Isabel, ND

Benson County
Abandoned as of 5/12

Isabel, North Dakota was an unincorporated community in the north central part of the state, about 50 minutes southeast of Rugby. We were on our way to Baker when we came upon the sign marking the former site of Isabel Country School. We did not realize we were on the site of a ghost town until we began to research the location after we had returned home. The monument to the school and the abandoned farmstead shown here are all that remains.

Isabel appears as a town in some publications, but not in others.  Calling it a ‘town’ is a term to be used loosely, as explained by Travis Woyen in comments below — his family occupied Isabel for quite some time.

This site is in a very sparsely populated portion of the state. According to the 2000 Census, Isabel township only boasts 70 residents.  It is a beautiful place to drive on a rolling but knotty stretch of highway, though. There is no better way to spend a hot summer day than to breeze down the back roads with the windows down and the air conditioner off (sometimes), searching for a place where, when you turn the car off, the silence is loud.

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Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

10 Responses to “Isabel, ND”
  1. Matt says:

    Hope it is ok to post a link:

    In that photo, if you go down to the comment by pwoyen (near the bottom of the page), the commenter says the house was built in 1908 by Gustav Kjall, and that he immigrated here from Sweden, and was the first settler in that part of Isabel Township in Benson County.

  2. Travis says:

    Isabel is the name of the township to this day. The school was a consolidation of the smaller township schools. The school building was torn down in the 1970’s. Across the county road to the west was the Isabel store, which was a small store run by P.O. Stenhjem. That building was burned down by vandals in the 1980’s.

    The land that the school sat on, as well as the surrounding land on the north side of Hwy 19 was owned by my great-grandparents, Gustaf and Hannah Kjall (my father now has it). The house and granary (and the steel bins) are all that remain of the buildings on the farmstead. The house has been unoccupied since my great uncle Arvid died in 1964.

    So, it might be a bit of a stretch to call it a “town”, since the population was scattered fairly evenly throughout the township.

  3. Mark J says:

    It is strange that it is not in the ND Place Names book, but it is pinpointed in my ND Atlas & Gazeteer book. Smack dab in the middle of Isabel township.

  4. Travis – My grandfather, Olaf Guttromson, homesteaded straight south of the Woyen farmstead, a mile south of now Julen Hagen farm. Nothing is left of the homestead. Everything has been removed. Its a strange feeling to see a corner that once was home to a very large active family and the next generation who moved away in the 1950’s. My grandmother and 5 small children are buried at Immanuel Lutheran, north of Hwy 19. I can’t remember the Kjall farm around the Isabel school. Which direction is it? As a child I was a member of Trinity in Esmond and we had parish confirmation classes at the Isabel school on Saturday mornings. P Stenhjem ran the store and was our source for snacks while we waited for the second year confirmation students to finish before we could go home. I have some interesting old maps and records on the school in the township.
    My mother grew up on a farm just to the west of Bethany church, now gone too. Her father and his brother donated the land for the Bethany church and cemetery. Her farm had the barn and outbuildings on the north side of the road in Impark township and the house and yard on the south side of the road in a different township.

    • Gene Reierson says:

      Hi Claudine good to hear from you Remember our folks used to visit back and forth
      Remeber rienart Rhema bubby /

  5. Jamie says:

    My great grandparents settled in Isabel in the late 1890s/early 1900s and were charter members of the Vasa Lutheran Congregation (Which according to, was located near Lat: 48° 04′ 47″N, Lon: 99° 36′ 59″W. The church is reportedly no longer standing). Two great reference books for the townships in this area are “Maddock Diamond Jubilee, 1901-1976″ and “Maddock: A 100-year History, 1901-2001.”

  6. TravisW says:

    Claudine – the Kjall place is about a quarter mile north of the Isabel school land.

    Jamie – the Vasa church building was moved to the Russell Anderson farm and made into a shed a few decades ago (it wasn’t a particularly big building). So technically it’s still standing, but it’s no longer a church.

  7. Joan (Leier) Glennen says:

    Does anyone have a picture of Isabel school or the Isabel store before it was tore down or burnt to the ground? My mother LaVerne Toso Leier graduated from Isabel school. She is now 80 years old and had some great stories about going to the store to buy candy when she was a child.

  8. Claudine Guttromson Hanson says:

    Hi Gene. Sorry I haven’t been back to this site for some time. This is such an interesting collection of places in ND. Some my parents talked about and some I have even seen. Its sad so many of them are gone. Scrolling thru them certainly evokes the “feel” of ND and I miss it.
    We hope to get home to Benson County next summer sometime. Maybe we can have another crazy visit at the restaurant like the last time. I enjoyed seeing you all so much. Claudine

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  1. […] Isabel School, and the store across the road, have been gone a long time, and we’ve never even seen photos of them.  If you have any you’d like to share, please contact us. […]

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