Diamond Anniversary in Dakota
The venerable Alfred church celebrated 75 years on location, Sabbath, June 28, 2008.
This tiny North Dakota town, 34 miles southwest of Jamestown and 100 miles from the state capital in Bismarck, once boasted several stores, three churches, two grain elevators, and a fuel distribution center. Today empty hulks of store and elevator, about ten homes, and a CoG7 are all that remain.
The church in Alfred, and across the Dakotas, began in the late 1880âs when a group of 12-14 families around Kulm, North Dakota, began keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. About the same time, people from the same German/Russian heritage found the same Bible teachings not far away in Eureka, South Dakota. By 1898 that church had also established itself under the Church of God name.
Henry Schlenker, Sr. and his family came from Germany to North Dakota in 1896. They stayed first with Gotfried Muntz, a church family near Kulm. Using a donated team and wagon, Henry soon moved his family to a farm near Jud, ten miles from Alfred, and turned the wagon upside down to find protection from the first nightâs hard rain. A sod house was built to prepare for the coming winter.
Each Friday the Schlenkers packed up and drove team and buggy back to Kulm for Sabbath meetings. Excited about the Bible, Henry usually carried the “Good Book” with him. If a neighbor happened by when he was plowing, Henry would stop to talk, often turning it into a Bible study. Occasionally the men would get so involved that the horses wandered off.
Johonnas and Christina Gohner immigrated from Romania in 1910, settling first on a homestead south of Kulm, then later near Alfred. They heard about the seventh-day Sabbath from their neighbors, Henry and Karolina Schlenker. Eventually these families joined the Kalmbachs, Reichs, and others for services in their homes. Services were all in the German language until the 1940âs.
Just 75 years ago, in 1933, a store building in Alfred was purchased by the group to serve as a church home. The building cost is unknown, but Frieda Schlenkerâs record of expenses (gas, oil, phone, meals) to settle the purchase came to $4.33. Christ Kiesz from Eureka, South Dakota, served as pastor for the next ten years. In 1942 he held a seven-week revival in which there were 38 conversions, with baptisms in a pond near the railroad tracks east of Gackle.
Ivan Harlan became Alfredâs first resident pastor in 1943. He received $50 per month for services, plus eggs, meat, milk, and other foodstuffs from members. In return, he helped with the farm work, especially during busy seasons. He also held meetings in surrounding towns, often singing and preaching on street corners on Saturday nights. Young people went along to help sing and distribute literature.
Other pastors who would serve in Alfred were John Kiesz, Harvey Otto, Clifford Tuttle, Noah Camero, Melvin Sweet, George Tolbert, Daniel Camero, Larry Hadden, Luke Moldenhauer, Ray Youngs, Harris Kinzler, Jerry Morgan, Wayne Hrenyk, and Stephen J. Kyner.
Today the Alfred church â about all thatâs left of the once thriving town â is strong. It draws from surrounding farms and villages for over 50 miles. Children and grandchildren of the Dakota pioneers to the fifth generation remain faithful to Christ and the Bible truths cherished by their ancestors. With the large numbers of young families now attending, the future for Alfred church still looks bright!
For more information on the history of the Alfred Church, please go to:
www.baonline.org and click on “Past Issues.“Â Go to the “June 2008” issue and look for the article on the “Diamond Anniversary in Alfred, ND.”
SPECIAL DEDICATION FOR THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY: