Volume 125, Number
Don’t count Churchs Ferry among the dead yet
BY RYAN BAKKEN Grand Forks Herald
Paul Christenson is the mayor — and the mower.
A mechanic by day, he spends almost every summer evening cutting the 30 acres of grass in this town of 10 residents. It takes 24 hours "on the seat" to complete the job, he said, adding that it’s usually time to start over as soon as he’s finished.
So, the clipped lawns aren’t a cosmetic makeover for Churchs Ferry’s 125th anniversary and all-school reunion this weekend. That’s how the vast open space always looks, even though only four homes grace a town that had 53 houses removed by a 2000 buyout prompted by the rising Devils Lake.
Christenson becomes animated when asked why he doesn’t let the grass grow wild. "No, no, no, never," he said. "I would never do that. This is my town. I wouldn’t let it go even if I had to pay everything out of my own pocket. "We don’t have much, but we have more than a lot of North Dakota towns that have let things go." Tall grass isn’t the only thing they’re not willing to forget.
Another is the $3.5 million buyout, which still rankles Christenson and Sid Bingaman, the town’s other driving force.
"We still have never had a drop of water in the lowest part of town," Bingaman said. "Paul and I still get calls from people who think the whole town is underwater. People think we no longer exist.
"The government wanted to take us off the map, but couldn’t."
Bingaman, a 66-year-old schoolteacher who lives two miles from town, is president of the alumni association of the school, which closed in 1988. He’s also president of the community club, which holds a demolition derby as its annual fundraiser. So, it was only natural that he took the horns of the 125th celebration, which opened Friday with a one-mile memorial walk and ended Sunday with a polka church service.
Visitors see that the street signs remain, as does the City Hall, the post office, Kat’s Korral bar, Paul’s Repair Shop, the Zion Lutheran Church, a museum, the Masonic Temple and the former school’s gym/kitchen/stage addition that was purchased by the alumni group.
More than grass has been growing. Since the buyout, the city has added six people and two businesses.
Gardendwellers Farm, operated by Barry and Holly Mawby and son Adam, grows custom crops for wineries and restaurants and offers horticulture tours and workshops. Stan and Karen Howen and daughter Kylee are the other newcomers. The other new business is the expanding Water’s Edge Dog Boarding kennel, operated by long-time residents Phil and Donna Eli.
Churchs Ferry is still incorporated, with the sewer system and wells still working. Bingaman, "partly out of spite," bought eight empty lots before the government could. The lots sometimes are occupied by construction workers’ RVs, but Bingaman hopes they someday will include homes. Most of the town’s lots can’t be developed because of conditions of the buyout. "I’ve lived here my entire life and I don’t want to let it die," Bingaman said. "There are little areas in town that no one can tell us what to do with."
Christenson, who runs the city with wife Julie and the Elis as council members, also harbors hopes that Churchs Ferry can come back, although not all the way back.
"A lot of people have stopped by and said they’d like to move here," he said. "We could legally get eight, nine more families in here." The city operates on an annual budget of $10,000 to $12,000, much of it going for the mowing, tree-trimming and road maintenance, which the mayor also handles. It’s a labor of love for a town he’s always called home.
"There’s a heritage born into you," Christenson said. "Some don’t want to give up that heritage. Like me. Like Sid."
Churchs Ferry and neighboring Lake Irvine both received their name from Irvine Church, who began operating a ferry across the Mauvais Coulee in 1883.
– When the railroad came through in 1886, all buildings except one were moved one-half mile north to its current location.
– At the end of World War I, the town included three hotels, three banks, doctors, dentists, a furniture store, several clothing stores, a garage, millinery shop, photography studio, two department stores, saloons, blacksmith shops, drug store, harness and luggage shop, coal docks, dray lines, livery stables, three grain elevators, a bakery and a theater hall.
– Before the government’s buyout of 53 homes in 2000, Churchs Ferry had 113 residents.
Churchs Ferry Mayor Paul Christenson says of his town, "We don’t have much, but we have more than a lot of North Dakota towns that have let things go." Churchs Ferry today looks a great deal like a park. Grand Forks Herald photo by John Stennes.
Sid Bingaman, chairman of the Churchs Ferry 125th anniversary committee, stands in one of the eight now empty city lots he bought before the government could. Grand Forks Herald photo by John Stennes.
School ends in a blast!
On one of the last days of summer school, Warwick School science teacher Duane Peterson and students launched homemade rockets.
Gathered near the launching pad are a few of the 60 students in the summer program along with Supt. Guthrie. Left to right are Jackson Delorme, Virgil Feather, Bill Brown Jr., Addison Greyhorn, Supt. Charles Guthrie, Phoenix Joramo, Duane Peterson and Nick Joramo.
Young golfers at Leeds
The Leeds Golf Club held its seventh annual adult/youth tournament on June 22. Eighteen youth ages four to 19 took part in the tournament, which was sponsored by the Leeds Golf Club and area businesses. Participants were, left to right, back row, Brad Nelsen, Darren Young, Logan Gunderson, Matthew Pepple, Dustin Paulson, Ross Braun, Eric Schlieve and Trevor Torgerson. Third row: Jesse Hoffert, Brady Stoll, Dylan Torgerson, Daniel Harkness, Micheal Urness and Dallas Johnson. Second row: Lane Ritterman, Aidan Ritterman and Paige Johnson. The youngest golfer, Jax Ahlberg is in front.
Six Maddock natives took part in Fargo Marathon events held on May 17. Judy Kallenbach of Maddock, Eric and Brook (Kallenbach) Olson and Michael Sorlie, all of Gwinner and Kristi Tangelin of Fargo completed the 5K run and Becky Kallenbach of Fargo finished the half marathon. Pictured, from left to right, are Becky, Judy, Eric, Kristi, Michael and Brook.
The American Legion Post 86 of Minnewaukan recently received another donation to help with repair expenses for the Legion building.
Accepting the donation from Western State Bank President Gary Lochow, right, is Mark Motis, a member of the Legion post.
Amateur radio club has Field Day exercise
Benson County Amateur Radio Club members operated for 24 hours straight to participate in a national emergency radio communications exercise held June 28-29. The local ham club set up their new trailered tower at the Leeds park in a virtual gale, but there were no glitches; they only decided to let "discretion be the better part of valor" and not quite fully extend the tower to its full 33 foot height.
The new tower proved itself to be just what they needed: a safe way to erect their antennas without the need for about eight people, which is what the old tower required. This was a good rehearsal for the planned September 2008 "Roads Acting as Dikes" exercise that the amateur radio operators hope to participate in.
During this exercise, which is called "Field Day," the local hams contacted some 227 other amateur radio stations in 45 states (including Hawaii) and three Canadian provinces. They operated on emergency power from a generator, just as they might have to do in a real emergency, setting up their radios in their converted Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) trailer.
Part of the purpose of Field Day is to make local officials aware of amateur radio communications capabilities in a disaster situation and the club got to do just that with visits from two Benson County commissioners, the mayor of Leeds and the Leeds fire chief. The public was also welcome and there were several visitors at the Field Day, including an amateur radio operator passing through Leeds on his way bicycling from the state of Washington to Maine.
The Benson County hams operated one of several participating Field Day sites in North Dakota, including sites at Grand Forks, Bismarck, Minot and Dickinson. Had this been a genuine emergency, the Benson County hams, like about 30,000 other participating amateur radio operators in the US and Canada, proved they could handle emergency communications without cell phones or telephones.
Participating in the Benson County radio exercise were James Armey of Cando; Gene Triebold of Devils Lake; Curt Lunde and Kevin Lunde of Leeds; Teran Hermanson of Harlow; Richard Budd of York; and Robert Tovsrud of Santa Monica, Calif.
Leeds Field Day site with antenna, emergency generator and communications trailer.
Jim Armey really did start the generator with one pull — after he pushed the on switch.
Curt Lunde operates the radio while Leeds Mayor Lloyd Himle looks on.
Pastor Rich Budd cranks up the radio tower.
Terry Hermanson readies the antenna rotator.
Scenes from Sheyenne’s 125th July 4 parade
A large crowd viewed the parade at Sheyenne celebrating the 125th anniversary of the town and an all-school reunion. These New Rockford High School graduates were dressed in patriotic colors. Left to right are Monica Reis, Lindsey Gedrose, Jenna Reis, Tracy Reis and Laura Anderson. (Farmers Press photo)
The Little German Band from New Rockford provided music during the parade. (Farmers Press photo)
Also providing music were these area musicians. On the keyboard is Russell Hanson of Sheyenne, Dennis Thompson of Devils Lake and Gary Westby of Sheyenne. (Photo by Merlin Foard)
This float for Sheyenne High School featured the Sheyenne Phantom. The float was put together by the Albrecht family. (Farmers Press photo)
Appearing in the Sheyenne parade in this electric vehicle were new UND president Robert Kelley and his wife, Marcia. In the back seat is UND vice present Robert Boyd, who is married to Sheyenne native Dawn Stedman. (Photo by Merlin Foard)
There were a number of beautiful vintage vehicles in the parade. Four of the more unusual are pictured. This is an old pickup owned and driven by Gene Woolley of Oberon. Former Oberon and Sheyenne resident Arlene Wetzel was a passenger. (Photo by Merlin Foard)
This beautiful Buick 4-door hardtop dates back to 1957. (Photo by Merlin Foard)
Here’s a 1959 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight. Look at that continental spare tire deck. (Photo by Merlin Foard)
This late 1950s Plymouth Fury was driven by Rep. Don Vigesaa of Cooperstown. (Photo by Merlin Foard)
"Small Town Spirit" was the theme of the vehicle driven by these two young ladies. Sponsor was the Sheyenne Post Office. (Photo by Merlin Foard)
"Small Town Pride" was the theme of the vehicle driven by this young fellow. Sponsor was the Sheyenne Post Office. (Photo by Merlin Foard)