Welcome to Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Strasburg, Emmons County, North Dakota

Birthplace of Lawrence Welk

In the fall of 1888 men out of Strasburg, South Russia came to this part of Emmons County in search of suitable land for farming. The first settlers, Jacob Feist, Jacob Baumgartner, Johannes Baumgartner, Franz Baumgartner (brothers), Kasper Feist, Joseph Burgad, and Albinus Schneider arrived in the spring of 1889. They were soon followed by Frank Geisinger, Egidius Keller, Peter Kraft, Jacob Geffre, Lorenz Schwab and Martin Schwab -- some of whom moved later on to Karlsruhe, east of Minot, ND. The times were difficult with no crops and only buffalo bones they'd collect and sell to buy a little flour. The first priest to offer Mass in the homes for these early settlers was Fr. Bernard Strassmeier, who came across the Missouri River from Ft. Yates, some 26 miles away.

In 1892 Fr. Jochim Widmer, a Benedictine, served the area from St. John's Church in McIntosh County & Holy Trinity at Grassna, southwest of Strasburg. The building of these churches gave the

Strasburg people the courage to also build in 1893. When Fr. Benedict Peter was assigned to St. John's, he soon saw the need for a resident priest in Strasburg. He lived with Peter Keller's family whose farm was near the Church until a rectory was built at about the turn of the century.

When the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad came into the area from Herreid, SD in 1902, the town of Strasburg was formed with the opening of the first store, the Strasburg Bazaar. Soon homes were built nearby. This also prompted the move of the Church and rectory to the new site, only with some controversy. It was dramatized more when the rectory was hung up on the railroad track during the move. Those who were opposed to the moving refused to help get it off the tracks, fortunately the train crew provided some assistance. With all the division in the Parish, the Church was without a pastor for a time until Fr. Alois



Strigle, OSB came in January of 1907. Plans were beginning to formulate for the building of a new and larger Church. Excavation began in the fall of 1909. The new $45,000 Church was 128 feet long, 50 feet wide with a 70 foot transept. The tower reached 85 feet but was still not as tall as some parishioners would have liked. Abbot Vincent Wehrle who became the first Bishop of Bismarck in 1910 blessed he corner stone. The first mass was offered on Christmas during the Midnight Mass in 1911, Fr. Justus Schweitzer and Fr. Alois were the serving priests and were eventually replaced by Fr. Max Speckmeier.

The Ursuline Sisters arrived here on Sept. 21, 1910 and opened a school in the Church basement with 70 some students. Within two years the enrollment was over 200 students. With efforts from the Parish and the Sisters, the old Church was remodeled into a convent and boarding quarters for some of the students. In 1917, a new school was built for about $50,000. Enrollment eventually went up to about 300 students with high school classes added. During the WPA days a


gymnasium was added. For some years, the school was operated as a public school, until the coming of the Anti-Garb Bill in the 40's. The Ursulines left in 1942 and were replaced by the Notre Dame Sisters. They taught in secular garb until the arrival of both public and private school systems in the 50's. Eventually the neighboring parishes, some of whom had closed their own schools, began to work together in the 60's and 70's operating the Emmons Central High School until 1985. The decline of enrollment and increased costs of education prompted its closing. The buildings including the new gym were sold to the public school district. The parish of Sts. Peter and Paul continued to operate its own grade school. The St. Benedict's Grade School remained open until the Parish Centennial year of 1989. In 1988, the parishioners began restoration work on the Church with repairs to the roof and the stain glass windows and the tuck pointing of all the brick work.





Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Strasburg, Emmons County, North Dakota, on Highway 83 is a gothic and Romanesque style church completed in 1911. It was blessed in June of the same year by Bishop Vincent Wherle, of the Diocese of Bismarck, ND during a Pontifical High Mass. It was consecrated on June 28, 1916 as the second consecrated Church in the Diocese. The abbey Church at Richardton, ND was the first and only other consecrated Church in the Diocese of Bismarck, ND.

It was at the original Church 2-1/2 miles Northeast of Strasburg, called Tiraspol that Lawrence Welk was baptized on March 16, 1903. He later attended St. Benedict's School and was taught by the Ursuline Sisters. The recently restored Welk farmstead and sod house is a mile north and two miles west of the city of Strasburg. The restoration is one of the Centennial projects in 1989 in observance of the State Centennial. The Parish of Saints Peter and Paul has its Centennial the same year as the State and provides this summary of its history.

For additional information about Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church and Strasburg, North Dakota, consult the following sources:

1) A Brief History of the People and Parish of Saints Peter and Paul Church, Strasburg, ND, 1989

2) As We Reminisce: Strasburg, Emmons County, North Dakota, 1967

3) Saints Peter and Paul Parish Golden Juibilee Book, 1948

4) Saints Peter and Paul's Parish Centennial Book 1889 - 1989, Strasburg, North Dakota, 1989)

5) Strasburg's Historic Church, North Dakota Horizons, Winter, 1997; 6) Moments to Remember, Strasburg, North Dakota, 1976.

6) Historic Photographs of Strasburg, North Dakota

7) Photographs of the Dedication of the Millennium Cross, Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church, Strasburg, North Dakota, September 4, 1999

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