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One final service

By Staff | Aug 28, 2009

The Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren, rural York, will hold a closing service this Sunday, Aug. 30.

A worship service with special music, congregational singing and a time for sharing memories will be held at 10 a.m. A meal will follow, beginning at 12:30 p.m.

The congregation organized in the summer of 1899. Earlier, a Brethren Church had been started at Zion in Towner County. The townsite of Zion does not now exist, but it was about 10 miles west of Cando. With the assistance of pioneer Zion congregation several other churches were organized, Pleasant Valley included. A charter for the church was issued by the state.

In 1901, the congregation decided to build a church in York, to be called the York House and on May 4, 1902, it was voted to build a second church building six miles southwest of York, the Pleasant Hill House.

Pleasant Valley became the name of the congregation, possibly because the church was located on a hill and could be seen for many miles. The congregation lived in the valley, therefore the name Pleasant Valley congregation.

The church in York closed in 1920 and was eventually sold in 1938.

Times were hard in the early days with virtually no roads for easy transportation and blizzards in the winter and sweltering heat during the summer. Stories are told of a farmer-pastor who walked six miles to church every Sunday morning, six miles back to his home at noon and then repeated the trip for Sunday evening services. In the winter, the church janitor, who had only a three-mile trek, showed up early on Sundays to start the stoves and warm the church. But the pioneers were a hardy lot and the church thrived.

Many improvements have been made to the church over the years. It has gone from being heated by two pot-bellied stoves to a fuel oil furnace and eventually off-peak electricity. Electric lights replaced hanging kerosene lights in the 1940s.

Other improvements have been new windows, insulation, sheetrock and paneling, pew cushions, carpets and water and sewer system.

Thousands of trees were planted around the church and cemetery in the 1950s and have grown to provide a haven for wildlife. The building received new siding and entry doors a few years ago.

In 1949, the church purchased 160 acres of farmland with the money raised by donations and pledges from members. For a number of years the farm was operated with the help of member families. In the past few decades the land was rented to two church members who purchased the land three years ago.

The congregation built a parsonage on the farm in 1951 with almost all of the work being done by members. That house was sold in 1973 and a parsonage was purchased in Rugby.

Pleasant Valley has been a very active congregation over the years. It maintained a Sunday school with classes for all ages, a ladies aid and men’s organization. Bible school was held each summer with many children from the community attending. Members were heavily involved in a camping program at Camp MonDak, a denominationally-owned camp near St. John. The congregation was known for its music, with Christmas programs usually drawing a full house.

In the early 1900s there were many Brethren churches in North Dakota, but they all have closed or merged with other churches, leaving Pleasant Valley the only one remaining. As is the case with many rural churches, Pleasant Valley’s younger members moved out of the community following high school or college. Dwindling membership led to the decision in May to close at the end of summer.

Pastor Steve Cameron and his wife, Denisse, have served the church since 1999. They and the congregation invite everyone to join in the fellowship and food this Sunday, Aug. 30.

-Edie Wurgler

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