Churches of Bon Homme County, Dakota
Territory: A Varicolored Tunic
By Maxine Schuurmans Kinsley
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State
University Libraries, Fargo, North Dakota, 2005, 142 pages, softcover
The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is pleased to publish
this most important work of Maxine Schuurmans Kinsley, Springfield,
South Dakota. Kinsley's work presents a valuable contribution to
the historical publications of the era of Dakota Territory especially
relating to the importance of churches and religion in southeastern
South Dakota. Bon Homme County is important in the history and culture
of the first Germans from Russia settlements in Dakota Territory.
The Dedication by the author reads: "I dedicate this endeavor
to the Czech, Dutch, and German ancestors whose legacy my children
and I share. Their courage and faith sustained them on this capricious
prairie, as ours must today."
This new history of southeastern South Dakota focuses on the ethnic
backgrounds of immigrants in Bon Homme County and particularly the
churches the newcomers established at first opportunity.
Prairie Churches of Bon Homme County, Dakota Territory; a Varicolored
Tunic presents a well-illustrated detailed description of sixty
pioneer churches in fourteen denominations which once flourished
in the county. The text is complemented by a fourteen-page detailed
index which lists titles, places, names, and surnames sure to be
helpful in genealogical research.
Bon Homme County historian Maxine Schuurmans Kinsley became "hooked"
on the subject while researching abandoned and isolated cemeteries
which once lay alongside rural churches. A retired librarian, Kinsley
continues to indulge in her hobby of writing local history.
Kinsley notes that the first settlers in Bon Homme County included
American English, Germans, and Irish from the East, some of whom
were Civil War Veterans. They established English-speaking church
societies, both Protestant and Catholic, near Bon Homme Village,
Springfield, Running Water and Scotland.
However, the majority of church societies were founded in the 1870s
by Germans from Russia with Reformed, Congregational, Baptist, and
Lutheran backgrounds. During that decade, Czech immigrants brought
to the prairie their Old-Country Catholic and Evangelical faiths
as did Norwegians their Lutheran Church and the Dutch their Reformed.
Of the once many pioneer rural churches, only three remain, all
with German heritage: Danzig Baptist Church northeast of Avon, Freidensberg
Mennonite Church (now Bible Church) south of Avon, and the Hutterite
Colony Anabaptist Church in southeast Bon Homme County.
Pioneer missionaries in every denomination helped to organize churches.
Among them were Episcopalian Bishops Wm. Hobart Hare and Melanchton
Hoyt and Catholic Bishop Martin Marty. The Catholic Church survived,
the Episcopalian did not. Others that disappeared were the German
Reformed, once numerous, and the German Evangelical Church. Mergers
between churches and even denominations became necessary, both because
of scarcity of pastors and cost of supporting church and salary.
Kinsley admits that her research is incomplete, that it sometimes
depends on faulty records and hearsay information. However, it also
has raised perplexing questions that, she hopes, someone, someday
may be able to answer.
Yankton Sioux Indian Agency at Greenwood, Charles
Mix County. From Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory.
Tyndall Congregational Church, sold to Baptists in
St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church Today.
First St. Wensceslaus Catholic Church, Tabor.
Bethany Evangelical and Reformed Church,
Review by Edna Boardman
Review by John Lamb
Prairie Churches of Bon Homme County, Dakota Territory
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