Bob Lind column: Neighbors: Foundation of story was flawed

St. John's Lutheran Church near Abercrombie, N.D., may have to give up its claim to fame. A recent Neighbors item said former members of the now-closed church, which was built in 1884, believe it to be the oldest church structure in North Dakota ...

St. John's Lutheran Church near Abercrombie, N.D., may have to give up its claim to fame.

A recent Neighbors item said former members of the now-closed church, which was built in 1884, believe it to be the oldest church structure in North Dakota still on its original foundation.

Dale Bentley of Buffalo, N.D., the executive director of Preservation North Dakota, writes that this probably is not the case.

But he says that almost with regret, because he notes that St. John's is listed on the National Register of Historic Places "and is a wonderful treasure for the state."

Preservation North Dakota is non-profit, private historic preservation advocacy organization. One of its projects is the rural churches of the state; it managed to get all of the historic prairie churches listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 11 Most Endangered Sites list in 2001.


At any rate, Dale says a survey turned up 14 churches built in what is now North Dakota before St. John's, and another five were built in 1884, the same year as St. John's.

"I know that several of these churches are brick and stone, and have not been moved off of their foundations," Dale writes. So, he says, almost reluctantly, "I think it is safe to say St. John's is not the oldest in North Dakota on its original foundation."

Oh, but Dale appreciates St. John's. "It is the oldest in Richland County," he says, "and it may be one of the nicest I have seen in terms of historic integrity."

More information on the prairie church study is on the Web at .


In another e-mail concerning the St. John's column, Tom Hintgen of Fergus Falls, Minn., writes Abercrombie is "one of my favorite locations; our family went to the fort there as far back as the 1950s."

Many churches

Back to North Dakota churches: Dale Bentley adds some information which The Forum has published before, but which bears repeating:


- The state has almost 2,200 churches.

- It has more churches per capita than any other state.

- It is second only to Utah in church attendance.

The Herbsts

Another Neighbors column concerned the former employees of Herbst's Department Store who still get together to talk about the good old days.

That pleases Edith "Edie" and Robert "Bob" Herbst; Bob, grandson of the founder of Herbst's, was president of the store when it closed in 1982.

Edie and Bob now live in San Jose, Calif., where, they write, "are retired and enjoying life with our three children and four grandchildren," adding, somewhat rhetorically, "What could be better?"

Concerning the column, they write, "It's wonderful to know that a group of our former employees still get together and reminisce about their days at Herbst's.


"We have fond memories of our days in Fargo when Herbst Department Store and downtown Fargo were the places to come, shop and have fun."

Buzzy and kids

Another column featured former Fargo district judge Ralph "Buzzy" Maxwell who, at age 83, still competes in track and field events around the nation.

"Good story on our friend Buzzy," Mike Olson, formerly of Fargo and now of New York City, writes. "We have known him for many years, and Alice (Mike's wife) attended law school at the University of North Dakota with Elizabeth (Buzzy's wife) and her daughter."

Mike adds that Buzzy and Elizabeth's kids who are living in New York "are really something.

"The youngest, Richard, is absolutely the hottest young writer/director in the 'experimental theater' area. Every time one of his plays gets produced, it gets front-page treatment in the Arts section of the New York Times, and the Times' top reviewer, Ben Brantley, gushes about his talent and style.

"Daughter Jan is a very successful Broadway actress, and has had major roles in a number of Broadway hits, including 'A Doll's House,' (the best show I have ever seen), 'The Dinner Party' and 'The Sound of Music.' She gets great reviews every time she performs."

Going back to Buzzy, Mike observes that this man who is in his eighth decade of life but who regularly wins medals in such events as dashes and high jumps, "is a remarkable specimen."


What about you, Mike? Aren't you an athlete like Buzzy?

"Forget about my jumping over a chest-high bar," Mike says. "I just hope I can roll out of bed when I'm 83."

Don't we all, Mike. Don't we all.


Incidentally, there's some question about how a man who has been a lawyer and judge got the nickname Buzzy.

Neighbors e-mailed the judge for this information but he didn't reply.

Neighbors is thinking about slapping a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on him to find out.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, N.D. 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail

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