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.
Pierre, South Dakota: Connected to Lakota by the Missouri River at Fort Pierre.
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?
Saint Paul, Minnesota: Pig's Eye to a settlement understood by all Christian denominations.
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.
Charleston, West Virginia: Float down the river and invite Lincoln to your front porch.
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.