In Brief: Prairie Churches and Sunken Steamboats

Hope Church, Grant County, North Dakota; Preservation North Dakota

Today we debut In Brief, a series offering a selection of links and videos for folks to explore. While in the early months of The Art of the Rural I faced challenges locating material, thanks to our readers and the wonders of the internet (including the increasing rural presence on Facebook, Vimeo and YouTube) there’s now more great stories to share than I have time to responsibly cover in a given week. I feel it is important to get the word out about these pieces, and I hope that In Brief will help keep the conversation going. 
Prairie Churches: “All these steeples, the vertical spikes in our prairie horizons, they look like exclamation points, but I think they may be question marks. Where did all of these churches come from? Who built them, and where did those people go to? What does it mean when every other material expression of who those people were is gone?”
Courtesy of Prairie Public Broadcasting, Prairie Churches is an hour-long documentary that considers those questions of migration, preservation, and community:
Prairie Churches showcases the diverse history and architectural traditions represented by 117 churches throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan, North Dakota and Minnesota. Prairie Public’s video crew filmed prairie spires, onion domes, and steeples through four seasons. “Prairie Churches” explores the role churches have in sustaining the history and culture of the vanishing rural landscape of the prairie. Often the first community structure to be built and the last to close its doors, these landmarks represent the hopes and dreams of early settlers and the congregations that currently occupy them.

Please also visit the gorgeous Preservation North Dakota, “a statewide, grassroots, nonprofit organization that provides resources for local preservationists.” Their Prairie Places exhibit is a phenomenal resource. Folks can follow here on Facebook.

Sunken Steamboats: Rural Missouri Magazine edits an excellent Facebook page that I would recommend to folks who use that internet service. In particular, RM posts additional material to complement their print stories, and this often takes the form of high-quality short documentaries. This piece caught our attention: it’s a work of archeological rural art. 
On August 30, 1856 the steamboat Arabia set out from St. Louis on the mighty Missouri River with 130 passengers and more than 200 tons of new cargo. On September 5, less than a week later, she arrived in Kansas City. And before the sun set, the steamboat and her cargo would sink from sight. 
This short documentary tells the story of the excavation of the Arabia from a Kansas cornfield. Effects from the ship are now housed at the Steamboat Arabia Museum.