Walsh County, North Dakota
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SAINT PETER’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH — Grafton, Walsh, ND

“Walsh Heritage” Vol 2, pg 674

    The history of the missionary work by the Episcopal Church had its beginning about 1878, which was among the Indians of Minnesota, North and South Dakota. A large share of the work with the Indians in these three states is still under the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church. It was some years later, in 1890, with the coming of many settlers of Episcopal faith, that churches were established at many points in North Dakota. In the local area churches were built at Grafton, Drayton, Walshville, Park River and Forest River. In 1881, John Code, brother of Ed Code, brought Rev. Law up from Grand Forks by team which was a long drive for the first Episcopal service which was ever held in Park River. The first missionary service in Park River was held in a log cabin belonging to Abraham Code, but at that time was the home of Will Code. It was located a mile and a half east of Park River on the south side of the road.

     People of other denominations attended the first Episcopal service. As far as Ed Code recollects, there were no other services held at Park River until the Bishop’s car, a railroad car, sometimes called the Cathedral car, came up on the railroad in the year 1884. This was the year that the railroad reached the Park River area. At the first service in the Code cabin Richard Switzer was baptized. Rev. Law was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Jones, who officiated for a short time only. The Rev. C. McCarthy took charge of the work in 1885; at that time services were held in the Baptist church. After Mr. McCarthy, the Rev. Mr. Tassel took charge of the Mission; he was followed in turn by the Rev. John Caldwell.

     The coming of the Rev. Charles E. Dobson as Missionary in September, 1898, marked the turn of the tide in the life of the mission. Although he remained five months, it was under his ministrations that the Mission took on new life. After his departure, the work was placed under the charge of the Rev. E.W. Burleson of Larimore. By holding semi-monthly services through nine months, Mr. Burleson kept the mission together until the coming of the Rev. Samuel Currie. It was Rev. Currie who fostered the building of St. Peter’s Church in Park River. They built a stone foundation with stone walls extending about four feet above the foundation. The rest of the building was built with timber. Rev. Currie commandeered the young boys of the parish to collect symmetrical stones from the fields surrounding Park River to be used in the building of the structure.

     The church is located on the corner of Code and Sixth Street. The lots for the church were given by Mr. and Mrs. C.D. Lord. Exclusive of the lots, the cost of the building and furniture was about $3,800 making the total value of the property something over $4,000. The cornerstone of the St. Peter’s Mission was laid by Bishop Edsall on July 15, 1901, and the consecration of the church took place Jan. 23, 1902.

     The train from the south brought many friends from Orr, Inkster and Conway. From the surrounding countryside, others drove in to rejoice with the good people of Park River in the completion and consecration of their beautiful church. As the train was due at 11:00, the service was set for 11:15 and began promptly at the hour. The clergy present beside the Bishop and Rev. S. Currie, priest in charge, were the Rev. Wm. M. Walton of Bathgate, Rev. Alfred Kalin of Adams, Rev. E.E. Burleson of Fargo. The Prayer Book form of consecration was followed in all particulars, Mr. C.C. Lord, the warden, reading the Instrument of Donation and the Rev. Mr. Currie the Sentence of Consecration. The service of Morning Prayer was taken by Rev. Messrs. Walton, Kalen, E.W. Burleson and J.K. Burleson. Dean Burleson took the first part of the Communion Office; Bishop Mann preached and celebrated the Communion, being assisted in the distribution of the Elements by the Dean. Some of the early communicants of St. Peter’s were: Abraham, John, William and Ed Code (the Codes farmed east of Park River, Ed Code had a store in Park River); C.D. Lord, the banker, and his family; the John Lewis family who farmed west of town; and the Catherwoods, Woodwards, Owens and Parkers.

     Submitted by Kenneth Colter, Grafton, ND

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