Created By: North Dakota State University
Old St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery was founded in 1884 and is located on the grounds of the original wood St. Mary’s Catholic Church site. As is done in traditional Catholic cemeteries, the first graves at St. Mary’s were positioned eastward, toward the rising of the sun and the holy city of Jerusalem. In later years, the graves were positioned northward, toward the new church. Burials continued at this site until 1914, when a new cemetery was founded on the north side of Hague.
Visitors will notice that the cemetery contains four different types of grave markers: concrete, marble, cast iron, and hand crafted iron. Old St. Mary’s Cemetery has twenty-two wrought iron cross sites named on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of the iron crosses were made by local blacksmiths using hand tools, galvanized metal, iron, nuts, bolts and other found metal materials. Rarely will you find two iron crosses the same, and each blacksmith had his own signature technique and aesthetic.
These iron crosses make St. Mary’s one of North Dakota’s most iconic German-Russian cultural sites. For the German-Russians the iron cross or “eiserne kreuze” is a symbol of strength of community. The remaining iron crosses at St. Mary’s stand open to the effects of time and nature, serving as a testament to the strength of the community. These hand-made crosses are also a symbol of thrift, hard work, practicality, religious, and creative qualities of the Germans from Russia. A recent revival of the interest in the iron crosses has been crucial to the survival of all remaining “eiserne kreuze” across the prairieland. Once neglected, Old St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery is once again carefully tended, and the crosses protected with a coat of silver paint. A new gate was installed in 1988.
I. Linton Chamber of Commerce. Emmons County Guide. Linton, ND: Linton Chamber of Commerce, 2010.
II. Miller, Michael. "The Old St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery (Friedhof) and Church - Hague, North Dakota." Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. Accessed July 30, 2017. https://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/history_culture/town_county/oldstmary.html.
III. Woods, Ellen, and Euvagh Wenzel. Emmons County history : compiled for the bicentennial, 1976. Linton, ND: Emmons County Historical Society, 1976.
This point of interest is part of the tour: German Russian Country Driving Tour