Lonely James River Church on a Hill

James River Church

We’ve passed this place a dozen times in our travels. It usually happens something like this… we’re on a tight schedule, wanting to get to all of the places we’ve planned to shoot before the sun sets, or the weather turns bad, so we pass on by, promising to hit it next time. Then, we usually get ten minutes down the road, and we start regretting the choice not to stop. So, this time we decided to stop and photograph this lonely James River Church on a hill overlooking Highway 200, about 16 miles east of Carrington, or 30 miles west of Cooperstown.

James River Church

The sign out front reads “James River Church Landmark & Lutheran Cemetery”. According to the information I’ve been able to find, the church was founded in 1919 and closed in 1969.

James River Church

James River Church

The church has obviously been maintained by someone. At the time we visited on Easter Weekend, 2017, it had a nice stainless steel roof and the exterior was nicely painted. It was locked-up tight, so we weren’t able to go inside.

James River Church

James River Church is in such good condition, from the outside, it looks like it could still host special events, although the windows are all boarded-up.

James River Church

If you love old churches like this, please check out our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains.

James River Church

What do you know about James River Church? Please leave a comment below.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media

15 Comments on “Lonely James River Church on a Hill

  1. A great many of the old prairie churches you photograph have the same ground-level door off to the left of the main entrance. Can anyone fill me in on what this is? I would think it is access to the basement, but I am curious as to whether this is ever an entrance for the disabled members of the congregation?

    • It may be the door to the basement. It was in our church. Sunday school class was down there.

  2. Oh my look at those baby headstones. I have never seen anything like it and have been to so many very old cemeteries.
    I can picture the parents crying as they did that.
    So beautiful and sad.
    I cant wait to see the responses as to this special place. Someone is keeping it kept up well.

  3. I think the outside entrance was usually in a kitchen &meeting room area & it was usually an area that was reached by a flite of stairs. There wasn’t a lot of thought about handicap access in those days.

  4. I grew up south of Turtle Lake, off of 200. My mother’s parents farmed near Hope. We visited Hope frequently, traveling on 200. That Church is one of my earliest memories. (I graduated TL in ’67). I drove past it on my way to Cooperstown last Fall. Good to see it. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Despite not being used in decades. it’s been kept in real good repair by people who care. Hats of to those folks for keeping this piece of North Dakota history from fading away forever.

    John M. from Massachusetts.

  6. The ground-level entrance was always used to access the basement. There was no thought for handicapped access. The country church I belong to and attend has that same type of door.

  7. This church looks like one, in a way, not too far from Chappell, NE. In that church the door on ground level indeed leads to the basement, but the congregation also used it as the entrance to the elevator for handicap access to the sanctuary.

  8. Oh, so beautiful and tranquil. Am so glad that the locals have cared enough to have taken the time and expense to preserve this beautiful piece of neighborhood history. Even after all these years of non use, I can just about smell the aroma of fresh cooked coffee and scalloped potatoes and other various hotdishes for a regular potluck Sunday. It breaks my heart to look at those 2, apparently, homemade baby gravestones. Yes, as Debra said just earlier, the parents had to have shed many a tear while making these memorials. By the dates shown, I can only imagine how difficult and tough it must have been during the ‘dirty 30’s’ to have any money at all to try to make ends meet. This family very probably had no choice. Tears, again.

  9. My parents were the last people to get married in this church and it is maintained by my relatives. They do a great job to keep it in the shape it’s in. I like to stop hear frequently as my grandparents are buried here and it has some very nice views of the river valley below.

  10. My Great Grandfather Sigvart Holland donated the land around this church. You can see it in the aerial views using Google Maps how it’s green but the church grounds are bare. The church is on undesirable dirt in terms of farming value, which is why they chose to build it in that spot. He wanted the proceeds of farming the land around it to fund the church’s expenses and sustain it for many years. My Grandpa helped build the church as a young man and dug some of the graves that you see in these pics. Grandpa passed away in 2016 and this church was the symbol of his beginnings, his favorite spiritual place and some great stories. I am sad to know it’s closed up but I am visiting in 2018 to help make his stories real. This church is beyond special to us; I would have loved to stand inside it.

  11. It is kept up so well that I actually thought they still held services there. I only drive by there never had stop now I want to stop and check it out

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