Brown Earth Church and Cemetery was built in 1877 and was the first church in Grant County, South Dakota. This was my primary destination when I went exploring abandoned places one weekend. It’s not far from I29 and I would highly recommed you stop for a visit if you’re ever passing through.
The drive to the church site was beautiful and relaxing on a sunny day like this one. It’s a few miles of gravel road, but the peaceful destination is worth the effort.
This church is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built on the homestead of the first pastor, Daniel Renville, by Native Americans who had adopted white culture and religion.
When you visit an old church with a bell, and there’s a rope, you can’t not pull it. I did, and the bell is in fine working order. It let loose with that loud, brittle clang you would expect from a school bell, so familiar to those raised on the frontier, and I’m pretty sure anybody who was within a few miles of this hilltop heard it.
There’s a guest book on the pulpit. Although there was nobody around when I visited, there were several signatures per day, so this church must get a lot of visitors.
This church has been meticulously restored — it was once in very bad condition and you can see some of that history in the video embedded at the bottom of this page.
Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Here’s a video from SD Public Broadcasting on the Brown Earth Church.