kief-feature

Kief, ND

McHenry County
Inhabited as of 5/10

Kief is a near-ghost town in McHenry county, and is home to the first Russian Baptist Church ever established in the United States.

Although only listed as having a population of 12 in the 2000 census, the amount of activity we saw on our visit to Kief seemed to suggest a larger population, perhaps twenty?  Kief has a bar which was open for business on the day we visited.

US Census Data for Kief
Total Population by Place

1960 – 97
1970 – 46
1980 – 36
2000 – 12
2010 – 13

CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE

Many of the abandoned homes in Kief were in quite good condition, and led us to wonder why someone wouldn’t be interested in buying a home there.  The property could surely be had for a song, it’s a beautiful community, and only minimal updating would need to be done.

From the era when a guy came out to your car and pumped your gas, washed the windows, and checked the oil.  Let’s bring that back, can we?

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Kief is also home to a well-known missing persons case.  Donna Jean Michalenko disappeared from Kief on November 2nd, 1968.  Michalenko disappeared after a night of drinking with a male companion, who claimed he dropped her off at her ex-husband’s house.  She was never seen again.

The investigation into Michaelenko’s disappearance was hampered by the fact that she wasn’t reported missing for six weeks after she disappeared.  If you have information regarding the disappearance of Donna, please call the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office (the county where Donna lived) at 701-537-5633 or the McLean County Sheriff’s office (where she allegedly disappeared) at 701-462-8103.

Pictured above is the first Russian Baptist Church ever established in the United States.

All photos by Troy and Rat, copyright SonicTremorMedia.com

Comments
34 Responses to “Kief, ND”
  1. Larry says:

    WOW!!! Does Someone want to invest? I will gladly move my family up there to remodel & upgrade.
    Turn it into a resrt or vacation spot!

  2. Jeff says:

    Great pics that bring back wonderful memories. My mother graduated from Kief High School with my grandparents farming just south of town. Kief actually had a 100 yr reunionin 2 yrs ago. I was unable to attend but they put out a video that was really cool. My mother and aunt were interviewd along with alot of the older folks with their memories of Kief. Hey, is it true, I heard Earl’s bar reopened?

    • There was a bar open the day we were there.

      • Robin Gordon says:

        My Mother was born there. It seems my Great-
        Grandfather was responsible for naming the town of Kief. He and his wife moved there after fleeing Kiev with their children. Family name (although there are 3 different spellings that I am aware of due to Ellis Island) is Korchenko (which is my Grandfather’s spelling)

    • Constance Merz says:

      I spent many happy childhood days on my relatives’ farms around Kief but was unable to get tot he reunion. Do you know how I might get a copy of the video that was made? I would love to have a copy.

  3. Matthew Lorentzen says:

    I believe Benny still keeps the store open at the old gas station. My stepmother was from Kief (Karen Ebel). She died last year from cancer (2009) but my father Keith Lorentzen still lives in Butte.

    • Inez Schuster says:

      Marie Ebel b. 1919 married William Arndt b. 1912 (parents Jacob & Jetta Arndt) on 29 Sept 1939.
      Looking to connect with some relatives to share family history. Jacob’s parents were Friedrich Arndt and Minnie Suckert Arndt. Minnie passed away in 1919 and is buried in Rosenfield Cemtery, Kief, ND.
      Is there a website for the cemeteries in that area? Thx and stay well. Inez (Arndt)

      • Marcy (Arndt) Knopp says:

        Hi Inez,

        My father is Jacob Arndt Jr. and of course my grandparents would have been Jacob & Jetta Arndt Sr. I just talked to my Aunt Marie about a month ago, as it was her birthday. I had such an enjoyable time visiting with her by telephone. She lives in a nursing home in McClusky. I grew up on a farm south of Butte, and now live in DeBary, Florida.

        I would love to correspond with you regarding our family history. My sister and I work on researching our family history, but as you know, we can always use help.

        My email is mknopp98@gmail.com
        My full name is Marcella (Arndt) Knopp

        Hope to hear from you.

        Marcy

  4. MarJean Ostrom Selby says:

    I grew up about 15 miles south of Kief…Kief was our address although I went to High School in McClusky…I was shocked that the bar opened….is there enough people to keep it going?? But then I hear ND is really rocking with all the oil activity going on……one of my friends saw on TV not long ago ND had more oil than Saudia Arabia …..

    I was home 3 years ago….and of course drove through Kief…..was wondering how long the post office had been closed.

    MarJean

    • Dustin Martin says:

      The bar in Kief is open. People like to drink there, nothing else for miles around. I remember 10 years ago delivering cigarettes and pop to Benny’s grocery store. ND is booming with the oil business, but not in the Kief area.

  5. I was back in Kief for the reunion ( 100 year ) and try and make it back to the area every few years. I have a lot of relatives in the cemetery there so thats to the personal that do a great job keeping up the area. I too stopped in the bar in Kief but only had a few soda pops so had to visit with all just a month ago. I think my heart will always be back in Kief as we had a lot of fun times growing up in the area. Thanks for the write up and the pictures.

  6. drtrd says:

    Great gallery from Kief! I can’t wait to visit North Dakota and photograph places like this. Thanks also for your kind link to my blog, http://vanishingsouthgeorgia.com . You’re doing a wonderful thing with this site! –Brian Brown

  7. DeLane Krueger says:

    very interesting to see all the old buildings, and the gas pump where i used to get gas. and also the lutheran church where i went to sunday school. so many memories. was great to be back at the celebration a few yrs ago, seen so many old friends and nieghbors. and the best part was camping right in town for 3 days. Awsome web site thanx.

  8. Darwyn Dasenko says:

    I taught a rural school near Kief, directly out of high school (1953 -54). I played backetball with the Kief’s men while teaching there. These are great prictures, I feel so sad and depressed when I see these old towns disappear.

    I also lived in Regan, ND during that time and it should also be placed on the Ghost Town list, nothing there but a few homes.

    • Hi cousin Darwyn! I love looking at these photos as well. Lots of fun memories in Kief. Sam’s grocery store,the outdoor theatre, walking up and down the Main Street on Saturday nights with friends as a kid. Of course we had our hair up in curlers because the next day was Sunday and church! Hope all is well with you and Sonya.

  9. Charity Ritchie says:

    Very fun to see this. I grew up near Kief. My great aunt still lives there and I saw a building that she owns, in the pictures. My childhood home, that my folks still live in on a farm near there, was moved from Kief 35 years ago.

  10. My Mother, Anne Schielke, daughter of Sam Schielke, and was born in Kief in 1916. About 20 years ago we had a Schielke reunion in Minot. Relatives took us all around Keif, Butte, Lincoln Valley, etc. My mother married Konrad Suelzle from Butte in 1935. His family owned the General Store in Butte which sold groceries among many other things. Mother graduated from Keif High School in about 1934 and my Dad graduated from Butte about 5 years earlier. I was born in Minot and was raised in Crosby located north of Williston where the oil activity is.

  11. John Xavier says:

    Kief Lutheran Church was one of 6 (no typo) served by my father, Rev. Karl Astrup Xavier in the 1949-1952 era. I was barely old enough to remember about Kief and yet do not have at hand a photo of the church. Therefore, I am unable to pinpoint which church as portrayed here is the one served by my father.

    The McHenry county area was heavily Norwegian Lutheran, although its proximity to Minot brought about a certain diversity to the area, mostly from railroad and commerce. There were also in the Kief and Butte areas a number of sod houses still around at the time.

    If I run across photos or newspaper stuff from the Kief area I will gladly post.

    Thanks tons for sharing all of this.

  12. Marcy Arndt Knopp says:

    Inez,

    My grandparents were Jacob & Jetta Arndt. My dad was Jacob Arndt Jr. Would love to share family history with you.

    Thanks!

  13. Darlene Letvin says:

    This was great to see these pictures. My husband, Gary, grew up south of Kief and tells stories of growing up around there. I grew up at Butte but really didn’t go to Kief much till I was in high school. Benny Krueger just died this past week, in fact I think his funeral is today. We attended the reunion a few years ago. It was fun to see and visit with old friends. The Baptist church there is very active . That is the only active church left there.

    • Claudia (Antonov) Anderson says:

      My family grew up on a farm SE of Butte & SW of Kief. Kolchevskys now own it. I still come back to Butte every couple of years and stay a few weeks with Ron & Donna Plesuk so I can visit Knodels, Hegney, other Plesuks, and any of the older folks that are part of my childhood memories. My Grandmother, Agnes Antonov, was married to, Dan Sr. in their later years. Our families (Roy Antonovs & Danny Letvins) would get together for dinners often. I will be going back to Butte at the end of this June to bring my father’s ashes home. Roy Died Oct.10, 2013 at ripe old age of 91. Butte & Kief area will always be “home” to me.

  14. Joanne Bahn Dieterle says:

    Lived in the area for 9 years — 1972 to 1981. Our address was Kief but we lived closer to McClusky. I played softball on the Kief Elevator team with Betty Blumhagen, Lenny Mortenson and many others whose names excape me! Haven’t been back in years but glad to hear there is an active church there and that Earl’s is open!!

    • you must be related to marion higgins (dieterle), her and i went to mcclusky high school together, i actually was back in mandan, nd this summer and had a nice visit with her on her property. she is such a fun loving person.

  15. phyllis says:

    Benny passed away this winter in Jan of 2014. he was my dads first cousin

  16. Megan J Udelhofen Mohs says:

    If I remember right, my grandmother was born in Keif. Hazel Korolsky Udelhofen

  17. Michael Mullenmaster says:

    My great grandparents, Miron and Christiana Dislevy (Yecovenko) settled and are interned just down the road about 9 miles in Butte. A place I’ve never visited. They had 10 children, (2 unknown), Nellie, Nick, Stacia (my grandmother), John Henry, Elizabeth, Lena, Jake, and Anna.

    Much is unknown! Please feel free to share your knowledge base, data, and research. My grandmother Stacia married Samuel Senchuk, believed to be interned somewhere in Oregon. They had 3 children, Helen, Alma, and Bertha (my mother). Stacia and Sam split, and Helen worked and Alma and Bertha were adopted by the Joe Goebel(sp) family. Lots of unknowns here.

    If you would like to share, please contact me at email: varias5@gmail.com

  18. Debbie Bighaus says:

    Thank you for sharing all these wonderful photos! Both my paternal great-grandparents were Ukrainian immigrants, Charles & Carolina Bighouse, of Butte, ND, and John & Martha Wash (Ivaschenko) of Kief. John Wash was the cofounder of the first Russian Baptist Church in Kief. He and his wife fled Russia/Ukraine due to religious persecution. They had 12 children. I will list their names in case someone remembers them. (Pauline Lushenko, Edith Kerchenko-Potatpenko, Elizabeth Bighouse, Stephen Wash, Matthew Wash, Peter Wasch, Mary Docos-Griggs, Andrew Wash, Phillip Wash, Michael Walsh, Lillian Wash, and John Wash Jr.) I would like to get in contact with Robin Gordon, the lady who commented above. I have greatly enjoyed all the comments. To Michael Mullenmaster, I have an old North Dakota newspaper article about a Dislevy and my Bighouse relative, dated 1912. Also, have run across the Dasenko name (mentioned above) in my family history searches (related by marriage). To Megan J. Udelhofen, I have a mini bio on your family. If you don’t already have it, I will share. Thanks again for the photos and blog, such an amazing journey!

  19. Dwight Knuth says:

    It was good to hear from Gary Karpenko. Your Dad was one of a kind and we loved to visit his store in Kief and visit with him. He was a kind and gentle soul. I remember coming to your home in Kief after church for Sunday Dinner. Your Mom made the best borscht I have ever eaten, she was a wonderful cook. I think you were just a little guy then. Mike and I and Dell played basketball for awhile and then Mike and I took your car and the gun and went crow hunting. Good Times!

    I used to stop in Kief at Earl’s Bar for a glass or two of courage and directions before going to the Hoffman farm to see Kathy. I eventually wore her down and got her to say yes and marry me.

    Sorry to hear Benny died. Another interesting person to have a conversation with.

    In my soon to be published book, This Dummy Pulls His Own Strings, I have a chapter titled, My Home Town, about Drake and Kief is mentioned as the place where I met Kathy for the first time in the chapter, Love of My Life, My Happiness. The book is an autobiography about my ill spent youth, a modern day Tom Sawyer, who hitchhiked to Washington state at the age of 16 and rode A boxcar back home. Served time in the Army and Navy and while in the Navy was filmed on National TV saluting the flag draped coffin of John F. Kennedy and attending the funeral. I was a Golden Glove Boxer and NDANG boxing champion. Was lost in the ND Badlands. Pretty much a rebel without a clue. My friends refer to me as a North Dakota reject because I now live in MN.

  20. Russ Panko says:

    Phyllis,
    Benny was my Mother’s first cousin also

  21. Kyle says:

    Fascinating…as always…love this site and topic…

  22. Julie Powell says:

    What a wonderful place, why doesn’t someone buy the whole town and then sell lots and lets get a town going again. I would love to live there.

  23. Neile Davis says:

    My great grand parents were Ukrainian immigrants. They lived in Kief around 1908 to 1920 ish. My great grandmother is buried there some where. My mother states it was on the family farm. Her name was Walhva (or Vera) with the last name could be one of three, Kohonas, Korunes, or Korunetz. I do know that my grandfather and some of his siblings were born in Kief. Family members names are Nestor and Vera Korunetz (Korunes) and their children are; John, Pauline,Anna, Fred, Samuel, Mary, Rose, Phillip, and Elsie. In the 1920′s, my family moved to Michigan. I have not had the chance to visit this town or area. If anyone has any information on my family from this area or that time period. I would love to hear about it.

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  1. [...] Kief, ND « GhostsofNorthDakota.comMay 18, 2010 … She died last year from cancer (2009) but my father Keith Lorentzen still lives in Butte. Reply. MarJean Ostrom Selby says: July 11, 2010 at 3:17 … [...]



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