Balfour, ND

Balfour, ND

Balfour was founded in in 1898 about 35 miles southeast of Minot. It was named for Arthur, Lord Balfour, a British statesman and essayist. Population is said to have peaked at 390, but it now holds less than thirty.

US Census Data for Balfour
Total Population by Place

1940 – 193
1950 – 162
1960 – 159
1970 – 93
1980 – 51
2000 – 20
2010 – 26

Balfour is home to numerous vacant structures, including an impressive abandoned school. Balfour’s current residents are doing a very good job of safeguarding the town’s history when it comes to out of town visitors. They approached us for a friendly chat within ten minutes of our arrival.

All photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, Copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

See Also: Balfour Public School

See Also: Back to Balfour

60 Comments on “Balfour, ND

  1. It looks as though some of the buildings are being fixed up in an effort to make it a type of touristy stop. The gas station right as you drive into town has an entirely new facade and gas pumps and it looks like the hotel is also being renovated. This was in August of 2009, so I’m not sure if other stuff has been worked on also.

    • Well that’s good news. They have that great location right off the highway. I hope they pursue the renovations in a manner worthy of history. We’ll have to make a trip back and take some more photos at some point. Thanks for the update.

  2. One of these houses weren’t rumored to be haunted if i remember right?

    • Yes, one of the local residents told us the house pictured in pics five and six is haunted, or at least that’s what the last resident said before she died.

      • It may hurt my rationality but it find that believing interesting. 🙂

        I mean i find that abandoned house surrounded by brassfield beautifull but disturbing.I guess it’s one of the tribute to human versatility and evolution.

      • My parents, Arnold and Madge Alme, raised the four of us girls: Pam, Penny, Patsy and Paulie in that house. Mom meticulously groomed and mowed that yard every week. She was very proud of it. We always had huge gardens! We four girls were all assigned our own flower beds that we were required to keep manicured and weeded. Hoses and sprinklers weren’t available at that time, so we hauled water in pails by hand to water those flowerbeds. Dad subsequently sold the property, which was then referred to as “Petticoat Junction”. I have never heard stories about it being haunted. Would love to hear what you know. Would be interested in knowing who the last people were to live in the house. It was quite the house in its day! It had four bedrooms upstairs where the four of us girls resided. The master bedroom was on the main floor. It had a very interesting attic where we spent many summers rummaging through old stuff that had been up there for years, including old coke bottles with dead mice. Yikes! But — we found lots of treasures as well! As children, we were always excited to see Carl Ness’ yellow truck heading towards our house. We could spot it miles away (at least it seemed miles away) when we were kids. Carl always brought us bags of candy. Shorty Schmidt and Pat Chambers were frequent visitors. We loved to walk to Balfour to get ice cream at Cole’s Grocery Store. We always stopped by Helen and Pius Locker’s house for a visit and for Helen’s fabulous cheese.

        • Helen and Pius were my Godparents. George and Hazel Udelhofen were my parents. George had Balfour Wrecking and they lived in Balfour for years before I was born. Their children are/were: Margaret Ann; Norma, Virgil, and Mary. I was only about three years old when the family moved from Balfour. Virgil and I were at Balfour’s Reunion this last time. I believe that was in 2010. Virgil passed away on 01/21/13. It would be nice to hear from Virgil’s friends or towns people here, who lived in Balfour, so Virgil’s family could read the comments.

          • Thank you Mary… I was looking through the comments to see if dad or Virgil actually had friends. Haha…. I find it interesting.

  3. I’m from Chicago and I had an internship out on ND this past summer. I was never really interested in ghost towns until I visited the state and I saw those old 30’s era schoolhouses that seemed to be in good condition but were curiously abandoned. Anyhow, I searched Google maps for a place to stop for lunch before I set out that morning for Stanley, ND, and it told me that Balfour had an Olive Garden. Luckily I didn’t trust Google! I saw Balfour and many other ghost towns on this site on the way up to my destination, and they fascinated me so much that I might make a trip up there again this summer!

  4. We grew up in Balfour graduated in 1965, Irene 1966, look forward to the reunion this year 2010.

  5. I went to high school in Balfour and graduated in 1964. Balfour just had a reunion before the 4th of july and I enjoyed the time visiting with a lot of old friends. Thank-you for the time and pictures of the town as makes one kick back and think about the great times.

  6. Went may times for class reunions in Befour …My dad , Loren Swanson graduate there in 1940 I believe – He went on the graduate for UND and was VP of Operations. He loved the people in Balfour and went twice a year to visit. I own a lot that my grandpa Frank Swanson had a service station and car lot.

    • Hi Steve,
      When I was at UND they opened a new dormatory, Swanson Hall, named after Loren. My brother Ken was lucky enough to be one of its first residents. It was pretty cool to look at that building on campus and think how someone from my small hometown of Balfour had made such a contribution of service at UND that they named a building after him. Still really cool.

  7. Went may times for class reunions in Belfour …My dad , Loren Swanson graduate there in 1940 I believe – He went on the graduate for UND and was VP of Operations. He loved the people in Balfour and went twice a year to visit. I own a lot that my grandpa Frank Swanson had a service station and car lot.

    • My dad knew your dad. When we first moved to Grand Forks, we had dinner several times with Loren (and was it his mother?) at an on campus house. Loren introduced us to UND hockey. I am still a big UND fan. I follow them the best I can from California.

  8. My grandparents were married in Balfour in November 1907. Grandpa had an uncle living there. Is there a Lutheran church in Balfour? What is its name and and where might its old records be kept?

    • Yes there is/was a Lutheran Church – it was Balfour Lutheran Church. I don’t think it has had services for many years – your best bet for records may be to contact the ELCA synod of North Dakota. They may be able to tell you how to get records. I went to this church for several years in the 50s – 60s.

      • Do you remember Pastor Einar Lenander? He was my uncle, and I remember visiting him in Balfour when I was very young.

        • I remember Pastor Lenander well. He was a super nice Pastor. Had Confirmation classes from him, practiced choir in his house (parsonage), and he officiated at my father’s funeral. I was told he was one of the first people in the U.S. to have received penicillin ( for pneumonia?) – prior to coming to Balfour.

          Alvin Meller, Balfour HS class of “59”.

    • We live near the Lutheran church in Balfour and attended services until it’s last service just over a year ago. If you would like info about the church or community, Francis Martwick is a wonderful historian! He will amaze you with his knowledge and you will be impressed at how well he remembers specific dates of local happenings!

      • Once there were two Lutheran Churches in Balfour. At least one was the Norwegian Lutheran (later Evangelical Lutheran Church) This was the one with the unique and strikingly beautiful bell tower. My father, Rev. Karl Astrup Xavier, served this church from 1949-1952, from his base in Drake. He also served Butte and Kief. Earlier, about 40 years before my father, this church was served out of Minot by his uncle, Nicolai Astrup Larsen (brother-in-law of his father, Rev. Karl Xavier, same name).
        At the time, I was just going to start first grade when we moved about 90 miles away, to Mountrail County for a 5-church parish in Coulee (between Stanley and Kenmare).
        Several times I have driven up 52 to get to friends in Minot and Williston, and have stopped in Drake and Balfour, with a couple of stops in Butte and Kief. Most of these churches in the McHenry County area began a consolidation (“merger”) trend in the late 1940s and 50s. Many of them have closed, due largely to the rural population decline. As a footnote, if anyone is interested, Butte had a state basketball championship (small schools, “Class C”) about 1951. As I recall, all five of the starters were members of the St. Paul’s church in Butte, and I believe it is the only time in state history that all five starters of a championship team were members of the same church.
        Wonderful stories to tell and hear, and may I say, having lived and traveled in several countries, salt of the earth people out the in the plains of North Dakota. Thanks for posting your photos and stories.

        • My uncle, Rev. Einar Lenander, served Balfour Lutheran Church (and also Butte) in the late fifties to early sixties. I vaguely remember visiting there during that time. I’m wondering if the church is still standing.

  9. I taught in Balfour from 1975-1977. It was my very first teaching job. I loved the students and their families. It was a wonderful experience!!! I attended a school reunion back in the 90’s and was back to visit Warren and Elaine Zakopyko in 2006, but haven’t been back since. It was a charming and wonderful place. I look at the windows of my classroom all boarded up–what a flash of memories!! Thank you for doing this website–it is a wonderful thing. I was born in Hillsboro, ND, and moved out of state in 1994. North Dakota
    will always be my “home”.

      • I taught social studies to grades 7-12. It was hard work as I had seven preps a day but I learned so much about teaching and people. I have great memories!!!

  10. Does anybody know if you are able to go inside of the school? I would love to photograph this building for a photography project that I’m working on.

    • Last time I was there was about a year ago and it was pretty nasty. I’ve been in the school many times, my parents actually met there as my dad was the business teacher. My mom was a Balfour Hornet cheerleader and my grand parents lived there lives there. We had an out house until I was in kindergarten and the old city jail sat on the property used as a grain storage building. I would love to see it revitalized by the oil boom, but I am deeply concerned about what this could mean to our way of life here in North Dakota.

      • Jackie what is your family name and what year was your mom a cheerleader?
        I was the last 7th grader to attend Balfour before it closed. There were 40 kids in K-12. There were 4 kids in my family going there at the time. I was the only 7th grader, my brother and sister who are twins were the only 4th graders and my sister was a Junior and had the largest class in the school with a whole 9 kids. If I remember right, there were 8 girls in that class and one guy.
        The only sports we had were boys and girls basketball. Every girl in junior high through Senior played on the team and the boys in the high school had to be staticians or help out in some way. Same for when it was boys basketball season. All the boys played and the girls were either Balfour Hornet Cheerleaders or staticians.
        After the last school year in 1979-1980 the students were split up between Butte, Karlsruhe and Drake.
        It was culture shock for me to go from being the only 7th grader to 8th grade at Drake and being in a class of 22. I was in pretty good shape though because I was with the 8th graders at Balfour and did most of their work.
        A few yers after it closed a guy bought the building and used it for his business. He had some kind of milking equipment business. The garage door on the lower right side of the building was where the kitchen and lunchroom were. He could drive his vehicles right down into the gym.
        When I went to school at Balfour we had Bomb drills. We would all go down to the gym, stay close to the wall, squat down and cover our heads.
        There were alot of Minuteman missle bases in that area. Crazy to think about all that now.

      • I am so sorry I haven’t returned your email! My grandparents were Florence and Orville Aanrud and lived on the first place to the east and south of the highway. Lyle had the station then and I loved those years. it is my intention to return there soon to live. Would you know how to contact someone regarding Sholey’s house?

        • Hi Jackie, I am Carol Chole and lived next to your grandparents the whole time we lived in Balfour. Jerry was in my class and I remember lots of fun time at the Aanruds. The last time I was by our house the weeds were as tall as the roof. Kind of sad. Don’t know the condition of the house.

          • Carol,
            I bought Franks old 1949 Chevy truck and restored it. I have been trying to find any family member to show them this as the last time Frank drove it was 1980. The truck has been in numerous newspapers and web sites during the restoration but I cannot seem to find any of the Weiningers. I wrote them and called them in Balfour to no avail.

          • Hi Carol, I remember some good times with you and others in our small HS. Your Dad’s grocery store was a gathering place for us kids – good memories. Hope you are doing well.

            Allie or Ally Meller (never did know how to spell it!)

      • I would have had your sister in class–she would have been either a 7th or 8th grader when I left in 1977. Wow–I would love to come back for another reunion one of these years.

  11. jim iverson my maternal grandmother grew up in balfour. her parents and 8 other kids lived there too. thier father had a farm near where us hwy 52 runs today. grandma worked as aphone operator in the back of a drugstore until a fire destroyed much of the town in 1917.

  12. Does anyone know if any of the old homes could be for sale to be renovated? We are new to north Dakota and would love to fix up one of the old homes.

    • There’s not alot there now but I believe there are homes that could be renovated. My grandpa was the rural mail carrier and the luthern church is still in good shape, although the steeple was hit by lightening some years ago. I have photos of the original structure, as this was an important part of my life growing up. I miss it.

      • Does anyone know the names of people who still live there or own property there? Would love to fix up one of the old houses there.

  13. I am from Balfour ND, or rather I was as a child. I remember my grand parents taking me out to an old stone house that was down a winding path driveway but I can’t remember where it is, does anyone know? It has haunted my dreams for years and I would love to find it!

    • Is this Jackie Alme??? I babysat all of you when your parents went to Georgia in 1976 or 77 I believe and your brothers were in my wedding?
      Sue Mjoness Bugge

  14. My father (Chuck Anderson) was superintendent in this beautiful school…I remember spending many days & evenings exploring and helping with getting things set up for school to start or cleaned up at the end of the school year…I can almost smell the chalk dust from cleaning erasers. I didn’t attend school in Balfour, but I knew most of the students due to church and sports. This would have been in the late 60’s/early 70’s.

    • Your dad was our drivers ed instructor in 68. Good times then. I have stopped by to photo the school over the years as well & not safe to go in any more. You can view the clouds through the inside from the ground floor as most of the floor and all the roof is rotted and has fallen in.
      Monte Cole Jamestown,ND

  15. I taught in Balfour from 1975-77 along with Sue M. See previous post from her…Allen Elness and Dick…?? ( math teacher). I taught grades 3 and 4 and it was my first real teaching job. Wow, I can’t believe the school is still standing! I have great memories…great family atmosphere in such a small community..will never forget it or all the wonderful people who treated teachers like we were royalty. I was married at the time and my husband , Hal, taught science. We lived in a house rented by Alfred?….forgot last name, but it was located next to a missile site…bizarre!, Wonder if the missile sites are still there. Balfour…a once in a lifetime experience!

    • I remember both you and “Miss Mjoness” from my years at Balfour Public. I was probably in 7th or 8th grade and I got to work in your classroom sometimes. It must have been a good experience because I am a teacher today! 🙂 Was the math teacher you mentioned possibly Richard Lysne? Richard Roen? I think your rental house belonged to Alfred Martin and, yes, there was a missile site VERY nearby! The missile sites have all been deactivated, and most were destroyed after they were “emptied.” The school closed after my Junior year, which sounds like it would have been just a few years after you were there. We still go out to the Balfour area to look around and show our kids where I grew up.

  16. I need to correct myself….the minutemen missile bases around Balfour and Drake have not been deactivated or destroyed. They are still under the watch of the Minot Air Force Base. Some others in the state have been closed and/or destroyed. BD

  17. As I had mentioned in a prior entry here, my brother, Virgil Udelhofen passed away on 01/21/13. Even though I was only about 3 or 4 when our family moved from Balfour, I would like to attend the Balfour Reunion again, mainly as a tribute to my brother, Virgil, because he always enjoyed the Balfour Reunions. I checked with my sister, Norma and she said she is not sure when another Balfour Reunion is planned and she usually gets information through the mail when there is one upcoming. If someone would know when another Reunion is planned please leave a message here! Thank you!

    • Mary please let me know as well if there will be any reunions. I think id like to attend one for Dad.

  18. It is great to look at these photographs and to read the comments from those who have lived there. What a rich history! I lived in Drake in the early 1980’s and loved to go to “Pete’s Standard” station. They had fantastic food and the fellowship of the community was second to none. I would love to go back for a hamburger and Arlene Weidler’s homemade potato salad. The winter pictures really capture the intensity of the winter weather in that area.

  19. Yes! I remember Frank and Rose Weninger. Frank and Rose were good friends of my parents, John and Dorothy Locker. They would come over often to visit with their son Jerry. Rose eventually moved to Drake after Frank died, and continued to be good friends with my parents, and then an especially good friend to my mom after my dad died. We were sad to hear when Rose died. She was a truly exceptional person!

    • Did they have a daughter linda? I found a Linda Budeau in Balfour and I think she was there daughter. I ask because I bought franks 1949 Chevy truck last year. It sat from 1980 ( he died in 1981) until I bought in 2013.

      • Yes, Linda is their daughter. Congratulations on your “new” purchase. I’m sure it’s a beauty!

        • It was in the Minot Daily News last week and they did a pretty nice story. They got a few things wrong but overall the article was ok. I left a message on Linda ‘s home phone yesterday and a message on Facebook but no reply. Maybe I should call Gerry in Bismarck. Anyway, if you have any pull with either of them I would be grateful. If you have high speed internet I have a forum on a web site about the truck. It is; Then go to the forum section and in the search engine type in; the beast.. You will see hundreds of pictures and a story of the rebuild process. What I need is any picture of the truck when it was on the farm and any other information they can provide. Sorry Frank died so young but I will be the would be thrilled his truck will live on another 100 years. I am on Facebook too

        • Brenda, do you know how I can contact Gerry in Bismarck? I tried to contact Linda in Balfour but she has ignored my requests

    • I wrote once before but I desperate for anyone living in or near Balfour that Weninger’s or Budeau’s that may have known Frank and Rose. Frank had a 1949 Chevy Truck fro use on the farm and after his death it sat until 2013 and I bought and restored it. I really need to talk to someone from the family about Frank.

  20. I have many family members claim they were born in Balfour yet I don’t see where the town was ever big enough for a hospital or a clinic. Does anyone have info on a mid-wife(s) they may have gone to? I know some of these people were born on their family farms & I’m adding the townships in their tree information but I’m definitely curious about midwives.

  21. I remember Pastor Lenander well. He was a super nice Pastor. Had Confirmation classes from him, practiced choir in his house (parsonage), and he officiated at my father’s funeral. I was told he was one of the first people in the U.S. to have received penicillin ( for pneumonia?) – prior to coming to Balfour.

    Alvin Meller, Balfour HS class of “59”.

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