Walsh County, North Dakota
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Auburn

Auburn, North Dakota (Census-designated Place)
Founded: March 26, 1883
Peak Population: 240 in 1890
Original Location: S 1/2 Sec. 25-158-54, Glenwood Twp.
Moved Location: NW 1/4 Sec. 14-158-153 (Auburn Station), Farmington Twp., in 1884.
Other Names: Auburn Station

“AUBURN was a farm post office established March 26, 1883, with Donald McKenzie as postmaster. It was located in S1/2 Sec. 25-158-54, Glenwood Twp., five miles NW of Grafton, and named for Auburn, Ontario, Canada, which was named for Auburn, Yorkshire, England, a city featured in Oliver Goldsmith’s poem The Deserted Village. In 1884, the post office moved four miles NE to AUBURN STATION in NW 1/4 Sec. 14-158-153, Farmington Twp. This place became generally known as AUBURN. An initial boom resulted in a population of 240 in 1890, but all census reports since 1920 have been under 100. The post office closed March 31, 1943, with mail to Grafton. Harley Ralph Kingsbury, a long time state legislator, was born in Auburn in 1913.” 2

 

HISTORY OF AUBURN

Taken from “Walsh Heritage” Vol 1, pg 45-48

Auburn is located on land homesteaded by Hiram Kingsbury, who with his brothers, Henry and Wesley, came from Hemmingford, Quebec. Controversy developed over the location of the townsite…J. H. Watts, who owned land by the newly established Walsh County border with Pembina County, wanted the townsite there. Matt Archer, who came from Hemmingford in 1880, headed a group of pioneer homesteaders who wanted the town established on its present site. He rode many miles on horseback, collecting signatures on a petition to have Auburn situated two miles south of the county line.

The Great Northern Railroad reached the site of the newly planned town in 1882, one year after it had reached Grafton. Many of the homesteaders worked on the construction of the road bed with horses and scrapers, wheelbarrows and spades. Among them were Ole Larson and Ole Lerud, who earned money so that they could hire more fortunate neighbors to turn their sod with the plow.

Judge McKenzie owned land adjoining Auburn on the north. He had come from Auburn, Ontario, and it was he who named the newly-platted town. One report is that Donald McKenzie was the first postmaster; another report states that it is recorded that Matt Archer was the first postmaster. Matt Archer and his brother George filed a homestead claim on the land bordering Auburn on the east. They planted a fine grove of elm trees. The Sever Tollack farm home on the south edge of Auburn had another fine grove and it was beautifully landscaped in the early days. Within the town limits the Branston, Hostettor and Lemon homes had cottonwood and boxelder trees planted around them. These were the trees that the pioneers used for the most part in their planting.

Story has it that caravans of wagons hauling grain passed through the area on their way to St. Andrews where there was a grain elevator. They shipped the grain on barges propelled by the Red River steamboats. This long trek was shortened considerably when seven elevators were built in Auburn. Before very long Jim Hill, the railroad builder, had a network of rails across the western part of the state. Two of the elevators in Auburn were small, privately-owned elevators, the enterprise of Sam Lemon and Murray Hostettor. The other five elevators were: the St. Anthony, Northwestern, Peavey, Federal and Great Western. Some of the early grain buyers were Billy Herriot, Joe Cronin, Mr. McClean, Mr. Wells, Dan McLaughlin, J. H. Watts, Charles Hanson, Charlie and Billy Miller and Billy McWaters.

Selmer Lykken recalls that when his father, Lars Lykken, who owned a steam threshing rig, threshed for George Burrows a couple of miles out of Auburn, he (Selmer) hauled grain to the small elevator at the north end of Auburn. The power to operate the elevator was later moved to the Henry Kingsbury farm and used as a granary, powered first by a gasoline engine and later by R. E. A. electricity.

The first Peavey Elevator burned and was rebuilt in 1910. At that time Billy McWaters operated it. Later Harry Colter became manager in 1912. Murray Hostettor sold his small elevator at the south end of Auburn to the Federal Elevator Co. In 1906-1907, it was managed by Henry Kingsbury. He quit the Federal to work with and for the newly-formed Farmers Elevator Association, which organized to established a co-operative marketing program, a movement which was engaging attention at that time.

The association records show that a group of farmers met at Auburn on January 18, 1908, to map plans for the organization of a farmer’s elevator company. George K. Dike served as chairman of this meeting and J. E. Kingsbury as secretary. Others in attendance were John Donnelly, H. H. Lykken, Theo. Nelson, Charles A. Boone, Sever Tollack, Joseph DeSautel, Clifford Tufft, John McKibben, L. J. Herbison and Olie A. Rod. Henry Kingsbury was engaged as wheat buyer and manager August 22, 1908. The association purchased the St. Anthony Elevator, coal and wood yards for $5,500. In 1916, Henry Kingsbury suffered death by accident because his heavy winter coat caught in the main shaft. Subsequent managers were A. C. Anderson, W. H. Dickie, Stewart Bell and A. A. Stavert. While Stewart Bell was manager, the company purchased the Peavey Elevator, enlarged it and used it. They razed the old elevator. Later the Farmers Elevator was sold to the Boone brothers and it became a private storage elevator.

The Great Northern Depot has not been in continuous operation. It was closed for a few years prior to 1912. The agent in Grafton transacted the business in Auburn. In 1912, it was reopened with an agent by the name of Roholt. Other agents have ben Roy Waite, John Pavik, Louis Bolton, Christopher Gamper, Ernest Hennum, Joe Bostic, Mrs. Norman Rittle and Allen Moe.

In its early days Auburn had seven saloons. These dispensaries gave Auburn the name of being a rather boisterous, wide-open town. This saddened the pioneer women. In 1889, when the Dakota Territory became North Dakota and South Dakota, the North Dakota constitution declared the state a dry state. This brought an end to the saloons. In the meantime, Auburn suffered two major fires. One fire began in the Arlington Hotel in the winter of 1888-1889. The buildings on the west side of the street were destroyed and were never rebuilt except that Arthur Branston built a small store.

Bill McKenzie operated the “Arlington Hotel” which was the largest of the two hotels in Auburn, the smaller one being the “Peterboro House.” In later days the Peterboro House was moved to Judge McKenzie’s farm on the north edge of Auburn and used as a private dwelling. Sandy Parks was a druggist. The Robertson Lumber Company had a branch yard in Auburn. The Landstad Lutheran Church was built in 1888, although the congregation had been organized seven years earlier in 1881. “Whiskey” John Weselosky was a colorful character on the Auburn scene. He owned a hog farm on the site where Herman Fisher, Sr., lived.

Herman Fisher, Sr., and his wife Wilhelmina, came from Pomerania in Germany. After working as a harness maker and a farmer he moved to Auburn and became a truck gardener. He canvassed the countryside with horse and wagon, selling the produce from his garden. From 1912 to 1925, Harry Colter traveled a circuit with a pure-bred stallion, building up the horse population and horsepower in the surrounding farm area. Pat Phelan also had a stallion, and he had a route of his own.

In early Auburn, the lodge known as the Modern Woodmen of America had a flourishing and energetic membership. They built the Woodmen Hall and the Woodmen barn. The latter was a rather large, roomy structure used to stable the visiting horses. Its outside walls became the repositories for circus posters and advertising Ringling Bros. or Barnum & Bailey shows when they came to neighboring Grafton. The hall became the center of activities that enlivened Auburn at that time. It was here that they held their heated political rallies during the days of William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley. Speakers from Grafton, such as Major John Fraine, recently returned from the Philippines, Attorney E. N. Swiggum and John Cashel used to speak at these meetings. Matt Arch enthusiastically presided over the Democratic rallies; Mike Skjulstad and Henry Kingsbury presided over the Republican rallies. Afterwards they rejoined across the street in Branston’s store where they finished their “argufying.” It is reported that Matt Archer and Henry Kingsbury were the main combatants in these heated verbal frays. Matt Archer would say: “Well, it is necessary according to law.” “It may be necessary according to law,” drawled Kingsbury, “but we have more law than is necessary.”

One of the more enduring business places in Auburn was the General Store. Bill McKenzie is credited as being one of the early storekeepers. The names of other merchants were Ed Duval, who was also a harness maker, and Murray Hostettor who also had a hardware store. Arthur Branston had a small store across the street from the big store. Bill Sturdy owned the Auburn Store and prospered in it. He later sold his business to Mike Skjulstad whose tenure was a flourishing one. He was assisted in the store by his daughter, Martha. The post office was a part of the store, and both father and daughter conducted the official business of the office. Mike Skjulstad sold the store to J. E. Kingsbury, who in turn sold it to Luther Lykken. In the thirties, the automobile channeled the trade to nearby Grafton, and the store stood empty for a time. Art and Margery Faye reopened it for a short run until Mr. Fay’ tragic death in an automobile accident. Mike Skjulstad’s first business was a blacksmith shop, which was across the street north from the store. His home stood next to his shop. After the Hostettor house was move out of town, the Skjulstad house was moved to the spot where the Hostettor house had been so that they could have the benefit of the fine trees growing there.

Clara Emily Johnson was the first teacher in School District 29. She had a class of 25 pupils including such names as Irish, Moore, Weselosky, Penell, McKenzie and Ole Gilman. Clara Johnson married Hans Lykken, and in due time three of her daughters (Cora, Hazel and Mabel) taught in the Auburn school. For a time, the Auburn school was a two-room school. Two of the teachers, Miss Deitz and Miss Thompson, “batched it” in the Weston house which was next door north to the O. J. Bolton home. Another term, Miss Wright and Miss Hendrickson boarded at the Joe Herbison home which was across the street from the Hostettor house. At one time, two men were the mentors in the school, Reagan and McConnache by name. The roll of teachers includes such names as Cora Lykken, Edna Jones, Bessie Neilson, Hattie Kingsbury, Hazel Lykken, Winnifred Donnelly, Hulda Carlson, Nellie Archer, Beatrice Strand, Mary Campbell and others. Mrs. Matt Archer taught piano lessons for the young ladies of the community. She also chorded for the old-time country fiddlers. Jim Moore used to call for the quadrilles and the reels.

During the declining days of Auburn, farmers began buying and moving the houses into the country. The Branston house was moved to the Tufft farm, the Hostettor house to the Colter farm, the Weston house to the J. E. Kingsbury farm, the Jim Johnson house to the Spratt farm, and the Lemon cottage to the Charlie Kingsbury farm. It is probable that Mike Skjulstad’s blacksmith shop as moved to the Henry Kingsbury farm.

In the early twenties, the Wolter Brothers built a large potato warehouse next door south to the Peavey Elevator. For the first forty years the farmers in the area had grown only grain. A revolution took place and diversified farming with emphasis on potatoes as well as grain, and later sugar beets became the order of the day. At first farmers built potato pits on the farms, but now they build warehouses along the railroad right-of-way. In some instances, special sidings have been built. Today, Auburn, like all the villages and towns around, has a string of potato warehouses.

St. Anne’s Catholic Church of Crystal was moved into Auburn to be used for the migrant beet workers. A new school was built, but before long the district was incorporated into the Grafton District and the new school became a private dwelling. The old school was remodeled and for years was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Haug. Today it is in the possession of Mr. and Mrs. John Klapp, who cherish old cars, old towns, old buildings and the history relating to them.

Like many towns in the Dakota Territory, Auburn was conceived in high hopes and rich promise. Comstock & White, the firm that platted Grafton, was engaged to plat Auburn. In a plat book published in 1893, the map of Auburn has six streets running east to west numbered from one to six, with two streets running north to south named Main Street and Park Avenue. The railroad runs diagonally through Auburn from southeast to northwest at a slight angle. At its widest point on the south end Auburn was two and a half blocks wide. At the north end it was a block and a half wide, with the eastern tier of blocks tapering to a point. In 1893, there were five elevators: two Red River Valley Elevators, the Minnesota and Northern, Brooks Elevator Co., Northwestern and Hostettor, Johnson & Cliff.

Allard Brothers had a general store. Ed DeWald was a harness maker. William McKenzie moved from Sweden to Auburn and operated a hotel and a general store, which also housed the post office. The Robertson Lumber Company closed its branch yard in 1894. This was the beginning of the slow erosion that ultimately was to leave Auburn a small village of the plains.

When World War I stimulated the demand for scrap iron, Fred Goldenzeil moved his family from Fargo to Auburn where he collected and shipped scrap iron. The Goldenzeils moved the McKenzie house from its site south of the old St. Anthony house and moved it to the spot where the Lemon cottage had been. This was when Auburn had become a sleepy village on the plains. Bertha Goldenzeil, commenting on her husband’s move from Fargo, often lamented, “Columbus discovered America, but Fred, he discovered Auburn.”

Submitted by Kenneth Colter, 252 W. 12th Street, Grafton, North Dakota, 58237

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