Brown Earth Church and Cemetery

Brown Earth Church and Cemetery

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.

Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery

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.

Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery

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.

Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery

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.

Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery

Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery

Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery

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.

Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery



Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery

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.

Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery

Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery

Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery

Brown Earth Indian Church and Cemetery

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Here’s a video from SD Public Broadcasting on the Brown Earth Church.

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6 thoughts on “Brown Earth Church and Cemetery

  1. You have an amazing eye for capturing the ‘soul’ of places. Thank you for traveling the miles many cannot, and sharing the history, the stories, and the amazing images with all of us!

  2. TROY:

    I am the president of the Grant County Historical Society and we are the owners of the Brown Earth Indian Church.
    In October of 2014 I taped with Stephanie Rissler, a producer with South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB), a new TV show about this church, to be aired @ 8:00 pm on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015. I have not seen a preview of it myself, so can’t comment any further on it.

    I appreciate your outstanding images of our church and, yes, we have been trying to keep the place up and in great condition, We have contracted to have he ceiling painted in early 2015, probably April or May, and in time for a wedding that will take place in this church in the latter part of June.

    We also have a good slate of Sunday Worship Services for the summer of 2015.

    Arlo Levisen

    1. I visited the church Oct 3rd, 2016. It was beautiful and peaceful on the outside. The door was locked and the church was absolutely full of flies. Is the church no longer open to visitors?

  3. I have stopped there many times in the last 25 years and must say the tranquility is even more enhanced on a cold clear winter day after fresh snow. My

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