Potter County Churches



Baptist Church

Congregational Church of Gettysburg

Emmanuel Lutheran Church

Episcopal Church, Christ Church (Episcopal)

Grace Bible Mennonite Brethren Church

Methodist Episcopal Church

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Gettysburg

St. Anthony of Paduca Catholic Church (Cathedral of the Prairie)

United Methodist Church

History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Potter Co.


First Religious Service












History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Potter County, South Dakota, researched and written by Thelma Hepper & Laurel Lemler in 2012.
Transcribed by Laurel Lemler.
Contributed by Peg Williams

No one knows when or by whom the first copy of the Book of Mormon was placed in the Potter County Library. But in 1932, that book triggered events which led to the establishment of a branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Potter County, South Dakota.

Ivar Sandberg, in making a study of the religions of the world, was referred to that book by the local librarian. He read it, was convinced of its truthfulness, and wrote to Salt Lake City for more information. After further reading and much prayer and study, he journeyed to Salt Lake and was baptized. Ivar then returned home to Potter County where his enthusiasm spread to relatives and friends. Sunday services were soon being held in homes and at the Cattron rural schoolhouse until 1952 when a country chapel, located on Highway 83, eight miles southwest of Gettysburg, was built, dedicated, and a branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established. This little white church in the vale was used as a place of worship, church socials, youth activities, and religious instruction until Christmas of 1981 when services were moved into a new building constructed in Gettysburg on the airport road [530 S. Mannston St). The country chapel, designed so it could be remodeled into a home, was sold to Marion and Lola Schreiber and moved to their farm northwest of Agar, SD.

Part of the labor and 20% of the $180,000 in building costs of the new chapel were donated by the local members. The remainder of funding was provided by church headquarters in Salt Lake City from tithing and other donations gathered worldwide for this purpose. An Open House was held March 27, 1982, and the building was formally dedicated June 20, 1982. Many former members from far away joined local members and friends as Morris Bastian, SD Mission President, offered the dedicatory prayer at special sacrament services.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no paid ministry and its members are encouraged to take part and help not only by attendance, tithes, and donations, but also by serving as leaders, speakers, and teachers. Men who serve the Gettysburg Branch as its local leader [Branch President] are asked [called] to do so by the LDS church's Mission Presidency [currently located in Rapid City, SD). Past Branch Presidents of the Gettysburg Branch include: Ivar Sandberg, Otis Jones, Doyle Thompson, Sr., Wendell C. Later, Herbert A. Hepper, Curtis D. Eliason, Alfred R. Collins, Albert Butcher, Brian B. Tennant, Daniel R. Lemler, and current Branch President, Sidney Magness.

The Gettysburg Branch is one of the first organized branches of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Dakota. Contributions to their church organization have been numerous and far-reaching although membership in Gettysburg has never exceeded 100. Many current and previous members of the Gettysburg Branch have served without pay or reimbursement as temple workers, bishops, district or mission presidents, seminary teachers, mission board members, etc., continuing to support themselves and their families while doing so. Through the years, more than 20 young men and women, at their own expense, have served as full time missionaries for periods of 18 months or 2 years in all parts of the world.

While nearly all of the original members have either moved or passed away, they left behind a rich heritage of Christian practices from which the present members can draw. In addition to three meetings each Sunday, there is a family history center located in the building which enables any person who desires to research his/her family history use of its film readers and computers and to assist them in accessing the huge LDS Genealogical Library and Archives in Salt Lake City.

Current and past members of the Gettysburg Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are proud of their past and look forward to the future. They join enthusiastically with other Christians to promote and support wholesome, worthwhile community activities and protect and preserve the freedom of worship for themselves and their neighbors.

First Religious Service

Potter County News Courier, Dec. 23, 1909
Transcribed by Peg Williams

Among the first residents of Gettysburg, Dr. Thomas J. Valentine conducted the first religious service there on the first Sunday in June of 1883. Dr. Valentine was studying for the ministry and was asked by the settlers to deliver a sermon. That first meeting was held in his tent, the seats being his bedstead and trunk. Nine attended. The next service was so well attended that the group had to go into the dining room of the Buffalo House hotel, a rough board shanty with no floor. In those days, the services were inter-denominational and the people gathered in homes, stores or offices for their religious services.

A Union Sunday School was flourishing by 1885. From their activities emanated a local lecture bureau during the winter months. Out of that grew a public library association, which soon established a circulating library in the community.

Grace Bible Mennonite Brethren Church
Compiled by the Potter County Library Staff from county history books and miscellaneous historical documents, 2012.
Transcribed by Peg Williams

Grace Bible Mennonite Brethren Church is located at 310 S. Broadway St. in Gettysburg, SD. It was begun by a Bible Study group at Emmanuel Mennonite Brethren Church in Onida, SD, and chartered on April 16, 1965. At first, the people met in an old church building on 5th Ave E and South Park St. in Gettysburg before building at the current site.

Pastors have included: Palmer Holm, Wil Fadenrecht, Charles Harder (known to be serving in 1984), Bob Wheatley (Wheatly), Jim Weems, Carey Gossen (known to be serving in 2007), Dick Nickel (known to be serving in 2011 & 2012).

Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Compiled by the Potter County Library Staff from county history books, miscellaneous historical documents, and the book COURAGEOUS FAITH BOLD WITNESS A HISTORY OF THE SOUTH DAKOTA DISTRICT LCMS, 2012.
Transcribed by Peg Williams

Emmanuel Lutheran Church at Gettysburg was formally reorganized on May 17, 1925. Lutheran services had been conducted here intermittently since 1909 while Gettysburg was a missionary post. The Rev. F.A. Hinners (1925), who resided at Lebanon, was elected the first pastor. Services were conducted in the old Episcopal Church until the summer of 1928 when the Methodist Church was used. Rev. H. M. Bauer came in 1928. In 1931, the congregation erected their own house of worship, a basement, and dedicated it on November 8, 1931. The location was 306 N. East St. At that time Rev. Ed C. Beyer (1930-1936) who resided at Agar served the congregation. The first pastor to reside at Gettysburg was Rev. Albert Palecheck (1945-1947). The basement church was sold and a new church was constructed. It was dedicated on June 26, 1949 with Rev. O.D. Brack, pastor (1948-1955). A parsonage was begun in 1952 and dedicated in Oct. of 1953. Rev. Glenn Reichwald (1956-1957) followed Rev. O.O. Brack. And then Rev. R.E. Utecht came in 1958. Under Pastor R.E. Utecht, a Sunday School building was erected and then dedicated on March 10, 1963.

Serving after Rev. Utecht (1958-1974) were Rev. R. Jastram (1976-1979); Rev. Chris Wareham (1980-1984); Rev. Bryan Fritsch (1985-1991); Rev. J.H. Howlett (1992-1994); Rev. J. Walker (1995-1998); Rev. Kevin Moore (2000-2004), Rev. Mark Moldenhauer 2004-2010, Rev. Daniel Tews 2010-present.

The Church was made handicap accessible with a ramp and elevator to the basement circa 2005.

Episcopal Church. Christ Church (Episcopal).

Compiled by the Potter County Library Staff from county history books and miscellaneous historical documents, 2000.
Transcribed by Peg Williams

On March 7, 1888, a group of women banded together in Gettysburg to form the Ladies Episcopal Guild, but it was not until August 15, 1888, that the first service of the church was conducted by the Rev. J.M. McBride of Aberdeen. Almost a year later Gettysburg’s mission congregation acquired a lot and began to erect a church building, using plans drawn up by Episcopal Bishop William Hobart Hare. In 1928 the church building was moved to 101 E. Blaine. The first service at the new location was celebrated by Rev. W.L. Johnson.

For 43 years Christ Church was served by priests who lived outside of Gettysburg and traveled here. In 1931 Christ Church received its first priest-in-charge, the Rev. Standish MacIntosh. After a residency of 3 years, Fr. MacIntosh left and the church was again served from outside or through the services of seminary students and resident laymen. The second resident priest, Rev. Schuyler L. Clapp, Jr., served from 1955 to 1959. During his tenure a rectory was constructed at 101 Hilltop Dr. on land donated by Albert Houck. In 1978 Sherman and Donna Crane donated land for construction of a new church. Services at the new church (311 S Harrison St.) began in January of 1979, Fr. Tim Vann pastor.

The church had resident priests from 1955 until 1980. Since then they have been again served by traveling priests and by local laymen.

Methodist Episcopal Church
Compiled by the Potter County Library staff from 1909 historical documents, 2012.
Transcribed by Peg Williams

The First M.E. Church of Gettysburg, SD, was organized in the 1880’s and in the latter part of that decade a church building was erected on Exene St. and Garfield Ave. In July of 1892 a cyclone completely destroyed the building and left the organization without a home. A lack of funds and the vicissitudes of pioneer life delayed the work of rebuilding, but they were able to rent a suitable church building from another denomination (which they were still using in 1909).

2012 Note: The Methodist Episcopal Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Churches merged in 1968 becoming the United Methodist Church.

United Methodist Church.

Compiled by the Potter County Library staff from county history books and church records, 2012.

Transcribed by Peg Williams.

The Methodist Episcopal Church at Gettysburg was organized in July of 1884 by a traveling Methodist missionary, the Rev. O.H. Sprohl. For the first years the church occupied the second floor of the Branshaw Building, which was used during the week as a day school. The congregation also met in various other places, such as the dance pavilion that was erected for the first Fourth of July celebration in Gettysburg. After the construction of the Baptist Church, the Methodist congregation used that building for one service each Sunday. The first Methodist Church building was erected in 1890 on the corner of Exene St. and Garfield Ave. when the Rev. Mr. Davis was pastor. That church building was demolished by the tornado of 1892, and the church was again without a home of its own. Services were held in various other church buildings until a new building was constructed in 1911 under the direction of Rev. R.A. Bruce. Two lots adjoining their property on Exene St. were bought in 1909 for that new church building. From 1909 to 1911 services were held in the W.R.C. Hall with preaching at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday School at 12 noon each Sunday. This second church building was destroyed by fire in 1926. Immediately after the fire, construction of the present building was started. It was dedicated in 1927, Rev. J.M. Hunter, pastor. . Amid all these varied conditions the organization held together and has never been without a resident pastor or regular services.

The Rev. J.W.A. Collins is known to have served as pastor prior to 1910, but exact dates are unknown. He is pictured in the Dec. 23, 1909 edition of the Potter County News Courier.

In 1949 a parsonage was built next door to the church. During the pastorate of Rev. C.E. Means, an educational building was erected and dedicated on April 16, 1967. The 1949 parsonage has since been sold and moved from the lot. Another home in central Gettysburg was purchased for the parsonage.

The Methodist Episcopal Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Churches merged in 1968 becoming the United Methodist Church.

List of Methodist Pastors

O.H. Sproul 1884-1885
Chas M. Arthur 1885-1886
C.B. Warren Jan. 1887-Oct. 1888
A.E. Tanner 1888-1889
J.F. Davis 1889-1890
E.S. Darling 1890-1891
D.L. Matson 1891-1892
WM. J. Brient 1892-1894
G.D. Brown 1894-1895
Dawson Barker Dec. 1895-1898
S. Fletcher McGuire 1898-1899
A.M. Ward 1899-1900
John N. Fulford 1900-1901
B.F. Stiles 1901-1902
W.P. Arnold 1902-Dec. 1903
Alvin S. Hock Jan. - Sept. 1904
F.J. Norton 1904-1905
Frank Fox 1905-1906
T.K. Hallidaiy 1906-1907
John Wood 1907-1908
J.W.A. Collins 1908-1910
R.A. Bruce 1910-1912
John T. Brabnersmith 1912-1914
N.P. Johnson 1914-1916
W.T. Loomis 1916-1917
E.E. Vernon 1917-1920
L.J. Sheldon 1920-1924
J.M. Hunter 1924-1929
A.E. Bennett 1929-1930
C.D. Bullock 1930-1394
C.C. Boslaugh 1934-1935
John Leach May 1935-Feb. 1938
Jas. G. Floyd Feb.-Sept. 1938
A.W. Gugin 1938-June 1945
Earl Butz 1945-1951
Donald Lyons 1951-Dec. 1952
Charles McDowell Jan. 1953-1958
K. Oliver Brekke 1958-1964
C. Elliot Means 1964-1967
Russell Peirce 1967-1973
Donald Rahn 1973-1985
Lin Jennewein 1985-1987
Robert Simmons 1987-1991
Kenneth Hairgrove 1991-1993
Bert Van Essen 1993-2003
Gary & Laura Walters 2003-2006
Susan O'Connell 2006-2009
Don Watt 2009-2011
Jeff Adel 2011-present

Baptist Church
Compiled by Potter County Library staff from 1958 historical documents.
Transcribed by Peg Williams

The Baptist Church constructed the first church building in Gettysburg in 1887. After the disbanding of the congregation (exact date unknown, but it was prior to 1933), the church building was sold to H.M. Lake and moved.

Congregational Church of Gettysburg, SD

Compiled by Potter County Library staff from 1909 historical documents.

Transcribed by Peg Williams

On Aug. 26, 1883, an organization of 12 members was perfected and called the first Congregational Church. In October of 1884, Rev. P.R. Fisk took up the work and services were held every Sunday. On June 28, 1885, the society was reorganized and accepted on July 26, 1885. In June 1886 a building committee was appointed and took up a collection of $250 and building operations were started. The work was carried on under difficulties until 1887 when Rev. P.R. Fisk resigned and Rev. M.E. Bacon became pastor. On Feb. 5, 1890, Rev. Metcalf became pastor. At this time the meetings were in the I.O.O.F. Hall. On May 9, 1901, Rev. Metcalf left the field. On June 13, 1893 the question of building was again discussed, and a committee was appointed. This committee was successful and in Sept. of 1894 the new building was ready for dedication. Rev. W.H. Thrall conducted the first services in the new church. Rev. S. E. Fish was afterwards pastor for a short time. In March 1896, Rev. S.A. Brink became pastor. He served for only a short time and was followed by Rev. Thomas. After only a few months of service, Rev. Thomas resigned and Rev. Webb was sent to serve the congregation. After 18 months of service, Rev. Webb was replaced by Rev. Hall who became pastor until the fall of 1900.

From 1900 to 1903, the church had no regular pastor. On Sept. 30, 1903, Rev. Chapman became the leader. He resigned in June of 1904 and Rev. Heghin was sent to take up the work – which he did for a couple of years. Then the field was left to take care of itself and the work was carried on by people who sacrificed their time and cared for the Sunday School which held the church together, and, under the most promising time of the church’s history, were compelled to see the work plunged into a state of chaos.

The Rev. Carter served in 1908 and from that pastorate to Oct of 1909, the church was without a pastor. In Oct. of 1909, Rev. A.F. Soule, of Lansing, Michigan, accepted the pastorate because his past experience in mission work seemed to fit him for the place. He greeted the people of Gettysburg for the first time on Oct. 10, 1909. Since the reopening of the church, the Sunday School and preaching services have prospered and at present (Dec. 23, 1909) a fine congregation gathers for worship every Sunday. Mr. Soule is not narrow in his religious views and any person will find a warm welcome at these services. He preaches the truth without fear and believes in a square deal with God as well as man. His motto is “All are my friends” and when asked how many members are in the congregation, replied, “Every man, woman and child who does not go to any other church in Gettysburg are my people and I expect them to come to the Congregational Church for a welcome.”


Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Gettysburg, SD.

Information compiled by Potter County Library staff from Potter County history books and from the Church records, 2012.
Transcribed by Peg Williams

Years before there was Gettysburg, there were fur traders in this part of Dakota Territory who were devoted Catholics. These fur traders wished to have their wives and children baptized. At that time Dakota Territory was under the Bishop of Dubuque, Iowa, who, at the request of the fur traders, sent Father Ravoux to Dakota. It was he who said the first Mass in Dakota near the St. James River in Brown County. The year was 1842.

Gettysburg’s Catholics organized their congregation in 1887. The first Mass said in Gettysburg (of which we are officially certain) was at the Buffalo House, operated by Mrs. O’Brian, in 1888. Fr. Steffens who drove from Ipswich by team likely said it. In those early years, Mass was also said in a shop owned by Emil Rosenberg and later at the Dakota House owned by Mr. And Mrs. McMaster. Beginning with just a few families, the parish gradually increased in numbers, and, by 1896, was strong enough to erect its first church on the west side of Gettysburg (on the north side of Highway 212 directly east of the railroad). A rectory was constructed a few years later. Most of the labor for these building projects was voluntary.

Families in the early years of Sacred Heart parish thought nothing of walking ten miles to attend Mass and receive the sacraments.

During the first years of its existence, Sacred Heart parish was tended by traveling priests: Fr. Hermeling, Fr. Bunning, Fr. O’Neil, Fr. Smith, Fr. Stephane, Fr. Kerby, Fr. Dooley, and Fr. Coyne.

The first resident pastor of whom there is record was Fr. Hugh Fox in 1905. He was followed by Fr. Reilly, Fr. Patrick Monaghan (1905), and Fr. W. J. Keane (1906-1911). Fr. J.J. Harrington then served the parish from 1911-1914. He was followed by Fr. James Goggin.

Succeeding Fr. Goggin was Fr. Brian O’Malley. In 1920 he moved the church from the west side of town to the present location and erected a rectory at the new location.

Serving after Fr. O’Malley were Fr. Edward O’Connor (1928-1931) and Fr. Patrick Ryan and Fr. Michael Joseph Enright. Fr. M. J. Enright had served only a few months when he was killed in an automobile accident in 1931.

Following the death of Fr. Enright in 1931, Sacred Heart parish was served by Potter County native, Fr. Peter Meyer until 1945 when he was succeeded by Fr. E.C.M. Kosters (1945-1950).

Fr. Francis Dillon came to the parish in 1950 and served until 1961. Under his leadership, a new church, double the size of the old church, was built (1958). Fr. Dillon was followed by Fr. Joe Mardian (1961-1963) who directed the building of the new rectory attached to the church.

Since then, the parish has been served by Fr. Paul Quinn, who during his tenure (1964-1968) built the CCD building; Fr. Thomas Connolly (1968-1976); Fr. Donald Molumby (1976-1979), who was instrumental in establishing the Knights of Columbus; Fr. Robert Mullett (1979); Fr. Marvin McPhee (1979-1989); Fr. Tad Bocianowski (1989-1991); Fr. Michael Schneider (1991-1997); Fr. Charles Mangan (1997-1998); Fr. Chester Murtha (1998-2000); Fr. Ken Lulf (2000-2004); Fr. Mathew Vazhappily (2004); Fr. Mark Axtmann (2004-Nov. 4, 2007); Fr. Jerry Kopel (Nov. 4, 2007--- ) under whom the new fellowship hall was built in 2011.

Fr. Joe Holzhauser was ordained as a priest in a ceremony at the church on May 29, 1982.

Knights of Columbus, Fr. Francis Dillon Council No. 6912, was instituted in Gettysburg, SD, on March 20, 1977. Charter members were Fr. Donald Molumby, Dwight Wullweber (the first Grand Knight), Glen Emmert, Gerald Peters, Don Naughton, Harold Gebhart, Vic Beringer, Vince Frost, Joe Differding, Orie Hall, Warrren Beringer, Tom Nystrom, Ervin Breen, Rudy Wilhelmi, Dick Boyer, Tom Schlachter, Ed Doerr, Dan Cronin, Calvin Kula, Eli Oberlitner, Paul Oberlitner, Larry Oberlitner, Lee Baltezore, Frank Fransen, Les Beringer, Jim Brown, Jim Kane, Mike Bohnenkamp, Eugene Nagel, A.J. Hericks, Roger Hagenlock, Ed Robbennolt, John Holzhauser, Dean Goebel, Phil Goebel, Russ Stone, Hank Westphal, Donovan Hottman, Ken Brown, Richard Rausch, Harold Hegerle, and Bill Owens.


Potter County Library Bookmarks, information compiled by Potter County Library staff, 2009.

Transcribed by Peg Williams

The building of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church (also known as the Cathedral of the Prairie) at Hoven, SD, began in 1908 with a colossal hole 64 feet wide by 161 feet long. The basement walls were built with more than a thousand loads of sand and stone from nearby fields. Thirteen years later, on Easter Sunday 1921, the first Mass was celebrated.




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