Houses of Worship – Country Churches in the Valley

Sheyenne Valley Scenic Byway.

The history of our country is closely tied to the religious beliefs of our ancestors. The country church in the opening photo is the Preston Lutheran Church. About four miles (6 km) north of the town of Fort Ransom, the church is located at the townsite of what was Preston, ND. As you can see in the photo, on the Sunday morning of our visit, the church congregation is still active. Services were concluding as we arrived. As I wandered around capturing photos, some of the folks chatting at the entrance were curious what I was doing there. I simply commented that we were following the scenic byway and capturing photos of the interesting places along the way.


This small gallery of images features three of the churches along the way. Over the years, I’ve been impressed with the architecture and design of houses of worship. I decided not to invade the interior of these churches on this day, though that’s where I find the most interesting visuals. I didn’t want to make the people nearby uncomfortable that I was invading their personal lives.

Preston Church was around prior to the 20th Century. Though I could find precious little information on the Internet about the church, I did find in the North Dakota Historical Archives, they house an interview and collection of photos from an area resident. Among the photos there exists an image of the congregation captured in 1900. I also found a paragraph describing Reverend A.H. Berger’s tenure in Fort Ransom. He and his wife moved to Fort Ransom in 1898 and became the pastor for Preston, Waldheim and two other parishes. Rev. Berger served the congregations for many years, passing away in 1930 at the age of sixty-five. Source documentation provided below.

Near the town of Kathryn, the Waldheim Church is also still an active parish. The church building was constructed in 1900 and the congregation is active in the ELCA Lutheran Church. As with most country churches, the history of the congregation can be gleaned by taking a short walk through the adjacent cemetery, visible just to the left in the photo below.

The final church we visited on our journey along this America’s Byway is actually located in the town of Fort Ransom. In 1882, a group of settlers became known as the Standing Rock Congregation. It took them until 1889 to raise the $1000 to build a church and after some discussion about which side of the river upon which to build, construction was completed. At that time, it didn’t have a steeple which was added in 1898. A vestry was added in 1902 and the church remained relatively unchanged until the 1970s when the Fellowship Hall was constructed. These tidbits of history were gleaned from a book titled Fort Ransom Area History, 1878-1978. There is no known copyright on the book, and the text can be found online at a digital library here.

There are many more things to see along the paved and gravel roads that comprise this 62-mile journey along one of America’s Byways. On our summer road trip to this year’s Steiner Family Reunion, we happened upon several other signs pointing to America’s Byways in other states. Unfortunately, this summer trip, we didn’t have time to travel those highways, however you can expect to spend a summer of Travel Tuesdays here at Journeys with Johnbo as we visit some well-known and some lesser known stops along the highway. We also have a stop or two left on this North Dakota byway. Farewell from North Dakota. See you next Travel Tuesday, if not before.

John Steiner

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One thought on “Houses of Worship – Country Churches in the Valley

  1. You could tell they were Lutherans when they tacked a notification to the door. LOL… A donation always keeps ya’ in the good graces of the church. I agree that churches are typically architectural masterpieces! Esp when compared to a MalWart.

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