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The Episcopal Churches Of The Red River Valley


Pamela Surface


It was a glorious summer morning in the year 1880. Thetown of St. Vincent, Minnesota was buzzing like a Ladies Aid meeting. Womenand children were running around like chickens with their heads choppedoff. Men were hauling logs with oxen wagons. If we could have been thereon that day, we would have seen that one of these men was Alexander Gamble.What was all this shouting and excitement about? It was the first day ofbuilding the first church in Kittson County.

Mr. F. S. P. Lindsay, who was one of the Custom House Inspectorsat this port of entry, was the prime mover of this good work. Lindsay wasassisted by J. W. Shepard of the Town Company and J. H. Rich of the St.Vincent Bank.

The first service was held Christmas Day 1880, with ReverendArmstrong of Emerson, Manitoba leading the congregation. Just a few of thevery first members were Alexander Gamble, Matthew Cowan, Hugh Griffith,Fred LeMasurier, Archie Darrach, John Smith, R. H. Lapp, Dr. Campbell andWilliam Gamble.

Some of these men served on the Church Board. Mrs. EllenLapp attended the first service. She is the mother of Mr. Dick Lapp of St.Vincent, Minnesota.

The Christ Church received Mission Boxes from other churches,in the East once a year. The contents of these boxes were much needed bythe families of the Parish.

In the year 1881, Bishop Whipple D. D. appointed Rev. VilliersAppleby to go and look over the field and try to find a resident clergymanwhich the people were most anxious to have. When Rev. Appleby was away toWinnipeg, Manitoba a meeting was called and a sum of six hundred fifty dollarswas subscribed. This was later raised to one thousand dollars. When he returnedhe was appointed first rector of the parish.

They now had regular morning and evening services. Theattendance was very good, especially in the evening.

On the tenth of June 1882, the Parish was duly organized.An organ and also a good bell were purchased from the Meneely Bell Foundryat a cost of one hundred forty five dollars. This was the first church bellthat could be heard ringing in Kittson and Pembina Counties.

Mrs. Alice Gamble was one of the first organists and Mrs.Henry Nolte was one of the first Sunday School teachers. Also, Jay Bennette'sviolin was a great asset to the choir.

On Sunday the twenty-first of November in 1882, Rev. N.N. Gilbert D. D., assistant Bishop of Minnesota, performed his first consecration.He did this by consecrating this church by the name of Christ-Church. Healso confirmed twelve candidates. Mrs. Ellen Lapp was one of those candidates.

In January 1883, some Missions were started by the Rector.These were located at Hallock and the Joe River Settlements in Minnesota.In North Dakota, they were started in Bathgate, Hamilton, Carlisle and withan occasional service at Elkwood. Some cottage services were held in variousplaces within Minnesota and North Dakota.

By the year 1884, Mission services were being held in St.Thomas, Neche, Cavalier and later in Joliette, North Dakota, and also inArgyle, Minnesota.

The Grace Church at Pembina, North Dakota was built in1886. It was opened for divine service on Christmas Day.

The ladies of the Double Temple Society in New York contributednine hundred dollars toward the erection of this church. They also gavethe chancel furniture and a beautiful organ which they had specially builtwhile the rector was away to New York (this church is the present MethodistChurch in Pembina).

The St. John Church in Hallock, Minnesota was built inthe year 1887. They opened divine services on Christmas Day, when it wasthronged by grateful, fulhearted worshipers. The services throughout weremost impressive and joyful. Annie Thompson ably presided at the organ. Therewas a full attendance of communicants, and the offerings were liberal. Thefunds of this church were contributed by the efforts of the noble LadiesAid Society of St. Johns and by the offering of the congregation of St.Johns. One thousand dollars was raised by the rector through a letter toa friend. The Rector received the following telegram "Go ahead, consecratethe St.Johns Church, Hallock. I will be responsible for the three hundreddollars." The church was therefore consecrated by the right ReverendM.V. Gilbert D. D., assistant Bishop of Minnesota, Sunday, the 30th of September1888. Holy Communion was celebrated this Sunday.

Another church was built in Bathgate, North Dakota in theyear 1888. This church is now known as "Church of the Redeemer."

No records were kept from the year 1888 to 1895.

July 21, 1895, Rev. P. W. Peabody took charge of the field.He ministered in Hallock, St. Vincent and the Joe River area of Minnesotaand Pembina, North Dakota and also Bathgate, North Dakota. October 1, 1897,Rev. Peabody was placed in charge of all church work in Kittson County,Minnesota.

In June 1898, Rev. William Watson was appointed by BishopMorrison to the Parish of the Christ Church in St. Vincent and Joe RiverMission and also to be priest-in-charge of the Grace Church at Pembina,North Dakota.

January 11, 1899, an organ was used for the first timeat St.Bartholomew's Mission at Joe River. This organ was bought from a companyin Illinois at a cost of fifty-seven dollars, including the freight it amountedto sixty-three dollars and thirty-seven cents. Sixty-one dollars was collectedby subscription. At a service one dollar and sixty-five cents was receivedand the balance was made up by William Ash.

February 23, 1899, Rev. Watson held a meeting in the #2schoolhouse in St. Vincent. At this meeting fortnightly Sunday serviceswere arranged to be held. On March 12, 1899, after a Sunday service, a Sundayschool was organized to be held every Sunday.

November 2, 1903, Rev. W. Watson resigned to take chargeof a church in Wahpeton, North Dakota.

Christ Church in St. Vincent was completely remodeled in1949; a complete new basement, entry way and kitchen was added. All thiswork was accomplished through the cooperation of the St. Vincent community.

Many different rectors have served Christ Church of St.Vincent including the following: Rev. H. B. Appleby 1881-1888, Rev. H. Beer1882-1892, Rev. W. Wharton 1892-1894, Rev. P. Peabody 1895-1898, Rev.W.Watson 1898-1903, Rev. A. Mitchell 1903-1905, Rev. S. Remans 1905-1906,Rev. J. Kimberly 1907-1924, clergy from other parishes, especially fromCanada, were supplied from 1924 to 1949. Rev. S. Smythe continued from 1949to 1952 and Rev. R. G. Frost from 1953. Other rectors were Rev. Seaton E11iott,Rev. Richard Hewetson, Rev. Umbehocker, and Rev. Ott. All these ministersalso served St. Johns Church in Hallock.

A couple of humorous incidents that happened during services.Once when Rev. Kimberly was preaching, his son picked up an overshoe tothrow at another boy, the boy ducked and the overshoe hit his father. Duringone morning service when Rev. Smythe was delivering the sermon, his youngson escaped from his mother and crawled under the pews and up to the alterto his dad. Rev. Frost would be remembered in our community for his singingability and of the times he would favor the parish with solos.

Some of the ways that the congregation socialized wereto have an annual fall supper, rummage sales, bake sales at Easter time,and the biggest event was the Christmas program. Even once the men put ona wild game supper!

In the year 1966, the Red River Valley had a severe flood.The Christ Episcopal Church of St. Vincent was damaged and after this theynever reopened services. Instead, members transferred all the services tothe St. Johns Church in Hallock, Minnesota.

To bring us up to the present date, the community of St.Vincent has organized a group called the St. Vincent Historical Societywhich has twelve members. The President is Mrs. Ada Clinton; Vice President,Mrs. Lillian Lapp; Secretary-Treasurer, Mrs. Ruth Easton. The purpose ofthis Society is not only to preserve the Church, but to promote an interestin the Historical Sights in the town.

Little did the people know on that glorious morning in1880, that the people of 1971 would be looking back on the building of thefirst Episcopal Church that was to serve the Northeastern corner of NorthDakota and the Northwestern corner of Minnesota.



Lapp, Lillian; Interview; Wednesday, January 20, 1971

Original records of church from the 1880 to 1903, obtainedJanuary 13, 1971.

75th Anniversary church plate, Edition the St. VincentNew Era, (August 18, 1916).

75th Anniversary pamphlet, obtained from Mrs. Ada Clinton,Wednesday, January 20, 1971.

ition the St. VincentNew Era, (August 18, 1916).

75th Anniversary pamphlet, obtained from Mrs. Ada Clinton,Wednesday, January 20, 1971.