Forgotten Remains of Coteau, North Dakota

Coteau, North Dakota

Coteau, ND was founded in 1906 in Burke County, northwest of Minot, just over a dozen miles from the Canadian border. Like many, many other towns on this website, Coteau’s population peaked around 1920, at the apex of the railroad transportation era (and just before the Great Depression) with a population of 150. Coteau was actually on our list of towns to visit in May of 2010, but we ran out of time and passed it by. Boy, did we miss out.

Coteau, North Dakota

Tom Pence contributed these incredible photos of Coteau with the following comments:

The Methodist Church shut down probably within the last ten years. It was functional when I left in 1993 (so don’t blame me!). There was a community center of some type. I was not familiar with it but there is a stage inside with lots of wooden benches. Pretty rough shape inside as you can see.

Coteau, North Dakota

“Coteau” is derivative of Coteau du Missouri which is a name for the Missouri River Plateau and also a reference to the line of hills east of the river. The Battle of Grand Coteau, the last battle between Metis Buffalo Hunters and the Dakota Sioux, happened approximately 90 miles southeast of this settlement in 1851.

The former Coteau Public School is now a ruin, and relics of the Coteau Bank are now on display at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck.

Coteau, North Dakota

Coteau, North Dakota

Coteau, North Dakota

Photos by Tom Pence, Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media

72 Comments on “Forgotten Remains of Coteau, North Dakota

  1. I recall visiting Coteau as a child, and I can’t wait to go again. Thanks for the post. I forwarded the Coteau email to my mom because she lived there as a child. Here is the story I got out of her regarding the little ghost town………..

    This is interesting about Coteau as I was there yesterday. Les & I went to Betty & Eddies 50th aniv. celebration in Bowbells which is real close to Coteau. On the way to Stanley we drove in and I showed Les the little ghost town where I went to grade school, went to Bible school & Sunday school, etc.

    I used to play a lot on those church steps too. Right across the street was Mrs. Parsins place. (The little house pictured) Mom would visit her and I could play in her back yard which I thought was paradise. She had little paths going all over with flowers everywhere. I have always remembered it.

    The pink house was where the Johnsons lived. The old man later lived close to mom and dad in the Minot apartments. He passed away shortly b/4 dad did. They were old friends and one of their boys was a classmate of mine.

    The bar that grandpa owned was just north of the church on the opposite side. It isn’t there anymore. We first lived inside the bar as there was living space in the back and a lot of upstairs bedrooms. I think it was at one time a hotel.

    We lived in three different houses after that and one is pictured right b/4 the pictures of the school.

    The old school was replaced with a new one after we left but shortly after that they closed it down and the kids that were left went to Bowbells.

    I would love to take all of you girls there someday before I die because I have so many good memories there.

    • Hi
      My family has had a presence in Coteau since around 1951. Merton and Ida Hinds moved into Coteau after selling family farm to eldest son Robert near the community of Flaxton. Merton worked for Great Northern Rail Road until his death in 1955. During this time He owned the last active bar in Coteau and Ida was a part time teacher at school. Their youngest son Mike ( my dad) attended school in Coteau until it closed then he returned to family farm and Finnished in Flaxton. After that Mike started his career in Automotive repair and returned to Coteau and purchased the service station from Phill Christianson and had a small convince type store and Auto Body shop along with his sevice station. Along came me (Jerome ) I grew up in Coteau started my career as electrician and like my dad I soon moved back to Coteau with a wife and kids to raise my kids like I was in my little Ghost Town. We are still close to the community we own property there and try to mow and keep it like it was but Coteau is not quite the same as it was with no business it is more o the ghost town than ever. We do have some young families moving in and recognizing the true benefits of 21st century Coteau, the great lifestyle and child rearing. I can only hope that one of my children will have the option to do what I have done to, make a life and raise their family in this historic little GHOST TOWN

      Jerome Hinds

      • Phil Christensen was my great Grandfather. My grandfather was Gerald Christensen who has since passed. I think its wonderful to talk about the old times and remember our family history.

      • Jerome, our family lived in Coteau in 1950-51 while my Dad was section foreman for the Great Northern. We lived in the railroad house across the tracks from the stockyard. I attended part of the first grade there before we moved. We knew your family well and I have memories of visiting Merton (“Dutch”?)
        and Ida’s house. I recall when Mike returned home from the military. I also recall the Ford family. I believe he was the depot agent. Great memories. Thanks for sharing.

      • Mike Hines was a friend of mine back in the late 50’s I graduated from Bowbells 1960. Can not remember exactly the model of car he drove, but he was one of the few guys back in the day that actually had their own car, he would let some of us girls, Sharon Hass, Cleo Cron, Emily Berg, Sandy Mertes and I ride around with him, he was a friend of Russel Opseth) Mike let me drive his car once from Bowbells to Coteau and then back home. We had the Bowbells prom at the Coteau gym. My father ran a grain elevator in Bowbells it burned down I believe in 1963 by then I had moved away and was married and living in Fargo.
        I love this website.
        I often wonder if Mike married and had a family as I lost touch with what was happening in Bowbells once my folks moved away I would only go back there when there were school reunions.

        • Jolene – Were you by any chance at the NDSU Dept. of Entomology ca. 1963-64?

      • What a surprise when I read your note. Our mothers were cousins. She was a McFadden from Neche.

        • I’m sorry but I forgot to put names to my note. It is i reference to the Hines family

    • My father, John J Balfour was born someplace near Coteau,nd or Bowbells nd. His father was William Henry Balfour, wife Mabel.They had a homestead somewhere near this area
      Anyone have any information on where the homestead might be.
      Warren Balfour

  2. My dad graduated from that High School in 1953! I still have his senior yearbook and there is a picture in there of the school in it’s heyday. There is only about half of the bricks left of the original building, that doorway was in the middle. And there was a large while quonset connected to the side that is missing that was the gymnasium.

    • Rolly Ross, my brother-in-law, bought that quonset and moved it to their farm a few miles to the east. I lived on a farm a half mile east of Coteau and graduated in 1950.

  3. My Dad, (Arthur P. T.) was born in Coteau in 1910. He left for Oregon in the Depression, mid-Thirties. All his life, he believed it to be the finest town with the finest people he ever knew. Such is the power of our childhoods….. all us kids love Coteau, too, as a place that felt like a romantic fantasy even as we visited and walked the streets.

  4. My grandfather grew up in Coteau. Pearse Parsons. I believe that the Mrs. Parsins that Crystal mentions above is actually his mother, my great grandmother, Viola Parsons. I have pictures of my grandmother and grandfather on a motorcycle in front of that little church circa 1940s/50s. So amazing to see that church and their house today. This really meant a lot to me.

    • Carrie,
      Viola Maude Parsons is my grandmother from Coteau ND. She was the Post Mistress there for awhile. She and my grandfather Robert Orange Parsons are buried west of town in a small cemetery along with my father Robert Donald Parsons and his brother Walter who died at a very young age (3-5 years old). I attended my grandmother (1974) and fathers (1979) funerals in the church pictured. I haven’t been to Coteau since 2004 and from the pictures it looks much the same as it did the last I saw it. I am not familiar with Pearse Parsons but would very much like to speak with you further to see how we are related 🙂

      • Rob,
        Pearse was your dad’s brother. There was also a sister Sara Parsons. I have some great family photos and newspaper articles you may enjoy. Here is my e-mail address: Send me a message and we can chat. I would love to hear from you.

  5. A good friend and neighbor in Powers Lake, ND bought a 1937 Hudson Terraplane from a widow in Couteau in the early ’70’s. Her husband had driven it and she kept it in the garage up on blocks. It had been started once a month and run for a short while.

    When she bought it, they drained the oil, aired up the tires and drove it from Coteau to Powers Lake at about 55 – 60 mph.

    She still has it today. It runs well and only has a few dents and some crazed glass.

    • Hi I am curious about he car. Is it still in Powers Lake? My husband is Frank ‘Butch’ Cron. His mother was Alice M. Rosenberg Christianson Cron. I think the farm house she grew up in was moved from outside of Flaxton to Chouteau. Does anyone know about this?

  6. I Recently went through Coteau. I’m very Curious about the House Thats Mailbox Reads Mr.and Mrs. Albertson. My Great Grand Mother was Gina Albertson. Does anyone have More Info?

    • yes, Carrie is right. Walt and Mabel lived in Coteau.

  7. Tammy,
    My mom used to vist my great grandparents up in Coteau and I asked her about the Albertsons. she recalls their names being Walt and Mabel. they had a son named Galen who she believes lived in Alaska. This was in the early 1970’s. I hope that helps you out. If you have any other questions I’ll be happy to try to help you out!

    • Robin Parsons Arnold says:

      My father Ed Parsons grew up in Coteau. His brother was Don Parsons, sister was Sarah Parsons, and their mother was Maude.

  8. I attended school in Coteau through the 5th grade (the high school had closed prior to that). The school bus ride to Bowbells that 1st day was terrifying…walking into such a HUGE class (I think about 25 students). My Dad had a garage/mechanic shop in Coteau and farmed WSW of there. The pink house in the pictures belonged to my Aunt & Uncle Glen & Evelyn Johnson. He worked for the railroad. They later moved to Noonan and then to Minot. and are both deceased.

    • Your brothers are Russell and Larry right.? Have e-mail contact with Larry off and on. Remember when the Coteau kids came to Bowbells, exciting to have new kids in school. Went back to Bowbells off and on since graduation for reunions but the last one we had held in Bismarck for the classes of 1960, 1961 and 1962.. It was a fun time catching up. Several are gone of course.

  9. Does anyone have any information about Robert and Irene Little, my father Jack was born in Coteau and I am searching for information. I am told my Grandfather owned acreage about 12 miles south of Coteau and sold it to the government. Thank you for any help you can be. Cathy (Little) Ward

  10. I used to go there a lot to visit my moms side of the family. My moms aunt Shirley Haroldson still lives there and runs the farm at the northern edge of town. My moms parents grew up in Coteau and so did most of there family. The last names of my moms family that lived there are Haroldson, lindblad, and Christensen. I know one of my moms grandfathers or uncles ran the gas station and general store for years. My moms dad went to the high school. I wish I could have seen it in its hay day when it was still a thriving town. I am glad I have been able to see it now.

  11. My husband and I have been living in Coteau for 3 years now. Sadly the school was torn down and there is a RV park there now. All the other buildings pictured are still upright. I love living here with my children and enjoy living in a ghost town!

  12. My grandparents, John & Anna Murphy live there from 1928 to 1940.
    John worked for John Elven (Anna’s brother-in-law), H. Haroldson, Andrew Anderson, J P Doyle, and he cooked at the school. Anna was a seamstress and sewed for many neighbors & friends. They had 4 children, Pearl (my mother), Charles, Elllen Margaret & De Merit. Pearl & Charles graduated from high school there. They moved to Plentywood, Mt. in 1940. Ellen (known as Marge to us) bought a vacant lot there many years ago & her son still has it. Pearl & Marge were at a big reunion several years ago where they were raising money for a big Choteau sign. Not sure of the year. There are many stories of Choteau families in the Burke Co & White Earth Valley book published in 1971. My sister, Janet Cron, lives in Flaxton, ND. & knows the area well.

  13. My grandfather was born in Coteau North Dakota around 1918 according to my mom’s birth certificate. I would love to find out if my family is in the book that is listed here. Hs name was John Grill, he had a brother, I’m not sure of his name and their mothers name was Carrie Grill. By 1940 my grandpa was in WA state.

    • I knew of or actually knew almost all of the people mentioned in these notations.
      Bill Grill was an old bachelor farmer about 2 miles south east of our Harold and Doris Opseth farm. When he retired off his land which I think was a quarter section, Dad and I went over there to his one room farm house. He was a nice and kind man who enjoyed being invited to our house for dinner which was at noon and there was lots to eat and Mom’s homemade bread is something that everyone loved. Bill sold Dad his kerosene lamp, I don’t think he had electricity even and had an outhouse and a hand pump well. Dad also bought his washtub and I think a few things more because Bill didn’t need them any more.
      Grandpa and Grandma Gunnar and Helga Opseth had the first oil well in Burke County in 1955. Everybody thought they were going to be rich and some were. My family shares in 4 oil well there but Dad sold the land back in the 70’s.
      Dad Harold Opseth had the Coteau Garage that he bought in about 1940 and did a wonderful business overhauling engines for cars, trucks and tractors and had 3 or 4 mechanics working for him. The mechanics were long time family friends Lloyd and Ester Homiston, Benny and Duba Lindstrom and more who I don’t remember.
      The owner of the old car was Floyd Alstruff. I think he died in about 1960 and the heirs took the car a Terraplane which was in great condition. Quite the fancy car. Floyd Alstruff, Mr. Mulpy, Phil Christianson, Franz Lindstrom and others, were old men who used to come to Dad’s Coteau Garage and sit around the big octopus type furnace on a variety of old wood chairs and tell stories and watch the mechanics work and have coffee there. It was their social club. Floyd Alstruff drove his Terraplane in front of the garage door to prevent Dad’s truck from driving out with the last of his garage stuff when he shut it down about 1956? and moved the equipment to the farm. It was really sad for those old men to lose the only social place they had. I think he cried which men did not do back then.
      I have written a couple of little stories about Coteau so will have to find them and publish them online for anybody who might be interested.
      Coteau was a socially rich and varied small town full of good people and good businesses. It’s heartbreaking to see it like it is now.

  14. Does anybody know what happened to the Railroad depot, where it got moved?

    • My mom says it is in Stanley on West side of town. She thinks their historical society bought it.

      • There is a depot in Stanley at the Flickertail Pioneer Village….

  15. My father, Thomas William Hagen, was born in Coteau in 1906. His parents were John & Amanda Olson Hagen. He had a sister Mildred Elven and a brother Gil. They have all since passed and my cousin Oakley Elvin was buried in Coteau just a couple years ago. Do any of these names ring a bell with anyone ??

    • Yes my mom says the Elvin family lived in the section house in Coteau and John Elvin was the section forman for the Great Northern railroad. They had kids she remembers Marlowe the oldest and Jerome and DeMaris is the youngest. Marlowe was a fabulous piano player who play all over the keyboard. John’s wife was a sister to Anna Murphy. The Murphy family moved from Coteau to plentywood Mt. That is all she can remember. She us 88 years old and grew up in Coteau.

    • Emily Mae “Emy” Johnson of Eugene died Feb. 10 of age-related causes. She was 81. A private family service will be held later in Fargo, N.D.

      She was born Dec. 22, 1927, in Larson, N.D., to Olaf and Selma Rasmusson Eldevick. She married Theodore Johnson Jr. on May 18, 1947, in Kindred, N.D.

      She graduated in 1945 from Kindred High School in North Dakota and in 1946 from Swedish Hospital School of Nursing in Minneapolis. She attended St. Luke’s School of Nursing in Fargo, N.D.

      She was a member of the Cadet Nurse Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. She was a homemaker and worked as a nurse and a dental assistant.

      Survivors include a daughter, Kathryn Clark of Eugene; two sons, Steven of Bothell, Wash., and Scott of Grand Forks, N.D.; four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Her husband died Nov. 7, 1998.

      Arrangements by Andreason’s Cremation & Burial Service in Springfield. Remembrances to Hospice of Sacred Heart, Eugene.

      • Please remove this comment I put it under the wrong one

  16. My Mother-Eunice Bornstedt Eklund,was born in and grew up in Coteau. The family farm was just down the road and is visible from the Elevator in Coteau. I visited the elevator many times with my Uncle Donald Bornstedt,where he bought me many a strawberry soda as a little boy. One of my favorite memories during stay overs at the farm. Best little ghost town around.

    • We lived just north of the Bornestedts. I used to visit with Donald often.

  17. We bought the Rouse farm, just east of Coteau in the mid to late 40s. My family (Aden and Florence Nelson–children: Beulah, Floyd, Dwaine, Rodney, Marilyn and Gerald (me). Me and my sister Marilyn (married Rolly Ross, both now deceased) attended and graduated from Coteau High School. I graduated 1950 and graduated from MSTC–now NDState Univ–1954. I used to really look forward to the smorgasbords at the United Evangelical Church (I hope i have the name right) that is pictured in the book. I have many fond memories of Coteau—nice and friendly people there. I used to truck a lot of grain to the elevator there and was always greeted with a great big smile from Bert–Wilson? I think? I used to spend a lot of time at Robert Thompson’s house across the street from the Albertson’s—I think it was. I remember Phil Christiansen that ran the gas station across the street from the general store. I remember the Melby’s. Especially G.K. Melby who conducted the Bowbells City Band a few miles away. I played in that band along with my other kin on many Saturday nights in the band shell on Main Street

  18. My dad went to school there. We just did a driving tour of all the old buildings about 2 years ago. It was fun to imagine it as it was. Then we had one of the greatest hamburgers ever, in the little cafe in Bowbells.

  19. Mrs Cora Fender was my grandma :-)…I spent many awesome summers in Bowbells n Coteau w my grandparents..Emil n Violet Carlson. Attended the Methodist church shown above every Sunday and Sunday school. If I remember correctly was the little pink house once where a phone operator once lived? Coulda swore gma said that that’s where the old time switchboard was located. Spent much time up in Coteau..Bowbells w my gma until she just passed away :(. Attended that Coteau reunion n it was so much fun…would love to relive some of those memories n be there when those stories took place. Great grandparents Carrie and France Linstroms homestead was just south of Coteau across the gravel road. Keep the stories coming. Only thing keeping the town and memories alive.

    • Liz I believe your Grandma (Mrs. Cora Fender) and my Great Grandmother (Anna Bodeen McLaughlin) were sisters (half sisters at least). Their mother was Anna Ersdatter Glad Bodin (Bodeen) Johnson). I would like to compare notes with you and have a couple of pictures of Cora I could pass along to you. My grandmother Alice McLaughlin was born in Coteau and remembered it very fondly.

    • Hi Liz! Mrs Cora Fender was my grandmother also. My awesome summers were spent in Hyattville, wyoming hearing stories about north dakota. Coteau, bowbells, minot, williston… and her education there, family gatherings, etc. Hyattville has a population of, uh 500?. She taught kids of every grade, in two rooms. Impressive, eh? Is to me. Good times were baking Bread daily, helping w/laundry wringer washer & clothesline, learning to embroider (pulled out & redone if stitches were too loose). 🙂 wood stoked oven to cook Bread in & suppers too. Oh the suppers!!!! General store lady had owl on her shouldet & pet raccoons. Walked a few yards down the street to church on sundays. It was such good memories…

  20. Walt and Mabel are my aunt & uncle. Both have passed . Their daughter Carol still owns the house and she lives in South Dakota. Galen passed away some time ago. My father Al Ness, owned Al’s Market down and across from the church. We lived there In the fifties and then moved to Tioga. My grandparents Tom and Agnes Thompson farmed south of town.

  21. Wow, love reading all these stories about Coteau and its residents. My grandparents were Harry and Helen Maltby and lived in the big white house coming into town from the north. Spent a lot of time with them. Used to walk the railroad tracks from our farm into Coteau. Have such great memories of the Evangelical United Brethern Church and Sunday School where I went to church and sunday school every Sunday. Loved their potlucks that they would have. Lots of great cooks! My aunt Harriet Maltby was married to Harold Hovland and his dad owned quite abit of property in Coteau some of the Coteau Bank can be seen in the North Dakota State Historical Society at the State Capital and also owned the Coteau Hall (pictured with the stage) where they had concerts and dances. Melby Lumberyard was located near the old depot and my uncle Audy Melby ran it for a time, Carl and Edith Melby and then my parents(Dwaine and Ardyce Melby) also ran it. Not sure if the building is still standing or not.

  22. It was moved to Stanley it is located south of Grain elevator and looks like it did the day I seen it loaded up and moved, might have had a coat of paint looks like its used as private storage

    • Jerome…the depot is there in Stanley but not the Lumberyard is what I have been told.

  23. I enjoyed your writing Larry… also Heidi… Bill was born in Dimond Township, Burke County. But lots of times people would list the nearest town as the place of birth…

  24. If you’d like to see the clerk window… counter etc… of the Coteau Bank, they are on display at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck.

  25. Thank you for sharing all the stories about Coteau. My great grandparents lived in Coteau until 1952. Does anyone have information on Olaf and Selma Eldevick? Olaf was a section foreman for the Great Northern railroad and Selma was very talented with crochet and embroidery. Selma’s maiden name was Rasmusson and I know she had a lot of family in Stanley. Any leads would be much appreciated.

    • Olaf stabbed his wife Selma years ago with a scissors. They were living in the southeast part of ND when it happened. This is all my mom can remember.

      • So here is an obituary of the daughter that my mom was in school with. They were the same age. My mom said it happened in Kindred when her mom was about 50 years old.

        Emily Mae “Emy” Johnson of Eugene died Feb. 10 of age-related causes. She was 81. A private family service will be held later in Fargo, N.D.

        She was born Dec. 22, 1927, in Larson, N.D., to Olaf and Selma Rasmusson Eldevick. She married Theodore Johnson Jr. on May 18, 1947, in Kindred, N.D.

        She graduated in 1945 from Kindred High School in North Dakota and in 1946 from Swedish Hospital School of Nursing in Minneapolis. She attended St. Luke’s School of Nursing in Fargo, N.D.

        She was a member of the Cadet Nurse Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. She was a homemaker and worked as a nurse and a dental assistant.

        Survivors include a daughter, Kathryn Clark of Eugene; two sons, Steven of Bothell, Wash., and Scott of Grand Forks, N.D.; four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Her husband died Nov. 7, 1998.

        Arrangements by Andreason’s Cremation & Burial Service in Springfield. Remembrances to Hospice of Sacred Heart, Eugene.

  26. I didn’t live there. Have never been. But am completely in love with the stories in these comment and wish I had. Thank you all for sharing!!

  27. My father was born in coteau in 1918. His name was Leroy Sorensen. His sisters were la von emily, and Marion. His brother was Leonard. I have many stories from him about Coteau. I recognize the name Duba Lindstrom. I would love to hear from anyone that remembers them their parents were Emil and Anna.

    • Emil used to work in the grocery store for many years and then they moved out west but doesn’t remember where. Bennie and Dubba (Delores Erickson) Lindstrom bought Sorenson’s house and they lived in it for many years until they moved to Bowbells.

      • Janette, My mother-in-law is Dubba’s little sister, Sharon Erickson Dimitriou. Her daughter Lori and I took her to ND and visited Coteau. She had many great memories and stories to tell us!

  28. I lived in Coteau from 1929 to 1943. MY grandparents were Staale and Anna Hendrickson. Have many memories of growing up in Coteau. We lived in the house finally purchased by Walt and Mabel Albertson. Mabel was my mother’s(Ida Hendrickson Satran) cousin. Would like to share memories.

    Dalyce Satran Waaga Harris

  29. I lived in Coteau from 1929 to 1943. MY grandparents were Staale and Anna Hendrickson. Have many memories of growing up in Coteau. We lived in the house finally purchased by Walt and Mabel Albertson. Mabel was my mother’s(Ida Hendrickson Satran) cousin. Would like to share memories.

    Dalyce Satran Waaga Harris

  30. I lived in Coteau until I was 5 or 6 before moving to Bowbells. I have always considered it home even though I have spent most of my life away from there. I remember playing in the Gym at the old school. Going to get the Mail at the little post office and going to the Hinds Gas station.

  31. Birth Grandparents Anton Berg lived in Coteau in the 1940’s Had sons Leonard and Clarence Berg lived in Bowbells any body know them.

  32. I have a beautiful little secretary desk that looks to be handbuilt. It has an inscription on the inside of a small cupboard in it that reads “Ernest Albertson, Coteau No. Da. 1953.” I would love to know if the family is still there or if anyone knows Ernest.

    • Earnest was my grandfather s cousin he loved working with wood. I have a quilt frame he built

    • Ernest Albertson was a bachelor and I knew him. He was born in Sweden. I was given several of his Swedish books. The desk certainly could have been built by Ernest. He was handy that way. He lived in a large farm home that he kept neat and clean always and the house is presently occupied by Lloyd and Mariea Holter. Ernest died in 1983.
      John Mogren

  33. Can someone tell me if you’ve heard of Aron and Hannah or Milford, Raymond Parsons? We are traveling to find my mother-in-law’s, mother’s birthplace Homestead next week from Iowa to North Dakota. I am having a hard time finding out how to locate this Homestead. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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