Prairie secrets

Using my imagination, I stood where I thought the steps of the little church would be. Dakota prairie in the fall, minus the fence, would have greeted the congregation of the United Norwegian Lutheran church as they ended their worship service on the banks of Brave Bull Creek.

The details of the memory are dim, but the impact of that long ago day when Dad and I went searching for a stray cow has resulted in an important part of the Goodbye, Belvidere trilogy.

I suppose I was riding old Rusty, a kind and gentle mare who liked to mosey along at her own pace. Dad must have known his ride would take twice the time with me along, but never-the-less, he succumbed to my begging, and saddled our horses with his usual good humor.

When we reached the hills above Brave Bull Creek, he surprised me and took a small detour.
“There used to be a church here,” he said, getting off his horse and studying the ground. And then he grinned and showed me the remains of a rock foundation. “And over there are some graves.” He pointed to several depressions in the ground. “My baby brother is buried here,” he added, and found himself answering a hundred questions from my all too curious mind.

I don’t remember if we ever found the stray cow. However, the story of the little church on the banks of Brave Bull never left me. A couple of years ago, I returned to my favorite childhood haunt. Once again I found the rock foundation, and tried to imagine the people who worshipped in that very spot. By now, the prairie had gently blanketed the graves with waving grass, and my quick search gave no evidence the sod had ever been disturbed with shovels and tears.

In the far distance, St. Pete’s church steeple still pointed to God, just as I remembered. It’s a different church now then when Dad and I gazed eastward, but this newer church still glistened white, and the steeple carried my thoughts far above the sparse clouds to the deeper blue of the sky.

What were the people like who built a church on the prairie, buried their loved ones, worshipped, grieved, loved—-lost? How could I blend fact and fiction together to make it all come alive? Should it come from a homesteader’s viewpoint? Or should a cattleman tell the story? Or maybe neither one—-maybe a man of God who witnessed the free range days, and then the influx of homesteaders? Maybe a man called—–CJ Crezner. Would he be the first pastor of the church?  Hmmm.

But what were the facts? With help from the local courthouse, I learned that homesteader Nels Christensen, in 1911, donated this parcel of land to build a United Norwegian Lutheran Church. What happened to the church? Fact gets a little fuzzy here, but it is believed it was moved to Nowlin, a little village along Bad River, in about 1921. And then? More research. Those detail will have to come in the third book of the Goodbye, Belvidere series, which I hope to get started on soon.

But in the meantime, readers, enjoy CJ and Joanna’s adventures in His Eye Is on the Sparrow, the second book of the trilogy. Some surprises are in store for you. Discover why Isaac is heading west, without saying Goodbye to Belvidere or his family. Enjoy this time on our Dakota prairies, and catch up on a little history for good measure.

Have a good and Godly day!