Holy Trinity Church
The stone Holy Trinity Church at Dresden replaced two previous wooden structures that were both destroyed by fire. The photo shown here was the first church after the electrical storm around July 22 1909, which destroyed the building. According to a more recent Cavalier County Republican clipping a lucky rain shower kept the fire from spreading fast to neighboring buildings and homes, but they could not save the structure.
The second church seen in this photo caught fire in 1936. Agnes Jakoubek Biewer was 14 at the time of the fire and recalls, they had just come home from church and a short time later saw the smoke. At the time, it was concluded that a candle from the church service started the fire.
The present structure was erected in 1936, built out of fieldstone collected by the local parishioners. Architect, Fabian Redmond from Minneapolis, designed the building and Stonemason, Edroy Patterson, from Rugby ND, directed volunteer workers.
Assisting in the building of the church were Andrew Bachman-Head Carpenter, Alphonse Hiltner, Stanley Koehmstedt and William Geisen.
Andrew Bachman, farmed just south of Dresden, which is currently farmed by his grandsons Bernard and Allen Bachman. His first love was building and carpentry. Some of his other structures are still private homes in Langdon, ND. His grandchildren still have his wooden toolbox that may have been used each day of construction on Holy Trinity.
Alphonse Hiltner, grew up just north of Dresden in a family of 14 which included two sets of twins. The construction photos on this website were captured by Alphonse while the church was being built. He earned $1.50 a day for 10-hour workdays, constructing the field stone building.
Stanley Koehmstedt, now 96 years old, was one of four paid carpenters who helped erect the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Dresden. He received $2 a day wages. At 21, he felt that was “pretty good money” in 1936.
William Geisen, was born on local land his father purchased after becoming an American citizen. The land is still the present Geisen farm home. William and his wife Mary Ann Jokoubek lived on the family farm until they retired and moved to Langdon ND.
The exterior of the church is covered in stone from the surrounding farm fields. Eddie Bodnar remembers the priest at the time Father Ward putting out the call to the parishioners, “You bring me rocks, and I’ll build you a church. The first man in with a load of rocks gets a picnic of beer.” It is said that parishioners were promised special placement of particularly pretty or unusual stones on the edifice. Susan Bachman Levitte great-granddaughter of Andrew Bachman remembers the story passed through her family of the kidney shaped “sauerkraut stone” being placed over one of the windows of the church. The stone had been used for years to keep the lid on the family sauerkraut barrel.
The interior of the church features steeply sloped ceilings with open beam construction. Stanley Koehmstedt recalls being told to use a torch to “burn the wood a little” giving the interior beams a rustic look, which are still a part of the church today.
The 30’s Were Tough, But The Stained Glass Glowed.
The stained glass windows were possible with donations by parishioners. Eddie Bodnar recalls that his parents paid $34 dollars for the 19”x42.5” stained glass window with their name on it. He also talked about how Father Ward dealt with people’s statement that they had no money to donate for the windows. “Just think of how nice it will look to walk into that church and see a lovely window with your name on it.” The windows are truly lovely, casting a golden hue on the interior of the church during the day and shining bright gold against the fields when lit at night.
For over 30 years Holy Trinity celebrated weddings, births, church rites and deaths. Judi Geisen Koehmstedt is part of a family that celebrated several ‘firsts’ in Holy Trinity church. Her parents John and Mildred Muhs Geisen were the first couple to take their vows in the new church and Judi was the first baby baptized in the chruch. Judi doesn’t remember her baptism, but she does remember the day she got married to Carl Koehmstedt at Holy Trinity, they were the last couple married in Holy Trinity. She recalls the church was beautiful with gleaming wood floors, fresh picked lilacs and a guest list that included Geisens, Roses, Koehmstedts, Boesls, Kartes, Steffens, Dresden and Mt Carmel families.
Another important first for Holy Trinity was the first solemn mass of Father George Mehok. Father George Mehok was born in 1912 in Dresden, ND. Ordained in 1937 in Fargo, ND, his first solemn mass took place May 23, 1937. In the photo his parents George and Teresa Mehok standing in front of Holy Trinity flank Father Mehok. He served parishes in Fargo, Hope and Wahpeton ND and passed away 57 years after that mass on May 28, 1994 in Fargo, ND.
Still Alive With History!
After 1969, the building was designated as a museum for the Cavalier County Historical Society. The building still stands strong against the harsh North Dakota elements. Lovingly filled by museum staff with artifacts and memorabilia from the area the old church still retains its quiet peacefulness whatever time of the day you visit. As the Corner Stone of the Cavalier County Historical Society it is part of a group of buildings that contain local history, reflecting the days of dinosaurs, early settlers, agriculture, law enforcement, education, religion, business and transportation.