Short Creek Church & Cemetery

Short Creek Lutheran Church

Short Creek Church is in northern Burke County, a short drive southwest of Portal, North Dakota, and just over three miles from the US/Canada border. If I’m not mistaken, it was a Lutheran Church for its entire active life, and served a congregation of many Scandinavian immigrants, and settlers of German ancestry as well.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

I’m not sure when they stopped holding regular services in Short Creek Church. If you know, please leave a comment below.

Short Creek Lutheran Church
Short Creek Lutheran Church

The Short Creek Church sign shown above was donated by Susan Kay Swenson.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

In a time when most historic places like this are locked up tight to deter vandals, it was something of a surprise to find this church open for visitors. Let’s hope Short Creek Church can continue to be free from troublemakers so future generations can enjoy it, inside and out.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

I went up the stairway toward the bell tower, but the belfry was not easily accessible, so I settled for a photo looking down from the stairs, below.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

Short Creek Lutheran Church

The plaque on the wall left me a little curious for more details on this church. It says the church was organized in 1904 and completed in 1916, but the sign outside says the church was established in 1908. Who can clarify the details? Please leave a comment.

It was also interesting that another Swenson, Reuben, organized a restoration and re-dedication of this church in 1981. 35 years later, Short Creek Church is in need of another freshening. It’s a reminder of how quickly things can deteriorate without human intervention.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

In the sanctuary, a tattered American flag hung behind the altar, with several of the stars missing. It wasn’t clear to me how they were removed or why they were missing, but at risk of sounding dramatic, it reminded me of postapocalypse movies in which a worn American flag is meant to insinuate midnight in America.

I sat quietly in one of the pews for a moment and soaked in the ambience before taking the photo above.

Short Creek Lutheran Church
Short Creek Lutheran Church

The small cemetery behind the church has a surprising number of interments. See the full list on the Rootsweb page for Short Creek Cemetery.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © Sonic Tremor Media

21 Comments on “Short Creek Church & Cemetery

  1. Love this post! Beautiful photos. Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Amazing that this building is still in that good shape and left unlocked! I was interested in the area as my brother was a Superintendent at the Portal School at one point in time.

  3. Troy– I did submit a reply– I suspect you received it. So good that the church is open to view and appreciate. The ceiling is interesting. 1981 doesnt seem that long ago to have suffered such neglect. We had a similar experience in Hague, ND at the Catholic church. It is a church still actively used, We were so glad it was ope for us to see, sit and appreciate the wonderful building– so many years ago. A true treasure.

    Curious– Why can you no longer be on Facebook? I think we’ve also seen your pictures on the annual ND calendar.

    You have my e-mail, but I’ll leave it again. Thank you so much for sharing . I’m originally from Ashley, ND,

    • Glad you liked it, Julie. We’re still on Facebook, but most people don’t see our updates anymore because Facebook has changed, and wants us, and others like us, to pay to reach our followers. Big companies can afford to do that, but small-time operations like us can’t afford to pay what they’re asking for far too few results. So we have to focus on reaching our followers in other ways, like Twitter and our email subscriber list.

    • Love this site!! Although I live in Minnesota I am a native Dakotan! Please continue to take photographs of these places! Thank you for your efforts with this site!!!!

  4. Hi Troy,

    I’m from Massachusetts but I’ve been visiting your site for awhile now and I’ve enjoyed all of the photos and the history of the ghost towns that you’ve visited throughout North Dakota. I’m a fan of them and I’ll check them out on a regular basis as I always do. Look forward to more of them. Thanks.

    John M.

  5. I really enjoyed the pictures of Short Creek Church. My mother grew up by Columbus and she often times talked about the church. It is wonderful to see it is still standing and some what good shape.

  6. I am guessing but, I wonder if the stars were cut from the flag to represent the number of states there were when the church was built. Only a guess.

  7. Thanks for taking time up in Burke County, and sharing these evocative images.

  8. Troy: My grandmother and grandfather, and many of my aunts and uncles, rest beside Short Creek Church. The last time I visited was in the mid-1980s when Columbus was celebrating its 75th year of incorporation. As you note, even back then the church doors were unlocked. I entered the church with my brother Carl (named for his uncle) who brought along his guitar. Carl started to sing. And at one point in his song he blasphemed. On a cloudless summer afternoon with blue skies there was a tremendous thunder clap. Now some might say it was a jet from Minot AFB going through the sound barrier. But my brother and I, we believed.

  9. There are several Ringwall members buried in the cemetery. Grandpa Hjalmar, Grandma Rose, Eva Ryan and several of their children that passed at an early age plus others. Chet Ringwall is the only living sibling and he resides in a home in Minot. I have attended several Sunday morning church services. I believe the services were held the last Sunday in June. Unfortunately I had not been in attendance for some time but would like to make a visit to the church.

  10. I left a long story. I used to play the organ in this church, the whole story of the church and all their families is supposed to be in the inside of the church. There used to be Agustin book there to sign too. I typed the story of the church for that book, so I could answer almost any question you have?. I am Eleanor Curtiss Kostad. My mom and dad were Archie and Martha Curtiss. I have many many relatives buried there. I live in Watford City N D

  11. The church was actually incorporated in 1908 by Frederick Peterson, John Larson, and Endre E Roen. The congregation seems to go back to 1902 though, at least that was what was reported by an annual report by the Evangelical Church.

  12. Troy. I apparently missed this original e-mail and just read it today 6/02/18. I was born and raised in Bowbells and then raised our family in Kenmare. Moved to Mandan in 1991. I don’t ever remember seeing this little church but have enjoyed reading about it. It looks much like a little Lutheran Church I used to play piano for, located between Kenmare and Stanley. Even tho I read this E long after I received it, very much enjoyed it.

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