Funds sought for storm-damaged Ralph church


Staff Writer

RALPH – Funds are being sought to repair a historic building in Ralph that was recently damaged in a storm.

On the evening of Nov. 17, strong winds knocked a tree through the roof of St. Mary in the Pines Episcopal Church.

Though the church no longer hosts services, it is a popular site for weddings and a historic attraction for the small community.

Project organizer Jennifer Oman said that the building was constructed sometime in the mid to late 1800s as a logger’s cabin. It was originally owned by logger John Fendon, who left it to his friends Hugh and Marie Campbell after he died.

According to information from the Dickinson County Genealogical Society, the Campbells were active members of the early Ralph community.

Hugh served as station agent for the Escanaba & Lake Superior Railway, postmaster, and store manager. Marie took care of injured loggers, offered midwife services to loggers’ wives, and ran Sunday school classes out of her home.

Eventually, Marie was able to convert Fendon’s one-room cabin into a church. It was officially dedicated in 1922.

Oman pointed out that even though regular services have long since ceased, the church remains open and free for the public to use at any time.

“People love to visit, they just show up, especially during August when the Ralph picnic is going on,” she said. “We even leave a notebook out for people to sign their names and where they’re from.”

Oman and her family were visiting her husband’s grandfather, who lives next to the church, on Nov. 18 when they noticed the damage.

“There had been a bad storm that night,” she said. “A large spruce tree fell down, landed directly over the altar.”

So far, the Oman family, friends, and community members have been able to clean up the fallen tree and brush.

They hope to begin repairs on Monday, but there are two obstacles in their path: funding and weather.

Oman estimates that it will take a few thousand dollars to complete the repairs. She just hopes that enough work can be done before the snow really starts to fly.

Fortunately, the community has shown its generosity. Hundreds of dollars have already been pledged to the project through the fundraising website YouCaring.

Donations can be made online at Just search for “Repairing the Little Church in Ralph” and click “Give Now.”

For those who would prefer to donate in person, there is an account set up at the First National Bank of Crystal Falls under St. Mary in the Pines Episcopal Church.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is