Locals wary of new neighbors, Iglesia Ni Cristo

by Nadia Trinidad, North America News Bureau Chief

Posted at Oct 16 2011 09:59 AM | Updated as of Oct 17 2011 04:46 PM

SCENIC, South Dakota - The area purchased by a powerful Philippine church was once a cowboy town that locals describe as “a piece of history.”

Today, the remnant of the Wild West belongs to the Iglesia Ni Cristo.

The few who visited the ghost town in South Dakota are not happy.

“My mixed feelings are the church's Christ bought it and there's a lot of history here. What to they know about it?” said Dan Carr, who works for the township.

Carr helps maintain the garage that houses the township’s two fire trucks.

When representatives of the INC bought all 46 acres of Scenic from rancher Twila Merril for $799,000, they paid him extra to look after the place.

“It don't matter how I feel because they come up with the money and bought it,” said Carr.

The INC is tight-lipped on the purchase and its future plans for Scenic. A spokesman from their office in Daly City, California said they will only release a statement once they get a go signal from the central church in Manila.

Coldwell banker realtor David Olsen, who listed the property, said he signed a non-disclosure agreement that prevents him from talking about the buyer’s plans.

Merril was not available for further comment.

The dearth of information surrounding the deal has spawned a lot of talk among the locals.

“The people, little ranchers and farmers down here, they won't have anything to do with that group,” said 85 year-old Bernita Bloom, who once taught at Scenic’s public school.

When the town was put up for sale, the Rapid City Journal wrote a news item about it. Reporter Barbara Soderlin said their story was immediately picked up by the wires.

She expected that a rancher would purchase the property.