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Heritage 2016, www.plaintalk.net Vermillion Plain Talk 3B Vermillion Home To Oldest Existing Baptist Church Of The Dakotas BY DAVID LIAS david.lias@plaintalk.net Formally organized in December 1870, the First Baptist Church in Vermillion is the oldest existing Baptist Church in North and South Dakota. The church was originally located below the bluff, at the foot of Ravine Road (Dakota Street) across from the old log schoolhouse. That church survived the flood that destroyed most of Vermillion in 1881. On the night of March 27, 1881, the community was warned of the impending flood by the tolling of the bell outside the church. “The building was below the hill just at the bottom of Dakota Hill.There’s this big stone monument there where the first church sat. The bell rang all night in 1881 when Vermillion flooded,” Pastor Sandy Aakre said. “Everybody came to the sound of the bells. No one died but the town was destroyed except for the church and the old schoolhouse and there’s a monument on the east side going down Dakota Hill where the old schoolhouse was so they’re right across from each other. “Then they moved the church up the hill,” he said. Mr. Hill, a housemover from Sioux City, Iowa, moved the church up to the bluff on the southeast corner of Main and Church streets in September 1881. “They had a team of oxen and two donkey, 18 or 16 span oxen. They rolled it up the hill using log rollers,” Aakre said. “The oxen pulled it up to where the West side of the church is. In 1889 they build the east side of the church.” Just nine years after being moved up the bluff, the old building was moved again to 18 Church Street to make room for a new structure. The cornerstone was laid on Oct. 10,1889, and the new sanctuary was built of Sioux quartzite and was dedicated in May of the following year. The Vermillion Baptist Church continued to grow in numbers after the new building was constructed. The most recent addition to the church was in 1925, when Lewis Hall was built directly to the west of the existing church. The original church building, which had served as a gymnasium and meeting room since 1890, was torn down to make room for the extension. The new hall was also faced with Sioux quartzite and has stood up well over time. The church building houses a priceless musical instrument. In the spring of 1888, a pipe organ was presented to the church by Mr. E.A. Lewis, the mother of Martin J. Lewis. Mr. Lewis was a member of the firm of Thompson and Lewis, pioneer implement dealers in Vermillion. The tracker organ was constructed in 1888 by William Schuelke of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The instrument was dedicated on May 3, 1888. The Dakota Republican reported: “The new pipe organ was in use for the first time last Sunday with Professor F.A. Ballaseyus, head of the department of music at the University, at the organ. Mrs. D.M. Inman, soloist, and the university choir assisted in the dedication service.” In 1890, the instrument was moved to the present Lewis Hall. On Dec. 3 of that year, the well-known musician, Clarence Eddy, presented a recital at the re-dedication. A newspaper account stated: The loft in which the organ is placed renders its tone much clearer, much more powerful and better in every way than was the case in the old church … It is the costliest, largest, and best organ in the state.” William Schuelke Jr., son of the original builder, moved the organ to the present sanctuary in 1925. It was decided in 1961 to have the Schuelke organ rebuilt, instead of replaced. This decision was made at the advice of USD Professor James Boeringer. He was also influential in having the 1887 Marklove organ, Opus 146, of the Episcopal church in Yankton, brought to Vermillion in 1961 and incorporated in the Trinity Lutheran Church’s organ. This means Vermillion is the home of the first two organs installed in Dakota Territory. A. Eugene Doutt rebuilt the organ in 1961. Three changes were made in the stops to make the instrument more versatile for use in the church service. The organ was lowered in pitch a quarter-step and softened as much as possible. During the church’s centennial celebration, Theo Rayburn Wee, who had been organist during her student days, returned and performed a concert. The family of A.A. and Pansy Austin Whittemore presented a gift of the “Whittemore Memorial Chimes” in 1969. The chimes keyboard attachment sounds either inside or outside the building. In July 1982, Gary Stewart of the Shrine to Music Museum (now the National Music Museum) removed the original bellows and completely restored them with new skin coverings and hardware. The Schuelke organ, housed in a historic structure, is believe to be the oldest organ in continuous use since Territorial days. DAVID LIAS/FOR THE PLAIN TALK The cornerstone of the First Baptist Church in Vermillion was laid in the fall of 1889, and the new sanctuary was dedicated in May of the following year. Originally located at the foot of Ravine Road (Dakota Street) across from the old log schoolhouse, the Baptist Church survived the flood that destroyed most of Vermillion in 1881. On the night of March 27, 1881, the community was warned of the impending flood by the tolling of the bell outside of the church. This image, provided by the SD State Archives, appears in “From the River Valleys to the Rising Bluff – A Pictorial History of Vermillion, South Dakota.” Inset Photo Courtesy: Clay County Historical Society Ruth M. Moses collection. Grace Baptist Church Ministers To USD, Vermillion Community BY PASTOR STEVE FORD Grace Baptist Church began as an outreach ministry to USD students in June of 1978. The group formally constituted as a church in December of 1980. The church’s property at 1102 E. Main St., across the street from Vermillion High School, was purchased in 1987 and the initial building was built, all by volunteers, in the summer of 1988. The current, expanded facility was completed in August of 2004, all by volunteers as well. Grace Baptist Church has had three senior pastors in its history: John Christy and wife, Babs (1978-1982); Wayne James and wife, Billie (1982-2005); and Steve Ford and wife, Pam (2006-present). Having started as an outreach ministry to USD students, Grace Baptist Church has remained committed to ministering to the USD community. Students, faculty, and administrators from USD have consistently been a vital part of the Grace Baptist body and we have taken seriously a mission to welcome students, help them grow in Christ while they are in their college years, and encourage and equip them to become church and community leaders after they graduate. Just this month, the church has strengthened that commitment by calling Brandon Pedersen to be Pastor of Collegiate Ministry. Grace Baptist is also committed to our Vermillion community. We have enjoyed finding a place alongside other churches in town to bless and serve our Vermillion neighbors. We partner with the other churches of the Vermillion Ministerial Association (VMA) to help families in crisis through the VMA Emer- COURTESY PHOTO: GRACE BAPTIST CHURCH Grace Baptist Church began as an outreach ministry to USD students in June of 1978. The group formally constituted as a church in December of 1980. Finalizing its church in 1988, the current, expanded facility was completed in August of 2004, all by volunteers. gency Fund. In addition, we have also been happy to lead the Winter Warmth Coat drive each fall for several years as well as a prayer support ministry for teachers at Vermillion High School each school year. This past year we had the privilege of drawing the Vermillion community together to honor our citizens with special needs with their very own prom night, called Night to Shine. Plans are already underway for Night to Shine 2017. Grace Baptist is also committed to sharing the love and glory of Jesus outside of our community. We have ongoing missions partnerships on the Pine Ridge reservation and in the country of Uruguay, where we send teams each year. Your Locally Owned Pharmacy
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