St. Paul’s Episcopal Leans on History with a Piece of the Past – Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD – This is a piece of history that many people probably pass by without even noticing.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brainerd incorporates a piece of the past unintentionally hidden in plain sight: a stone from the village of Old Crow Wing in what is now Crow Wing State Park.

“We have a cornerstone that we believe comes from the first Crow Wing Church, which was long before 1871 when we were founded,” Reverend Joyce Rush said.

A historic site marker to the left of the main entrance to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, at the northeast corner of North Seventh and Juniper Streets, informs visitors of the history of Brainerd Church dating back to 1871 .

Frank Lee/Brainerd Dispatch

Reverend Charles M. Bradnon became rector in 1929. And while he was at Brainerd Parish at North Seventh and Juniper streets, the present church was built.

“When the church was rebuilt, they put it in the ‘new’ building in the 1930s,” Rush said.

The church sanctuary was built in the 1930s and has beautiful historic stained glass windows. The church bell began ringing again after the historic steeple was repaired on March 25 at a cost of approximately $18,000; the bell dates from 1875 and remained unusable for about ten years.

Brandon had, however, discovered in the foundations of the old parsonage what is believed to be the cornerstone of the Old Crow Wing Village Church, which was built in 1860.

“On this one were roughly chiseled a broken tomahawk, a peace pipe and a cross,” according to a story from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, located near Gregory Park.

“This relic is now embedded in the stone wall of the current church, on the right side of the main entrance.”

Historic cornerstone of St. Paul's Episcopal Church.jpg
A roughly chiseled broken tomahawk, peace pipe and cross can be seen on the historic cornerstone believed to be from a church in the village of Old Crow Wing in what is now Crow Wing State Park.

Frank Lee/Brainerd Dispatch

Rush said, “They found it when they were tearing down the last parsonage in St. Paul.”

Enmegahbowh was the first Native American to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Bishop Jackson Kemper ordained him a deacon in 1859, and Enmegahbowh traveled to Crow Wing County to help found St. Columba’s Mission.

“When he was a young man he wanted to save the settlers from being killed, so he went down the Crow Wing River to warn the settlers that another native was going to have a plan to come and wipe them out,” Rush mentioned.

The Episcopal Calendar of Saints recalls Enmegahbowh on June 12.

Main entrance to St. Paul's Episcopal Church
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is located on the southeast corner of Gregory Park in Brainerd.

Frank Lee/Brainerd Dispatch

Rush said of Enmegahbowh’s rescue actions: “The good thing is he gets credit for it and ‘Yay for us’. But, in another way, he is still seen by many Native Americans as a traitor. .

The historic cornerstone is “a permanent reminder of the Crow Wing Church, built after the Gull Lake Mission School closed due to Indian rum trading activities,” according to a booklet distributed to visitors to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

“I’m not from Minnesota. And I lived here for about 15 years or more before I even knew it was there,” Rush said of the inlaid cornerstone in the southwest corner of Brainerd Church.

The original St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was razed in 1922 and construction began on a basement, to be used as a temporary place of worship, according to Rush. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was Brainerd’s first church.

“The first church had to be demolished. He was in really bad shape,” Rush said. “They built a ‘basement’ – in the Episcopal Church it is called the ‘basement’ – under the church and held services there for several years until they had enough money to build more.”

FRANK LEE can be reached at 218-855-5863 or

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