Emmanuel Church in Miles City is one of the oldest Episcopal Churches in Montana and was built in 1886. The church was built early in Miles City’s development and has been added to the United States Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places as part of the Carriage House Historic District (reference number 91000720, added June 7, 1991). The architect of the church was Byron Vreeland and it is considered to be his most significant building in Montana and is the only church he designed. One of the most unique attributes of the church is the walnut altar that was created from a steamboat that wrecked on the Yellowstone River at the Buffalo Rapids around 1880.
The Episcopal Church in Miles City has a long history of service to the community. Emmanuel, or St. Paul’s as it was then known, was founded in 1881 by The Right Reverend L. R. Brewer, Bishop of Montana. The first missionary-in-charge was the The Reverend William Horsfall.
Before the original church building was constructed, the congregation of St. Paul’s met at the Baptist Church, in private homes, and over a grocery store on Main Street. In 1882, it finally moved into its home on the corner of Eleventh Street and Palmer where it remains today.
St. Paul’s name was changed to Emmanuel in 1887 when Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, made a substantial donation to the construction of the current building. At their request, the name of the church was changed.
The Cross of Christ above the altar was added after World War II, and the Parish hall was built in 1955.
The original frame building was the earliest church building in Montana designed by Byron Vreeland, who was the pioneer architect of Bozeman and Miles City. While the original building from 1881 no longer stands, the existing building, which dates from 1886, was also designed by Vreeland and then built by T. J. Bryan & Co.
The exterior of Emmanuel is corbelled red brick, sitting on a brown sandstone ashlar foundation. The building is a synthesis of three architectural styles that formed Vreeland’s signature: Romanesque, Gothic, and Queen Anne. The Romanesque influence is seen in the brick corbels. While the pointed-arch windows and the interior hammer beams are Gothic, the fish-scale shingles, the framed porch, and the colored flower motifs in the stained-glass windows are in the Queen Anne style. The transept is a pitched-roof ell, and the nave is a barrel-vaulted wood ceiling.
The bell, which stands on the north side of the church, was salvaged from a steamboat. Originally, it hung in a cupola on the west end of the building. At some point in the early Twentieth Century, it was moved to its present location, and the cupola torn down.
The bishop’s chair is made from the same black walnut as the altar and was salvaged from a wrecked steamer.
The Altar, which remains east facing as in the earliest church traditions, was carved out of the same black walnut as the Bishop’s chair. The wood was salvaged from “The Yellowstone” after it was wrecked on the Buffalo Rapids in either 1879 or 1880. The woodworker, known only as “Mr. Harn,” was an English soldier stationed at Fort Keogh.
The pipe organ was donated to the church in 1947 by the family of John T. Quesenberry, who was killed in World War II.
The organ was made by M.P. Moller in 1947 for Emmanuel Episcopal Church. It is considered to be a portable instrument with 195 pipes, 2 manuals, 1 division, 20 stops, 3 ranks, 3 registers, 61-note manuals, and 32-note pedals. The original blower
was housed inside the case. When it was replaced, the new blower was moved to the basement. Originally, the organ was installed at the front of the church and at a later time was moved to its present location.
In 1956, Mayland electronically amplified chimes were donated to the church in memory of Daniel and Sandra Stoebe and are housed within the organ case.