, he preaching in the store room of Stuart Bros, and I In the store of Reuben Clark. There, among cottons and calicos, shoes and soap, were delivered sermons, thought, no doubt, by some more or less masterly (more likely, less). Looking back at the material honoring us by their attendance during those early years, pleasant thoughts come up.
We hear very much these later years of the little interest in attending church service by our business and professional men. Not so in our beginnings. Why, the very brain of our city and vicinity were usually in attendance. To begin with, our two sprightly young bachelors, now the Hon. J. H. Nichols and J. H. Parker, were commonly in attendance. . . . Then with them as business men were Robert Scarf, D. E. Sweet, Stuart brothers, Reuben Clark and others. Of the professions, Dr. E. M. Carr, Dr. W. J. Taylor, E. C. Dean, Esq., and others. Of representative farmers, Duncan Stuart, W. B. Brown, Henry Sanford and others. Our congregations were of the very culture of the city and surrounding country.
The writer's duties for those two years, 1878 and 1879, were country wise as well as city. There being no defined township lines, our church services were defined as to locality by the names of leading farmers in the given neighborhoods. What is now Cazenovia was the Gilson and Whigam neighborhood; village of Trosky was designated Fred Kurz; Jasper, as Carnegie; township of Grange, as Matt Easland; village of Edgerton, as E. W. Day. . . . Many of those homes were yet in part or whole sod shanties, but in every case an open door was offered me.
Rev. Suffron was pastor of the Pipestone Methodist church until 1881. He was succeeded by Rev. I. Whitcombe, who was in charge until the fall of 1884. Under his pastorate the first church building in Pipestone and the third in Pipestone county was erected. At a trustees' meeting June 20, 1883, a building committee was appointed as follows: Rev. I. Whitcombe, Dr. W. J. Taylor, Robert Scarf and Dr. E. M. Carr. Work of laying the foundation was started October 15, and the building was ready for occupancy February 17, 1884. It was a neat little building, 30x50 feet, with sixteen foot posts, and had a seating capacity of 350 persons. The cost was $2400. At the time the building was first used for worship, $828 had been collected on subscriptions and $500 had been received from the church extension society. In a collection at the first services $271.64 were raised. The services on the day of opening were conducted by Rev. J. M. Bull, assisted by Rev. I. Whitcombe and Rev. Charles Thayer, of the Presbyterian church. The indebtedness having been fully wiped out, the formal dedication took place August 2, 1885, the service being conducted by Bishop Foss, assisted by Rev. E. R. Lathrop and others.
The pioneer church building was occupied seven years, and was destroyed by fire January 25, 1891. Hardly had the smoke of the conflagration cleared away before Rev. G. S. Perry, the pastor, was raising funds to replace it. He was successful, and the new building was completed during the summer at a cost of $3300, including furnishings. It was dedicated November 15, 1891, by Rev. George R. Hair. Among the pastors of the Methodist church in Pipestone. succeeding Rev. Whitcombe were F. M. Rule, 1885-88; G. W. Jenkins, J. W. Powell, G. S. Perry, L. D. King, D. C. McColm and J. F. VanCamp. During the pastorate of Rev. King a parsonage was erected at a cost of $2000.
The first religious service conducted in Pipestone by a Presbyterian minister was held June 2, 1878, by Rev. Charles Thayer. That pioneer clergyman in recent years wrote as follows of his coming to Pipestone and the holding of the first services:
In May, 1878, I came to Luverne as the pioneer home missionary of the Presbyterian church, and later gathered and organized the churches of Luverne and Beaver Creek. Among the first to welcome me at Luverne was Dr. G. W. Morrill, who was about to move to his claim near Pipestone. He urged me to include Pipestone in my field. I visited the place June 1 and found a "city" of eight families, and very few settlers on the prairie. Next day-the Sabbath-I held two services at Stuart's store, with congregations of about twenty-five. I arranged for regular services once in four weeks. This arrangement continued through the year.
The Mankato Presbytery, in session at Jackson September 11, 1878, appointed a committee consisting of Revs. Joseph B. Libble, Edward Savage, D. G. Lyon, the synodical missionary; and Charles Thayer, to organize one or more churches in the field to which Rev. Thayer had been ministering. After personal visitation and correspondence, the committee decided on Pipestone as one of the places in which a church should be organized, and Rev. Thayer was authorized to proceed with the work. On October 27, in company with Rev. D. G. Lyon, he visited Pipestone and held the first communion services. These were held in the store room of Stuart Bros., and sixteen persons, including the clergymen, communed. Eleven of those present made application for the organization of a Presbyterian church and the preliminary steps were taken at that time.
During the next visit of Rev. Thayer, on November 24, 1878, in Pipestone's little frame school house, the organization was perfected with the following twelve members: Rev. Charles Thayer, the pastor; Dr. and Mrs. G. W. Merrill and their daughter, Mary F. Merrill, who had formerly been members of the Congregational church at Afton, Minnesota; C. H. Bennett and Adelaide G. Bennett, his wife, who had been members of the Congregational church at LeMars, Iowa; Duncan Stuart and Jennie Stuart, his wife, and their four children, John, Jessie and Nancy Stuart and Maggie Hutton, all from the Presbyterian church of Richland, Minnesota. Upon the organization a committee composed of Dr. G. W. Morrill, John Stuart and C. H. Bennett was chosen to look after the affairs of the church in lieu of church officers. On September 20, 1879, Dr. Morrill was chosen church elder.
Until the spring of 1879 services were held every four weeks; then Rev. Thayer began preaching every alternate Sunday morning, holding services the same afternoon at Flandreau, which had been united with Pipestone to form one pastoral charge. In June, 1879, Rev. H. V. Rice, a licentiate, took charge of the new field and was the pastor until August, 1880, during which time there were eight additions to the membership. A long vacancy followed, there being no regular pastor until Rev. Thayer was again assigned to the charge November 1, 1883. During his incumbency, which continued until November 1, 1885, the house of worship was erected.
A legal organization was perfected when the society was incorporated January 8, 1884, with the following named trustees: C. H. Bennett, John Stuart, C. C. Goodnow, T. A. Black and A. Hitchcox. A little later in the same year plans were laid for raising funds with which to erect the building. In the latter part of July Rev. John Irwin, acting as synodical missionary, and Rev. H. H. Wilson, Jr., acting for the board of church extension, visited Pipestone, and through their assurances of support it was decided to undertake the work at once. The board of church extension donated $500, Rev. Wilson $200, and the Ladies' Aid society raised $300, with which they bought the site. The building committee consisted of Rev. Charles Thayer, chairman; A. Hitchcox and John Stuart. The structure, which cost, complete, $2700, was built during the fall and early winter, but it was not furnished until the spring of 1885. It was dedicated by Rev. George F. McAfee April 5. At the time of dedication, a Sabbath school was organized with a membership of over fifty.
The present home of the Presbyterians is a handsome red stone building erected in 1900 at a cost of nearly $10,000. It is one of the finest church edifices in southwestern Minnesota, is greatly enjoyed by the society, and is the pride of every resident of the city. The new building was dedicated Sunday morning, November 4, 1900, the dedicatory sermon being preached by Rev. J. T. Henderson, a former pastor.
The third religious society organized in Pipestone was the First Baptist church, which dates its existence from May 16, 1882. During the year of organization the society had only fourteen members, as follows: John Pearson, C. W. Fenlason and E. C. Dean, who were the trustees; Rev. H. B. Marshall Mrs. G. D. Green, Mrs. Emma Fenlason, Mrs. John Pearson, Mahala Willey, Sylvia Fenlason, Horace G. Willey, Mary J. Rigby, Adelia Sechler, Lizzie Sechler and Adelbert Roberts. The church had no regularly installed pastor until August, 1883, when Rev. H. B. Marshall was called to the pulpit.
For several years the Baptists held their services in the building occupied as a court house. Rev. A. S. Orcutt, who was later to meet his death in the Calumet hotel fire, was assigned to the charge in July, 1885, and a short time later he and the church members set to work to erect a house of worship. The building, which at the time was the largest church edifice in Pipestone, was erected during the summer and fall of 1886. It was dedicated, free of debt, November 21, 1886. The cost, including the site, was $3300. A Sabbath school was organized in March, 1886, with G. L. Morgan as superintendent.
Zion's church of the German Evangelical society was organized in 1889 with the following members: William Passer, Emma Passer. J. J. Natzke, H. Thies, Caroline Thies, William Lange, Louise Lange, Anna Ganfield, Mary Klensing, Maria Lange, C. C. Schroeder and wife, M. G. Schauer and wife, George Rickerman, Jane Rickerman, Caroline Bates, Noah Bartimas and wife, Eli Bartimas, Margaretha Bartimas. The first pastor was S. B. Goetz, who ministered to the congregation only a short time.
For nine years the members of the German Evangelical society were without a house of worship. A building costing $2500 was erected in 1898. It was dedicated November 13 of that year by Bishop Bowman, of Chicago. A parsonage was erected just south of the church in 1901 at a cost of $1600.
St. Leo's Catholic church of Pipestone is one of the older religious organizations of the city. So early as 1878 those of the faith in Pipestone county were recognized as a mission by the Catholic authorities, and from that date until 1881 Father C. Koebel ministered to their spiritual wants. Under his charge there were twenty-seven baptisms in Pipestone county. He was succeeded by Father William Keuel, who remained until 1883 and under whose administration there were thirteen baptisms. Father J. Conway ministered to the wants of his people in Pipestone county until 1885, and he was succeeded by Father F. P. Kervick, of Avoca, who had charge of the Pipestone church fifteen years. The present pastor, Father Joseph Mangan, took charge in March, 1900.
The building of a church edifice was projected in 1887. The trustees at that time were Rt. Rev. John Ireland, D. D., President; Very Rev. Monseigneur A. Ravoux, vice president; Rev. F. P. Kervick, pastor; James Maguire, secretary; Anthony Minneghan, treasurer. The building committee consisted of T. Kennedy, L. V. Ackerman, Anton Webber, John Dannuth, John Murphy, R. O'Connell, James Maguire, Anthony Minneghan and Rev. F. P. Kervick. The contract was let September 28, 1887, and the corner stone was laid October 30. There was delay after this event, and the building was not completed until the summer of 1889. The dedication occurred September 22, witnessed by nearly 400 people. Catholics were present from Woodstock, Airlie, Jasper, Trosky, Lake Benton, Elkton, Edgerton and Flandreau. The dedicatory services were conducted by Archbishop John Ireland, whose subject was "The Duty of the Creature to His Creator." The cost of the building, 34x68 feet in size, was about $4500. A parochial residence, just north of the church, was purchased in 1900 at a cost of $1400.
The first Episcopal service in Pipestone was held in January, 1887, conducted by Bishop Gilbert and Rev. D. G. Gunn in the Methodist church building. Thereafter at intervals there was preaching by Rev. Gunn and Rev. C. T. Ware, and in 1890 a church was organized. Having gained considerable strength, the of the church undertook and carried out the enterprise of building a little stone church building. The corner stone was laid by Archdeacon Appleby in 1892, but it was not until May 9, 1894, that the building was consecrated. This service was conducted by Bishop Gilbert, assisted by Archdeacon Appleby. The structure cost $3000.
The history of the German Lutheran church of Pipestone extends back to the year 1892, when the organization was perfected. The first pastor was Rev. Betcher. The church building was erected in 1900 and cost $1500. It was dedicated October 14, 1900.
The Norwegian Lutherans first held religious services in Pipestone in 1893, when Rev. G. 0. Skaret, of Flandreau, held meetings. Later a local church was organized, but its members were few, and for many years there was no resident pastor, although there was preaching with considerable regularity by pastors from nearby points. In the summer of 1904 a house of worship was erected at a cost of about $1800, the first service being held therein November 13, 1904, conducted by Rev. L. V. Fossum. The church officers at that time were Ole Skailand, secretary; J. J. Simenson, treasurer; Peter Westli, Peter Wiger, Christ Hansen and J. J. Simenson, trustees. Exercises incident to laying the corner stone and dedication of the church home were held November 9, 1905. The address in connection with laying the corner stone was given by Rev. G. O. Skaret, and the dedication ceremonies were performed by Dr. Broeckman, of St. Paul. The structure was dedicated free from debt.
The Christian Scientists have maintained an organization in Pipestone since 1895. In September, 1902, the society was incorporated under the name First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Pipestone. Services are held regularly.
A church of the Seventh Day Adventists was organized April 18, 1897. A church home was erected in 1901 at a cost of $706, and was dedicated February 23, 1902, by Elder Andrew Mead, of Brainerd, assisted by Elder M. B. VanKirk, of Eagle Lake, Minnesota. At the time of dedication there was a membership of twenty-seven.