Father Louis Pfaller, OSB


By Father Louis Pfaller, OSB,
Assumption Abbey, Richardton, N.D.

It seems that the purpose of this “history” of Stark County is to give the reader an overall view of the county and its people, to sort of set the stage for the many family and town histories that will follow. I would like to give you a feel of the land and its people by taking you on an imaginary trip around the county. We are going to commence our explorations by going to the southeast corner. And while we drive to that spot, let me tell you a few general facts.

The county was named for George Stark, an early manager of the Northern Pacific Railway. In the 1880's he operated an experimental farm near Bismarck to demonstrate the fertility of land along the railroad. It does not seem, though, that he ever lived in Stark County itself, though he did visit it.
When Stark County was established in May, 1883, it comprised all of what is now the counties of Stark, Billings, Golden Valley, Slope, Bowman, Adams and Hettinger. But within a few years other counties were cut out of it and it was reduced to its present size: 36 miles long and 24 miles wide, with an extra township on the northeast corner. Its 1332 square miles makes it larger than the State of Rhode Island and 2315 times the size of Prince Ranier's country of Monaco!

Stark County is generally flat, with rolling fields, well suited to cultivation. But there are portions too steep for cultivation: the broken terrain along the lower Heart River, the escarpment and butte in the northeast section, the Little Bad Lands south of South Heart, and the rough lands north of Dickinson. In geological times, the glacier reached only the northeast tip of the county And the upheaval which 12 million years ago produced the mountains in Montana merely lifted up this region and gave it a slope which hastened the erosion of the thick sediments which once covered the entire area. Further back in geological times there were dense forests here, in the midst of humid lowlands. These forests account for the presence of the coal deposits in the county today.

I cannot tell you much about the geology of the region, and I feel more at home in recent history. So let's consider instead the coming of the first men to this area. We do not know exactly who first came here, or when. But an educated guess would place the Paleo-Indian man in the area 10,000 years ago as he sought big game. And it seems that the Indians who lived along the Missouri River came to what is now Stark County a thousand years ago in search of the bison. A modern tribe, the Mandan, hunted in the region for at least 300 years before European man arrived. Later came the Ankara and Hidatsa, and finally the Sioux. It seems that the area was strictly hunting grounds, and not the place of permanent villages, as existed along the Missouri River.

Who were the first white men to enter the county area? Possibly the Verendryes passed through here in 1742, and maybe Larocque traversed the region in 1805, but neither of these is certain. My vote goes to the Sully Expedition of 1864, and it is for this reason we are beginning our travelogue in the southeast corner.

General Alfred Sully was in charge of 3500 soldiers in the summer of 1864, pursuing the Sioux. Traveling along with them to Montana was the “Tom Holmes Expedition”, a civilian contingent of 123 covered wagons drawn by oxen, with about 200 men, women and children. They entered present Stark County on July 24, 1864, and we can say this was the first civilian government in the county. The wagons were organized into six divisions, each with a wagonmaster A captain general superintended the entire train, aided by a court to try any cases that might arise, a sheriff, a postmaster and a chaplain. Miscreants convicted of pilfering provisions were placarded with THIEF signs, while the army band played the “Rogue's March.”

As we drive east with ease over the Burt road we recall that on the day the Sully expedition entered the county, 22 head of cattle died of exhaustion in the 110 degree heat. When they reached the Heart River, Sully decided to corral the immigrants and his baggage train, give it a strong guard under Captain Tripp, and strike fast to the northwest and surprise the Sioux. About a mile south of the river we get out of the car and climbed up to some huge boulders to see the carvings made by the soldiers One of them reads: “L. D. Barker, Sully's Neb. Scouts, July 25, 1864”. Then we cross the river and turn into the pasture of the Sievert farm, where the North Dakota Historical Society has erected a plaque telling of the encampment there. We walk around and examine the many rifle pits and trenches, still quite visible today. When Sully set out, July 26, to fight the Sioux at Kill-deer Mountain, he left behind 400 soldiers to guard the baggage and the immigrants. It was almost a week before Sully returned, and in the meantime the corral on the Heart River underwent many anxious nights, punctured with false alarms, and accompanied by much feverish activity to dig more rifle pits.
Even when Sully's tired troops returned to the corral on July 31, there was not much peace at night. One of the officers recorded: “First the shrill yell of a wolf startled the drowsy senses, and then another, and then the air was filled with piercing, harrowing sounds: a picket gun was fired, and then another . . . The men thought they had seen something and fired . . . The firing kept up all night long, and only the warm sunshine of the morning dispelled the delusions of the night."
We will not follow the Sully trail farther, but I should say where it went. After a few days rest, the expedition broke camp on August 3, going west. They camped overnight near present Gladstone and South Heart before fighting the Sioux again in the Badlands.

Leaving the historic Sully's corral, we drive north through farm lands. Most of the farmers in the eastern quarter of the county are of German-Russian extraction. They are descendants of the Germans from the province of Baden, Alsass, Wurtenberg and Pfalz who had migrated to the Ukraine at the invitation of the Russian Czar in the first decades of the 19th century. Those on the eastern border of the county are mostly Protestants, and consider Hebron as their center. Most of the other German-Russians of the county are Catholics, with their centers in Richardton and Dickinson. Some Germans came directly from Germany in the 1880's (Hunke, Rixen, Bleier, etc.), and the German-Russians came mostly in the 1890's.

We are approaching our second historic site, Young Man's Butte, three miles east of Richardton. We drive to the base, and then climb to the top of the highest point in Stark County. Geologists can tell you that its camp of rocks were once the bottom of a huge lake some 40 million years ago. To the Indians who gave the butte its name, the butte had more romantic associations. One legend tells of a band of Ankara Indians who left their homes on the Grand River after a quarrel. When they reached the butte, two young braves were overcome by loneliness for sweethearts left behind, turned about and sped to their loved ones. The others continued and were never heard from again.

A second version of the naming of the butte was related by the Sioux warrior, Rain-in-the-Face. In his story, the Sioux fought and killed a band of 106 Crow Indians who were hunting there. One of the Crows escaped and went to the top of the hill where he sang and danced, calling out that no Sioux would ever kill him. He then stabbed himself. To the Sioux, this act showed supreme courage, and so they buried him with honors and called the place Young Man's Butte. Years later, Rain-in-the-Face, riding in a Northern Pacific train, excitedly pointed to the butte and exclaimed: “Brave Indian! Brave Indian!”

The panoramic view from the top of Young Man's Butte takes in many points in Stark County, including Davis and Dodson Buttes near Dickinson, and even the Killdeer Mountains, 60 miles away. In the wooded escarpment which runs about eight miles northwest from the butte are springs of water. One of these, a mile from the butte, was the rendezvous of a number of military expeditions in pre-settlement days. They were all connected with the building of the Northern Pacific Railway through the lands of the Indians.

It took the railroad until 1873 to reach Bismarck, but in the meantime the surveyors were busy searching for a good route west of the Missouri. In the fall of 1871 500 men and 50 Indian Scouts under Gen. N. G. Whistler were sent out from Fort Rice to protect the surveying crew of the Northern Pacific, under assistant chief engineer, Gen. Thomas L. Rosser. They decided on the course at the Heart River as the best route for the railroad. In 1872 Col. David S. Stanley led a similar expedition farther south, and touched Stark County only on the mid-southern border.

The surveying expedition of 1873 was the most interesting, because it was attacked several times by the Sioux Indians. The first attack came at the very start, when 200 Sioux attacked the escort for the engineers near Fort McKeene, resulting in the death of four braves.

The expedition of 1500 soldiers, including newly arrived George A. Custer, and 40 Indian scouts moved west and to the north of the Heart River. When they got to Young Man's Butte part of the troops stopped for more than a week while some of their 300 wagons went back to Fort Rice to get more provisions and whiskey. There was plenty of water, grass and wood at the campsite a mile from Young Man's Butte. Eventually the supply train caught up with the main party in the Badlands. When they reached the Yellowstone, Rain-in-the-Face was surprised and killed the sutler, Baliran, and the surgeon, Dr. Honzinger.

It was no wonder, therefore, that great surprise was expressed when, near present Glendive, the troops saw a small, white-topped buggy, drawn by a single horse, coming over the hills toward the camp. One of the soldiers recorded: “No one could surmise what its business was or where it could have come from, as no such vehicle was along with the command. Soon it came up and it was seen to contain a single man, who was enveloped in a black gown. He alighted, introduced himself as the Rev Father [Valentine] Sommereisen, a Roman Catholic missionary [pastor at Yankton], and stated that he had left Fort Rice on the 19th [of July] and had followed our trail for 260 miles in the intervening six days. This seemed at first incredible, but when he produced letters from friends at Fort Rice, dated 19th July, they were forced to believe it. The brave old gentleman had actually traveled alone over an Indian country a distance of over two hundred and fifty miles, when it was considered necessary to send a force of 1500 soldiers to protect a party of engineers going over the same route He told his story with modesty and evidently felt relieved to find himself safe in a friendly camp” To our knowledge, Father Sommereisen was the first clergyman to enter Stark County.

Due to financial setbacks, the Northern Pacific was not able to resume construction beyond the Missouri from 1873 until 1879. But military expeditions probed the west-river country. In the summer of 1874, George A. Custer led an expedition from Fort Abraham Lincoln to the Black Hills. On his return trip he came through Stark County. On August 25 they camped at Young Man's Butte and buried there Sergeant Henry C. Stempker who had died of typhoid dysentery. Two years later Custer's Seventh Cavalry on its way to death on the Little Big Horn, stopped at the butte and the news reporter Mark Kellogg noted in his journal that the headboard on Stempker's grave was still undisturbed. This first known grave in Stark county was discovered by Major Frank L. Anders of Fargo about forty years ago, but he refused to share his findings with us.

Much could be said about the passage of Custer's Troops through Stark County in 1876, but we will give only the dates and places of the camps: May 23, at Young Man's Butte; May 24, on the Green River, about a mile from present Gladstone; May 25, about two miles north of present South Heart; and May 26, 3½ miles directly south of Belfield.

Less than a year after Custer's defeat, the government built Fort Keogh near present Miles City Montana. Mail service between Fort Keogh and Fort Lincoln was needed, and so in 1878 the government hired a contractor, John R. Miner, to carry mail six days a week both ways over the 310 mile stretch. Since stage stations had to be established about every fifteen miles, these became the first semi-permanent settlements in the county. The Stark County stations on the Keogh Road were located at Young Man's Butte, on the Green River (near Gladstone), on Antelope Creek (near the present airport of Dickinson), and at Double Wall (or Adobe Walls) Creek, in the extreme southwestern corner of the county. In 1878 the Keogh Trail went directly west, and the stage station was at Camp Houstin, the present site of Belfield, but soon the route was changed and crossed the Little Missouri west of Amidon. Settlers going to Montana often used the trail and stopped at the stations for food and lodging. We do not know much about the station keepers, except that those at Young Man's Butte in 1879 were Sherman and W. A. Slater. In 1880 a surveyor for the Northern Pacific, Rufus S. Brookings of Maine established a ranch at the station at Young Man's Butte, and, to our knowledge, became the first permanent settler in Stark County. He ranched there for many years, and was succeeded by Roy Gress, and the present farmer, Ambrose Hoff.

For about five years, until the railroad was completed, the Keogh trail was the main thoroughfare for travelers going West. There was always danger of attacks from Indians, and it became a practice to send along a couple of soldiers to protect the stage wagons. Mischievous whites took advantage of this fear to play jokes occasionally. A. C. Huidekoper relates that in 1881, he and two other Badlands Ranchers, Gerry Paddock and Howard Eaton, came upon the Adobe Walls station, where they mounted a hill, and pretending they were Indians, covered themselves with a blanket and shot a few shots. “The way that driver played his whip,” wrote Huidekoper, “and the way those soldiers shouldered their guns was a caution”

It was in 1879 that construction of the Northern Pacific began west of the Missouri. Various crews of construction workers spread out along the route and began grading and building bridges. There was a large crew out in the Badlands, and another large crew at the mouth of the Green River. It is quite certain that another encampment of workers was on the site of present Hebron, and .. Is likely that another crew encamped at the stage Station at Young Man's Butte. Two settlers who came in 1883, Herman Breum and Robert Hunke, told me that they saw 50 or more log cabins at the station, and enough discarded clothing to fill a wagon box. These may have been left by the soldiers who protected the construction crews Settlers in the area later dismantled the cabins for lumber.
Most of the towns along the Northern Pacific in Stark County were laid out in 1882. The next year the railroad company published a guide, which listed the new towns and gave a description of the advantages. For our travelogue, we will quote each of the descriptions, then make our comments as we follow the tracks.

KNIFE RIVER (72 miles west of Mandan.) This station is situated on the Big Knife River, a stream larger than the Heart at Mandan, which pursues its way north through a beautiful valley, until it finally empties into the Missouri. There are here a section house, water tank and side track. Antelope, seven miles beyond, is also provided with similar facilities for carrying on the work of the railroad.
The station of Knife River was west of present Hebron, near the county line. Two enterprising merchants, Krauth and Leutz, built a trading post near there in July 1883, and they named their “town” “Moltke”, hoping to attract German settlers. But lightning destroyed the store soon after, and the proprietors moved to Hebron. The Antelope siding, a mile and a half from Young Man's Butte later had a postoffice, a grain elevator and a store. None of these remain today, but the name is perpetuated in the Antelope interchange on I-94. Joe Haag's farm is adjacent to the site of the village of Antelope.

RICHARDTON (86 miles from Mandan) is a new place, founded only in the autumn of 1882, and named in honor of Mr. C. B. Richards, of the firm of C. B. Richards & Co., of New York, passenger agents of the Hamburg Steamship Line. The town is situated in Stark County, near Young Man's Butte, a prominent elevation not far from the railroad, and the promoters of the place have already succeeded in giving it importance. There are a number of stores, a hotel, a lumber yard, a brick yard, an elevator, a creamery, and building operations are active to supply the needs of a rapidly growing population The surrounding country rolls in regular undulations through miles and miles of fertile soil, offering superior advantages for farming. The soil is a dark, rich and somewhat sandy loam of great depth, underlaid with a clay subsoil, and is well adapted to the cultivation of wheat, rye, oats and barley. To the north of Richardton the country is somewhat broken, interspersed with well watered valleys that afford abundance of wild hay. The small streams are generally fringed with a growth of cottonwood trees, thus making the region admirably suited to successful stock and sheep raising. Inexhaustible beds of coal, which may be inexpensively mined, underlie the whole region.

The Richardton Improvement Company expended considerable money in erecting community buildings in Richardton and trying to get people from Germany to settle there, but after a few years they had attracted only a few families from Germany, and gave up the venture. The Yankee settlers soon left, and in the 1890's the German-Russians and German-Hungarians came in great numbers to homestead around Richardton, and soon they replaced the Yankee merchants in town. In 1893 and again in 1898 a visiting missionary, Father Vincent Wehrle, preached to the German-speaking congregation. He wished to make Richardton a center for missionary activity for all the Germans pouring into this part of the State, and so in 1899 he returned to build the Benedictine Monastery of St. Mary's (now known as Assumption Abbey) and soon had a school for young men which was to have great influence in the area The Abbey church, completed in 1908, became widely known as the Cathedral of the Prairies. Over the years Richardton has had a slow and steady growth, and is now about 800 people.

TAYLOR (91 miles west of Mandan.) This town is surrounded by a wide expanse of fertile country. The soil is of vegetable mould, eighteen inches to three feet deep, with a fine subsoil similar to that of the James River Valley. Four miles south of Taylor flows the Heart River, while to the north is the Big Knife. Both these streams have broad, grassy valleys skirted with groves of oak, cottonwood and ash. Here, too, are found excellent cattle and sheep ranch sites. Many springs of good water issue from the outcropping bed of coal in the bluffs bordering the valleys, and wells give a good supply at a depth of sixteen to thirty five feet. Besides the fuel that is furnished by the oak and cottonwood trees, the whole country is underlaid with a bed of good coal five feet in thickness, which can be mined by digging from three to fifteen feet deep. From the bed the settlers obtain their own fuel at leisure times, highly appreciating so great an advantage. Taylor has several stores and a hotel.
In the 1880's many Norwegians came to this area and took up farming from six miles south of Taylor to 20 miles north. In 1953 I interviewed one of them, Herman Breum. He told me that in the Spring of 1882, at the age of 14, he came to Gladstone with his father, Louis Breum. One day while hunting deer east of Taylor (called Antelope at that time), his father discovered a paradise spot in a tree-filled ravine, with a strong spring of sweet water and coal veins cropping out of the banks. He raced back to Gladstone, tore down his shack and on July 6, 1882 rebuilt it near the springs east of Taylor. Since the land was not yet surveyed he could claim it by squatter's rights.

Another point of interest is a buffalo jump about four miles south of Taylor, where the Indians used to drive the animals over a bluff in order to kill them. Many artifacts have been gathered at this site. A few miles west of Taylor was a railroad siding called Boyle, made somewhat famous by a train wreck there in the early 1900's.

GLADSTONE (98 miles west of Mandan; population, 300.) This town was laid out in the spring of 1882 by a colony from Ripon, Wisconsin, near the fertile valley of the Green River. The situation of the town is pleasant and the surrounding country for many miles is settled by the colonists. During the first year of the colony's existence about 150 families took up lands in the neighborhood, and the crops raised upon the upturned sod were bountiful. Near Gladstone are great fields of coal of a good variety for heating and cooking purposes The coal is apparently of a recent formation and emits no smoke or disagreeable odor, but burns like wood and equally as fast. Gladstone has a hotel and a number of stores and shops.

Much history clings to this spot at the confluence of the Heart and Green Rivers. As we saw, both Sully and Custer camped here, there was a stage station here for the Keogh Trail, and in 1879 a construction crew of 75 men used this as their camp for building the railway. That year fine weather permitted work well into December. Some of the workers, weary of inactivity, tried to walk back east to “civilization” and froze to death along the trail. When spring came, April 1880, contractor L. E. Shields brought his bride from Bismarck to the Green River camp, and the newlyweds were greeted by quite a shivaree. Though Captain Nolan camped nearby with a detachment of Cavalry, Indians stole into the camp at night, stampeded the horses and got away with the pick of the herd.

On July 4, 1880, Jerold Douglas was buried with military honors on a knoll near present Gladstone. Only recently he had received an honorable discharge from the army and set out with Ed Donnivan along the Keogh Trail headed for Bly's Logging Camp on the Little Missouri. Ambushed and wounded by Indians, they hid in some bushes and the next day were brought to the Green River Camp by the mail driver. The army surgeon and Mrs. Shields tended the wounds. Donnivan recovered but Douglas died of infection. An early settler, Gilbert S. Cryne recalled: “Some kind hand erected a substantial wooden headboard and burned into the board his name and that he met death at the hands of the Indians.”

Not all of the 150 families stayed around Gladstone, but of those who did there were family names like Kitell, Bissell, Birdsall, Scoffield, Cryne (Krein), Jopp. Letts, Little, Kono and Turner And they named the town after the famous English statesman, William Gladstone. Soon the town became the center of a large settlement of German-Hungarians, that extended north into Dunn County and south into Hettinger County. The German-Hungarians were Germans who had gone from Germany to the Banat region after Austria-Hungary had taken it from the Turks, and is now in the modern countries of Rumania and Yugoslavia. Then dialect and customs differed from that of the German-Russians, and in the first generation in America insisted on their own parishes. This initial clannishness has gradually disappeared, and intermarriages are now quite common.

DICKINSON (110 miles west of Mandan; population. 400) is a bright new town in the valley of the Heart River, at the terminus of the first freight division of the Missouri Division. It lies in the midst of an agricultural and grazing country, and promises to become a great shipping point for cattle and grain. The ground on the outskirts of the town gradually slopes to the south, giving a fine opportunity for drainage. The buildings are of a permanent order, superior in appearance and construction to those usually found in new towns. There are a good hotel, a large general store, a fine bank building, church organizations and schools, with commodious railroad shops, round-house, passenger depot and freight warehouse. Dickinson will doubtless be the county-seat of Stark County. The tributary country is well watered, and the rainfall in spring and summer is sufficient to ensure good crops. Many thousands of acres are already under cultivation, and there are excellent stock ranges within thirty miles of the town. The coal beds in the immediate vicinity produce a good quality of lignite, and a fine grade of clay for brick making and sandstone for building purposes is found in the neighboring bluffs.

The railway survey of 1871 listed the area as Pleasant Valley, but when the townsite was platted in September 1882 it was named for Wells S. Dickinson, who then managed the railroad lands and owned much of the townsite. The town lived up to the estimate of the 1883 writer, above, and became the trade center and shipping point not only for Stark County, but also of the whole Slope region.

On May 30, 1883, the Commissioners for Stark County held their first meeting. They were Horace L. Dickinson, James G. Campbell and James Collister. Pending a general election they voted for the temporary location of the county seat. Gladstone got one vote and Dickinson two. The board appointed the following county officials: Register of Deeds, N. C. Lawrence; Sheriff, William Cuskelly; Treasurer, E. Lamoreux; Assessor, C. T. Klinefelter; Superintendent of Schools, Charles Burke; and Justice of the Peace, John Nagle.

The first inhabitants of Dickinson were largely Anglo-Saxon and Irish, but soon many other ethnic groups settled on the farms nearby. The German-Russians settled mostly to the south, with a heavy concentration in the Schefield area. Bohemians settled mostly north and northwest, with New Hradec (in Dunn County) the center. Southwest of Dickinson was a mixture of Bohemians, German Russians and German Hungarians.

SOUTH HEART (121 miles west of Mandan.) This station has a water tank and a section house. The soil is productive and farm houses are fast dotting the landscape.

There were three railroad sidings between Dickinson and Belfield which tried to develop into towns — Eland, South Heart and Zenith. Only South Heart survived, and that only after a shaky start. Settlement began in South Heart in May 1881 when William Kennedy came from Minnesota as the first section foreman Later the Monoghan family arrived to work for the railroad. Archabald Morton became the first homesteader in 1882, and in 1883 Bernard Finger took up land, established a store and became the first postmaster. A year later the store burned and with it the post office,which was then set up in the Kennedy home where it remained until 1916 It was only in 1908 that the town of South Heart was platted.

In 1907, through the efforts of Father John Van den Huevel, Gerald J. Perdaems came from Holland to farm a 1600 acre ranch near South Heart. His success encouraged other Hollanders to come and settle in the South Heart-Belfield area. In 1910 bankers in Holland organized the Holland Land Company and bought 27 sections in the area, but the Dutch settlers they sent were not as experienced as Perdaems, and many left the area after a few years, and only about 10 Dutch families remained.

BELFIELD (130 miles west of Mandan) is situated in a region which is sometimes termed the “Summer Valley.” The Heart River, here a pretty stream, is bordered on each shore with handsome trees. Hundreds of miles north and south of the new town stretches a very fine agricultural country, and its proximity to the well sheltered valleys of the Bad Lands will make it a headquarters for cattle raisers. Belfield contains a church, several general stores, a fine depot and lumber and lime yards. A banking company has been formed, and a flouring mill, a grain elevator and a hotel are to be established. Excellent clay for brick making purposes is obtained in the immediate vicinity, and a brick yard is in operation. Water is found in abundance by digging wells at no great depth. The lignite or soft coal which underlies the whole section will furnish ample fuel to the settlers.
In 1876 a detachment of soldiers under General Merrill camped on the site of Belfield, and the general named it camp Houstin, in honor of his son. The Keogh Trail had a station here in 1878, but soon the trail was located farther south. In 1880 the railroad builders camped on the site, but it was only in 1883 that the town was platted and settlement begun. It was then that the name was changed to Belfield.

Belfield became quite a cosmopolitan town: Anglo-Saxons, Irish, Poles, French, Ukrainians, German-Russians, Norwegians, and Hollanders. North of Belfield and extending into Billings and Dunn Counties is a large settlement of Ukrainians. They began settlement there in 1897 and in the next fifteen years settled much territory up to Grassy Butte and Killdeer. They have brought to the area their beautiful folkarts — handicrafts, music, singing, dancing, embroidery. Deeply religious, they preserve much of the Old World culture in their church service in the Byzantine-Ruthenian Rite.

Traveling south from Belfield on Highway 85, we come to the Gaylord community, which was a small French colony Determination to continue wheat raising was the occasion for the settlement of the French-Canadians in Stark County. The Fugeres and Dorvals had emigrated from Quebec to Wild Rice in the Red River Valley, but they found the land there too swampy for wheat farming They learned of available land in western North Dakota, and with the aid of real estate men they found land for wheat raising south of Belfield. Some 23 French families settled in the Gaylord area, where they had a store, postoffice and blacksmith shop. In 1912 they built Our Lady of Lourdes Church, which is still in use today. Some of the family names were Sauvageau, Merchand, Leverenz, Le Clair, Cossette, Beaudoin, Bailey and Brunelle.

Going east and a little south of Gaylord we come to Simpson Township, where an inland settlement was begun in 1900. It was named Daglum for John O. Daglum, who erected and operated the first store in which he established the postoffice in 1906. Many of the Daglum settlers were Norwegians, who had first settled in Beresford, South Dakota, before coming here. They included Halvor, Hans and Ole Peterson, Albert and Ole Burwick and Will Hedge. Daglum had its own school from 1907 to 1961, when it became part of the New England School District. Fires in 1932 and 1957 destroyed the Lutheran Church, and a third church today stands on the site of the original building. Two miles north of Daglum is an interesting geological feature called the Little Bad Lands, covering about five sections of land.

Ten miles southeast of Daglum (and 17 miles southwest of Dickinson) is another off-the-railroad community that grew up in the homesteading days. It is Schefield where the German-Russians once had a flourishing parochial school. The parish of St. Pius still continues today under its long-time pastor, Monsignor Bede Dahmus.

Fifteen miles east of Schefield (and 12 miles south of Gladstone) is the little German-Hungarian town of Lefor. When the first settlers came here in the 1890's they referred to the region as Schnellreich, which means “Quick Rich.” By 1898 they had increased to 42 famines and they built a sod church and Schnellreich became known as St. Elizabeth. In 1903 the crumbling sod church was replaced by one made of prairie rock, reinforced with straw and gumbo as a binder, and plastered with cement inside and out. In 1910 Adam A. Lefor built a store nearby and in 1911 he secured a postoffice for the community, named for the Lefor family. Other businesses were built and a railroad, which never materialized, was planned to run from Dickinson to Lefor and on to New Leipzig. The town of Lefor once numbered several hundred people, but is now struggling to survive as a town.
A good gravel road takes us east of Lefor 12 miles to Highway 8, where the presence of another German-Hungarian settlement is visualized in a modern brick church next to the road. It is named after King St. Stephen of Hungary.

Carl Hamann and other county commissioners viewing early road building.
We have made a hasty swing around the county and noted only a few of its features and the people who settled the area. So much more needs to be said, and the individual family histories will supply many of the details. But I would like to make a few general observations about the population of the county over the last century.
A century ago there were no permanent settlers in this county. But between 1880 and 1910 the county and North Dakota followed the pattern of the American frontier states and reached its peak in population. Much of this large population was due to the small size of the farms and the numerous boom towns that depended on the farms for their business. Between 1910 and 1930 the population leveled off, and grew very little, it at all.
Then came the disaster of the depression years. Thousands of farmers lost their homesteads, sold out to larger farmers or banks, and moved out of the state The nine counties of southwestern North Dakota lost population heavily since 1930, though Stark County fared better than the rest. While many people in southwestern North Dakota moved out of the state, many left the farms to seek employment in the evergrowing trade center of Dickinson. Many children and grandchildren of the county's pioneers are now in such places as Dickinson and Bismarck as auto-dealers, merchants, plumbers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, secretaries and nurses. We have prepared a chart comparing the populations of the nine counties which trace the population shift:
County: Population 193 0 Population 19 70 Percent of Change 1930-1970 Average 1950 Farm Acres 1969 Percent of Change 1950-1969
Adams 6343 3832 – 39.6 956 1281 + 34
Billings 3140 1198 – 61.8 980 1430 + 46
Bowman 5119 3901 – 25.8 1253 1789 + 43
Dunn 9566 4895 – 48.8 1063 1756 + 65
Golden Valley 4122 2611 – 36.7 1133 1710 + 51
Hettinger 8796 5075 – 42.3 828 1183 + 43
McKenzie 9709 6127 – 36.9 967 1321 + 37
Slope 4150 1484 – 64.2 1340 1757 + 31
Stark 15340 19613 + 27.9 711 947 + 43
Within Stark County the incorporated towns (Lefor is not included) have had their ups and downs. What the development of coal energy will do to the size of the towns is a matter of conjecture, but the following chart with its projection to 2000 A.D. should prove interesting to the various towns. Keep this chart, and in 2000 see if the projection was accurate:
Town 1930 1970 Percent of Change 1930-1970 *Projected Increase by 2000 A.D. Total Population by 2000 A.D.
Belfield 650 1130 + 51.3 3581 4711
Dickinson 5025 12405 + 59.5 26991 39196
Gladstone 290 (ca.) 222 – 30.7 274 496
Richardton 710 799 + 11.1 935 1734
South Heart 324 132 – 145.4 103 235
Taylor 263 162 – 62.3 103 265

* The projection is based on the drawing power of the towns to attract population during the development of coal energy in the area. The present size of the town and its nearness to the coal fields would determine its power to attract population during the development of coal energy in the area. The present size of the town and its nearness to the coal fields would determine its power to attract population. This information is taken from the study by Earl E. Stewart and Dr. Robert E. Stewart, Little Missouri Grasslands Study: Southwestern North Dakota, N.D.S.U., 1974.