Tourism Draws Visitors to the Churches

"Tourism Draws Visitors to the Churches." North Dakota Horizons, Winter 1992.

Sts. Peter & Paul Church in Strasburg: Tourists are visiting the impressive churches in Emmons County.
Emmons County is enticing tourists with more than just the Welk homestead restoration. The Greater Emmons county Tourism Council, composed of citizens representing all the county's communities, is marketing itself through a widely-distributed publication titled the "Emmons County Visitors' Guide." Its pages, which include a detailed map of all the sites, invite prospective visitors to discover the county's hunting and fishing, its camping and park facilities, its pioneer homes, its museum - and its beautiful churches - two of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rev. Leonard Eckroth, who serves as pastor of Strasburg's Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church and St. Mary's Catholic Church in nearby Hague, says the publicity is responsible for bringing more people to see the already popular churches which tower over the rolling prairie of Emmons County.

"Definitely, there's been more people this summer than at any time before. Sometimes whole bus loads will stop here. I tell them, if you're going down the road, there's another beautiful church at Hague. They appreciate knowing that. People often comment with "These are like churches you see in Europe."

Dominating Hague's horizon, St. Mary's Church is the oldest continuous German-Russian Catholic parish in North Dakota, dating back to approximately 1885, when the area's first German-Russian settlers held services in private homes. In 1890, the first St. Mary's Church, a small wooden structure, was built southwest of Hague. Ironically it was destroyed by fire on February 13, 1929 - Ash Wednesday. Within six months, the cornerstone of the present day St. Mary's Church was laid, and using much volunteer labor from church members, the $80,000 building was dedicated on June 19, 1930. Today, it is valued at more than $1.2 million and is the pride of the town.

The first Sts. Peter & Paul Church was built in the settlement of Tiraspol in 1893, two and a half miles northeast of present day Strasburg, which was establish in 1902 with the coming of the railroad. Construction of the present church was begun in 1909 and completed in time for Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in 1911, at a cost of $45,000.

In preparation for the parish's centennial celebration in 1993 and keeping with the spirit responsible for restoring the Welk homestead, its members are ensuring that the 80-year-old church remains in good condition. It has undergone extensive refurbishing including "tuck-pointing" of the bricks, repairing and re-leading the stained-glass windows, replacing electrical wiring and installing a new sound system.

Rev. Eckroth often accompanies visitors through Sts. Peter & Paul, answering questions about its ornate interior, which he considers to be "a combination of Romanesque and Gothic architecture."

The beauty and splendor of both churches probably best summed up by a single word one visitor to Sts. Peter & Paul wrote next to her name in the "comments" column of the guest book: Awesome!

Reprinted with permission of North Dakota Horizons.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller