Ruso, ND

Mclean County
Inhabited as of 7/10

Kelsey Rusch contributed these photos of Ruso, ND with the following comments:

Right off highway 41, south of Velva, you will find Ruso. Ruso is a town in McLean county, North Dakota. Though it has ten or so abandoned buildings, there appear to be three residences as well, making it possibly inhabited, but probably for not too much longer.

It is located just south east of the borders of Mclean, Ward, and McHenry counties in a very beautiful yet desolate part of the state. According to the North Dakota Place Names book, “The post office was established on December 1, 1906 with Edwin J Burgess as pm. The village incorporated in 1909 and by 1910 reported a population of 141, with a doctor, newpaper, and many other luxuries often missing in new townsites.” The Place Names book (first published 1988), claims the zip code was 58778 and was still open at the time. However, a sign outside what I assume was the post office suggests that it closed in 1981.

As far as the name “Ruso,” the Place Names book says the name either is a Russian word meaning “south of us,” or, as others say, it was coined from the words SOuth RUssia, which was the homeland of many of the area settlers.

The town is in a very peaceful location. The sole road passes one residence right next to the highway before leading to several abandoned ones. The post office, now a home, sits in the middle of town, next to a collapsed building and across from an empty and overgrown field. From what I can gather a section of the field used to be a baseball diamond. If only the kids who used to play there saw it today. Further down the road sits what was once a pretty nice sized school but now is used as a residence. Around the corner and down the road sits what was once a beautiful church, now turned into a junk yard. Two outhouses sit to the east of the church, and to the west a flax field is planted almost all the way up to the doors of the church, which faces west. The grounds surrounding the church, unfortunately, are a complete mess. There is a junked bus sitting outside, as well as two or three junked pickups. Numorous other things are scattered around and it is obvious the few remaining residents do not take care of the church any more.

There were a few other abandoned buildings hidden in the trees surrounding the city but they were either posted or too overgrown to get to.

If anyone has any other information about Ruso, especially about history or as to why there is a large bus that says “Huntley Project Red Devils” parked outside of the church, I’d definitely love to hear more about this place. It was very calm and serene and is in a beautiful location in the state.



43 Responses to “Ruso, ND”
  1. Sue says:

    Huntley Project is a school in Worden, MT (east of Billings). Red Devils is their school mascot name.

  2. Bob Roggenbuck says:

    I was a deputy sheriff in McLean County in 1977 -1978 working out of Garrison when I and another deputy stopped in Russo at the bar on a bar check, we went on to Butte and were called back to Russo
    , because the bar was on fire. It burned to the ground that night as we watched and could not believe that less than a hour earlier we were in there visiting we the people in the bar.
    It was rebuilt, but the place was never the same. It is so sad to see the town in the shape it is now. McLean County was a great place to work and I will always remember the great times I had working there from 1974-1976 stationed out of Turtle Lake and again out of Garrison 1977-1978, and Underwood 1978-1979.
    The Sheriff was Arlin Thompson and he was a great boss and McLean County was a great place to work..

    • Verla Riba Martin says:

      My grandparents lived in the house before it was the bar. They ran a grocery store there. If I remember correctly they actually built the house, but I may be wrong. And I think the store was called Riba Grocery. I have several pictures of the Ruso area.

  3. David Seaman says:

    according to my ex-father in law from velva the bus has been there since the late 80s early 90s it had broken down between ruso and velva and was left and never repaired or retrieved and was towed by some local farmer to its current resting place. i have no way of verifying this but he’s been in velva all his life since 43 so i would imagine its probly right along the lines of what happened. side note the bar/restaurant called the 41 club was reopened about ten years ago (late 90s i drank there one time shortly after turning 21 in 98) and ran for maybe 2 or 3 years before closing again. the building itself is i believe being used as a residence and is in pretty good repair. there are usually a couple of newer vehicles sitting out front. i had posted another comment on another thread about ruso a while ago and had to take a road trip to check it out again last month on my way to strawberry lake for some fishing.

  4. Marc Baetsch says:

    I was a deputy sheriff for McLean County in 1999, stationed out of Turtle Lake. Ruso was on the far edge of my patrol area, along with Benedict and Butte. I remember there was a few people living there but not much left of the town. I did take a pretty good rollover accident call right at by those train tracks in the photo.

  5. Melissa Eslinger says:

    My dad grew up right outside the city limits of Ruso. He always jokes that Ruso was a town of 8 (now 6) but that didn’t include the suburbs.

  6. Debbie Johnson says:

    My husband Glenn is from just outside of Ruso, and went to school in Ruso for 3 years. His grandfather pastored in the church pictured and that is where we were married in 1978. Can still remember the post office, two gas stations, grocery store and the bar being open there. He graduated in 1975 from the small town Butte, which school is closed now too.

  7. Lisa says:

    My mom was the last postmaster at Ruso’s post office, which was located in what was the old bank building (also a residence). The post office closed sometime in the 2000s. The sign that the author speaks of that mentions 1981 was in commemoration of Ruso’s 75th Anniversary Celebration. It is a shame that the church grounds are in the shape that they are in now – it’s not necessarily the fault of the few residents (most of whom have no connection to the church), but rather the person who purchased the property and is using it as a junkyard. My great-grandfather was a carpenter and helped build the church and the furnishings inside. I remember going to bridal and baby showers and anniversary celebrations in the church basement as a young girl. I also remember softball games being played in the baseball diamond. The stone building across from the baseball diamond was the old jail. Both of my grandfathers and many other relatives attended school in Ruso. My grandmother worked in the bar that Deputy Sheriff Bob speaks of and I remember hearing about the fire. Ruso used to have 5 grain elevators in its heyday. I often wish I could timetravel and visit Ruso during its height! The Ruso Record newspaper is available for viewing on microfilm at the State Archives in Bismarck and has a lot of interesting information from the busy days of the town.

    • Verla Riba Martin says:

      I remember a snake in the basement when I was a kid. It was just a garter snake (as we called them), so we took it outside and played with it LOL.

    • Mike cunningham says:

      My grand parents bought the old bank building and lived there for many years, grandma Ann lushenko was the post master untill she retired but the post office kept operating there for sometime.

    • Ruth Gorham says:

      My father Ervin Overlund was the minister at the Lutheran Church there from around 1965-1969. We lived in Benedict and he drove to Ruso and to Hope Lutheran Church out in the country. I remember going to the church as a child. It makes me sad to see it in such bad shape.

  8. Charlotte Helgeson says:

    Who owns that great jailhouse in the center of town? I’d like contact information.

    • Diane DeMoch says:

      I think the jailhouse you mention was turned into my uncle’s (Alvin Nelson) blacksmith shop in the early 1940’s. My grandmother (Gunda Nelson) lived across the road from the schoolhouse. I lived there with her from 1942-1945.
      The church was the Lutheran Church of which my grandmother was a member. I can remember turning the crank so the organist could play.
      My aunt owned the bar on the other side of town before it burned down.

      • Jeanne Riba Rhoades says:

        And my Grandmother Bertha Riba played that organ for sometime.

        • Ruth Gorham says:

          I remember your grandmother who played the organ. She played it when my dad was the minister there, I’m pretty sure. What a blast from the past!

      • Donna (Meader) Sandstrom says:

        Diane, we are from the same Ruso families! My Dad, Ted, and our uncle, Alvin, built the jail -when? I have no clue! We, my mom, my sister Ailene and I (Donna) were back in the 90’s for a family reunion. It was very emotional for me to walk the land where my family began. I’m planning another trip soon.

    • Mike cunningham says:

      My dad owned the jail until just a couple of years ago.

  9. Don Gardner says:

    I am trying to figure out how to get around this venue. I posted some photo’s taken in Ruso on Facebook. We lived in Ruso in the early 40s

    • Verla Riba Martin says:

      Do you remember the Riba’s. That is my family. I heard Grandma and Grandpas house (that was turned into a bar) has recently burned down.

      • Brandy says:

        The 41 club did burn down. The day after it happened me and my family drove by to see if it was true. I live in Benedict and remember going there a few times with my dad. He would have a few drinks and I would drive home. That was a lovely bar. A young couple owned it but sold it after they married. The people they sold it says they wont build it again. Where the bar was is now an empty spot.

  10. Don Gardner says:

    I started school in Ruso, ND in 1942. My father was the Soo Line station agent. I can identify what some of your photos are and have some to add.
    Don Gardner

  11. Jim Legg says:

    Grew up right out of town and went 8 yrs to the school shown. Both my uncle and grandfather seved as railroad depot agents.

    Remember Don as we started school together.
    would like you to contact me as I live in McClusky now.

    Jim Legg

  12. Krystal says:

    Lisa (who commented above) is my cousin. I remember the bar in Ruso very well….we would come to visit Gramma in the summers and Christmas time–and when Gramma was still working @ the bar, I would go with her and she would feed me cheese cubes. What a memory to retain! I remember the church as well, and some other little store (memory is fuzzy on that one). I had a lot of fun in Ruso in my childhood, and have some great memories.

  13. Jeanne Riba Rhoades says:

    I too loved visiting the Leonard and Hilda Ericksons (my Grandparents) and Bertha and Walt Riba (also Grandparents) in Ruso in the summertime as we moved to New Mexico as kids. Enjoyed seeing the photos and hearing the comments. Also enjoyed spending time at Strawberry Lake with relatives Lois and Morris Madsen. Attended church there too.

    • Diane DeMoch says:

      I remember a Geena (?) Madsen. Her face had been burned in a horrible accident.

      • Carmen Schiff Thornton says:

        I remember her, she looked into a barrel with a match?
        The baseball field I played on. My Grandma and Grandpa had a farm in the area. Joe and Margaret Schiff, they had 13 children, many of the family still live around the area. Loved riding into Ruso with my cousins on horseback…good times.

      • Gary Willoughby says:

        The woman burned was Neena Severson, I own lots in Ruso, love the sunsets

  14. Don Gardner says:

    For anyone that wants contact me, Email

    Jim – Wasn’t Bertha Riba our teacher one year? We also had one of the store owners, (Hansons) daughters. I can remember you, Judy Schultz and I were in the 1st grade in 42.

  15. Diane DeMoch says:

    Donna (Meader) Sandstrom, I remember your mom and your dad. When your dad would harvest the hay with your brothers, they would pass by Grandma’s house and I would get a lift to the top of the wagon, so I could ride up to your farm.
    I am planning a trip back to Ruso sometime in May. I have seen Janice, Edith, and Karen (Borgen) in the past six months. Karen has been coming to Zion, Illinois for cancer treatments and her sisters came once with her. It was so good to get together after almost 50 years.
    My email is: Please send me yours. My mom was MaeBelle. I’ll fill you in more when you email, and we can compare notes.

  16. Mike cunningham says:

    My dad was raised in ruso, his parents owned the store, then years later while my dad was in the navy during Vietnam they bought the post office and for many years grandma Ann lushenko was post master, the post office was in the front part of the house. The house at one time was the bank. My dad (bill) owned the property accross the street that was the jail, untill just a few years ago sold it.

  17. Diane Resvick says:

    Thank you, Kelsey, for submitting these great photos of Ruso! My grandfather and his parents lived there for a time from 1906-1911. So I visited there in the summer of 2002(I believe). The post office was still in business then. The postmaster was very helpful in telling me about the town. The sign that says ‘1981’ for the 75th anniversary of the founding of Ruso if I understood the postmaster correctly.

  18. Crystle says:

    Could someone please tell me when the bar burned down? My husband and I are arguing about how long ago it was! Thank you in advance.

  19. Nathen Johnson says:

    My grandparents Marvin and Judy Johnson have a farm in Ruso. My Grandpa Marvin was born there in 1926 and lived his whole life there. Grandpa Marvin passed away in 2005 but Grandma Judy still lives out there. We just shingled her house last summer and many family members flood the farm in the fall for hunting.

  20. Eric Stumpf says:

    The Ruso Post Office closed July 2, 2005.

  21. vivian says:

    I was born in 1925 and grew up in Ruso. My parents and many of my family are buried in the Ruso cemetery. The school was large enough to accommodate 2 years of high school when I was growing up. There was a big bell that was rung to signal the start of a school day. We kids would take turns ringing it. It was great fun as the bell was so big, you would pull down on the rope and be pulled up into the air by the return swing of the bell. You could hear the bell all over the county. We lived a few miles away, so usually my brothers and I walked to school. Sometimes we would take one of the horses though. And in the winter sometimes Dad would bring us in the cutter sleigh. In the winter Mom would make ice cream and we would bury it in the snow bank to eat at recess. Growing up there was an experience. We cooked & heated the house with a wood stove. We had kerosene lamps & candles for lighting and there was no indoor plumbing. Mom did the wash once a week, boiling water on the stove and washing everything using a washboard and soap. The clothes were hung out on a line to dry – in the winter she’d bring the frozen garments in to finish off drying by the stove. Bath time was once a week too & followed the same process – boil the water on the stove & use it to scrub yourself while sitting in a big washtub in the kitchen.

  22. vivian says:

    Your great-grandfather was my father – I’m so glad to have found this website

  23. Don Madsen says:

    The lady,s name that was burned in the face was Neena Severson. She owned the bar & cafe at Strawberry Lake and was our neighbor. My Grandparents lived in Ruso they were Walt & Bertha Riba.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Dakota is a tiny near-ghost town in McHenry County, just a few miles north of a true ghost town, Ruso. ¬†Originally dubbed Olivia, the name was changed to Kongsberg in 1916. ¬†The population of […]

Leave A Comment