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The Walrus

The Walrus

Walrus page 4 May 9, 1952

With Our Churches

by H. A. Tiffany

Colonel Keith, second Commanding Officer of the Depot, once said to the writer, "I could build this community around many other things, but they are explosive. I know of nothing as stable as Christian religion." This seems to have been the consensus of many as they left their homes and churches to establish BHOD. Before the Depot was much more than a blueprint, in fact less than two months after the Engineers moved on the Area, like Abraham of old, they were establishing their altars of worship.

The August 6, 1942 issue of the Black Hills News carries the caption, "Church Services Gain in Popularity on Provo Project", further stating that "nearly 100 church goers attended the services in the Lance Theatre building (which now stands next to the school) last Sunday". This meeting was conducted by four missionaries from the Church of Latter Day Saints. In the same column we read "Next Sunday, August 9, services will be conducted by the Rev. R. E. Uecker the Lutheran Church of Custer. Tuesday night, August 4, Bishop W. Blair Roberts of Sioux Falls and the Rev. Stanton McIntosh of the Episcopal church conducted communion secramental services in the library." (The library occupied what now is the Drug Store).

A later issue of the Black Hills News states "Father Biever to be Guest Speaker Sunday, Sept. 13 (1942). Father Biever . . . will celebrate mass and conduct services . . . . in the Lance theatre building. Father Biever accepted the return invitation by request from many persons of his faith". This issue also announced the first Sunday School to be enducted on the area, which was in charge of Miss Marie Newell, U.S.O. leader.

The group which later became the Ordnance Interdenominational Church held their first service in what is now the Vets Club, on May 9, 1943. The writer was the speaker, and after being called as their minister became the first resident pastor.

One of the more recent groups is the Assembly of God, pastored by Rev. and Mrs. Archie M. Duncan. Others could be mentioned who have held services from time to time.

Lutheran services were first held late in 1942 by the Rev. R. W. Uecker of Custer. After March 1943 when Rev. Waldemar A. Thiele became the full time pastor a regular church program developed.

The above items serve to establish the dates and places of the earlier meetings. It was not hard to get a group together, but it was often difficult to announce time and place of the next meeting. For lack of a chapel, buildings such as Recreation, Old Identification, Mess Hall, Community Building, Theatre, School House and others were used. We are told that a one time busses transported groups to and from Edgemont for church services.

When the Community Building was completed in the fall of 1943, all religious activities were held under one roof for the first time. The summer of 1945 saw many problems solved when the present chapel was finsihed and dedicated. All groups moved into it and were allotted their hours of worship.

The large white cross on the brow of Rushmore Toad was placed there in 1943 for the first Easter Sunrise service on the Depot. All groups participated in the impressive service and Col. Keith gave instructions to the effect that the cross was never to be removed.

The Easter Cantata given in 1944 was another group presentation which met with wide acclaim. A repeat performance was given in Edgemont.


The Post Chapel was dedicated Sunday, July 8, 1945,
by the various church groups then organized on the depot.
Since that time it has served as a center for religious activities here.

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