Remembrances of Richland Township,
Flaxton, North Dakota and the Soo Line Railroad

From “Pioneers and Progress,” Volume II, The Burke County Historical Society, ©1989, printed by The Pierce County Tribune, Rugby, North Dakota, pages 446-447:

Norman and Mereith Nygaard

by Norman Nygaard

First settlers in Richland Township were: Anton Winther, N.W. of Section 28-163-90; Mada [sic] Stranskov1, S.W. of Section 28-163-90 and Lars Jacobsen, N.E. of Section 32-163-90 in the year 1898.

Richland Township, Homesteaders and First Landowners, from “Pioneers and Progress,” Volume I, The Burke County and White Earth Valley Historical Society, 1971, ©1972, printed by Quality Printing Service, a division of Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, North Dakota, page 795.

To see a larger version of the map, click on it.

My father, Anders Jargen [sic] Nygaard2, known as A. J. Nygaard, settled on S.W. of Section 20-163-90 about the year 1900. He emigrated from Denmark as did my mother, maiden name Margrete Andersen. They were married in 1904 and had three children: Norman, Helmer and Margaret.

Homesteaders endured severe conditions. Many left because of dry weather and cold climate, poor crops and poor prices. Ground water for wells was hard to find in adequate quantities.

A lot of digging was done to find water in or at shallow depths. Some water was found this way. In the end it was wells at depths of two or three hundred feet that most settlers came to depend upon.

My birthdate was 1906. The early dates I write about are as I heard them talked about.

There was tall grass cover seen by the first homesteaders. Fire, however, burned it off and this had no doubt happened every now and then in the past. The year 1906 is remembered as the year of unusual snow. Much snow around buildings and covering smaller shacks or buildings was not unusual. Sleigh tracks drifted full, building up higher and higher where there was much travel. Near town they became so high that rigs could not meet without risk of tipping over or getting stuck. The unloaded outfits tried to find a turn-off or take a chance and get off the track. When spring came, these roads were slower to melt so they looked like bridges or something.

Dry years were not unusual. The years 1912 and 1915, however, were very good crop years. In 1916 there was a very bad hail storm in Richland Township. There were crops lost and windows were all broken on the west sides of buildings.

Our cows and horses were driven before the storm towards the east and through the pasture fence. Chickens were dead in the yard. The years in the early '20s were poor. There were more Russian thistles than grain in the bundles.

At the age of 14, I and others my age, hauled bundles to the threshing machine. We were not good bundle haulers, but worked hard at it and stayed on the job with blisters and sore places here and there.

In 1916 my father bought a quarter of land for $5300.00. It took until 1929 to have it paid for and then the Depression came and we lost it for taxes.

In 1932 my brother and I went to Ambrose, North Dakota and hauled bundles for 25 days. We got $2.00 a day. Wheat was $.32 a bushel and it cost the farmer $.08 a bushel to have it threshed, not to mention other costs. We came out with more than the farmer.

Flaxton, North Dakota

Flaxton has had an unusual or unique existence through the years because it has had trade from more than its natural trade area.

In the years before the branch line to Whitetail, Montana was completed in 1906, people all the way from Ambrose, North Dakota traded in Flaxton. After 1906 the train crews, engineers, brakemen and postal clerks lived and traded in Flaxton.

When the Flaxton Hotel was built in about 1907 by John Siebert, it drew customers from a wide area. It was much preferred stopping place for hunters, salesmen, train personnel and passengers.

The Flaxton High School was built about 1912. It took in parts of township school districts.

In 1918 or so, Flaxton got the Burke County World War Memorial Building.

At about the same time, a good garage was built to satisfy the Ford Motor Company, who required that dealers be able to service Fords to keep their dealerships.

The Farmers Co-op Oil Company was started in 1927 by Henry Holtz and J. P. Smith from Richland Township, Ralph Ingerson, Joe Pfeifer, Nels Johnson and Dick Owings from south of Flaxton and others.

In the 1930s the co-op ran three gas trucks hauling gas, oil and grease to a wide area east to Norma, Tolley and west to as far west of Columbus and all the way to the hills south. Gas was pailed out in five-gallon cans into farmers' 54 gallon drums. Gas was priced at this time in the 12 to 18 cents a gallon range.

Flaxton had a flour mill. It was built and operated by Olaf Meyers. It had equipment to turn out white flour all sacked and weighed and also ground feed for farmers. The mill was across the tracks from the depot. It was destroyed by fire.

Stock was shipped out Fridays from branch lines and local delivery to South St. Paul, Minnesota.

Oil was discovered in the Flaxton area in the late 1950s. For a time oil and equipment companies headquartered in Flaxton.

Telephone exchange was an early fixture in Flaxton, dating to about 1915. The year 1927 brought a storm that broke down many of the lines. It brings to mind the big pole with seemingly hundreds of wires in front of the telephone office which fell out onto the street and seemed like a hopeless problem. Ernest Piercy, about 20 years old, just out of high school, had been hired by the telephone company just before the storm. As a lineman, he proved up to the task. He got it repaired and into working order.

To further indicate the larger than normal trade area which Flaxton enjoyed, I will mention the number of businesses in Flaxton in the years when many more people lived on the farms. There were four groceries, two or three dry goods stores, four hardwares, two liveries, a doctor and hospital with a nurse, two halls (one showed movies without sound quite early), a wood shop that made water tanks as well as other things, blacksmith shops, weekly newspaper, four elevators, butcher shop, two lumberyards, train service, three mail routes, barber shop, pool halls, etc.

Farmers in the area brought in milk, cream and eggs to customers and a dairy made regular deliveries for years.

Burke County Fair Association has held fairs for years on an annual basis, on a site in Richland Township just out of Flaxton.

Mrs. A. J. Nygaard passed away in 1924. A. J. Nygaard passed away in 1946.

Norman and Merieth [sic] (maiden name Urton) have four children and four grandchildren.

Norman and Mereith are retired from farming, but are active in senior citizens activities and gardening. Mereith paints and quilts. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1987.

1His correct name was Mads P. Strandskov.

2The correct spelling of A. J. Nygaard's name is Anders Jorgen Nygaard. He was also known as Andrew J. Nygaard.


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