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Minnesota man writes book detailing houses of worship in ND

Tom Newgard, a retired construction worker with a degree in history from North Dakotak State University, has researched and written a book about the history of places of worship in North Dakota titled "Patterns on the Prairie: A history of worship in North Dakota." Chris Olson / Forum News Service

MOORHEAD, Minn. — Tom Newgard is a retired construction worker with a degree in history from North Dakota State University who has written a reference book on the past and present locations of all houses of worship in North Dakota.

"Patterns on the Prairie: A History of Worship in North Dakota" is the book Newgard researched and wrote using archives at NDSU. He said he has always loved history and the book let him use his college major and his minor in geography.

"All the maps in the book I created myself," he said.

According to Newgard, who lives in Moorhead, Minn., there are 3,968 places of worship across North Dakota. He said he uses the term "places of worship" because not all faiths use the word church.

"For Jehovah Witnesses, they use Kingdom Hall," he said. "For those who are Jewish, there are synagogues and for Muslims there are mosques."

The book has two main sections, one for maps, the second a listing of houses of worship. The county maps are basic showing the locations of past and existing houses of worship in North Dakota.

The listing is also divided by county, first listing the name and location of country churches, then of city churches.

Newgard said he called the book "Patterns on the Prairie" because it's easy to see there is a pattern as to how churches or places of worship were built based on the majority ethnic group a place of worship served.

As an example, Newgard said he looked at the many Germans from Russia families that located in North Dakota. He said starting in the Medina area then heading south into South Dakota, most of the Germans from Russia were of the Protestant faith.

"As you go west, again with Germans from Russia, especially around Strasburg, they are all pretty much Roman Catholic," Newgard said.

He said what was a lot of fun for him was learning some of the stories behind some of the places of worship. Newgard was born and lived near Rugby in Pierce County. He said he is about 100 percent of Norwegian descent and his family attended Hurricane Lake Lutheran Church. His research showed the church building was constructed in 1910 and the church closed in 1976.

"The church building is still there, but is falling into the basement," he said.

Other church stories Newgard said he found amusing. In 1916 the Mildred Hartman Methodist Church in Griggs County was moved into the town of Sutton. Those plans hit a snag when the church building got stuck in a muddy area.

"They couldn't get it out, so the church sat in that spot for the winter," he said.

The book, published by J & M Printing Inc., Gwinner, costs $35 and may be ordered by calling 1-218-236-8056 or by sending an email to

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454