Church Photo Identified as St. Petri's Stone Church Only Cemetery and Memories Remain

"Church Photo Identified as St. Petri's Stone Church Only Cemetery and Memories Remain." Hazen Star, 26 August 2004, 6.
This is the original St. Petri's (Peter's) Stone Church, built in 1896, 12 miles north of Hazen.

I got all my instruction there (St. Peter's), all in German. That's the only language we knew then. Everything was in German but the outside world was English. It was our way of living.
    -Harold Miller Pick City-

The stone church was replaced by this new wooden church, built in 1916 at a cost of $4,000. After the church dissolved in 1958, the building was sold and moved to Beulah where it was used as a shop.

The mystery photo of folks gathered in front of an old, whitewashed stone building that was previously printed in the Beulah Beacon and Hazen Star July 1 issue has been positively identified as St. Petri's Stone Church.

St Petri's was located about 12 miles north and one mile east of Hazen along the road now known as Highway 1806. Originally built and dedicated in 1896, the church later became known as St. Peter's, the American version of its name.

In 1916 the old stone church was replaced with a new, modern wooden church and a tall, towering steeple and bell tower. The new church was built at a cost to its congregation of $4,000, a hefty price for those early days.

Sadly, all that now remains, as proof that this old church once existed, is a cemetery and memories of past days, from past members who attended the church as children.

After the mystery photograph was first printed a few tips were called into the newspaper office. Darold Benz, Beulah, and his wife, Della, recognized the photograph from early scrapbooks kept by his mother.

The same photo along with several others were identified in scrapbook newspaper clippings dated 1939 commemorating the 50th Jubilee of the Christ Parish, the original parish of St. Peter's.

Neither St. Petri's Stone Church, nor its wooden replacement exists today. In fact, the church is now ashes - the end of the trail for one of the first churches of Mercer County.

St. Petri's Stone Church was built at the NE corner of Section 15, 146, 86, just one mile east of Hazen Bay Road. The cemetery that is still in use today is located on the north side of 1806. The church once stood nearby, on the south side of the highway.

St. Petri's was one of five original German-Russian Lutheran preaching places that in 1889 organized the Christ Parish. The others were Priebes Church, later known as St. Paul's, St. John's Church, located at Krem, Bohrers' Schoolhouse, and Immanuel Church, located at Kronthal.

In 1939 St. Peter's, and Immanuel were part of the Christ Parish. The two churches shared pastors and later services for many years.

St. Peter's was served by its first clergy in 1887 when missionary Rev. H.A. Dieter made four trips from Mandan to the northeast corner of Mercer County to serve the early settlers.

Rev. and Mrs. Christian Goecker served St. Peter's Lutheran Church from 1925-30.

Fifteen pastors served St. Peter's until 1939. After Dieter the pastors were J. Niedarty, 1889-90, William Knappe, 1890-92, O. Bartsch, 1893, Andreas Leupp, 1893-98, N. Brein, 1898-1901, E.O. Engler, 1901-04, L. Drews, 1904-07, N. Mattheis, 1907-08, G.A. Graepp, 1909-13, A. Kelpe, 1914-20, John Grill, 1921-25, Christian Goecker, 1925-30, E.J. Hammer, 1930-36, and A.A. Krause, 1937-39. No information was available through 1958.

Following an early church history is not easy, especially one whose original members have also gone to ashes. But the children and grandchildren of this early church still have memories of St. Peter's on the prairie.

Benz, whose grandfather, Mattheis, and father, Friedebert, were original, early members of St. Peter's and his mother's family was early members of Immanuel, remembers attending both churches in the Christ Parish as a boy.

Benz also remembers attending six weeks of Bible school at St. Peter's each summer.

"It was a pretty big church for those days," Benz said, looking at the photograph in his mother's scrapbook.

Indeed, the new building of St. Peter's appears to be quite large and stately, with tall glass windows along both sides and a steeple tower with two additional large windows overlooking the front entrance.

Harold Miller of Pick City also attended St. Peter's as a boy.

"I got all my instructions there, all in German. That's the only language we knew then," Miller said. "Everything was in German but the outside world was English. It was our way of living."

Miller said services were always in German at St. Peter's, but he said when Pastor A.A. Krause arrived in 1937, English services were held in the evenings sometimes.

Miller described St. Peter's as a nice church inside with chandeliers that disappeared once it was no longer in use.

The St. Peter's congregation was dissolved in 1958. At that time, the majority of its members joined Peace Lutheran Church in Hazen.

Sometimes shortly after it closed, the church building was sold at auction to August Jeager of Beulah to be used as a shop. The building was moved into Beulah and sat along Highway 49 where the present Hillside Office Complex is now located.

Helen (Miller) Hilz, a cousin to Harold Miller, also attended St. Peter's as a child. Hilz said when she drove by the building she recognized it, even though it no longer had a steeple.

"I would say `Oh, there's my church I used to go to," Hilz recalled.

Hilz also has fond childhood memories of attending St. Peter's.

"I remember taking the sled to Christmas services and the candles burning on the (Christmas) tree," Hilz said.

Hilz remembers singing in German and attending German Sunday School. She also remembers that the women and children, boys and girls, sat on one side of the church, while the men and older boys sat on the other.

Although St. Peter's Lutheran Church has been gone many years, burned to the ground in a shop fire just two years after its arrival in Beulah, its memories will live on, carried on by the families who found it a worthy place to worship more for so many years.

The church cemetery is still in the final place for many St. Peter's former congregation members, as burials continue to take place there today.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The church that was built on the dusty prairie still lives.

The cemetery is all that remains of the original St. Peter's Lutheran Church. It is located along Highway 1806, 12 miles north and one mile east of Hazen.

Reprinted with permission of the Hazen Star.

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