Ukrainian settlers began putting down roots in Minnesota in the early 1900s, moving south in search of good farmland from earlier settlements in and around Winnipeg, in the Manitoba province of Canada. The Slavic settlers in this region were part of the largest settlement in the North America and they had built several churches in Manitoba, typically wood-framed buildings with Greek cross plans that are surmounted by a small onion dome at the crossing. In Kittson County, the most northwestern corner of Minnesota, Ukrainian immigrants built the small, wooden church of St. Nicholas in 1905, located just one mile below the Canadian border in the tiny unincorporated village of Caribou. It was not until national boundary lines were established in 1909, however, that the settlers realized they had built the church in Minnesota.
Located adjacent to the Roseau River in Caribou, the building and its small graveyard of white crosses is enveloped by an expanse of prairie. This Eastern Orthodox church draws upon Byzantine vernacular architecture in its wooden construction, entrance tower, and two copper-colored onion domes surmounted by crosses and placed atop the rectangular sanctuary and apse. The interior is paneled with unpainted knotty boards and filled with simple wooden benches; an iconostasis with religious images separates the sanctuary and apse.
Most parishioners lived in Manitoba but during the 1930s, under the newly established U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, they were forced to go through customs to get to the church. Unfortunately, the border crossing was located at Emerson, a one-way trip of seventy to eighty miles. Church attendance dropped significantly and membership declined; ultimately, services ceased in the 1940s. Restored in 1974, the building is now only used for special services. Local citizens and former parishioners tend the building and its cemetery.
Harvey, Thomas, “St. Nicholas Orthodox Church,” Kittson County, Minnesota. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1983. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington D.C.
Our Northwest Corner: Histories of Kittson County, Minnesota. Dallas: Taylor Publishing, 1976.
Paprock, John Bria, and Teresa Peneguy Paprock. Sacred Sites of Minnesota. Black Earth, WI: Trails Books, 2004.
“Ukrainian Community and Christian Faith.” Kittson County Enterprise. Accessed August 10, 2016. http://www.kittsonarea.com/.