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Melville: Some History

The following history of Melville (and the B&W images on this page) were submitted by Dennis Schjeldahl of Grand Forks with the following comments:

So here is a History of Melville. I don’t know who wrote it orginally. It was all caps with many mis-spellings. I cleaned it up – but did my darndest to keep the content.
Dennis Schjeldahl
Grand Forks, ND
  


As homesteaders settled on the prairies, little shacks popped up all over the area. Newport was built in 1882 on the SW ¼ sec. 36-145-66 on land owned by Elizabeth and William Keepers and named for Col. R. M. Newport, treasurer of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The post office was established on July 24, 1882, with Edgar Leavenworth as the first Postmaster.

The Northern Pacific Railroad wanted to purchase more land for the first railroad coming north from Jamestown. The Northern Pacific Railroad and Keepers could not agree on the price of lands, so the Northern Pacific Railroad accepted Lyman Casey’s offer of a free township on section 35 one half mile west, naming the town Melville, after Howard Melville Hanna, a major stockholder in Carrington-Casey Land Co. Melville is the oldest town in Foster County.

All the buildings were moved to Melville from Newport. These were the Leavenworth and Wing Store; Robert Walters Hotel; and Antonio Ohners Saloon. Edgar Leavenworth became Postmaster on May 2, 1883, in Melville.

Phillip and Obed Wiseman organized the first bank in 1907. Its deposits were $87,000. The officers were Obed Wiseman, Pres.; Peter Zink, Vice Pres.; Anna Zine, Asst. Cashier; and Phillip Wiseman, Cashier. The bank was robbed September 28, 1916 of $4,205. It closed in 1927 because of clerical error in its charter. The Wiseman brothers later bought the Leavenworth Store.

Land was obtained by Pre-emption, Squatter’s Rights, Tree Claims, the the Homestead Act. They came by covered wagon, horseback, and ox team. Every odd numbered section was owned by the railroad. They could be bought from the railroad. Section 16 was school property. Mr. and Mrs. Martin Clark were the first passengers on the train in 1883. He was the section foreman. Bill Sorenson was an early depot agent.

The town school was built on land given by Peter Zink. There was a county school earlier on SE ¼ Sec. 11-195-65. At first, school was four months in the summer. Later, they had school six months in the summer and three months in the winter. The first winter was so bad, they only had five days of school. On June 15, 1961, Melville School joined the Carrington School District.

Mrs. Peter Zink (Theresa Littner) was the first woman to come to Melville.

The Congregational Church was built in 1886 by local subscription and labor. They had a regular pastor until 1922. The parsonage was built by the Ladies Aid in 1890. The church burned in about 1935. The first townhall was built in 1896, and it burned in 1924. There were four grain elevators; three burned and one moved out. The businesses in town were five General Stores owned by Leavenworth, Kidder, Shearer, McElrowy, and Hill. There was a Hardware Store and the Putnam and Miller Lumber Co. The implement dealer was first George Ackerman, and later August Zink and Gilbert Bower. Louie Pothier ran the Pool Hall. The wagon maker was John Robertson. Antonio Ohners had a hotel in 1883. The blacksmith in 1884 was A.K. Speers. There was a garage run by Zine and Bower. The Wiseman Brothers owned the livery stable.  The fraternal lodges were Woodman #3536 started on December 3, 1896. The first presiding officer, T.H. Burnhan, was noted for champion degree team in the state. Charter members were Geo. Ackerman, J. Copeland, J. Douglas, Joe Dodd, J. Dodd, C. Ferguson, R. Farquer, Wm. Hussey, Ed Miller, Frank Schieb, M. Schieb, Wm. Seely, J.C. Willyard, F.Winsch, and Wendland Zink.

The other lodges were “Masons, “Rebekah”, Royal Neighbors, and the McKinley I.O.O.F. organized February 1, 1905 by O.L. Bobo, C.A. Bennet, F.A. Dodge, and Wm. Wescom. Each of the lodges lost their charters. The I.O.O.F. being the last.

Socials – Ladies Aid, Community Club, Whist Club, and Sewing Circles.

Dramatics – Home talent plays and a kitchen band. – Male Quartet.

Athletics – Ball team was the best in the state.

Boy Scouts – The Scouts were started by Bob Heyer (Depot Agent). They are still in existence headed by Wm. Trecker. Roller Skating, Camporees, Crafts, and Archery; they won many awards for outstanding work.

4-H Girls – This was started by Ester McAffe, and the latest leader is Carol Reimers.

The Greatest years for Melville were from 1910 to a peak in 1915. In 1912, 170 lots were sold – many going to Peter Zink and the Wiseman brothers. Melville was called the Best Small Town between Jamestown and Leeds, ND (end of track). When the Pingree/Wilton branch railroad was built in 1912, that business territory was cut off from Melville. It started a great decline a couple of years later.

The greatest loss was by fire. Several stores, two townhalls, two livery barns, three elevators, two hotels, the pool hall, the creamery, and many homes and the church all burned.

Buildings by the dozens were moved out. The lumber company, one elevator, one store, the depot, the hardware store, the schoolhouse, and many homes all moved out. At the present time Melville is like a ghost town. Only five houses are occupied and about ten people remain. There are no businesses. All of us that once lived in Melville were proud of our town and enjoyed life here.

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Comments
11 Responses to “Melville: Some History”
  1. John Sprowl says:

    Very interesting article, my grandfather, John Ohrner, was born in Melville in 1885 to George Anton Ohrner who’s father was Anton Ohrner. My guess is that he is the “Antonio Ohrners” from the story. Thanks so much for publishing this history.

  2. Donna says:

    I lived on the Carrington Casey Farm ,just east of Melville, for 16 years, from 1957-1973. We would go to Melville and roller skate in what I thought was the city hall. Heated by a wood burner so you would go home smelling like smoke. Late 60′s someone reopened a bar in the hotel. Few years later some of us kids went through the hotel. I’m surprised we didn’t fall through the floor.
    School bus would stop and pick up Hanson kids, Krammers, some kids from the elevator house and the Biel kids. Dan, Richard, Deb, Mike,Pat,Raymond,and Jerry.What would Melville be without the Biel gas station!

    • Robert Campbell says:

      My name is Robert Campbell and I lived in Melville from 1930 to 1938. I lived with Furman and Martha Layne. They were my aunt and uncle and took me in when my father died. I attended the Melville school for grades one through seven. It was a two room school but we only had enough students to use one room. My uncle was the manager of the PV elevator and my aunt ran a resturant. If you want more information let me know and I will provide it.

  3. Montie Galt says:

    Thanks for making this history avaliable, what a great website. My grandfather Fern Galt farmed 1 mile south of Melville and I remember going to Melville to roller skate when I was younger. Also I remember riding grandpa’s old shetland pony (named King) to Beils store and buying pop, sunflower seeds and candy. I’ve also got some old 8mm footage of a play that was put on in Melville, featuring several Galts and Poseys, as well as others, not sure which building it was done in.

    • Montie Galt says:

      I posted that my grandfather, Fern Galt, farmed one mile soth of Melville. I meant to say 1 mile north of Melville.

  4. Judy Keller says:

    Every time I drive by Melville with Dolly Footitt – on the way to Jamestown from Carrington – she points out Melville with a proud tone in her voice. Dolly turned 98 in October, 2012 and remembers with fondness the good times she had growing up there. She talks about how important it is to take care of the old cemetery and worries that there aren’t many people who want to do that anymore. I think she is a member of a committee that is dedicated to the cemetery’s care. Many of Dolly’s relatives are buried there – Poseys and Galts to mention a few surnames. If Dolly Footitt is typical of the kind of person who lived/grew up in Melville many years ago, then it must have been a wonderful place because she is most definitely a wonderful, thoughtful person.

    • DeAnna Palmer says:

      Judy,
      Just wondering if you have any records on Grace Warren or John Hundley. They were married and had my grandpa – Raleigh in Mellville. They were divorced and then Grace married an Austin. Just trying to locate some history.

  5. Judy Keller says:

    Every time I drive by Melville with Dolly Footitt – on the way to Jamestown from Carrington – she points out Melville with a proud tone in her voice. Dolly turned 98 in October, 2012 and remembers with fondness the good times she had growing up there. She talks about how important it is to take care of the old cemetery and worries that there aren’t many people who want to do that anymore. I think she is a member of a committee that is dedicated to the cemetery’s care. Many of Dolly’s relatives are buried there – Poseys and Galts to mention a few surnames. If Dolly Footitt is typical of the kind of person who lived/grew up in Melville many years ago, then it must have been a wonderful place because she is most definitely a wonderful, thoughtful person.

    • Montie Galt says:

      My name is Montie Galt, Dolly is my great aunt. Dolly is such a wonderful person and has so many memories of the past to share. I always enjoy visiting with Dolly, and look forward to seeing her again soon.

  6. DeAnna Palmer says:

    Judy,
    Just wondering if you have any records on Grace Warren or John Hundley. They were married and had my grandpa – Raleigh in Mellville. They were divorced and then Grace married an Austin. Just trying to locate some history.

  7. Tammi Peterson Mitchell says:

    My grandfather, William Howard McDonald (son of James and Grace Locke McDonald) was one of five children who were born and grew up in Melville around the turn of the century. One of their children was Ellen McDonald born around 1899 who died in 1915 from a house fire while she was babysitting children of the Beach family. According to family history, Ellen was able to get all of the Beach children safely out of the house but was so badly burnt she died later that day–the only thing recognizable were her shoes still on her feet. Terrible, terrible story of a brave young 16 year old girl–anyone with information on the fire that killed my great-aunt Ellen McDonald or the Beach children she saved, please contact me at MmeMozart@aol.com. Thank you very much, Tammi Peterson Mitchell (granddaughter of William Howard McDonald).

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