Kenneth Wyatt – Circuit Rider

As we said about this blog site, we are looking for partnerships.  The history of Emmanuel Church is a beautiful example of a partnership formed early on. People were meeting in homes around what would finally become the village of Radium.  People from that little settlement were working as far north as Acton Township which is between Drayton and Grafton North Dakota. At that time Acton township was being served by Pastor Henry Bauman. He agreed to come to the small group of settlers every three weeks.

Now for those of you who don’t hunt or fish or have never been in the real wilds,  I can’t imagine even getting my horse and buggy from Acton Township to what will eventually become Radium. First of all you have to cross the Red River.   So let’s just say there’s a barge there or a ferry to take you across. Getting down the banks of that river with a horse and buggy would be amazing.  Add to that stinging nettles as high as your head, black flies, mosquitoes, floods, blizzards, prairie fires, and I’m sure all kinds of other sundry difficulties along the way.  Once you’ve crossed the Red River there are the Middle River and the Snake river to cross to get to the meeting at what would become Immanuel Lutheran Church.

Descriptions of the country in those days is that there was nothing that we would call roads.  There was the fur trail that went from Pembina, or the Selkirk Red River settlement to the Missisippi.  This is the trail traveled by Giacomo Constantino Beltrami.  When Baumann came along there still were no roads to speak of although there were railroads. The story is told about a man by the name of Frank Knoll who was from the area where Radium would soon exist and whose family still attends Immanuel who was working around Acton township.  He and Pastor Bauman took off on a Sunday morning to do church services on the other side of the River.  There had been a blizzard the night before and Baumann with typical pastoral ingenuity decides that he and Frank will take the horse and buggy and drive on the railroad tracks. There was a Great Northern railroad line that ran from Steven, Minnesota to Argyle and went as far north as Winnipeg. Thinking that because it was Sunday there would be no trains running Baumann felt they would have a straight shot.  Once upon the tracks however they realize they would have to stay on them until they got off at Argyle because if they got off the tracks they would be buried in snow. Not long after embarking on this journey they look behind them to see the black smoke from the Winnipeg Flyer coming down from Canada and reports were they had quite the ride. Word was they got into Argyle and off the tracks just moments before the train.

These amazing stories were probably repeated thousands of times in the Dakotas. It would be fun to know how many of these pastors served many of the congregations that exist today.   We know that many of them traveled long distances by horseback.  Baumann must have been quite the equestrian but he is also a interesting character not just because he served what became Zion English Lutheran Church but because of a rather prodigious family that he produced.  Oldest son William, a Pastor.   Daughter Melinda married  a pastor.   Second Son  Walter became a chaplain in Madison Wisconsin. Daughter two, Martha, marries  a pastor.   Daughter three marries a Pastor.   Viola became a teacher in a Christian day school in Shawano Wisconsin and the youngest son Emmanual was also a pastor. He also had three grandchildren who were pastors or teachers.  Elroy was a pastor in Michigan.   Eugene was a professor at Valparaiso and Daniel was a professor at the old Springfield seminary.  This was the kind of family history that explains that the Missouri Synod had phenomenal growth in the days from the turn of the last century until after WWII.  Much of that growth however was family growth.

I would love to talk more about these early days and we will.  The folks that lived through these times are gone, but their children and grand children great grand children ought to know the length and breath of their familes concern to have the Gospel proclaimed to them.  As difficult as the life of the Circuit Rider was, the people who heard him preach had as much difficulty sometimes coming to the “preaching”.  In a world where it is hard for people to come to church because they stayed out late at the hockey game, there is a lesson here.