Second Chances in Oberon

Second Chances in Oberon

Oberon, North Dakota is in Benson County, about ten miles southwest of Fort Totten. Two places we had been to previously, Josephine and Flora, North Dakota, are a short drive west.

Oberon, North Dakota

We happened to drive through Oberon when we were on our way to Minot in 2014 and we were surprised to see there were some good photo opportunities that we hadn’t known about. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time that day. So, our visit in the spring of 2015 was a second chance.

Oberon, North Dakota

In the 2010 Census, Oberon’s population was listed as 105; a pretty populated place compared to many of the small towns featured on this site. There was a photogenic combination of vacant places and creative reuse going on in Oberon, however, and we wanted to share a few places.

The Community Center on the corner of A Street and Main Avenue had neatly maintained grounds. Maybe it was a bank at one time? Perhaps someone can comment.

Oberon, North Dakota

Oberon, North Dakota

This town was first known as Antelope; a moniker authors Vernell and Louise Johnson say came from the settlement’s location at “the northwest end of the famous Antelope Valley, where antelope were plentiful.” The town was renamed Barker when the post office was established in 1885, but in 1886 Postmaster Vernon Matthews changed the name to Oberon, a reference to Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and the town was platted.

Oberon, North Dakota

Oberon, North DakotaThe Oberon School looked like it was still a fully-active, functional school, and we had no reason to photograph it, really, other than the fact that it’s a big, beautiful brick building, and that temptation is hard to resist.

Oberon, North Dakota

If the alternative is letting an old church wither in the elements until it caves in, we’re thrilled to see beautiful old sanctuaries like the one in Oberon get some creative reuse. We saw another church in 2014 in Wabek, North Dakota that someone had turned into a home, and someone appeared to be moving into an old Post Office in Sentinel Butte. It’s so cool to see old places, steeped in history and heritage, getting second chances.

Oberon, North Dakota

Do you have our hardcover, Ghosts of North Dakota coffee table books? Order them in our store.

Oberon, North Dakota

Another place we couldn’t resist shooting. Calvary Lutheran Church.

Oberon, North Dakota

Services are Sunday at 9:30.

Oberon, North Dakota

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

Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.

65 thoughts on “Second Chances in Oberon

  1. The Community Center was built for that purpose, around the late 1970’s, and was not a bank as you guessed. The other brick building (with bright yellow doors) originally was a bank – I still have checks my grandfather wrote with that bank name on them. The building housed the drugstore for many years, all of my early memories – it had the required soda fountain, great selection of comic books, ice cream and pop (soda’s to the uninitiated) and of course candy, and other ‘sundries’. It was a great place to hang out in the day. The first photo shows the old Sullivan grocery store, one of two that thrived at least from post-WWII into the late 1960’s…the other grocery owned by the Burgstahler’s (sp). The run-down church was originally the Congregational Church.

    Aaron Taylor

      1. Your grandparents were great people! I still to this day think of buying great big grape gumballs at their store and also walt’s carvings! The roadrunner was my favorite!

        1. Yes, Paul Wetzel, Walt and Virgina were great people, also Walt was an old time basketball player back in the day. He used to tell me stories about playing basketball in Fessenden, and your right, his carvings were incredible.

        2. Paul – yes my Grandpa loved to carve things out of wood – especially birds, including owls. My mom and I think her sisters have some of them. I remember the roadrunner.

      2. Virginia was my neighbor growing up.. she was my favorite person! Her homemade buns were awesome (I was born in 79 and dont remember them owning the store) Virginia would make my cat a fried egg everyday, so the cat would leave her birdfeeders alone. She was my favorite person!!

  2. As Aaron said, it was the bank. I knew it as the “drug store” I don’t know if it ever had a pharmacy, but it was the favorite place to hang out after school for ice cream and coke. Still remember the older girls in their poodle skirts sitting in the old wooden booths. My dad bought the building for a “shop” later and then it became fully abandoned, but the old vault is still there.

  3. I vividly remember Bill Sullivan, Sullivan’s grocery store, taking a cleaver and chopping my twinpops Popsicle in two so it could be shared, and buying small brown paper bags of penny candy, a Quarter would fill the bag.

    1. That was my grandpa!! I hardly knew him because he passed when I was 6. But, my grandma, Lorraine Sullivan, ran the store until 1981 or so.

  4. My mom grew up in Oberon. My grandfather had a small grocery store there. My sister and I spent some time in the summer there. The community center that you made a comment that it might have been a bank was built new as a community center. Love Oberon! , as far as I know my grandparents house it’s still there.

  5. The school is still in operation to this day. Provides education up to sixth or eigth grade, I can’t remember exactly. My dad and grandparents still live on their farms near by.

  6. My Hometown. My parents owned the bar (pictured) for 17 years. It was Olson’s Bar and was sold to my uncle Albert Wetzel who renamed it The Dutchman. Oberon was a wonderful town for families, and most of us keep in touch with childhood friends.

  7. I rememmber some fun times in Oberon when I was in high school. There was always a dance on the w/end.

    1. Shannon,
      I wonder if that’s the same hotel that my Grandpa bought (maybe from your family) and moved into. Grandpa and Grandma used it as their house, since they had 11 kids to fill it up! I’d love to see pictures of it.
      My Grandparents were Thea and Orville (Jack) Treon.

  8. Yes our grandparents – the Burgstahlers – were from Oberon. I drove through Oberon not too long ago and their house is still there, and whoever is living there has taken very good care of it! Lots of great memories of Sunday dinners, holidays and summers in Oberon!!

  9. Well, Ona, I was probably one of those really cool “older” girls in a maxi skirt. I remember Albert Buehler, the proprietor of the so called drug store selling red liquorice and saying, “Hey-hey–want some afterbirth, huh? Took years for me to get it. (:-) By the way, your mom, Margaret, was one of the nicest ladies I have ever known and I loved babysitting with you and your brothers and sisters.

    Before the Senior Center was an office building owned by Mr. Baldwin, a land developer, maybe speculator, who built the town’s most beautiful house which the Sorenson kids and I sneaked into a time or two just to look around. Later Carlsons lived there.

    My best memory was the library in the back of my dad’s store run my Miss Kruse. I loved checking out books, half of which I could barely understand, but it didn’t stop me from reading them. Thank you, Miss K. wherever you are.

  10. I remember driving into Oberon on Saturday nights. We would sell cream at Carl’s (Christensen) cream station, and sell eggs at Burgstahler’s grocery, and mom would use that money to buy groceries. We might also pick up meat and other groceries at Sullivan’s Groceries and Meats. We would get candy, pop, and ice cream treats at Griffin’s Confectionary (“the drug store”), and play around town with friends until our parents decided to drive home. Some parents were in Keller’s or Olson’s bar later in the evening, and after the Confectionary closed, we would sneak into the bar and buy candy or pop there. It was especially fun when there was a dance or game at “the hall”. I also enjoyed the after home basketball game gatherings and food at Carlson’s big house.

  11. My great grandparents, Isaac and Marvel Kindem, farmed near here. I love the photos. My grandpa, Delno, will be excited to see them! Thanks for posting!

  12. My great great grandfather AW Spencer lived in Oberon when it was just founded, and was a postmaster there for many years, as was his son Earl. My Grandmother was born there and I just recently found the cemetery where AW is buried along with some other family. AW Spencer also had the Livery and I wish I knew where that use to be located..I love finding old landmarks.

    1. Dawn,
      My family knew the Spencer’s well, my grandfather was active with them in much of the early day development. Thanks for the insight…

      Aaron Taylor

    2. I am not certain, but I think the livery may have been straight west of the Calvary church. Something in the back of my mind says that my grandparent’s house they built in the 1950’s was on that land. There may have been another one across from the school at one time, Orty Narveson’s repair shop…was that originally a livery?

      1. Ona, the livery was behind Sullivan’s meat market. It was torn down and they built the building that was the John Deere building which was first a hardware store. Hans and Marie Hansons house was build where there had been a blacksmith shop. Mary

  13. My home town my Grandfather lived across the street from the school later my uncle Orty Narveson lived there and ran Narveson repair for many years. PS My grandfather Hans Narveson was mayor of Oberon in the early 1950’s

  14. How many of you remember these Oberon businesses: Walt’s/Burgstahler’s Grocery, Sullivan Grocery and Meat Locker, Narveson’s Repair, Carl’s Cream Station/Gas/Kerosene, Carlson’s Chevy/Service Garage, Griffins’/Oberon Confectionery (the “drug store”), Nelson and Barko Home Supply/Hardware, Olson and Geston John Deere dealership, Oberon Cafe, Oberon Barber Shop (25 cents for kids), Olson’s Bar, Keller’s Bar, NP Depot, Duane Bolinski’s Recreation, Rudel Supply/IH dealer, Independent Lumber Yard, (Sylling’s?) Servisoft Soft Water Service, Peavey and FU Co-op Elevators, A.E. Woodrow’s Standard Oil, FU Station, Post Office.
    PLEASE ADD OTHERS YOU CAN REMEMBER!

    1. The telephone office and the hotel run by Treons. There was a barn to the south of Drummonds’ house and a garage behind Walt’s store on the south side of the alley, but I don’t know who owned them. Also, someone (an unrelated Olson?) had a tax business in the house between the telephone office and Ellingson’s old house.

      1. Ever and Alta Hanson ran the telephone office at one time, if I recall correctly – Alta, actually. Jim and Edith Wallace’s dad and Lawrence Keller worked on the railroad section crew, can’t remember who else; but remember the cream cans sitting on the rail station platform early in the morning waiting to ship out on the train, very early in my life. And I believe Jens Nielsen might have butchered cattle in the small building behind Sullivan’s grocery, but seems like it might have been someone else – just remember going in to watch the action. I believe Bronald (sp?) Thompson ran the elevator for years, others before him – can’t recall the name of the guy who was in the south elevator for a long time…no, not Buckskin! Seeing color TV for the first time at the barbershop was disappointing – they (who was the barber??) just bought a screen cover that was coated in three colored stripes that went over the screen – same old snowy picture with dumb colored stripes laid over. So much for technology in our neck of the woods.

        Aaron Taylor

        1. Ed Gallagher also worked on the railroad. Kasper Knutson managed the south elevator. I remember watching Bill Sullivan shoot a cow before butchering it in the shop behind the store.

        2. My parent`s are Glenn Nelson & Margaret [ peggy ] Wallace . Grandparents are Hartley nelson & Earl [bud ] Wallace

    2. Even tho our mailing address was Minnewaukan, most of my Dad’s farming needs were taken care of thru thevJihn Deere business in Oberon. Rodger, I wonder if you are related to Rosie Howard &Pauline Wetzel who kived on Graham’s Island & St, Micheals?

  15. Aaron, thanks much for your additional information. Everyone, keep adding to this list,
    even if it is your best guess as to who had which businesses/work.

  16. It is great to see the picture of the two grain elevators in Josephine, ND on the cover of the book “Something About Sophia”. My father Bronald (BC) Thompson managed the Farmers Coop Elevator in Oberon, ND from the early 1940s until 1968. At one time the coop included the Farmers Coop Elevator, the PV Elevator and another very old elevator (southeast of the Calvary Lutheran Church) in Oberon as well as the two elevators in Josephine, ND and the elevator in Lallie, ND. Living in Oberon, ND from 1950 to 1968 were the best years of my life. Small town ND was a way of life, like no other, and will be a part of me for the rest of my life!

    Mark Thompson

  17. I went to school in Oberon in first grade. My parents George & Delores Bingham lived in Oberon. My grandparents were George & Francis Eback they lived northwest of Oberon. My grandmother was a Wentz.

  18. Bill Sullivan was my uncle. I remember going to his store a lot when I was a kid. My dad, Clarence Ulness was born and raised in Oberon. I remember when uncle Bill and aunt Lorraine would come visit us in Devils Lake and he would always bring us kids a big bag of candy!

    1. I remember the store, too, when I was just a little kid. My dad, Bill Sullivan Jr, would tell stories about butchering cows and packaging them in that shed out back. And, how he’d throw the packages like footballs to his dad, Sullivan Sr., to add to the freezer. So neat reading all these comments. I grew up hearing stories about Oberon. I remember hearing stories of how he’s give candy to the kids. Even if the didn’t have the money. 🙂

  19. I went to the school for grade school and their version of junior high. Still being used for K – 6. It would have made a fine town to relocate the county seat of Benson county to a few years ago when Minnewauken was in danger of flooding out. I have mixed memories of the town and the school, but it’s always fun to look back.

    1. Do you have any connections w/Kenny Jabs who came from Oberon. I can’t remember his mom’s name, but I think it was Freida.

      1. If we had out of town basketball games, the basketball families in Oberon would host a farm kid, such as myself, who also played basketball, for an early supper after school, and then we got on the bus for the out of town game. I was “hosted” at times by both Lyle Jabs, and Odean/Bob Olson, and their moms were kind enough to feed me supper. That was very kind of them.

  20. my grand parents Henry And Anna Ulness lived in Oberon . They raised 8 children. My father Clarence was the youngest. My aunt Lorraine was married to Bill Sullivan. They owned the grocery store and for a time the lumber yard. We spent many Sunday’s there. Oh the memories!

  21. This has been a delight to read the comments and see the names that were so important to me. Oberon was home from 1942-1964. My parents Hilding and Hazel Carlson lived in a small house known at the time as the Simon house and now as Janice and John Hagers. We moved into the Baldwin home in 1953. That August my brother Dale was stricken with Polio. About the same time the cafe burned and the men spent nights rebuilding the cafe next to Kellers Bar. Dad was a carpenter and helped build many of the barns in the area 1913-1916. My father was trained as a mechanic in WWI, when he returned he along with August Nelson and Earl Spencer purchased the Peterson garage. Nelson died of bad boot leg liquor and Spencer moved to Rock Lake. The garage became incorporated with Haskin and my uncle Claus as investors. New cars came in on the train until 1958 when Safratowich ordered a station wagon and the first car carrier delivered it to the garage.
    The telephone company was started by a coop and a storm in the early thirties took down most of the poles. Dad and Louis Stickelberger replaced the poles and restrung the wires as the coop imploded and the town needed telephone service. The office was a stand alone building that had been a power plant. My first job was as an operator from 7 until school started and many times after school until closing at 8. Some of you may have called the operator from Walt’s store and said, “Mary can you find my mom?”
    Heather, I adored your grandfather. From the time I was very little mother would send me to the store with a list. bill always greeted me with Mary Lynn bumped her chin and couldn’t get up in the morning. He made it fun for a child to be in the store. Spare ribs were called machine gun bullets. He would always help me get the frozen food out of our locker box in the giant freezer room.
    Anna Kruse and Dr. Stickelberger were great mentors to the women in the community. The Oberon Women’s Club maintained the library in the back of Walt’s store. The women took turns staffing on Saturdays. Mother always took me along and I remember being instructed to sit up proper while reading. I actually liked the processing and shelving of books.
    And yes Rodger, we had wonderful times in the grand house. The card parties, ping pong on the dining room table, and the huge family Christmas gatherings. We frequently had people come and stay that were visiting Oberon.
    When dad called about 11:30 and asked what is for dinner mom knew someone was coming home with him at noon.
    Does anyone know of a historical museum that would want materials from the early times in Oberon?

  22. My parents, Osten and Esther Johnsen, lived in Oberon from 1965 to sometime in the 1980s. Dad was the section forman on the railroad. My younger brother, Art, went to school in Oberon and graduated high school there.

    I lived in Oberon from September 1965 to January 1967. It was a good time as the people were really nice.

  23. My family visited Oberon about 1945 and spent a few days on the Albert Gustafson farm. He was my mother’s uncle. My mother, Gina Marie Diesen, was born in Oberon 1910, and her mother, Annie T. Diesen, was a sister to Albert Gustafson. In the early days there were several Gustafon families and Diesen families living in Oberon, but they are mostly all far removed from Oberon now. Does anybody know where Elise (Diesen) Evanson and her husband Ed or their grandchildren could be found?

    It’s interesting to read about all the memories people have. Everybody needs to contribute something!

  24. My mom, Eunice Homelvig (married Clinton Allen) had a beauty shop in Oberon in the late 1930s. Later Inga Bodal lived in the building on what was main street. Spent many hours in Oberon as a youngster as Grandpa Peter Homelvig did most of his business there and was one of the founders of Cavalry Lutheran Church. I, too, am looking for a place for early Oberon (and Sheyenne and Rock township) memorabilia.

  25. I would like to thank everyone for all the memories you have shared here. It takes me back to the great times childhood gave us in the small towns. Compared to larger towns it was like “extended family”. It was a fun time growing up in the 60’s and early 70’s.

  26. This was a great BIG little town in my day, have many good memories and so glad that I was raised in a small community and farm & school. My parent’s Pete and Frances Poulsen had the cafe for awhile in Oberon during my earlier high school days. It was right between the drug store and Keller’s Bar, I can’t remember what they called it at that time. Olivia Hansen helped my mother out in the cooking of meals, I waited table and .25 cents was a good tip then!! Plus there was a barber shop in the corner of the cafe, today that would not be allowed, can’t remember the name of the barber either.

      1. I spent a lot of time on the Gustafson farm northwest of Oberon. I spent every summer there through high school and attended 5th grade in Minnewauken but most of the day to day business and shopping was in Oberon. Reading all these posts brings back a lot of memories; the many businesses especially Walt’s Grocery the Griffin’s drug store for it’s ice cream and candy and the picture of the Lutheran Church where I attended church with Albert and Agnes Gustafson. I remember Saturday night roller skating in the community center at the end of main street across from the railroad station (25 cents rented a pair of clamp on skates). It was a great place to spend my summers.

        Diane Poulsen Balch. You and your sister Karen used to spend time at your Grandpa Carl Gustafson’s on the Gustafson farm. I still remember the good times we had together.

  27. Hi All,

    I’ll share some memories…

    Gallagher Family lived in the old brown Railroad section house (‘The Y'” ). Beyond the bulk plant.
    Approx 1955-1965
    With: Edward & Laura Gallagher, kids: Jackie, Karen, Lily, Chuck, Patrick, Peggy (Margaret), Val. ( Neal was not born yet, but on the way when we moved to Fridley, Mn)

    Ed was the section foreman. (Which Lawrence Keller took over later as foreman… I think), he cleaned the town hall, dug graves, directed trucks at the Elevator, member of the fire department, member of the Legion, School Board Member, Milked cows for the Margaret & Albert Thompson’s family across the street (paid in cream), Elk Member (Devil’s Lake)

    Laura was organist at the catholic church in Minnewaukan, Altar Society, actress in the Oberon Town Hall (cannot remember the name of the play), Worked the Keller’s bar, She feed the transient (hobo’s) as they passed through, Painting of various farm buildings with Karen , member of the homemakers… and more as I cannot member

    Mom would come home and tell us stories of a man at the bar, “I’ll have one more drink and then I’ll go home.” Of course he hung out there out day. 😉

    After basketball games and dances, Ed would sweep the floors and on occasion I would assist him.

    I made popcorn for the basket ball games & dances

    We walked to school, however the trek for milk was quite the jaunt.

    Patrick and Chuck Gallagher would go with their dad Ed Gallagher to the fire dept to take a shower as we had no running water. Running water arrived for my family in 1964.

    One year for Halloween the chickens were let loose in the church, does anyone remember which church?

    My babysitting gigs included: Carlson’s, Carlyle’s, Schmitz’s, Safratowich’s, Lem’s

    Teachers: Miss Wallace, Kenny Plomium (Let us listen to the baseball game while working on homework)
    Coaches: Safratowich, Lemke?

    Sledding at Piggy’s Hill , meeting with Friends

    Ice Skating Ring, with the used hockey skates

    4H Camp, Jill poured the Kool-aid and “Fun was had by All!”

    Karen would clean the barn before riding horses at Syllings Farm

    Had a crush on Dennis.

    Of course, I would do anything to get out of the house work… Spending outside with my dad bailing hay, picking tomatoes, milking cows.

    We Walked Everywhere!

    I’ll post more, as I’m meeting with my sisters later today…. In fact I may even take a quick trip up to Oberon this weekend.

  28. I started school in Oberon the fall of 1944 and went the first three grades there….My Mother (Amy) was a Narveson, so I was surrounded by Narveson Uncles and my Grandpa and Grandma Narveson who lived just across from the school…Lots of relatives in the area….and so many memories!

  29. This is all so fascinating! My mother, Linda Christiansen, grew up here and we had just gone back from the Chicago area to see it about five years ago. Carl’s Cream Station/Gas/Kerosene, was my grandparent’s business, Carl and Mary Christiansen. We were able to walk around the old property that it sat on but I believe it burned down the following year.

    My brother and I have such great memories of the candy store, just a short walk away, where you could find any kind of candy you wanted.

    Thank you for publishing this!

    1. I was in Linda’s Class of 1962.
      We would bring cream into Oberon, usually on Saturday night; wait for it to be weighed and tested for butterfat content (the more the better), and get paid from Carl, to buy groceries at the two grocery stores. Carl also sold gasoline, and kerosene, which we used for lamps and lanterns before we got electricity.
      Rodger Wetzel

  30. The name of that barber that nobody seems to remember was Schroeder. I think his first name was Warren. He had at least two boys (maybe some girls, too) who attended school in Oberon in the 1950s.

    1. I think the barber was known as Rip but don’t know if that was his real name. His sons were Cameron (who was married to Judith Ann Wallace) and Warren.

  31. its very cool to read throught the history of the old bank. the one with the yellow doors. i bought it last year and have wondered what all the businesses were there in the building. i knew it was originally a bank, and then a bar, but i had no idea it held such a colorful history. i dont know what to do with the bank building but i was thinking maybe you guys could give me suggestions.

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