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09:55 am - Mon, November 2 2015
Heidi said:
Dan, any idea what the owners plan to do with the old convent?
10:12 am - Mon, November 2 2015
Dan Ray said:

The current owner said he bought it just to make sure no one undesirable would get it, and mentioned he'd be happy to sell it to the right person. I know the locals are concerned about maintaining the current church, which is about a half-block away. I"m going to contact him and tell him this is up now, he may choose to post on here himself!
12:22 pm - Mon, November 2 2015
Karen Shear said:
These pics are a amazing look in to our states history!

Thanks for sharing
01:09 pm - Mon, November 2 2015
Ed Mahoney said:
I love how the chalk board has "cursive" writing on it.
04:15 pm - Mon, November 2 2015
Reply to Ed. The main reason there was only cursive writing, is because we weren't taught how to print. We started out writing and never printed. 1948 to 1955.
06:09 am - Tue, November 3 2015
Dan Ray said:
The entire history of the place is on the blackboards, (in cursive). Pretty cool. I was contacted by several people who had gone to school there, who discussed what it was like. One told me her mother was the one that wrote the history on the blackboards.

There was a dorm upstairs, and several said that it was partially a boarding school at one point. There is a chapel in there, but it was hard to catch a shot that did that justice. The basement had a cafeteria and a kitchen.

08:33 am - Tue, November 3 2015
Darla Knox said:
beautiful pictures of SD history. I do know some people that went to school there. Would love to go look at the inside if it was ever open for people to look at. Love the beautiful staircase!
08:48 am - Tue, November 3 2015
Pam Hunt said:
A story appeared on Facebook late this past Summer about the haunted convent in Zell, SD. Like many people, we stopped by the convent on our sister vacation in October. Sadly the owners have had to lock down the building, due to vandalism. But still a very peaceful place worth seeing and respecting.
10:30 am - Tue, November 3 2015
Actually there were three dorms upstairs. Two big ones that matched the size of the classrooms downstairs. Also above the chapel there was a small one. Maybe had 10/12 beds or so in it. It was a boarding school for many years. I went from 1948 to 1955 and boarded there all eight years.
i have an old glass front cupboard that used to be in the SW music room. An older couple bought it when the school closed and I got it from them.
11:44 am - Tue, November 3 2015
Teresa said:
i keep hearing it's haunted but have not heard any specifics
01:26 pm - Tue, November 3 2015
Merv Tvinnereim said:
I lived in Salt Lake City for 24 years and we would drive by this place at least once a year on our way back to Northeast S.D. The first time I drove by it was overwhelming. I never expected to see something like that and I was always curious about what it was. We were always in a hurry and didn't stop to find out. Now I know. Thanks for the story!
06:05 pm - Tue, November 3 2015
Wendy said:
I drive by this every time I come home from Minneapolis to visit my parents in Gettygsburg, SD. I always wondered what it looked like inside. Would be a great space to turn into some sort of a hunting lodge B&B. Who to get to fund that? Fun project to take on though.
08:32 pm - Tue, November 3 2015
connie sherman catron, eldest daughter of Ray and Agatha said:
Austrian immigrants who had settled near Redfield named their settlement Maria-Zell and asked Bishop Marty to send Sisters. I have the original abstract of title when Sister Josephine Villiger from Maria Rickenbach, Switzerland bought the land from the United States in 1884 after homesteading it in 1883. Benjamin Harrison was president. While St. Mary's School remained open until the '60s, the convent was moved to Yankton in 1889. The school was closed and sold in the1968 to Charles Littel for $5010 and 2 years back taxes when it couldn't meet fire safety specs. We bought the school in 1975 and sold 2 1/2 acres and the school itself to Corny Fink's daughter Janice in 1995. We still have the acreage closer to the church that was the boys' softball field and the boys and girls outhouses! While we owned it, my sister, Mary Jo Sherman lived in the top floor and restored the stained glass windows. I have newpaper articles about her work and lots of photos taken by my son Chris Bruning of the school and church. If someone tells me how, I'll post them here. i also have the invoices from Norbeck's installation of a new well in 1928 for $238.14 and from 1949 when the school and the caves for vegetable storage were wired for electricity by Philard's in Redfield for $775. While we owned the school, we had it placed on the National Register of Historic Places on 7/19/1982. Frances Gruenwald, sister of Joseph Gruenwald, was the second vocation from Zell. She took the name Sister Cunegunde and is buried at Sacred Heart Convent in Yankton. Applications for grant money for restoration can be sought at the South Dakota State Historical Society.
08:02 am - Wed, November 4 2015
Karen said:
Lot of good memories. I'm happy you are sharing these photos with all of us. It means a lot to have the school still there.
09:29 am - Wed, November 4 2015
Dan Ray said:

I just visited via email with the current owners, (Joe and Alisa Lutter), and they asked me to share this info:

Email address:

Phone number: 605-472-2311

The building proper and land it is on is up for sale, the main idea being for someone to keep it in repair.
01:46 pm - Wed, November 4 2015
Dan Ray said:


Copies of any of these pics can be made available to interested parties, a nominal charge would be added to defray the costs of my photography hobby, (some might call it an addiction)... send inquires to
07:26 pm - Thu, November 5 2015
Pam Wilson said:
My dad (Victor Heppler) and his brothers and sister went to school there in the 1930s and 1940s.
Wenzel Heppler, my GGG grandfather donated the land and helped to build the convent and the church
08:03 am - Fri, November 6 2015
\Janet Fisher said:
Does anyone know who owns the building currently\? \I've contacted a couple of agents in Redfield, keep getting incorrect info. Would love to see the inside. \My family descends from Wenzel \Heppler.
10:26 am - Fri, November 6 2015
Dan Ray said:
@ Janet,

The current owner is:Joe and Alisa Lutter

Contact info for Joe and Alisa:

Email address:

Phone number: 605-472-2311
09:15 am - Wed, November 11 2015
John Andrews said:
Would the convent site be in Faulk County or is it across the line in Hand County?
10:45 am - Fri, November 13 2015
Rex Osborn said:
I am originally from that area (Redfield) and would go to Zell with my dad for a number of farm related reasons. I have put a call into the current owners and I will be seeking investors for two projects: An academy learning center, with a 6 month operating period. This is adventure learning with limited skill sets, with classes 7 days with liven accommodations. I will also be seeing funding to preserve the structure. Very preliminary at this point, but looking at restoration. If anyone is interested in more investor information and outcomes please email me at This project has a 2 year build out, with 2% pre investment return with 20% equity at completion.
01:42 am - Mon, December 21 2015
Teresa said:
I just bought this place from joe lutter if u have any questions or would like to see the building call me 6055209320
09:13 am - Sat, March 12 2016
Mary Schaffer Knight said:
This is where I went to school from 1st grade to 5th grade (I think). It was a long time ago, would have been @ 1958 to 1962, which is when I think it was closed for not meeting fire code. It was a beautiful place at one time. I still remember giggling with my cousin, Sandy (Daryl Schmidt) when we were goofing off when we should have been sleeping in the dormitory. We spent a few evening on our knees on the chapel praying for our salvation. :)
I also remember sitting on that staircase playing. And learning cursive and using it to write "I will not cheat" or something to that effect 100 times on the blackboard because I let one of my classmates look at my paper during a test. Amazing memories of childhood.
09:38 pm - Thu, April 14 2016
Patricia Eileen Crowe said:
Dan...If you have time...Please go to the cemetery and look for a sister Maria who died in 72 or 73 she was a teacher and her family was from Depue Illinois..She was my mother's cousin..I will find the date of her birth...and send it too you...Her name was Lawless..I am sorry that is all I know...I was going to come for a pilgrimage to visit her grave...All of her birth sister are gone now...So for some reason I am thinking about her... Thank you for taking the time to read my email..
12:35 pm - Thu, September 15 2016
constance catron said:
the first photo is of the 6-8th grade classroom. our 'library' consisted of a little bookcase smaller than the size of one of the windows. i think i read everything in there. neat little piece of furniture. the writing on the blackboard is my mom's, agatha sherman. she wrote on there because she had the keys when i owned it and she'd open it up for anyone who wanted to tour. you can see part of the church in the left window. i have one of the desks here. the desks had inkwells where you could put the bottles of scripto ink that had the little well near the top for you to dip your pen in. altho by that time, we had gotten really fancy: didn't need to use dip pens. had parker fountain pens with a rubber reservoir which could be filled from that little well. I felt rich when i got a parker fountain pen and pencil SET for 8th grade graduation. the basement had the boarders' dining room, the day students' dining room, the priest's dining room, the kitchen with a cellar like storeroom off the side. the 5th picture is of the sisters' bathroom. we could use it in the wintertime IF there was a whiteout blizzard going on outside. the 6th photo shows a stained glass window from the 3rd floor. my sister mary jo sherman huckins lived on the 3rd floor for awhiie and restored the stained glass windows. the last picture is taken from the east entry looking down the hall to the window on the west. the 8th grade classroom with sister bernardine would have been on the immediate right. the 1st to 3rd classroom with sister placida would have been to the right of that west window. we hung our coats on hooks on the left side of the hallway. I have some of the hooks. also on the left is a door which went to the chapel (wooden kneelers. no padding), the vestment room, and the small rooms used for music lessons taught by sister clara and sister madonna.
12:44 pm - Thu, September 15 2016
constance catron (connie sherman) said:
the stairs went up to the 2nd story where the boys' and girls' dorms were as well as the sisters' bedrooms (totally off limits. cloister). there was a huge tube leading out of a west side door that was a fire escape. i spent lots of time at the top of the stairs studying spelling words because i was the south dakota state spelling champion. fell on words like 'fiduciary. the school and church are in hand county. the downtown school and the main part of zell are in faulk county. highway 212 is the dividing line. here's the info re the registration on historic places:
82003928 St. Mary's Church, School and Convent U.S. 212 SOUTH DAKOTA Hand Zell LI 19820719
05:45 pm - Thu, September 29 2016
Roseamry Jessen Tubandt said:
My mother attended school there. She also would spend the week and would go home on week ends. My grandmother and grandfather are buried in the cemetery. Would love to see the inside of the school sometime. Hoping the buildings will be there for years to come.
06:40 pm - Sun, October 30 2016
JoAnn Jernberg said:
I am a Graphic Design student at NSU- I have an advanced photography class in which we have an assignment to document a location. I would like to use this location for my assignment. Previously I did the old Academy in Redfield which is how I found out about this. I do hope it will be ok to go photograph the buildings.
03:23 pm - Tue, August 22 2017
carolyn gallegos said:
My mom and her siblings went to church and school here. Can't wait to show her the online pics. Her oldest brother Cletus Stemper will have his funeral on Thursday 08/24/2017 in this church and rest eternally in the cemetery on the grounds. Thanks for saving such a great memory for our family
07:20 am - Fri, December 1 2017
Tom Fitzsimmons said:
Father Bernard H. Bunning was assigned to St. Mary's Church of Bismarck, North Dakota and was here in June 1880. In 1920 he was in "Plato, Hand County, South Dakota." Maybe he served Zell.
07:58 pm - Wed, February 21 2018
Kasey said:
Is there a way to get permission to visit this place? I would love the chance to photograph it.
06:55 am - Sat, May 5 2018
Barbara Kenyon Brown said:
My grandmother, Edna May Keck Cook, lived in Orient. On our jaunts to Redfield when I visited her, this building was like a beacon to me. I have loved it all these years and hope this wonderful old school will never be erased from our history, as happens to so many wonderful old buildings.
04:43 am - Wed, June 20 2018
Margie (Haider) Kobriger said:
My Dad went to school there from 1919 to 1927 .. all of us kids went there also ..
It was a great place, and God surely blessed us all with the wonderful
education given by the Sisters. Many memories I'll always be grateful for. I go
back out there and visit the church and school and reminisce every time
I come home .. God blessed us a lot .............
11:29 am - Sat, July 21 2018
Jerry Hendel said:
My wife and I occasionally drive through Sell on our wy from Fergus Falls,MN, near Wahpeton, ND, to Pierre. Have stopped at this lovely old school and several times I have gone inside. This was back 5 yrs or more ago.
Neat old building, slowly falling down.
The last time I communicated with anyone about Zell, I was told the diocese was closing St. Mary's Church next door.
I was surprised to find this was a boarding school for whites who had no access to a school in their rural town/farm. In my ignorance I had assumed it was an Indian school.
My question: was it K-12? What school years did they cover?

I am fascinated with cathedrals and impressive old churches.
We drive I-94 to Montana. I love to stop at tiny Richardson, ND, milepost 90, where there is a fantastic Benedictine Abbey, still functioning. A beautiful old German 'cathedral'. Again out on the Great Plains.
10:27 am - Thu, August 9 2018
Roger Anderson said:
I went to school at the Academy in Redfield mentioned by JoAnn Jernberg. I would love to see the photos from her assignment there. Are they available somewhere?
01:33 pm - Sun, August 26 2018
Linda L Roehrig said:
I am looking for information on Rev. Arthur J. Schneider, who was a priest in this area. Was he a priest at this school? He died in 1934 and was born in Wisconsin in 1883. Thanks
03:41 pm - Sun, September 2 2018
Michael Connors said:
Who are the current owners now? Would be cool to take a tour of this place.
01:00 pm - Mon, November 5 2018
Kathy Muth said:
I just found out my great great Aunt Sister Mother PIA taught there and is buried in St Mary’s cemetery She died in 1928
06:58 am - Sat, May 25 2019
Emilee Spangler said:
Does anyone know the owner would like to see inside and everything some time.
02:14 pm - Wed, June 26 2019
Barb Weiss-Sitzberger said:
My Uncle Ray, Uncle Jack and my Dad, Delbert Weiss went to this school. I'm not sure on the exact dates but had to be in the 40's . So interesting to see the photo's and hear some history. I know they had a reunion where they allowed people to come in. My Dad (Delbert Weiss) did make it for the reunion and saw his photo's of the chalkboards. We go back every year to take photo's. It was sad to see this year that the out houses were gone and turned into horses fields. I also heard from someone in Redfield that the owners now are going to tear it down. That would be so unfortunate because we need to preserve our history where ever we can.
07:34 am - Tue, August 13 2019
Darlyce Johnson Day said:
I didn’t go to school there but I did take piano lessons there from Sister
Joseph . She was a sweet person.
08:28 am - Tue, August 13 2019
Daryl Muellenberg said:
I attended the school for Catechism classes back in the early 60's. I went to Redfield for school but lived closer to Zell. I graduated with several people who went there for grade school and were the last ones to attend before it was closed down and they transferred to Redfield. We had a school reunion a few years back and took a tour of the building. Unfortunately the building is in pretty bad shape and would be quite expensive to renovate it. Because of it's condition, it is probably a insurance liability issue to let people inside the building now, but I'm not positive. I seriously doubt because of the location and condition that anyone would renovate it. It would have to come strictly from donations as I don't see how it would ever be an investment opportunity, which is sad to see a historic building like that disappear.
07:47 am - Mon, March 9 2020
connie sherman catron said:
i have lots of pictures and original documents that i can post if someone will tell me how!
01:43 pm - Tue, March 10 2020
I went to school at St Mary's for eight years. Sr Placida was not my Angel, (I would love to have that white pointer she used on my knuckles) I was a little "bucky" as my Dad Ray would say.Unlike my sister Connie, I was not studying in front of that fire escape, rather
taking my chances sliding down it. The chair and desk facing the wall may well have been my spot. Good memories and great education...1954 to 1962
PS: I am a very good speller as well, that was a very reinforced subject plus there was candy as a reward:) Jim
10:23 pm - Tue, March 10 2020
Mary Tierney said:
Remember the spelling tests, with stars placed in our little notebooks ,with a religious stamp in side..if we got an A. And after 5 stars the reward was a piece of boxed chocolate. I remember standing and reciting, God made me to know him, love him and serve him. PS I remember standing the whole period! If Sr. Placida got angry she would throw your book across the room. And then out came the wooden ruler with the metal edge. I remember a little girl by the name of Katherine who wore glasses and a plaid dress....Sr. Placida would beat her on her back with her fists. And God forbid you colored inside the lines!
07:16 am - Sun, April 18 2021
Patrick A Fallon said:
I went 1st through 7th grades at St. Mary's in Zell. My dad and his five brothers and sisters attended St. Mary's in the 1900's and teens. Plus my four older brothers and one older sister also went there for all eight years of their elementary Catholic education. My younger sister, Marcella, was the last class to graduate from St. Mary's when it closed for good in 1963. Without any doubt, it was a great education, even if Sister Placida was rough on some of us. My family all boarded in the dormitory during our schooling at St. Mary's. The winters could be a little tough at times. I remember having to stay over the weekends a few times, due to snow storms and blizzards that kept our folks from coming to pick us up on Friday evenings for the weekend. Also, shoveling snow on the walk to allow Father to come say mass in the mornings. The recess baseball games were always a huge item for recreation. Fox and Goose was the winter time game for recess. Sliding across the linoleum floors after lights out, was a fun night time dare for older kids in the dorm. All good memories of St, Mary's.
01:00 pm - Thu, January 13 2022
Kathy Englander said:
Where can I find the cemetery records? I am looking for Joseph Littel, son of Andre Littel and brother to Charles and Theresa Grunewald. Andre, Charles and Theresa are buried here.
12:42 pm - Fri, April 29 2022
Chance Lozon said:
Does anyone know how to contact the owner/s?
05:38 am - Wed, August 17 2022
Good morning, all. My name is Zac and I'm a photographer in Fargo, ND. I wanted to let Connie Catron know that I sent her a message on Facebook to hopefully share the interior images with you all. Teresa, if you ever need imagery, I would be happy to come down for a visit. Looks like an amazing place. A few of my great aunts were nuns at the convent in Hankinson, North Dakota.
05:39 am - Wed, August 17 2022
Good morning, all. My name is Zac and I'm a photographer in Fargo, ND. I wanted to let Connie Catron know that I sent her a message on Facebook to hopefully share the interior images with you all. Teresa, if you ever need imagery, I would be happy to come down for a visit. Looks like an amazing place. A few of my great aunts were nuns at the convent in Hankinson, North Dakota.
05:14 pm - Mon, December 19 2022
Janice Horner said:
I am responding to the post of Kathy Englander on January 13, 2022, regarding Joseph Littel, son of Andre Littel. Have you had any success in locating Joseph? I found him on the 1880 U.S. Census, age 19, living with his parents in Wellington, Monroe, Wisconsin. On the 1920 U.S. Census, age 58, he was living with his sister, Theresa Grünwald (Greenwald) in Zell, South Dakota. There are other Joseph Littel's on but I am unable to confirm that he is the son of Andre.
Do you know if he had a middle initial or name?
I am related to the Littel family through the Heppler family.

02:35 pm - Fri, November 3 2023
Gordy Zens said:
My 3 older siblings attended school. Don, Isabelle, and Ken.
12:20 pm - Sat, December 2 2023
Jackie said:
Hello I drive by there when I work in Redfield I noticed a bunch of stray kitties. I'd like to stop and put out Cat Houses and food for them to help them survive the harsh winter. Is there someone I could talk to as in a good location for the cat houses 2013
12:21 pm - Sat, December 2 2023
Jackie said:
Hello I drive by there when I work in Redfield I noticed a bunch of stray kitties. I'd like to stop and put out Cat Houses and food for them to help them survive the harsh winter. Is there someone I could talk to as in a good location for the cat houses 2013
04:11 pm - Sat, February 24 2024
Linda Kramer said:
Baptismal records and burial records should have been kept by the Roman Catholic Diocese.
04:11 pm - Sat, February 24 2024
Linda Kramer said:
Baptismal records and burial records should have been kept by the Roman Catholic Diocese.
02:49 pm - Tue, April 23 2024
Bob Pratten said:
In 1930s, was there a home for unwed mothers in Zell? I was told it was operated by Catholic nuns. If not in Zell, how about Aberdeen?

I ask for a friend whose father was born in such a home in 1937 and then adopted. He knew he was adopted and passed away in 2014. We are working on identifying the biological parents.
01:15 pm - Sat, June 29 2024
Mary Ann splonskowski said:
I attended school in Zell for my 8th grade. Sister anita splonskowski was the principal. The year would have been about 64 /65. It was a blessed time. I remember many of the names I see on these notes
01:19 pm - Sat, June 29 2024
Maryannsplonskowski said:
Error in dates I would have graduated 8th grade with I belive James Sherman I remember him in the class room either a year younger or same grade as me. I have pictures of the graduation. I will have to get them out and revisit the pictures.

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