Area gold-mining families made the church a center of Christian outreach and activity, establishing a reading Room the first year. It served as a school while the new one was being built nearby. Unfortunately, the Holy Terror Mine closed in 1903, and many church families were forced to leave Keystone. While some activity continued, the building deteriorated badly to the point where cattle got into the lower level. Monte Nystrom, stonemason for the State Game Lodge, gave new life to the church when he was hired to stucco the building in 1928. The revitalized church at times hosted a town library, school lunch program and theater, in addition to staging school programs and community meetings. After Methodist, Baptist and Episcopal churches burned, their congregations used our church. Our church bell was purchased by Lewis T. Byron from the Methodist congregation. Wayne Warvi designed and executed the stained glass memorial windows over a period of 28 years until his death in 2008. His funeral was held in the beautiful sanctuary he created.
Mount Rushmore carver Gutzon Borglum started a tradition in 1925 when he asked the Ladies Aid to prepare a buffalo dinner for distinguished East Coast visitors attending the original dedication. It was both a culinary success, and a good fundraiser –- even though they served elk and bear rather than buffalo, feeling no one could tell the difference. Nevertheless, the Ladies Aid turned it into an autumn tradition featuring great buffalo.Mt. Rushmore workers held a memorial service for Gutzon Borglum in 1941. We also have a more than 70-year-old tradition of co-sponsoring an Easter Sunrise Service at Mount Rushmore. For over a decade, we have helped sponsor the Keystone Biker Breakfast with Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church.
In the past, notables called our church home. Laura Bower Van Nuys, an original parishioner at age 14, authored the book on which the Disney film The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band was based. Carrie Ingalls Swanzey of Little House fame was an active member. Occasionally, Badger Clark, South Dakota’s first poet laureate, preached sermons here, or participated in the Easter Sunrise Service.
Over sixty years ago, we became the Keystone Congregational United Church of Christ when four denominations merged. This new denomination continued the First Congregational tenet of local church self-determination, not national directives. Just as the 1895 congregation defined its faith, today’s congregation plays the same vital role as it determines its own Christian direction and faith.
Please celebrate our second century of faith. We invite you to join us for worship where you will enjoy an hour of faith and fellowship in a church steeped in Christian harmony.