Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church - Strasburg, North Dakota
Strasburg, Emmons County, North Dakota
The First Church
In 1892, Germans from Russia settlers built their first church northeast of present-day Strasburg. It was known as Tiraspol, named for the city that headquartered the Catholic diocese in southern Ukraine near Odessa (today in Moldova). The cost of the church was $1,200. In 1900, the fledging parish took its name Sts. Peter and Paul, with Father Benedict Peter, O.S.B., as priest. A rectory was built at a cost of $700 with lumber and materials shipped nearly 40 miles from Wishek. A native of Switzerland, Father Peter had written a catechism for the Sioux Indians in their own language.
The parishioners of the church at Tiraspol found themselves two and a half miles from the active new community of Strasburg. After much discussion, Bishop Shanley, of North Dakota, issued a decree that the Tiraspol church was to be moved to Strasburg by October 1, 1906.
Strasburg Catholics rang out the old year with a special Mass at their new location. Abbot Wehrle of Assumption Abbey at Richardton made a promise, “If the Strasburg people would forget their differences, he would send them a priest he believed they would be happy with.” Abbot Wehrle sent Father Alois Strigl, O.S.B., who proved to be a good choice as he helped to heal divisions in the Strasburg community.
The New Church
Information is taken from the book, Saints Peter and Paul’s Parish: Centennial Book, 1889-1989, Strasburg, ND. Bishop Vincent Wehrle of the newly formed Diocese of Bismarck (March 21, 1910) came to Strasburg to bless and lay the cornerstone. Work on the church continued to progress rapidly. By October, 1910 the outside of the building had nearly been completed. Father Alois who was the priest in 1910 returned to Assumption Abbey due to his health. By November, 1910, Father Max Speckmaier then began to say mass and hold catechism classes in the church basement. The first Midnight Mass was on Christmas Eve, 1910 on the first floor of the church. The seating capacity is 900 with the sanctuary measuring 128 feet long, 50 feet wide with a 70-foot transept, and a tower of 85 feet in height.
The construction of the church cost about $45,000. By the time of completion, $24,000 in debt remained. This was quickly reduced by the parishioners who were all assessed a special amount, and in addition gave freely and generously to put the finishing touches on the building. The beautiful pipe organ cost $3,700.
A joyful dedication celebration was on June 29, 1911, the feast of Saint Peter. Bishop Vincent Wehrle blessed the new church with a Solemn Pontifical High Mass.
The church architect was Anton Dohmen. The Strasburg church shares many Romanesque characteristics with St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Assumption Abbey, Richardton, ND.
The Ursuline Sisters Come to Strasburg
Bishop Joseph Wehrle brought Ursuline Sisters from Germany to teach in Strasburg. The first three sisters arrived on September 21, 1910 by train at Linton, and were driven by horse team to Strasburg. The Ursuline Sisters started their teaching ministry in the church basement. The first school year started with 70 students, by the end of the year there were 170. Classes were regularly taught in English, but there were also courses in German since the daily conversation in Strasburg was mostly in German. Young girls were taught the practical skills of the day for women: cooking, sewing, and knitting. Religious instruction was given after the regular school hours.
Father Max had the idea to convert the old church to a home for the Ursuline Sisters. In April, 1912, the Sisters moved into their newly remodeled home. Because of the growth of the Strasburg community, there were 19 sisters at the highest point. The sisters took about 30 children from the surrounding farming community as boarders during the school year. The cost was $12 per month for board and tuition at the Ursuline Convent. This included laundry and private lessons. If the child went home on the weekends, the charge was reduced to $10 a month.
The Church Rectory
The Church Parish decided to spend $15,000 and build a new rectory. Peter Moser was awarded the contract and built a two story, fourteen room structure, which was to have running water and a steam heating system.
St. Benedict’s School
With the leadership of Father Max Speckmaier, construction of St. Benedict’s School began in 1917 with a cost of about $50,000. The first high school graduating class was in 1927. The first four graduates in 1927 were John J. Baumgartner, Jr., Aloysius Kopp, Tillie Lipp and Math P. Moser.
The years of the Great Depression were devastating to the country, and Strasburg was no different. The “Dirty Thirties” saw many people leave the area in search of work. It was during this time that the parochial and public schools combined.
HISTORICAL INFORMATION RESOURCES:
Fischer, Jonathan, translation German to English. “Strasburg, Emmons Co., N.Dak.: Celebratory Publication (“Festchcrift’) on the 25th Jubilee of St. Peter and Paul’s Parish. Strasburg, ND, 1914, 78 pages.
Michael M. Miller, Director & Bibliographer
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
PO Box 6050, Dept. 2080
Fargo, ND 58108-6050