Presentation College

Presentation College has long been a fixture in Aberdeen, and the collection boasts quite a few items related to this institution, including a plethora of yearbooks that can be viewed at the Williams Library or on the archives site.

Presentation College itself began in 1951, however, it has roots going back to 1922 when the Right Reverend J.M. Brady founded Notre Dame Junior College in Mitchell, SD. It was the first college to be operated by a Catholic parish in the United States, and for three decades it flourished until enrollment became too large for its current location. The decision was then made to move the college to Aberdeen, so Reverend Brady gave sponsorship to the Presentation Sisters who had staffed the college since its beginning.

For the first three years in Aberdeen, the college was housed in the Presentation Convent in Butler Hall. There they offered teacher training, commerce courses, and a pre-clinical nursing program, and in 1954 they were able to move to Presentation Heights, their new 100-acre campus, where they have remained to this day, promoting their mission: “Welcoming people of all faiths, Presentation College challenges learners toward academic excellence and, in the Catholic tradition, the development of the whole person.”

Other Useful Links:
Presentation Sisters
Presentation College
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Sanborn Maps

The next item from the collection is a group of city maps of Aberdeen dating back to 1912. That fact alone makes them pretty historically significant, but what really tops the cake is the fact that these maps are Sanborn maps.

Just to fill you in on what exactly a Sanborn map is, it all started in 1866 when a man named D.A. Sanborn founded a company called the D.A. Sanborn Insurance Diagram Bureau in New York City. He specialized in fire insurance maps, which provided customers with a wealth of information, including building outline, size, shape, windows and doors. The maps also usually included street and sidewalk widths, boundaries, property numbers, pipelines, railroads, water mains, dumps, and even what certain buildings were used for and the materials used in their construction. In essence, anything that might affect a property’s vulnerability to fire, earthquake, or flood was taken into account, because the maps were used to calculate risk involved in insuring certain properties.

(For a larger view of these maps, see link below.)

Under D.A. Sanborn’s guidance, his company flourished, and when he died in 1883 the company continued to grow even to the point of taking over other mapping firms. The name of the company changed as it took in the outside businesses until it was finally shortened to the Sanborn Map Company. Furthermore, in 1905 the company published the Surveyor’s Manual for the Exclusive Use and Guidance of Employees in order to ensure accuracy in their maps. Policies like these have kept the company going throughout the years, so it is not surprising that they are still around today and still making maps. With the city maps of Aberdeen being a product of this legacy, they are a truly valuable part of the collection.

Other useful links:
View all 1912 Aberdeen city maps (larger views available here)
Sanborn Maps official website
Sanborn Map information
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Churches of Aberdeen: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church

The last church to be highlighted from our collection is the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. This one was built in 1887, a little bit later than some of the others covered in the blog, and it was built in the early English style with a cruciform shape. It had an open truss work roof, and inside there was an altar of carved oak and pews of oak with walnut trim that were provided by the Young Ladies Guild. Among other interior décor were a brass chandelier, a lovely bishop’s chair, and a bell that were also generous contributions from community members.  When all was said and done, the church cost almost $7,000 and all was paid except for a $1,000 loan.

At this point in history, it seemed as though the church would have gone on happily for many years to come, however, this was not the case. Unfortunately there was a problem in Aberdeen with a “firebug,” as the local newspapers called it, and on March 19th, 1904, the arsonist struck at St. Mark’s. There were three fires that were set, but the one that really took off was in the organ. There was quite a bit of damage, but it wasn’t long before the church was rebuilt and enlarged with a Guild Hall that ironically burned down three years later. They rebuilt the hall as well, and thankfully everything went fine with the building until it was torn down in 1960 when the congregation decided to build in a different location. (The land was then used as a space for a Red Owl supermarket.)

The new church that was built cost an estimated $147,000, and this time it was much more fireproof with a rock-stone exterior and a brick interior. This time luck must have been on their side, and the church continues to function to this day. In fact, it can still be located at 1410 North Kline should anyone desire to visit.

Other Useful Links:
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
Historical Information (timeline)
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Churches of Aberdeen: St. Mary’s Catholic Church

The second Catholic church with historical ties in Aberdeen is St. Mary’s Church, which was also known as “St. Marien Kirche” when it was first founded in 1903 by Father Nicolas J. Dahlmanns in order to accommodate an influx of German immigrants from Russia. This additional establishment made Aberdeen the only town in South Dakota with two Catholic parishes at the time.

For a little bit of background on the congregation, apparently quite a few German colonists had moved to Russia in 1804 when Czar Alexander the first had asked them to develop agricultural settlements in some of the more primitive areas of his country. In return for this favor, he had guaranteed them and their descendants certain rights and privileges. In 1871, however, Czar Alexander II decided that the colonists didn’t really need those privileges anymore, so he revoked all of the laws involving them. Understandably, the colonists were not at all happy with this new development, so they opted to immigrate to the New World, where quite a few of them ended up in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

With an increasing congregation, the church was quite successful, so in 1911 they built a parochial church so that the immigrants could get an education. (Many years later, the school has now undergone a consolidation process with Sacred Heart School to become Roncalli, built as recently as 2004.) The church continued to grow, and in 1941 they were able to build the new church that stands today for $100,000 that contains seating for eight hundred people. The old church building was used for a long time as a parish hall and youth center, but in 1974 it was torn down for salvage when it was condemned by city and state officials. The newer church, however, continues to survive and can be visited at its current location at 402 2nd Avenue NE here in Aberdeen.

Other Useful Links:
St. Mary’s Church Mission Statement
St. Mary’s Church Information
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Churches of Aberdeen: First Presbyterian Church


View of the inside of the First Presbyterian Church 6/13/2012

This next church highlighted from the collection has a history that goes back deep into the very beginnings of Aberdeen. Built in 1882, the Presbyterian Church was the very first to ever be erected in the new town, with Sacred Heart Catholic Church coming in a close second. Everything went well, and because of the lack of church buildings so early in the history of Aberdeen, the Presbyterian congregation allowed the Methodists to hold services in their building every two weeks at the price of $1.25 per Sunday.

The Presbyterian congregation continued to grow, and in a short amount of time they found themselves in need of a larger place of worship. In 1896, therefore, they built a $5,000 church to meet their needs. For a few decades all was well with the new church, but then the congregation outgrew their building yet again, so they tore down and rebuilt their third church.

Presbyterian Church

Colored postcard showing a view of the Presbyterian Church.

It is said that the third time is a charm, and the saying has proven true in the case of the newest First Presbyterian Church shown in this postcard from the collection. The congregation apparently meant for this one to stay around for a long time, so in September of 1926 they began work on their new church. It was built in the gothic style, and inside had walls of finished brick with an open beam ceiling and five memorial windows. The church was also supposed to be good for entertaining church events, since according to the newspapers at the time, they had a “modern motion picture machine” and a lovely stage. Construction went well, and on August 21st, 1927, Reverend F.E. Reese held the first service in the church in the basement, and the rest of the church was finished shortly thereafter, where it remains to this day.

Face of an angel in one of the many stained glass windows.

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Other Links:
First Presbyterian Church
Historical Information (timeline)
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Churches of Aberdeen: First Baptist Church

The next church highlighted in the collection is that of the First Baptist Church, which was built in 1886 when Rev. E. M. Bliss was the pastor. The congregation itself started out two years earlier with sixteen members, and they held services in a hall on Main Street and in the old Dakota Farmer building until they were able to build their $4,000 church, which happened to be the fourth church to be erected in Aberdeen.

First Baptist Church

Black and white photograph showing a corner view of the First Baptist Church.

Tragedy struck the congregation in December of 1908 when their church was burned down in a fire started by the heater used to warm the water for the baptismal tank. Not a group to be down very long, however, the church decided to rebuild on an even grander scale in the same location next to the parsonage that survived the fire. In 1909 these plans came to fruition, and Rev. E. J. Parsons was able to hold services in the new church taking after the Spanish mission style of architecture. There the church remained until 1978 when it was demolished from 6th Ave SE, and the congregation moved to their current site on Melgaard Road, boasting of plans for solar heating in their new and improved church building.

Other useful links:
Historical Information (timeline)
First Baptist Church
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Churches of Aberdeen: Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Current view of Sacred Heart. (6/21/2012)

Yet another beautiful church that has a place in the collection is the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. This is a building that has taken on a couple of faces throughout the years, since it was condemned, torn down, and then rebuilt on a grand scale in 1933.


The original edifice seen in these postcards was built in 1882 with Father Robert Haire as its founder. He was also reported as having forty-two mission stations between southwestern Minnesota and present-day southeastern North Dakota, so it is no wonder that he is recorded as having given the first religious service at the Aberdeen site in the fall of 1880. Later on when Haire had successfully founded a new parish in Aberdeen, the Presentation Sisters came to take part and ended up building Saint Luke’s Hospital and a school now more commonly known as Presentation College.  Of course, all of this religious activity apparently didn’t keep Father Haire busy enough, because later in life he became increasingly involved in politics, leading to his presidency in the Knights of Labor (among other things), and he is said to have especially promoted the statewide initiative and popular referendum that South Dakota adopted in 1897. (For more about Father Haire, see links below.)

Black and white photograph of the Sacred Heart Church.

The church Father Haire founded in Aberdeen continued to do well as the years passed, and when it was time to build a new church, it was Monseigneur Dermody who led the congregation. The new church was to cost an estimated $200,000 and be built in the gothic style of architecture. The outside had a white stone outline with gray and tan stone for the main color, featuring a cross rising 81 feet above the street. The inside was decorated with panels of hand-carved oak, two miles of plaster molding, and high beamed arches. Taking place during the depression, the work was reported to have been done by only the foreman of the company and four specialists with all the rest of the workers being unemployed members of the congregation, and the church was opened in December of 1933 where it remains to this day.

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Other informative links:
Encyclopedia of the Great Plains (Father Haire)
South Dakota Magazine (Father Haire)
Initiative & Referendum Institute (Father Haire)
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Historical Information-Aberdeen, SD
Items in the Collection
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Churches of Aberdeen: First United Methodist Church

First United Methodist Church

Current view of the First United Methodist Church (6/7/2012)

In the Aberdeen Area Historical collection there are a number of churches, perhaps the most iconic of which is the First United Methodist Church. Records in the collection state that the first meeting of the First Methodist Congregation took place in 1881, where it is said that planks set across empty beer barrels were used as seating. In 1884 they built their first chapel, but due to the need to make room for a rapidly growing congregation, they built the church that is still standing on Lincoln Street to replace their old one. It was opened to the public on the evening of October 21st, 1909, for a grand concert of the Redpath’s Grand Quartet that included Frank Martin, who was reported to have been the highest salaried church soloist in the world. The concert was a success, and about 1,100 people attended. Furthermore, at the dedication of the church on November 7th, more than $18,000 was raised. When added to former donations, this amount completely paid for the $70,000 building, and the church was left debt free.

Methodist Church

Black and white photograph of the United Methodist Church in Aberdeen.

Described in local newspapers as a “Spanish” construction, the building follows the Byzantine style of architecture, and because of this and its rich history, it has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Needless to say, it continues to be one of the most beautiful and historic places in Aberdeen.

Above are some pictures of the stained glass in the original part of the church, including the inside of the dome in the photo on the left hand side.


Pheasant Park (AKA Aberdeen Municipal Ballpark)(AKA Johnson Field)

Northern Campus

This is a picture of Northern Campus where the ballpark may be seen in the top left hand corner.

Aberdeen is a community with a long history of baseball, and this can be seen in these photos of the Aberdeen Municipal Ballpark. Located where the Barnett Center now resides, it was built in 1936 as a WPA (Works Project Administration) project and was home to the Pheasants from 1947 to 1971. The Pheasants were a minor league team that became affiliated with the Saint Louis Browns, and their relationship with the Browns was so strong that, even though the ballpark burned down in 1951 and the Browns had moved by the time Pheasant Park was built, they took the affiliation with them when they became the Baltimore Orioles. This relationship would go on to produce many great baseball players, such as Lou Piniella and the Hall of Fame pitcher, Jim Palmer.

Baseball game

Picture taken from the outfield of a baseball game at Pheasant Park.

Unfortunately all good things come to an end, and in 1971 the Northern League that the Pheasants were a part of could no longer stay afloat. Because of this, the Pheasants were disbanded, and in 1975 the ballpark was demolished to make room for the Barnett Center that is still located on the Northern State University campus.

Barnett Center

Current view of the location of the Aberdeen Municipal Ballpark, now the Northern State University Barnett Center which is currently in the process of remodeling.

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