Created By: North Dakota State University
The Lehr Tabernacle was built by members of the German Evangelical Church community in Lehr. The idea of holding German Evangelical camp meetings in the area started sometime after 1915. The first camp meeting was held in Lehr in 1921. After the first camp meeting, the German Evangelical churches of Lehr, Streeter, Wishek, Linton, Napoleon, Kulm, and Ashley formed a German Camp Meeting association. The newly formed association built the Lehr Tabernacle in 1922. The land for the facility was donated by Jacob Nagel. The labor for the construction of the Tabernacle was donated by local German-Russian farmers who were members of the Camp Association. The octagonal Tabernacle was designed by Wishek reverend A.H. Ermel. The plans are thought to have originated from a building in Germany. Though it was considered “modern” at the start, it originally had bare floors covered in straw. Some of the modern amenities of the Tabernacle and the grounds included: electric power generated by a gas motor; a real kitchen; and dormitories. In the late 1960s the dormitories were upgraded when the camp was connected to Lehr’s water system.
The camp meetings were huge events and drew German Evangelicals in from all over North Dakota. While supported by the German Camp Meeting Association, the Lehr Tabernacle was largely supported by five churches near Lehr: Zion Church, Emmanuel Church, Friedens Church, Ebenezer Church, and Tabor Church. Members of these churches would prepare days ahead of time for the arrival of almost 1,500 people to the camp. The meetings often lasted more than 10 days. Daily activities included a combination of bible studies, evangelistic services, and fellowship.
The Lehr Tabernacle camp reached its peak popularity sometime in the 1940s. From then on, attendance started to dwindle. Camp meetings were held at the Tabernacle until the mid-1990s when the North and South Dakota United Methodist conferences merged. The conference rights to the grounds was bought by the Lehr Campmeeting Association which formed the inter-denominational Prairie Bible Camp. Lehr Prairie Bible Camp still holds a week-long camp meeting in June of each year.
I. "Lehr Tabernacle." German Russian Country. Accessed July 31, 2017. http://germanrussiancountry.org/?portfolio=lehr-tabernacle.
II. Scott, Carolyn. "The Lehr Tabernacle." Heritage Review37, no. 1 (2007). Accessed July 30, 2017. http://carolynschott.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/lehr.pdf.
This point of interest is part of the tour: German Russian Country Driving Tour