These photos of Christmas in Sanish, North Dakota come from Staci Roe, who came upon them in a hospital rummage sale and saved them from the trash. They are from the estate of Marvin L Knapp and the photographer is unknown. Photos of the construction of the footings for Four Bears Bridge were in the same collection.
These photos were taken almost seven decades ago, which means all but the youngest of the people in these photos have passed on, but on the off-chance you recognize anyone in these photos, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Sanish, North Dakota, a town on the banks of the Missouri River, would be gone soon after these photos were taken. The Garrison Dam turned this part of the Missouri River Valley into a reservoir, Lake Sakakawea, and Sanish would disappear beneath the waves. Look closely and you can see Santa Claus on the left in the photo above, surrounded by the townsfolk of Sanish. Perhaps Santa felt a duty to pay some extra special attention to folks who would be saying goodbye to their homes in just a few short years.
We visited the former town site in 2005 when the lake was low, and you can see our photos in Sanish Rises from Beneath the Waves.
Above: It was Christmas of ’47 or ’48, somewhere thereabouts, in one of Sanish’s watering holes… maybe The Round Up Bar, though we can’t tell for sure in these photos.
According to a commenter below, this couple would become husband and wife, Richard and Francis Mayer — their “happily ever after” just moved to higher ground.
The distinctive counter in this photo can also be seen in the photo of the cigar stand below, but it’s unclear whether the establishment in these two photos is the same place as the bar shown above.
Going through these photos of life in Sanish, we notice a recurring theme… hardhats. There were many workers involved in the road and bridge projects that preceded the abandonment of Sanish, and we’ve seen many of them in this collection.
The photo shown above has the caption below on the back. Not sure what it says.
This photo was the only one in the batch that had a date on it, 1948, and a name we can’t read. Update: J Brehm Wright left a comment below identifying the tractor operator as Walt Brehm.
Photos contributed by Staci Roe, photographer unknown
Original content copyright © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media
Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy