Back in the early days of Hand County, the countryside was dotted with rural churches, just as it was with rural schools. Those neighborhood churches and schools made it much easier for residents to attend church and school, rather than having to make a long trek to town.
Over the years, the country churches in Hand County closed their doors, one by one. Greenleaf Methodist Church, near Lake Louise, and Rose Hill Presbyterian Church, southwest of Wessington in Rose Hill Township, were two of the last three to remain operational.
Pleasant Valley Church, south of Miller on Highway 45, continues to hold regular church services.
Greenleaf Church held its farewell service Sunday, May 27, 2012. And on Saturday, July 27, 2013, the Rose Hill Church held an auction of the church building, its contents, and even an outhouse.
Jan Winter says the Rose Hill Church Session made the decision to close because of lack of members. Services haven’t been held there for about a year and a half. The land on which the church stood will revert to the owner. The Rose Hill Cemetery is a separate entity, and continues to be maintained as such.
But for many years, Rose Hill Church was the hub of activity for the folks that lived nearby. It was the scene of happy celebrations and somber farewells, of church picnics and Christmas programs.
Over the years, travel to towns for services became easier, and the population in the farming community continued to dwindle.
It has, however, a long and proud history, and it served its parishioners well for many decades.
On August 5, 1910, a Presbyterian minister, E.H. Grant of Huron, organized a Sunday school in the Ross Schoolhouse in Rose Hill Township. The Sunday school was “in session” until the church was finally built in 1918.
If a minister could be secured, church services would be held in conjunction with the Sunday school.
Even before there was a church, there was a cemetery. Local residents felt a need for a real church building.
Alex Ross, a pioneer settler of Rose Hill Township, started subscription lists, which were sent as far away as Canada, and by the fall of 1917, a total of $1,398.50 had been subscribed. Ross also donated an acre of land across from the Rose Hill Cemetery, and work began on the church, which was located 11 miles south and three miles west of Wessington.
The foundation was completed November 23, 1917. The total cost of the church was approximately $2,200.
In the spring of 1918, before the church was completed, the funeral service for four children of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Allen, who were burned in a tragic fire at their farm home, was the first service to be held in the new church.
Dedication services planned for July 12, 1918, were rained out, so the dedication was postponed until August 23. The Rev. Grant of Huron officiated. It was dedicated as a Presbyterian Church, but was to be open to ministers of all denominations. Mrs. Alex Ross was asked to select a name for the church, and she selected “Hand County Rose Hill Presbyterian Church.”
Most ministers who served the church were from Wessington, as well as pastors from Free Methodist friends.
The church and Sunday school were reorganized in October 1924 as a Presbyterian organization.
The first recorded baptism was Florence Erwin, foster daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dave Erwin, in 1925. The first wedding at the church was that of Homert Hins and Viola Fischer in 1939.
By the time members determined the church would close, membership was listed at 21. Ministry was provided by the First Presbyterian Church, Wessington. Maintenance of the Rose Hill building was expensive, and the hard decision was made: close the doors to one more “little church on the prairie.”
Time marches on
Michael Caviness|The Miller Press