During a recent visit to the Scambler Union Church, Pelican Rapids natives and high school classmates Pamela Hovland and Carol Hoadley Schmaltz examined the church, and its interior. Carol is a descendent of one of the founders of the church.
Pictured here, images of quilts created by Scambler area volunteers. Note the square on a quilt identifying Scambler Union dates, from 1912 to 1987.

Ambitious all-woman team established church in Scambler, which earned place on historic places register

History of Pelican Rapids area’s involvement in the movement to earn women the right to vote is somewhat sketchy. 

We’ve been scanning Pelican Rapids Press archives from a century ago, in search of published references of local activism for the 19th Amendment. We expect to publish more in the coming weeks. 

One historic fact is for certain: An all-woman group founded the historic Scambler church, near Pelican Lake. Based on the ambitions of these women, spearheading a new rural church and building project, they were very likely among the advocates of voting rights in the Pelican area.

By all accounts, the Scambler women were a strong-willed group with progressive ideas.

Following is from the Otter Tail County Historical Society: 

The People’s Union Church in Scambler Township is a National Register site with a fabulous women’s history background. In 1909, as women’s suffrage efforts ramped up in Minnesota, a group of ladies in Pelican Rapids decided to build their own church. The idea came to them at a birthday party. 

They would organize a non-denominational church where everyone was welcome and call the organization the Union Aid Society. Voting Members paid $1 to subscribe and men could be honorary members too if they paid. Fundraising efforts began immediately with ice cream socials, chicken pie dinners, and quilt raffles. 

By 1913 they had enough money to find land and a beautiful spot in Scambler Township was chosen. 

The church was dedicated in 1915 and the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Worship at the Scambler church is limited to the summer months, and attendance is generally light. Thanks to key donors and a small but dedicated group, the church continues to be preserved and maintained—but additional support for this nationally significant historic church is always encouraged. 

Scambler, the church established by a scrappy group of “Founding Mothers,” is located north of Highway 34, just south of Pelican Lake. Services are 10 a.m. on Sundays through August. 

Editor’s note: Pamela Hovland, a 1979 graduate of Pelican Rapids High School, has been an occasional contributor to the Pelican Rapids Press. She is focusing on the centennial of the 19th amendment—which finally ensured the right to vote for women. The upcoming November general election will be the 100th year. She has also been involved in the observances in her home town of Wilton, Connecticut.
The Press is collaborating with Hovland in publishing local profiles of area women, and their thoughts on voting rights and activism. Features will continue into the fall, as the November 3, 2020 election approaches.
Hovland owns and operates a design firm in Connecticut, and is a senior critic in design at Yale University. In the summer, she enjoys returning to her native Pelican Rapids area and seasonal place on South Lida.