Th little 'stone' church on the prairie: Sts. Peter and Paul church to be taken down
HEBRON --Songs of praise and prayer have filled Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church for generations of worshippers. The little mission church, located south of Hebron, was constructed in 1904. Having closed in 1984, the decision was made to pull it down for safety concerns.
A handful of members and friends recently met to remove the altar, pews, railing, cross and windows.
“It was sad, for me it was kind of tough deal,” said Denis Tibor, who grew up a few miles south of the church. “All of your neighbors would get together for Mass. Everybody sang. It held the community together.”
The last Mass was held at the church’s Centennial celebration July 3, 2004.
“We called people together to clean the church and paint the statues,” said Denis’ wife, Sarah. “That’s what community was about back then. All the people came together to hold one more service there.”
She appreciates the history of the church.
“It’s pretty cool history when you have the original altar from the original church sitting there.”
The statues of Sts. Peter and Paul, Jesus, Joseph and Mary are being stored in St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Hebron. The ceiling and roof will be burned, and the stone walls will be collapsed. Because the walls are leaning, there’s the issue of liability, and it’s no longer safe to enter the church. Hence, a no-trespassing sign has been posted until the church is gone.
Florence Berger, one of the oldest members of the church, remembers how she and Joe Berger were married in 1950 in a double wedding, along with Andrew and Josephine Kuntz.
“The church was the nucleus for all the families,” said Bob Tibor, who also grew up there. “I remember serving Mass. I remember was there always was the smell of skunk.”
Jerry Kuntz, who lives 1 ½ miles (as the crow flies) from the church said, “Real estate is very emotional; and for me, especially because of one of my great-grandfathers donated the land. I’m 71 years old and have grown up with the stories out there. Every time I will drive by and see the church is gone, it’s a big void -- so it is emotional for me.”
The church wasn’t safe any longer, said St. Ann’s Council President Francis Tibor.
“It came to the point when it became a danger and pretty hard to fix. The bishop said it had to go down -- the walls were falling apart,” he said.
Was it a difficult decision to take down the church?
“Absolutely, but by the same token it was hard burying my parents and brothers -- that’s part of the life cycle. Whether its humans or buildings, there’s always an attachment to certain things,” Francis said.
Sarah Tibor is compiling a book filled with memories and pictures of the church. It will eventually be placed in a Sts. Peter and Paul chapel room at St. Ann’s Church. She welcomes former parishioners to write their down their favorite memories or to submit a photo for print in the book. Letters and photos may be sent to the Tibors at 5250 77 ½ Ave., Hebron, N.D. 58638.
The pews and windows are all spoken for. If interested in making a donation, contact Denis Tibor.
Their eventual goal is to use a few of the stones to build a memorial near the cemetery.Time line
The first two settlers to the community arrived from Romania in 1890. They were followed by German-Russian families and Slovak families.
A small sod church was constructed in 1898. It was served by two priests from Glen Ullin. After the church was destroyed by fire, Mass was held in an abandoned sod house that sheltered cattle.
The decision was made to build a stone church in 1904 just inside Grant County.Ten acres of land were donated by Philip Judt. Fr. Adolph Dingman drove out everyday for three weeks to say Mass and stayed until all the people left for the day.
He wrote that sandstone was gathered from a quarry. The mortar was gumbo mixed with chopped hay and straw by team of horses until they were knee-deep in mud. The walls were three-feet in width and plastered with gumbo. Two barrels of lime provided the whitewash.
Rev. Stephen Landolt and men of parish built the altar, pews and confessional.
When completed, the church was blessed and members celebrated with a picnic.
Benedictine fathers at Assumption Abbey ministered to the spiritual needs of the people. In 1924, St. Ann’s got its first residential pastor, who took over monthly services. Records document the first baptisms, first communions, confirmations, marriages and funerals. Five women and two men entered the religious life.
Prior to the days of the telephone, the church was the gathering place for families to meet on a monthly basis. The yearly highlight was the annual mission picnic on the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29. Families packed their baskets and headed to the picnic grounds on the banks of the Heart River. The church closed in 1984, and a final Mass was said for the Centennial in 2004. The nearby cemetery stands as a testimony to the faith of the community and its way of life.