Walsh County, North Dakota

Forest River

Forest River, ND, Main Street looking south, 1920s

Forest River, ND, Main Street looking south, 1920s

Forest River, North Dakota (Incorporated)
Post Office Established: September 20, 1878
Postmaster: Jesse B. Warren
Location: Sec. 28-155-53, Forest River Twp.
Incorporated as a Village: 1893
Peak Population: 236 in 1950
Elevation: 858 feet
Zip Code: 58233

Forest River, Main Street, 1909

Forest River, Main Street, 1909

FOREST RIVER: This was a rural settlement in Sec. 28-155-53, Forest River Twp., named for the Forest River, which flows through the area. The river was originally called the Big Salt River until 1878, when the name was changed to note the heavy growth of trees along its banks. The post office was established September 20, 1878, with Jesse B. Warren, postmaster. This site was crossed by both the Northern Pacific RR and the Soo Line RR. In 1893 incorporated as a village, reaching a peak population of 236 in 1950. The elevation is 858 feet, and the Zip Code is 58233. Dr. Alexander B. Field (1863-1949) was the town doctor from his arrival in 1892 until his death fifty-seven years later. (1,2,18,25,33,40,52,75,79)(pg 66).

“Graham Bros. settled in 1880 and opened a general store, and they were followed in short time by the Bates Bros., who also opened a general store. The post office was soon established, and William Wood was appointed Postmaster”. 1



“Walsh Heritage,” Vol 3, pg 363

Forest River Main Street, 1880’s

Unless you have lived in a small town, you may find it a little difficult to understand how we feel about it. When I tell people here about it, I mean people who have always lived in a metropolis, they say, “I wouldn’t want to live there – everyone knows your business.” I say, “What business?” We never had any that mattered who knew it. I have always been thankful that through either choice or circumstance we had the opportunity to raise our children in that environment. We never seemed to have any fear of anything, and I don’t think they missed very much, if anything. We lived near the river, and they learned to be excellent swimmers without anyone to instruct them. “The proverbial swimming hole” also provided good skating in the winter. And when the snow was too deep, a homemade rink was provided for their enjoyment. A music teacher, band master, and vocal teacher all came to our town to teach them music. The opportunity was there if they cared to avail themselves of it. On Decoration Day and other holidays, seeing our young bunch marching through town we were really thrilled. The fact that quite a few notes were missing…what parent noticed that?

At one time the town boasted of having a dentist, a drugstore, and even a hotel, but they were long gone when we got there, as there just weren’t enough of us to support them. Saturday night dances were a family affair. Adults had to be very sure-footed to dodge all our children that were on the floor. The only ones that weren’t up were the babies bundled and asleep on the side benches. The traveling orchestras were really lively, and we had a lot of fun dancing to the tune of “The Girl with the Hole in her Stocking.”

We had roller skating for all, our children under foot, as usual. And afterward we would go to someone’s home for a midnight snack. Our young people made all the dances in the surrounding towns, which were also small. If they didn’t get home when we thought they should we just turned over and went back to sleep. And they always came home. Whenever we needed money for a project, we were interested in we put on “home talent” plays, which were very popular and attended by all. Our school was so nearby that the children could walk to it in any kind of weather and could come home for a hot lunch at noon.

There was an active 4-H Club, also a church club. Whoever was to serve lunch would notify you an hour before the meeting and bring the plate back empty in another hour. What they did, besides eat, I never knew. We had two churches – one on each side corner of one block, so consequently that street was called Church Street. As it was a farming community, our children had an opportunity to pull mustard in the summer and pick potatoes in the fall, which usually got them a new sweater or something they really wanted, (mostly fun though). For a funeral, every business place closed for the afternoon. The farmers shut down all their machinery and came in. Our churches were always filled for those occasions. A solemn atmosphere of respect was in the air. The sympathy and help that your neighbors give you in your hour of sorrow is so very real and unforgettable.

The small town has contributed several doctors, engineers, urses and other prominent citizens to which we point with pride. The architecture of the town is comprised of two or three grain elevators, a beef-loading plant, two railroad depots, large potato warehouses, and a new Masonic Temple. It’s a prosperous little town. Our community Christmas tree was always such a joyous event, with gifts for all. Sometimes you would get a package that would hardly come under the name present, all for fun though.

Wonderful harvest home suppers were given in the town hall. People from all the small towns came, and so much of the banquet was home grown, so we considered them free. People in town never thought of planting sweet corn or potatoes; we just hopped in a car and went to the farmers’ fields and helped ourselves. It was so much fun to pack a lunch and go berrying! Wild plums, big juicy gooseberries whose prickly thorns never kept us away, and choke cherries hanging in big black clusters were free for the picking. You were always warned not to drink milk after eating them for fear you would choke, but we ate them then drank milk, and nobody ever choked. Our doors were never locked, the keys were always in the car, and shades were seldom drawn. If you wanted to see anyone special, be at the post office at mail time. There was no delivery, but it was a good chance to see your neighbor.

In the spring your lawn was a yellow carpet of the biggest, fluffiest and healthiest dandelions ever to grow. They just challenged us to try to eradicate them. When I see a lonesome little one out here, I feel sorry for it, because it really looks like it has “tired blood.” O yes! We did have a policeman. But if he ever had anything to do, I never knew what, nor did anyone else. Our programs on Decoration Day at the cemetery were very impressive, after which we all went to the community picnic in the park. When filling up your plate you would just wonder how there could be so many good cooks in such a little place. If you are not one that has had the privilege of living in a small town, you have really missed something so very worthwhile. Truly, you have missed something if you have never lived in a small town.

Written by Mrs. Wm. G. Legg, April 1960

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