The hidden history of a space in the gap between church and state takes time to discover. My first visit to the current Capital of Ohio in 2013 was focused on discovery of the closest church to the State Capitol. However, the best parking was actually a huge garage under the Capitol square block. Walking up to tour the landscape was a little disorienting. I missed the huge statue and description of Christopher Columbus on the SW side. Stumbled across a store front for the Church of Scientology on the NW side. Read the inscriptions of famous Ohioans and their monuments on the West side. Found the huge neon sign of the Ohio Stateman newspaper on the East side. Then noticed the red door of Trinity Episcopal just a crosswalk away on the NE corner. Captured a bunch of pictures and made my way back down into the parking garage under the Capitol. I thought about the risks of an earthquake or more nefarious intentions and the safety of the setup. Then went on my merry way.
The second visit this year was during a tour of the 3 Ohio Capitals with Marie. We tried to catch a Catholic mass at St. Josephs 2 blocks away. Found the Christopher Columbus monuments, and were amazed to see Wedding guests arriving at a reception in the Capitol. We saw the Red door of Trinity but never entered. Hidden beyond the red door is a stained glass story of Ohio history and landmarks. It is best told by this article from Doug Motz. He also passed by the red door many times before slowing down and discovering the charms of the building. His article was written 6 weeks after I visited in March of 2013. Interesting that we were both finding time. Read it here. https://www.columbusunderground.com/history-lesson-a-celebration-of-columbus-history-in-stained-glass-dm1/
The Church in the World can be found behind the Red door at the corner of Third and Broad in downtown Columbus. on the NE corner of Capitol square. As with every Capital visit, there is always room for more discovery. On my next visit Trinity Episcopal will be my first stop after climbing up from underground.
My visit to the Capital of Michigan was actually my fifth to the city of Lansing. My daughter Lorelei attended Cooley Law school for her post graduate degree for 3 years. Moved her in, visited, and proudly saw her graduate with her law degree. This trip was entirely different. The Cooley Law campus is actually a south neighbor to the State Capitol grounds and my daughter stayed in an apartment on the north side. Did I pay attention to the Capitol and it's close church neighbors on any of my previous visits? NO!
Lansing is centrally located in the mitten shaped state of Michigan. It's first Capital was located in Detroit from 1937 to 1847. Lansing has been the Capital ever since then. The town was founded after 1790 by New Yorkers who had been lured westward with the promise of fictitious land plots. After a village was formed they named it Lansing Township after their home village of Lansing in New York. Michigan was predominant Catholic until the 19th century, but has evolved to mostly Protestant today with a significant influx of middle Eastern faiths. Catholics have dropped to less than 20% of the state population.
I had zero interest in state and church history on my previous visits to see Lorelei. This trip was different. Shortly after moving the Capital to Lansing, churches of all faiths popped up within a couple of blocks of the Capitol. Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Baptist all lined up on the north side. Each with it's own unique history of formation. Take a stroll to either side of the Capitol grounds and follow the history of it's State,Law,and Church buildings over the last two centuries.
The evening drive from Pierre to Omaha was long. I arrived at the hotel at almost 3am. A good mornings sleep later I was checking out and noticed a pamphlet on the tourist rack in the lobby. Father Flanagan's Boys Town was just down the road on US Route 6. A proper detour was in order. I am so glad I did. The real life story and ongoing legacy of this special place has been immortalized in film, books, song and lasting quotes. An Academy award, "He ain't heavy he's my brother", and a giving foundation for over a century is here for your exploration and understanding.
As I was touring the grounds, I called my Dad in Rhode Island and told him I was on Route 6. Not in Rhode Island, but but Omaha, Nebraska. He said " I was there once, picked up a pamphlet in the lobby while on a business trip." Flanagans calling Flanagans to visit Flanagans. What a script! I learned so much, and you will too.
Onto Lincoln and the tall Capitol built in the shape of a cross. On the north side and main entrance lie three churches. First Christian Church, First Baptist Church, and St. Mary's Catholic Church. Once again Separation of church and state are mere footsteps from each other.
I drove 200 miles down US 83 from Bismarck to Pierre. The quietest Capitol to Capitol journey of my tour. Pretty sure there were less than a dozen cars between the two cities. Pierre, South Dakota is the second smallest Capitol city behind Montpelier, VT. It is also one of only four Capitols to not be serviced by an Interstate highway. Dover, Jefferson City, and Juneau are the others. It is however, serviced by the Missouri river, which plays a multi reasoned part of it's history.
The name Pierre comes from the Fort located across the river Fort Pierre. Fort Pierre was named for an American Fur trader from St. Louis, Pierre Chouteau Jr.. When South Dakota became a state in 1880, Pierre was chosen as it's Capital due to its centrally located position in the new state. I found a peaceful Pierre with it's Capitol and closest churches on a Sunday afternoon.
The closest church Lutheran Memorial Church was literally across the street from the Northwest side of the Capitol. It was also the newest of three I found close by, built in 1942. A few blocks further to the North, I found Saints Peter and Paul Catholic church established shortly after statehood in 1882. The third church is First Congregational UCC, a block behind Lutheran Memorial, the fourteenth location of this community. This church history is truly tied to Pierre, it's native Lakota roots and the Missouri river for it's ministry. The History below is from their website. https://www.pierreucc.org/our-history.html
Our church roots are the most established in the Pierre area; First Congregational Church’s legacy begins in the mission work of Stephen Return Riggs in 1840, carried on by his son, Thomas, in 1872. They began forming relationships with the Lakota that lived on the land, and shared with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unlike many missionaries of the time, they didn’t believe that the Indian way of life should be exterminated. They believed with passion that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was meant to be shared with all people everywhere, in their own languages. This led Riggs and others to form the first Lakota Bible, Lakota dictionary, and Lakota hymnal. By learning Lakota and teaching English, the Riggs family planted churches up and down the river, all led by Lakota lay ministers. Today, that tradition still carries on in the life of the Dakota Association – 13 churches on four reservations who are led by Lakota pastors serving their local communities.
Our local congregation took root here in 1880, a few years before South Dakota became a state! The first services were held with a membership of nine people and a minister, Rev. William B. Williams. On November 28, 1880, they organized the first church in Pierre in a railroad construction shack on Coteau Street. Rev. Williams came to Fort Pierre by steamboat and served the Home Missionary Society and preached on ‘both sides of the river.’ Two months later, he brought his wife to Pierre and lived in a tent in what is now Griffin Park. The church would later move from the railroad shack to a tent at Dakota and Fort Street, because the tent was warmer. Moving from one location to another, Eugene Steere writes, “my wife and I would go out on Sunday morning and find we had been ousted from the previous place and have to carry the organ and books to some new-found place.” All in all, the church worshiped in fourteen places before building its first permanent home. With financial help from the East, the small congregation built its first church at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Pierre Street. The church was dedicated September 3, 1882, with the Rev. Thomas Riggs of the Oahe Mission preaching the first sermon. The church building served the congregation until 1932, when a new building was constructed at Highland and Prospect for a cost of $23,200. During the church’s history it has had 29 ministers, including its present pastor, The Rev. Emily Munger.
On the wide open and sprawling prairie, our Congregationalist forefathers and mothers played an integral part in the development of Pierre and surrounding areas. They were involved in government, as educators, doctors, surveyors, ranchers and farmers, tradesmen and women, parents and members of voluntary associations that provided for the interests and needs of the communities.
In 1957, Congregationalists sought to unite in worship with our Reformed, Christian, and Evangelical friends in faith to form what is known as our denominational identity today: The United Church of Christ.
Little did I know of this amazing formation of faith as i walked the rest of the Capitol grounds. A beautiful Capitol Lake was created just Southeast of this black capped Capitol. The quiet beauty of the entire area gave an unusually peaceful feeling for a State Capitol. I can't wait for another chance to visit Pierre and explore further the connection between church and state.
Many surveys have found that North Dakota is often the last of our 50 states to be visited. It was 32 for my first visit. This was my 3rd time time but my first to the Capital. I arrived in Bismarck late on a Saturday night with the temperature hovering just below freezing. The Capitol building was easy to find as it was tall like the Florida and Louisiana buildings. I captured 2 quick night pictures and found a hotel close by.
Sunday morning I attended a Catholic mass at St. Anne's a few blocks to the east, then circled the Capitol looking for other close churches. The first stop was at McCabe Methodist https://www.mccabechurch.com/about-us/our-history which is directly in front of the south entrance of the Capitol grounds. It has a long history of being closest to the Capitol. Next was https://bismanuu.com/ a very unique church on the north side that encompasses many type of beliefs.
The Capitol Building in Bismarck has it's own history. https://www.omb.nd.gov/capitol-complex/history Why is this Capitol city called Bismarck? The name has no connection to the Native tribe names of Mandan, Dakota, and Lakota have nothing to do Bismarck. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Bismarck,_North_Dakota will tell you the answer. Maybe that's why so many 50 state travelers miss the mark until their very last state. Will we find a similar story in the other Dakota?
Imnizaska is the Dakota name for Saint Paul. At least it was for the Native American settlements that were mostly on the East side of the Mississippi River where it joins the Minnesota river. Pierre "Pig's Eye" Parrant established a well known tavern and the area was renamed Pig's Eye. Along came Lucein Galtier, the first Catholic pastor of the region, and he built the Log Chapel of Saint Paul. This was the first location of the now majestic Cathedral of Saint Paul. Pastor Galtier proclaimed that the area should now be called "Saint Paul" because it is short, sounds good, and it is understood by all Christian denominations.
I arrived to the majestic front steps of the Capitol building with bagpipes from a family reunion and celebration in progress on a Saturday afternoon. Briefly met with a good friend Julia, who lived in Minneapolis and described the landscape. The Majestic Cathedral of Saint Paul was 1/2 mile south of the front steps. Smaller churches lined the streets behind the Capitol. The Cathedral of Saint Paul was clearly separated from the Capitol of Minnesota, but also clearly in sight and dominating the southern view.
Christ Lutheran Church of Capitol Hill has a long history of multiple locations along Canada street behind the Capitol. It has been Multinational with Swedes, Norwegians and Danes. They have met in the old Courthouse, Zion Evangelical church, and the State Capitol building, as well as other locations that now house other denominations. They are still a congregation of immigrants and there are around a dozen nationalities and ethnic groups that worship there every Sunday. The gospel is read in English, Khmer (Cambodian) and Tigrinia (Eritean), and the whole worship is Simu-translated into Khmer.
I wandered down to the Cathedral where a wedding was soon to be held and ducked inside for some pictures. There are more history storylines to explore here on the next visit to the only state Capital in Minnesota. Now off to the Dakotas, North and South.
Natives called it the land of four lakes. In 1829 a former federal judge bought over 1000 acres of swamp and forest on an Isthmus between two of the lakes. His vison was to create a city and he lobbied for it to be the Capital city of Wisconsin. He then named the city for President James Madison who had died in 1836. Street names are for the other 39 signees of the US Constitution. The first Capitol's cornerstone was placed in 1837, replaced with a second Capitol in 1863 which burned down in 1904. The current Capitol building was raised between 1906 and 1917.
On April 5th, 2013, I arrived at night looking for the closest church to this State Capitol. In the glow of the Capitol Dome I found Grace Episcopal church in the shadows on W. Washington street. It's heritage in Madison's history is captured in this article on their website.
The Heritage of Grace Church. On Saturday, July 28, 1838, the Rt. Rev. Jackson Kemper, Missionary Bishop of the Northwest, with two traveling companions arrived in Madison, Wisconsin. With more mosquitoes than houses, this "city of four lakes" was on the verge of becoming the capital of the Territory and was ripe for the "immediate labors of a missionary."
What began with services in a roughly built storefront quickly resulted in the construction of a small chapel and in September 1855, one year before the city of Madison was granted a charter, the ground was broken on the West Washington corner of the Capitol Square for a gothic sandstone structure to be named Grace Episcopal Church.
On Sunday, February 14, 1858, worshipers gathered for the first time in the newly built place of worship. Over the years, many of the most prominent families in Madison and Wisconsin have called Grace home, and Presidents Grover Cleveland and Harry Truman worshiped here. The deep faith of those early generations has left a legacy of commitment to Jesus Christ and to the community that is symbolized in works of art like the Baptistry Window designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and our long tradition of outreach in the community and the world.
By the time American artist Georgia O'Keeffe was baptized here on August 31, 1888, Grace was a well-established parish. Today Grace is home to congregants from all religious backgrounds who have found a spiritual home in The Episcopal Church and this historic place of worship.
Present day Madison is home to the the fastest growing city in Wisconsin, The University of Wisconsin, and ongoing discussion of church and state topics. All sitting on an Isthmus in the land of four lakes.
Lansing became the State Capital of Michigan in 1847. The first 10 years were in Detroit but the state needed a more centrally located base of government. A number of Churches set up shop on the north border of the Capitol grounds. On the southern border, Cooley Law School became its neighbor.
Pack up the records put them on a steamship and set up shop in a new Capitol building. That is what the new State of West Virginia did from 1863 to 1885. From Wheeling to Charleston to Wheeling and finally back to Charleston. All the state records were shuttled by boat with each move. When they finally settled in Charleston with this new Capitol building in 1931, someone invited President Lincoln's likeness to overlook the river with the Capitol behind him. Why? It was President Lincoln's signature in 1863 that officially created the State of West Virginia.
On the next block to the north I found two churches with tongue twisting names. First Spiritualist Cathedral Temple and Ruffner Memorial Presbyterian Church. If one was to go back to the original Capitol building in Wheeling, you would also find a Cathedral a block north. St. Josephs Cathedral of Wheeling. You can change locations but a church finds a way to stay close by.
The first surprise when approaching the Ohio statehouse is where the easiest parking is. In a huge parking garage under the Capitol building. While other Capitols have underground tunnels and entrances, this is the only one that I encountered with vehicles directly under the building. Once you emerge and approach the front entrance you will find the Great Seal of the State Of Ohio, proudly proclaiming "With God all things are possible". Statues of famous Ohioans, US Presidents surround the one city block that the Capitol resides in.
Across the street on the Northeast corner lies Trinity Episcopal church with it's distinctive Red door entrance. Next door to the right is The Columbus Dispatch building where the state newspaper keeps a watchful eye on the separation between church and state. Literally just an underground parking garage and crosswalk away from each other. Even the Church of Scientology could be found in the vicinity, with a storefront one block north of Ohio's statehouse. The separation metaphor has plenty of fuel for discussion in the center of Ohio.
2013 and 2016 visits. This two part report is from Des Moines, Iowa. The French translation is pronounced demwan and literally means ‘from the monks”. This capital city of Iowa was named for the Des Moines river which splits the downtown area from the State Capitol high on the hill to the east. Four churches lie along Des Moines street, one block north of the Capitol. In order from west to east are Capitol Hill Lutheran www.chlcdesmoines.org, Calvary Chapel www.calvarychapeldm.org, Elim Christian Fellowship www.elimdsm.com , and St. Peter’s Catholic www.stpeterdesmoines.org.
First Lutheran church occupied the oldest building dating back to 1887, after the community was founded in 1869 to serve Swedish speaking families and help Latavian and Sudenese refugees. Central Lutheran ( now closed) was formed in 1876 to serve Norwegian Families and help Vietnamese refugees in the 1970’s. These two communities merged in 2002 to create Capitol Hill Lutheran.
Calvary Chapel and Elim Christian Fellowship have both been established since 2000 only one block from the Capitol. Calvary Chapel started as Heartland Christian Fellowship from Forest City, Iowa in 1976. Elim Christian Fellowship was formed by Pastor Michael Hurst in 2001 and features a reconciliation ministry for all. It is the closest church to the Iowa State Capitol.
St. Peter’s church was established as a branch of another parish in 1915, and eventually transformed into the Vietnamese Catholic Community in Des Moines. 2008 brought the merger with Our Lady of the Americas. Now anchoring the east end of Des Moines street, it is the church with the greatest geographical separation from the State Capitol along this river of monks.
The Iowa State Capitol is unique among the 50 states, with four large green domes surrounding a central gold leaf dome that rises 275 feet above the ground. Finished in 1884, this massive structure commands your attention from every direction. Outside, the west entrance is most impressive with a series of never ending steps stretching towards the river and downtown Des Moines.
It is here on the West Capitol terrace, that Franklin Graham plans to start his Decision America tour of 2016 https://decisionamericatour.com on January 5th. His purpose is to hold prayer rallies at each of the 50 state Capitols to encourage Christians to vote for Christian leaders. He is president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The connection between church and state may never be closer.
Your intrepid Capitols and Churches reporter is planning to be there to witness what transpires.
Bold initiatives. One has to love them. If you do, then you must follow them and put yourself on the road to discovery. When Franklin Graham announced last year that he was going to every state capital to hold prayer rallies, my discovery senses came alive. His first stop would be in Iowa on January 5, 2016 in advance of the Iowa Caucuses, which is also the first political contest on the road to the presidency in 2016.
Decision America 2016 (decisonamerica2016.com) sure sounds political. A visit to the website looks political: red, white and blue, tour dates, pledge support. My first thought was that Graham is running for president, which would be interesting: another Republican in the ever growing field of candidates.
Alas, it was not to be. Evangelist Graham is merely leading his constituency to pray, vote and engage in the political process. He has left the Republican Party and is encouraging Christians to get off the sidelines and get in the game of becoming Christian leaders. No party labels needed.
To this reporter, a fascinating story lies within this effort. Can a famous religious leader make an impact in the United States presidential race of 2016 without running for office himself? Can one walk in the separation of church and state but still construct a bridge between the two? Does one have to build or break down walls to accomplish such a goal?
I packed up my Capitols and churches experience and hit the road to Des Moines. There I found a noon time crowd of 2600 assembled on the west terrace of the Iowa State Capitol. It was sunny, mid 20’s cold with a stiff southwest breeze.
Three Decision America 2016 buses wrapped in Red, White, and Blue set the scene for a 30 minute speech/ prayer rally by Franklin Graham. Orange vested chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association roamed through the crowd. Silently standing on the outskirts were two political campaign buses. Ben Carson 2016 and Rocky 2016. One Navy veteran stood on the Capitol steps with numerous signs of silent protest. After the event, the Iowa Governor arrived to meet with Mr. Graham on his tour bus.
It was a fine example of the freedom to assemble and express your opinion. With 2600 in attendance and thousands more following in various media forms, I’m sure it will inspire people to pray, vote, and engage. The question is how much? Will it make a difference in the final outcome?
Illinois has had six Capitol buildings since becoming a state in 1818.The first was in Kaskaskia on the Mississippi river, previously the territorial Capitol before statehood. In 1820, the first of three Capitols were built in Vandalia, up the Kaskaskia river and more centrally located within the state. In 1836, a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln influenced a move to Springfield where the old and current Capitols now stand.
The fifth Capitol, built in 1837, is particularly historic for its Lincoln events, including the Douglas debate, his “House divided” speech, and where he lay in state after his assassination. It is still standing as an historical site, a few blocks east of the current Capitol. The new Capitol was finished in 1868. It is shaped like a Latin cross, aligned to the major compass directions, and features a Zinc covering which does not weather.
The First Church of Christ, Scientist is located one block to the left of the current state Capitol. Directly across from the northeast corner of the Capitol is the current Trinity Lutheran church which was built in 1889. The was the fourth building for this community started by Rev. Francis Springer in 1841 at his home. Rev. Springer and Abraham Lincoln were neighbors for 3 years between 1844 and 1847.
When you visit the land of Lincoln in the Illinois state capital of Springfield, make sure you look for the Zinc dome located between the two churches. It is here that you will find a statue of President Lincoln to greet you.
Continuing with the states beginning with I, we come to the true intersection of America. Indianapolis, Indiana is the most centrally located capital of any state in the union. The first national road actually passed through the early days of this Capitol location. It was founded in 1821 as a planned city to centrally locate the newly formed state government.
Indiana has had 5 statehouses since it became a state in 1816. The first was in Corydon, the next four in Indianapolis. The current Capitol was finished in 1888 and features a statue of George Washington in front of the south entrance. The shape of the building is a cross, very fitting for the crossroads of America.
The oldest Catholic parish in Indianapolis started out as Holy Cross when the first regularly celebrated mass was held at a tavern in 1837 by Father Vincent Bacquelin. He built the first church, called Holy Cross Chapel in 1840. His patron saint was St. John the Evangelist. When it came time to build a new brick church in 1850, the new pastor changed the name to St. John The Evangelist to honor Father Bacquelin.
The current building for this church was completed in 1871 with the twin spires added in 1893. It is located at the corner of Georgia and Capitol avenue. Parishioners started out small, at about 60, rose as high as 3000, and dropped down to 30 as residents moved to the suburbs. Today, the number of registered is 800 and the parish ministers to many visiting tourists in the downtown area. It is located just 3 blocks west of the Capitol.
The story of Capitols and churches in Indianapolis consists of building a cross shaped Capitol in the center of the state and then starting a local church from a tavern a few blocks away. Almost 200 years later, these two staples of the community remain standing at the crossroads of America.
Reciting the 50 capitals in elementary school, I always had to pause when it came to Kentucky. It was one of the easiest to remember because of the association with hot dogs. Until I had to spell Frankfort. I always lost a half a point on that one. Years later, while researching this article, I would discover how this small city came to be the capital of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Pioneer Stephen Frank was killed while making salt at a ford in the Kentucky River around 1780. Frank’s Ford became the place and over time the name was shortened to Frankfort. After Kentucky became the 15th state, Frankfort won a competition among a number of communities to be the capital. A log house to use as the first Capitol building, supplies, and $3000 in Gold helped sway the decision in Frankfort’s favor. In 1900, Governor-elect William Goebel was assassinated at the Old Capitol, while walking to his inauguration.
By 1910, the new and current Capitol was built across the river and up the hill in South Frankfort. Around it is a mostly residential area. The center of commerce and community still lies in the downtown area. Three original churches built in 1833, 1835, and 1850 surround Capital plaza. South Frankfort Presbyterian church was built in 1904 and became the closest to the new Capitol.
Fast forward to 2012 when a new church neighbor appears just two blocks from the Capitol steps. St. Peter’s Anglican church was established as a renewal effort for Frankfort-area folks from the St. Andrew’s Anglican church in Versailles, KY. As I explored our 50 state Capitols and their closest churches in 2013, St. Peter’s Anglican was the only Anglican church that I found. 35 other State Capitols had an abundance of Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian , and Baptist churches surrounding their location. For this church separation, Frankfort, Kentucky stands alone.
Distinct in history, name, and church separation, Frankfort was a fascinating study for this 50 state student. Maybe I can get the half point added back to my grade now. My travels continue on in the Kentucky rain, to three states that begin with the letter I.