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North Dakota: Legendary. Follow the trail of legends
North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department

Butte Saint Paul State Recreation Area

Butte St. Paul was named by pioneer Missionary George Anthony Belcourt, the second pastor in North Dakota’s history. It was once considered the highest spot in North Dakota and offers scenic views of the lush Turtle Mountain area in northeast North Dakota.

According to a Belcourt biography by Rev. James M. Reardon, in January of 1850, Belcourt, his guides and sled dogs set out to visit the Native Americans in this area in order to teach the gospel. The group was caught in a blizzard and sought refuge on the highest peak (580 feet) by burying themselves in the snow until the storm broke. On Jan. 25, which coincides with the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Belcourt offered a Mass of thanksgiving for their delivery from the blizzard. Belcourt blessed a large wooden cross and planted it on the summit of the hill naming it Butte St. Paul and dedicating it to the conversion of the Indians of the vicinity.

BSPRA Monument

Eventually the cross disappeared, but 80 years later its remains were discovered and a cairn 12-feet high was erected to mark the spot and included a commemorative bronze plaque. Ten acres surrounding the marker were designated as a state park. Plans were to reinter Father Belcourt at the foot of Butte St. Paul, but this has never been carried out, and his body remains in Memramcook, New Brunswick.

In the dedication address of Butte St. Paul on June 28, 1933 this testimonial was given: “However, we dedicate Butte St. Paul today, not because of the bloody strife between the white man and the native, not because of contest between rival nations for control of territory, not because great industries and centers of business and commerce had their origins here, not even because of its picturesque scenery, but because it represents peace, civilization, education, Christianity.”


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