Guide to the Margaret Sager Papers at the Leland D. Case Library for Western Historical Studies

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Margaret Sager
Title: Margaret Sager Papers
Dates: 1951-1967
Quantity: 1 box(es) (0.25 linear feet)
Collection ID: MSS.079
Repository: Leland D. Case Library of Western Historical Studies
E.Y. Berry Library-Learning Center
Black Hills State University
Spearfish, SD 57799

Biographical Note

In the mid-1960s, a determined effort to mount a giant statue of Jesus on the top of Spearfish Mountain was undertaken. Inspired by the late Senator Francis Case's awe at Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the non-profit Christ on the Mount, Inc. formed in Spearfish to complete a similar project for the Black Hills. The Margaret Sager collection in the Case library documents this project from 1961 to 1968. The project was backed by several popular names within our community, including Josef Meier and Dr. Russell Jonas. However, for all the big-name support for the project, the collection is peppered with opposition from locals. Newspaper clippings and letters between the members of Christ on the Mount, Inc. reveal public denouncement of the project and appeals to government offices to delay or stop the project. The foundation stated the statue would be an inspiration to Christians around the world and an excellent companion to the Black Hills Passion Play. However, some locals saw it as a commercialization of the Christian faith and little more than a tourist trap.

Christ on the Mount encountered significant obstacles and accomplishments during its undertaking. They were able to purchase a bust of Jesus modeled by Gutzon Borglum and contract Lincoln Borglum, Gutzon's son, to complete the bust as a standing model and oversee the construction of the statue. They also negotiated a complex land transfer with Homestake Mine and the U.S. Forest Service to gain control of the top of Spearfish Mountain. This land transfer encountered numerous delays. Within the U.S. Forest Service offices, the transfer was stalled several times. When public notice was given on the land transfer, two attempts were made to appeal the decision and delay or stop the transfer, though both were denied. After four or five years, the transfer appears to have been completed, though the documents don't state when, exactly. In 1967 and 1968, major fundraising campaigns began. Pledge drives began locally while major fundraising agencies were engaged for broader campaigns.

The documents end abruptly in 1968, so it is difficult to pinpoint why there does not today stand a 175 foot tall statue of Christ on Spearfish Mountain. However, it does appear that the fundraising campaigns were not as successful as they group had anticipated. It also appears enthusiasm was waning, and attendance to board meetings was often at a quarter or less of the complete board. Perhaps the lack of momentum and the lack of funds caused the project to simply stall and die.

Scope and Contents

Manuscript Material, Sports Program, Catalog.

Acquisition Information

Received 10/22/1998

Related Material

Files D12-34 and D13-81 in the Father Szalay Papers.

Preferred Citation

Margaret Sager Papers, Leland D. Case Western Historical Studies

Processing Information

Initial processing by Colleen Kirby, completed by Sara Cox, April 2015.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Christ on the Mountain Manuscript Material, The Black Hills of South Dakota: Its Pioneer Banking History 1951, Fall Sports Program 1975, Freund Can Company Catalog 1998, The Mining Claims Occupancy Act of October 23, 1962-1966, Poetical Works and Letters of Robert Burns, Vanishing Trails Expedition 1976, Early Day Sturgis and Fort Meade 1874-1910: History of Sturgis and Fort Meade in the Beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota- 1962, Walter E. Dickey Day 1975.

File Item
1 1 Freund Can Company catalog with price quotes to Gerald Crary of Deadwood within the front cover 1963
2 Verdin Electric Bell Ringer Catalog 1957
3 Business card for Jake Perman of Schulmerich Carillons undated
4 A page from a magazine article titled "A Churchill Legacy in Words" praising American attitudes 1965
5 A letter, newsletter, and request for donation from Religious Heritage of American, Inc., including the original envelope 1967
6 Letter from Schulmerich Carillons announcing a new district manager 1965
7 Hand-written notes to self 1965
8 Minutes for a meeting for an unnamed organization 1961
9 Minutes for a meeting of the Christ on the Mountain Board of Trustees 1961
10 Minutes for a meeting of the Christ on the Mountain Board of Trustees 1961
11 A set of three photographs showing different angles of a statue of Jesus undated
12 Rapid City Daily Journal article titled "Perpetuating Christianity Purpose of Spearfish Mountain Monument" 1963
13 Letter to Jerry Crary from Josef Meier on Black Hills Passion Play stationary regarding the proposed Spearfish Mountain monument 1962
14 Short letter to Jerry Crary from Josef Meier in regards to a model of their project 1962
15 Letter from Francis Case on U.S. Senate stationary asking how their project is coming along 1962
16 Request to Gerald Crary from Dean A. Rasmuson for a clarified description of the land selected by the Christ on the Mount organization 1962
17 Invitation to Gerald Crary from Religious Heritage of America, Inc. to join their annual Washington Pilgrimage 1962
18 Letter to Gerald Crary from the U.S. Forest Service requesting a reply to the earlier letter from Dean A. Rasmuson 1962
19 Minutes from a meeting of Christ on the Mountain Trustees 1962
20 Letter to Gerald Crary from Lincoln Borglum 1962
21 Letter from Kenneth C. Kellar of Homestake Mining to Howard C. Lee regarding the Christ on the Mountain Exchange 1962
22 Letter to Christ on the Mountain from Ed Lighter discussing sending letters to Congress undated
23 Signed agreement between Christ on the Mountain and Lincoln Borglum for the purchase of Gutzom Borglum's model undated
24 Newspaper clipping with obituary of Thomas Robert Shannon, news on Chicago rail strike, and a picture of "The Book of Job" play in Kentucky undated
25 Letter from Paul Friggens of the Reade’s Digest to Gerald Crary showing interest in the proposed monument 1962
26 Correspondence between the South Dakota Department of Highways and Christ on the Mount discussing project funding from aluminum companies 1962
27 Two letters and one note on finding insurance for the model 1962
28 Letter from Lincoln Borglum discussing insurance, publicity, and his work 1962
29 Rapid City Daily Journal article on Lincoln Borglum’s work on the monument - he is modeling a body to accompany the bust his father had made 1962
30 Minutes of the meeting of Christ on the Mount, Inc. Board of Trustees 1963
31 Newspaper clipping of a letter to the editor stating opposition to the proposed monument undated
32 A second letter to the editor objecting to the proposed monument undated
33 Newspaper article harshly criticizing the Passion Play undated
34 Brief note instructing letters to the Senate be typed undated
35 Letter to George Thagard stating pamphlets on the proposed monument have been printed 1963
36 Letter to Ed Lighter from Don Hipschman, Publicity Director of the state Department of Highways offering fundraising suggestions 1963
37 Reply from Ed Lighter to Don Hipschman explaining the current fundraising strategy 1963
38 Reply from Don Hipschman discussing contacting aluminum companies about providing material for the monument 1963
39 Rapid City Daily Journal page including an article on a small donation from St. Onge and featuring a picture of Lincoln Borglum's nearly completed model of bust plus body 1963
40 Multiple copies of a correspondence between Howard Lee and Christ on the Mount inquiring the status of the land exchange 1963
File Item
2 1 Correspondence between John Rundgren of the U.S. Forest Service and Christ on the Mount discussing a land transfer 1963
2 Minutes of a meeting of Christ on the Mount Board of Directors 1963
3 Miami Herald newspaper article on the Christ on the Mount project 1963
4 Newspaper clipping with a paragraph mentioning a campaign consultant circled undated
5 Letter to Buckeye Stamping Co. from Christ on the Mount asking about collection cans 1963
6 Meeting agenda with stapled newspaper blurb about the Christ the Redeemer monument in Rio de Janeiro stamped 1962 1962/1963
7 Letter to Harold Dudley recognizing his Life Membership 1963
8 Letter from Leland Case to Irma Weyler suggesting the model for the Christ on the Mount be used at the upcoming World's Fair 1963
9 Article on the Christ on the Mount project with photograph of unnamed group on back 1963
10 Letter to George Verbryck from Gerald Crary seeking support for the project 1963
11 Letter to Freund Can Company regarding collection cans 1963
12 Letter from I.T. Verdin Company to Gerald Crary concerning a carillon of cast bells 1963
13 List of names for invitation to a meeting 1963
14 Letter from Emma Hendrickson, principal of the St. Onge School showing her support 1963
15 Sample letter to Senators from Christ on the Mount, Inc. 1963
16 Letter, references, and biographical information from Will Turner requesting a job as publicity director 1963
17 Proposal for fundraising plan for Christ on the Mount by Burrill, Inc. undated
18 Several copies of letters to Senators regarding the stalled transfer of land from Forest Service to Christ on the Mount 1963
19 Newspaper clipping mentioning sale of land on Spearfish Mountain and a handwritten note undated
20 Letter to Ed Lighter from Gerald Crary informing him of Josef Meier's recent work on the project 1963
21 Letter to Thomas McKnew from Ed Lighter offering a life membership 1963
22 Correspondence between Ed Lighter and Gerald Crary on sending letters to Congress 1963
23 List of names of people invited (not specified what to) undated
24 Series of letters discussing Burrill, Inc. 1963
25 Letter from Josef Meier to Walter Dickey supporting hiring Will Turner for publicity 1963
26 Letter from Josef Meier to Russell Jonas discussing Will Turner 1963
27 Correspondence between Ed Lighter and Karl Mundt concerning gaining Congressional support 1963
28 Letter to Gerald Crary suggesting getting Billy Graham and Fulton J. Sheen involved 1963
29 Hand-written note 1963
30 Letter from John Ryan suggesting Carleton Gorder as a new secretary 1963
31 Letter from Josef Meier regarding new delays in a land transfer 1963
32 Note from Ed Lighter stating E.Y. Berry had discouraged sending letters to Senate 1963
33 Note from Ed Lighter discussing Hoad Dean undated
34 Correspondence with Karl Mundt and surveyors reports on the Spearfish Mountain land transfer 1963
35 Correspondence between Ed Lighter and W.E. Dickey on two women interested in promoting the project 1963
36 Correspondence between Lighter and Borglum discussing the feasibility of aluminum as the monument's material 1963
37 Letter from Laurence Weyler to Gerald Crary advising him to contact foundations 1963
38 Letter to Ed Lighter on the stalled land transfer and on the question of using aluminum on the monument 1963
39 Letter to Christ on the Mountain executive committee on getting the state publicity department involved 1963
40 Letter from Josef Meier to Gerald Crary discussing the SD Highway Publicity Department 1964
41 Letter to Gerald Crary from Walter of First National Bank mentioning the land transfer and tax deductible donations 1964
42 Letter to Christ on the Mountain Trustees inviting them to a meeting with handwritten notes 1964
43 Letter to Gerry Crary from Josef Meier suggesting Hoad Dean as an executive secretary with reply agreeing to contact Dean and further notes on the delayed land transfer 1964
44 Letter from Gerrry Crary to Karl Mundt regarding the delayed land transfer 1964
45 Reply from Karl Mundt promising the land transfer would be expedited 1964
46 Letter to Theo Schlapfer of U.S. Forest Service from Gerry Crary requesting information on the land transfer 1964
47 Letter to Karl Mundt from Gery Crary thanking him for assisting with the land transfer and asking for further help 1964
48 Letter from Irma Weyler to Christ on the Mountain suggesting changes to their brochure, with newspaper clipping regarding the pope attached 1964
49 Letter to Gerry Crary from Karl Mundt suggesting the final approval on the land transfer should be soon 1964
50 Letter to Mr. A. H. Simmons thanking him for his membership 1964
51 Handwritten meeting agenda 1964
52 Call of Special Meeting of Christ on the Mountain with letters to stockholders asking their attendance for a vote or to send in attached proxy 1964
53 Letters from Josef Meier stating the Karl Mundt has indicated the land transfer will occur soon 1964
54 Letter to Gerry Crary from Irma Weyler suggesting a more clearly defined brochure committee 1964
55 Letters from Josef Meier stating the endorsement of Bisphops Sheen and McCarty with copies of their letters attached 1964
56 Letter to Gerry Crary from Lincoln Borglum suggesting they make it known the statue will be erected regardless of the location with reply asking for patience and suggesting the land transfer will go through soon 1964
File Item
3 1 Letter from Jack Weiland requesting an opportunity to help with fundraisin 1964
2 Newspaper clipping on the formation of the executive committee for Christ on the Mountain 1964
3 Letter from Karl Mundt stating local protest to the pending land transfer 1964
4 Small, inspirational typed note undated
5 Minutes of a meeting of the executive committee of Christ on the Mount 1964
6 Minutes of a meeting of the executive committee of Christ on the Mount 1964
7 Letter from Hoadley Dean to Janice Blue concerning the minute book 1964
8 Letter to various fundraising agencies 1964
9 Letter to Walter Dickey regarding reimbursements 1964
10 Correspondence between Hoadley Dean and Gerald Crary 1964
11 Letter to George McGovern asking for assistance in pushing through the land transfer 1964
12 Newspaper clipping discussing the land transfer 1964
13 Letter from Karl Mundt warning of a possible appeal and delay in the land transfer 1964
14 Fundraising plan and guide from American City Bureau/Beaver Associates 1964
15 Minutes from and executive meeting of Christ on the Mount 1964
16 Letter to the Chief Forester regarding the protests to the land transfer 1964
17 Letter from Hoadley Dean suggesting letters be written to show support of the land transfer 1964
18 Minutes from an executive committee meeting including handwritten notes 1964
19 Letter from Karl Mundt regarding the land transfer 1965
20 Letter from Hoadley Dean stating the land transfer should be completed soon 1965
21 Letter from Hoadley Dean stating an appeal has been made to stop the land transfer, but will likely be turned down 1965
22 Issue of The Hardrock featuring the Christ on the Mount project 1964
23 Issue of the Rapid City Daily Journal featuring an article on the "battle" of the Christ on the Mountain project 1965
24 A small typed note giving an opinion on the Daily Journal article 1965
25 Letter from Hoadley Dean stating the appeals have been turned down and the transfer should go through 1965
26 Letter from Paul Beselievre complaining about lack of communication on the project 1965
27 Letter from Gerald Crary resigning as President 1965
28 Newspaper clipping of a letter to the editor showing full support for the Christ on the Mountain project undated
29 Minutes of a meeting of the Board of Directors 1966
30 Letter from Burrill Inc. regarding a plan for fundraising 1966
31 A brochure for Davidson College undated
32 Invitation to board members for a meeting 1966
33 Newspaper clipping mentioning a statue of Christ being planned in the Ozarks 1965
34 Minutes of the annual meeting 1966
35 Letter to Gerald Crary requesting fundraising efforts 1966
36 Minutes of the Executive Board meeting 1966
37 Minutes of a meeting of the Board of Trustees 1966
38 Letter to Board of Directors 1966
39 Letter to Board of Directors 1967
40 Minutes of an Executive Board meeting 1967
41 Letter from Gordon Hanson requesting information on the efforts put towards the project 1967
42 Full reports of past, current, and future work put toward the Christ on the Mountain project undated
43 Card about the completed Christ of the Ozarks undated
44 Photo of the Christ of the Ozarks undated
45 Letter to Gerald Crary inviting him to a board of directors meeting 1967
File Item
4 1 Income and disbursement statement of Christ on the Mountain 1967
2 Minutes of a board meeting 1967
3 Invitation to directors for a board meeting 1967
4 Minutes of a meeting of Board of Directors 1967
5 Minutes from a meeting of Board of Directors 1967
6 Minutes from a meeting 1967
7 Minutes of an Executive Board meeting 1967
8 Minutes of an Executive Board meeting - all meeting have been on the subject of fundraising 1967
9 Invitation to members to the annual election of officers and directors 1967
10 Minutes of the annual meeting 1967
11 A letter to board members 1967
12 Minutes of board of directors meeting 1967
13 Letter to the executive committee stating engagement of Burrills, Inc. as a fundraising agent and a newspaper clipping attached stating the purchase of several acres of land by Christ on the mountain 1967
14 List of members of the executive board and board of directors of Christ on the Mountain 1967
15 Letter to Board of Directors 1967
16 Minutes of a meeting of Board of Directors 1967
17 A short story titled "One Solitary Life" 1967
18 Minutes of the Board of Directors 1968
19 Letter to Board of Directors stating the fundraising should start soon 1967
20 Notes on fundraising prospects 1967
21 Explanation of fundraising follow-up committees prepared by Burrill, Inc. undated
22 Document titled "Procedure for Organizing Fund Drives" undated
23 Minutes of Board of Directors meeting 1968
24 Letter from Burrill stating the 12-week service is coming to a close 1968
25 Minutes from a board meeting 1968
26 Letter to Gerald Crary thanking him for a $500 pledge 1968
27 Letter from an advertising agency with suggestions 1968
28 Invitation to Board of Directors members to a meeting 1968
29 Letter from Developmental Counsellors International regarding taking up a new fundraising campaign 1968
30 Report to Board of Directors asking for help, funds, and participation 1968
31 Letter suggesting a direct mailing fundraising campaign 1968
32 Document titled "Suggested Plan to Proceed" 1968
33 Worksheet of funds collected 1968
34 Minutes of Board of Directors meeting 1968
35 Minutes of a Board of Directors meeting 1968
36 Minutes of a Board Meeting 1968
37 Invitation to Board of Directors meeting with anticipated income and expense worksheets 1968
38 Blank fund drive prospect list 1967
39 Blank form for "ten best" to lead fund drive 1967