Conway, North Dakota (Incorporated)
Population (2010): 23
Post Office Established: January 12, 1885
Location: NE 1/4 Sec. 23-155-55
Township: Eden Twp.
Area: 0.2 square miles (all land)
Peak Population: 228 in 1890
Other Names: Eden and Kelner
Elevation: 993 ft.
Zip Code: 58232
Conway, North Dakota, public school, 1910s
CONWAY. This was originally EDEN, a pioneer settlement founded in 1882 in the NE 1/4 sec. 23-155-55, Eden Twp. It failed to develop, but in 1884 a Great Northern Railroad Station was built there, and a farm post office called KELNER was established at the site. The following year, on January 12, 1885, it was renamed CONWAY when postmaster Norman Kelner adopted the new name. A farm post office named Conway, about two miles to the north, had operated for twenty-seven days in late 1884, and may have had some influence in the naming of the station. The village incorporated in 1895 and reached a peak population of 228 in 1890, with a decline to just 33 in 1980. The elevation is 993, and the Zip Code is 58232. Since October 27, 1961, the post office has been a rural branch of Fordville. Lloyd Bennett Omdahl, a former Tax Commissioner and ND Lt. Governor (1987) was born here in 1931. Kilner is an erroneous spelling. 2 (2,3,18,40,75) (pg 101)
THE CITY OF CONWAY
“Walsh Heritage,” Vol. 3, pg 253-254
In 1884 the Great Northern Railway was completed as far north as the present site of Conway. A trust company in Minneapolis bought a claim from Telson Wager. They subdivided the land and sold lots to incoming businesses. Vorachek, Voboda and Woods opened the first General Store. Other businesses followed: two more stores, a hardware store, a drug store, a barber shop, a blacksmith shop, a lumber yard, and of course, a saloon.
Active business people in those early days included John Vernon, William Cross, John Kerr, Voboda, Tom Daily and Charles Daily. At the turn of the century Richard Fitzgerald owned a restaurant. His sister, Catherine Fitzgerald, owned a photo gallery. Walter Bye had a barber shop. A block of brick buildings was built, called the Merriman Block. It house a drug store run by Charles and Tom Daily. A large hall above the drug store was used for dancing and other public gatherings.
THE 1902 FIRE
In 1902 most of the downtown area of Conway burned. Folks used to talk of the “big fire” that even burned the water tower, which was empty at the time.
Bert Stary owned a livery barn facing Main Street, north of the Vorachek Store. One night in 1908 it burned. A few horses lost their lives since they kept running back into the fire as fast as the men brought them out. A 14-year-old boy, Joe Hennessey, was working at the barn and was sleeping there, but he escaped unharmed. It was said that he turned white overnight.
At one time there were six elevators in Conway. J. C. Cummins was the first grain buyer. Other buyers that followed were Oliver Davidson, Dar Weed, Charles Heising, and Mr. Peterson. On a very windy night the elevator on the Soo Line burned, and pieces of burning wood were blown for long distances. Neighbors had to form a bucket brigade to save the houses.
Dr. Richard Church lived an practiced medicine in Conway from 1895-1907. He moved to the new town of Lankin and later to Park River where he practiced until his death in 1915.
The school built in 1893 burned in 1919, and pupils finished the school year in the dining room area of the ZCBJ Hall. The new brick school was built in 1920. It was torn down in 1975, some time after the school district consolidated with the Fordville School District. Conway always had a baseball team and a band in those early days.
Frank Nasinic operated the blacksmith shop during the early years of this century. He sold the shop and moved to a farm south of town. Two brothers ran the blacksmith shop for several more years. The shop no longer stands.
Tom Burris ran a livery barn and a dray service for a few years. That barn was on the side street near the blacksmith shop.
The first hotel in Conway was a large wooden structure just across the street south of the Conway Bank. William Cross ran it first; later a family name Dowhower ran it. Annie Meagher Fitzgerald also ran it as a rooming house for a short time.
Robertson Lumber Yard was run by Mike Dougherty for many years. Mrs. Dar Weed had a millinery shop in her home for many years. She also provided board and room for high school girls who came in from the country.
In the 1890’s a group organized to build the Conway Presbyterian Church. It was an active group for many years. The original Saint Mark’s Catholic Church building in Conway was built west of the Great Northern tracks. It was being remodeled when it burned on February 3, 1939, and was renamed Saint Mark’s Church when it was rebuilt in 1939. Charles and Anna Heising and Henry and Frances Burris donated the land on which the present church stands. Father Simpson was pastor from the 1890’s to the 1920’s. In 1977 an addition was built.
Charles Van Arsdale was cashier of the Conway Bank from 1898 to 1918. He then became president, and Leonard F. Cawley became cashier. In 1926 the bank closed voluntarily because of bad economic conditions. The bank paid all depositors in full. In 1922 the Farmers Security Bank was opened with John Bina as cashier. It closed three years later because of the bad economic conditions.
Fred Getchman was the section foreman for the Great Northern Railroad. Lars Omdahl was the Soo Line section foreman. Some men worked year around on the section. In the summer extra help was needed to repair and replace ties and rails. For years a tower stood where the railroads crossed. The Great Northern had the right-of-way, so someone had to be in the tower to throw the switches so a Soo train could pass through. In 1905 the Soo Railroad went through Conway from east to west. That was the beginning of the end for Conway. The towns of Fordville, Dahlen, Lankin and Adams were built. That took business that Conway had enjoyed.
For years there were two depots in Conway. Then, one year they closed the Great Northern depot and moved the Soo Depot to where the tracks crossed. It became a Union depot. Tom Burris bought the Great Northern depot building and moved it to his property and made a barn of it. The Union depot is now gone, and trains no longer stop in Conway.
Harry Burris ran a store near Bert Stary’s tire shop. He also had the post office. His family lived in the back of the store His oldest son had a broken leg in a cast and was in bed when the store burned. The family escaped unharmed and they saved the post office. Burris opened a store in the Merriman Block and set up the post office there. He and his family lived above the store.
At the time, Jack McDonald had a barber shop where the drug store had been. Conrad Bjerke had a hardware store at the far end of the Merriman Block. One cold night in winter the Merriman Block burned. When Mr. Wurth burned his hands, he put them in snow and they were frostbitten. (He moved to Larimore later and ran a restaurant there.) Harry Burris saved the post office and again the family escaped unharmed. He gave up the store business after that. Conrad Bjerke left town, and the stores were never rebuilt.
Mary Sobolick (Mrs. Swehla), became postmistress next, and the post office was moved into a small wooden building across the street from the Merriman Block.
Bert Stary had an automobile dealership and garage on the Main Street not far from the Conway Bank. He did a booming business for some years. One day the garage burned and was never rebuilt.
After the fire of 1902, a single brick store was built across the street from the Merriman Block. Frank Vorachek ran a store there until it burned. He used a small wooden structure nearby as a store while a new brick store was built, and that brick building still stands. After Vorachek sold the store, a Mr. Johnson ran it a few years. Later, Charles and Mary Hennessey ran the store.
Fatal Fire At Conway
The Park River News, September 9, 1897, pg 4
“The village of Conway was the scene of a terrible disaster last Saturday night. Some time in the afternoon, three hoboes started out on a looting expedition. They entered a number of stores and while one of them occupied the attention of the clerks, the others helped themselves to whatever was near. In one of the drug stores they took all the liquor they wanted and then proceeded to create a general disturbance. This, the marshal objected to and, assisted by a number of citizens, he attempted to arrest them. A general fight ensued in which a number of shots were fired and one of the hobos was slightly wounded. At last the men were placed in the village lock up, which was a small one-story frame building. About 11 o’clock the alarm of fire was sounded, and it was found that the jail was in flames. The men, in some way, had set fire to the building, presumably in the hope of escape, but before assistance could reach them, they were most horribly burned, one of them dying instantly, another living only a few hours, and the third dying Sunday at 1 p.m,. It is said that the men’s names were Welch, Murphy, and Dady, respectively, but nothing further of their identity could be learned.”