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Category: Melville, ND

Foster County
Inhabited as of 10/04

Melville: Some History

Melville: Some History

The following history of Melville (and the B&W images on this page) were submitted by Dennis Schjeldahl of Grand Forks with the following comments:

So here is a History of Melville. I don’t know who wrote it orginally. It was all caps with many mis-spellings. I cleaned it up – but did my darndest to keep the content.
Dennis Schjeldahl
Grand Forks, ND

As homesteaders settled on the prairies, little shacks popped up all over the area. Newport was built in 1882 on the SW ¼ sec. 36-145-66 on land owned by Elizabeth and William Keepers and named for Col. R. M. Newport, treasurer of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The post office was established on July 24, 1882, with Edgar Leavenworth as the first Postmaster.

The Northern Pacific Railroad wanted to purchase more land for the first railroad coming north from Jamestown. The Northern Pacific Railroad and Keepers could not agree on the price of lands, so the Northern Pacific Railroad accepted Lyman Casey’s offer of a free township on section 35 one half mile west, naming the town Melville, after Howard Melville Hanna, a major stockholder in Carrington-Casey Land Co. Melville is the oldest town in Foster County.

All the buildings were moved to Melville from Newport. These were the Leavenworth and Wing Store; Robert Walters Hotel; and Antonio Ohners Saloon. Edgar Leavenworth became Postmaster on May 2, 1883, in Melville.

Phillip and Obed Wiseman organized the first bank in 1907. Its deposits were $87,000. The officers were Obed Wiseman, Pres.; Peter Zink, Vice Pres.; Anna Zine, Asst. Cashier; and Phillip Wiseman, Cashier. The bank was robbed September 28, 1916 of $4,205. It closed in 1927 because of clerical error in its charter. The Wiseman brothers later bought the Leavenworth Store.

Land was obtained by Pre-emption, Squatter’s Rights, Tree Claims, the the Homestead Act. They came by covered wagon, horseback, and ox team. Every odd numbered section was owned by the railroad. They could be bought from the railroad. Section 16 was school property. Mr. and Mrs. Martin Clark were the first passengers on the train in 1883. He was the section foreman. Bill Sorenson was an early depot agent.

The town school was built on land given by Peter Zink. There was a county school earlier on SE ¼ Sec. 11-195-65. At first, school was four months in the summer. Later, they had school six months in the summer and three months in the winter. The first winter was so bad, they only had five days of school. On June 15, 1961, Melville School joined the Carrington School District.

Mrs. Peter Zink (Theresa Littner) was the first woman to come to Melville.

The Congregational Church was built in 1886 by local subscription and labor. They had a regular pastor until 1922. The parsonage was built by the Ladies Aid in 1890. The church burned in about 1935. The first townhall was built in 1896, and it burned in 1924. There were four grain elevators; three burned and one moved out. The businesses in town were five General Stores owned by Leavenworth, Kidder, Shearer, McElrowy, and Hill. There was a Hardware Store and the Putnam and Miller Lumber Co. The implement dealer was first George Ackerman, and later August Zink and Gilbert Bower. Louie Pothier ran the Pool Hall. The wagon maker was John Robertson. Antonio Ohners had a hotel in 1883. The blacksmith in 1884 was A.K. Speers. There was a garage run by Zine and Bower. The Wiseman Brothers owned the livery stable.  The fraternal lodges were Woodman #3536 started on December 3, 1896. The first presiding officer, T.H. Burnhan, was noted for champion degree team in the state. Charter members were Geo. Ackerman, J. Copeland, J. Douglas, Joe Dodd, J. Dodd, C. Ferguson, R. Farquer, Wm. Hussey, Ed Miller, Frank Schieb, M. Schieb, Wm. Seely, J.C. Willyard, F.Winsch, and Wendland Zink.

The other lodges were “Masons, “Rebekah”, Royal Neighbors, and the McKinley I.O.O.F. organized February 1, 1905 by O.L. Bobo, C.A. Bennet, F.A. Dodge, and Wm. Wescom. Each of the lodges lost their charters. The I.O.O.F. being the last.

Socials – Ladies Aid, Community Club, Whist Club, and Sewing Circles.

Dramatics – Home talent plays and a kitchen band. – Male Quartet.

Athletics – Ball team was the best in the state.

Boy Scouts – The Scouts were started by Bob Heyer (Depot Agent). They are still in existence headed by Wm. Trecker. Roller Skating, Camporees, Crafts, and Archery; they won many awards for outstanding work.

4-H Girls – This was started by Ester McAffe, and the latest leader is Carol Reimers.

The Greatest years for Melville were from 1910 to a peak in 1915. In 1912, 170 lots were sold – many going to Peter Zink and the Wiseman brothers. Melville was called the Best Small Town between Jamestown and Leeds, ND (end of track). When the Pingree/Wilton branch railroad was built in 1912, that business territory was cut off from Melville. It started a great decline a couple of years later.

The greatest loss was by fire. Several stores, two townhalls, two livery barns, three elevators, two hotels, the pool hall, the creamery, and many homes and the church all burned.

Buildings by the dozens were moved out. The lumber company, one elevator, one store, the depot, the hardware store, the schoolhouse, and many homes all moved out. At the present time Melville is like a ghost town. Only five houses are occupied and about ten people remain. There are no businesses. All of us that once lived in Melville were proud of our town and enjoyed life here.


Melville, ND

Melville, ND

Foster County
Inhabited as of 10/04

Melville was established in 1883 just east of the pinoneer settlement of Newport. That same year, Newport’s post office moveds to Melville. It is unknown who the town is named for since two of the landowner’s associates share the name “Melville” and were both likely candidates for the honor.

A population of 200 was reported in 1890.

On our visit to Melville, we were kindly shown around the townsite by the Biels.  They serve as caretakers for the townsite on behalf of the owner, who lives out of state.

Present population is under 5.

We believe Melville’s decline may have been brought on by a lack of a water source. There are remnants of wells all over the site most of which have been filled-in by the caretaker.

The big blue building pictured below was the former Melville town hall.

The picture of the sidewalk leading to a vacant lot is the former site of the Melville school.


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