Passing Through Fordville

Fordville just happened to be on our route as we explored a few towns in Walsh and Ramsey counties.  It is not a ghost town or a near-ghost town… more like Pleasantville.  According to the 2000 Census, Fordville had 266 residents, shrinking to 212 in 2010.

The most prominent landmark was the Ford Theater, a beautiful brick building that’s been carefully tended, but in need of help with the roof.

The owner kindly posted a flyer which reads as follows:


Est. 1948 by
Hub (Hulbert) and Richard Casement

Construction by: Martin Hustad, Peter and John Peterson.

Brickwork by Arnie Steen

First movie shown: “Little Mr. Jim” on March 19th, 1948.
Starring Butch Jenkins, James Craig, and Francis Clifford

Theatre was closed in the early 1960’s
Purchased by Donald and Jean Omdahl on Dec. 8th, 1970
Used for community plays and gospel services in the 1980’s
Purchased by DeLon Freije
from Don Omdahl on June 18th, 2010
Don went home to Jean on August 31st, 2010

Future plans: Restore theatre, display train collection for public display and offer tours of the theatre.
Popcorn sales on Thursday evenings through the summer
Any help with roof repairs would be much appreciated.

There were a few structures that looked ‘semi-vacant’– in that gray area between seldom used and used every day.  No real abandoned structures however.  So we just took a few shots that looked nice.

The clock struck noon while we were visiting and the air raid siren on top of this tower sounded.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

47 Comments on “Passing Through Fordville

  1. Do you have any info on who Fordville was named after? My maiden name is Ford and many of my Ford relatives came from Walsh County. LOVE your site!!

    • Hello Lindsey. I realize this response is late but according to the Walsh County Heritage Books, Fordville was named after the township in which it is situated in: Medford Township.

  2. Love Ghosts of ND–and especially the Fordville pictures. My dad grew up on a farm just outside of that tiny town.

    • My Mom, Evelyn Olene Flaaskog, also grew up on a farm just outside of Fordville. Her grandparents, the Johnsons, settled on that farm in ~1890. My second cousin, Olga Svie Helland (94?) still lives in Fordville. Perhaps your dad knew my Mom?

  3. Noon sirens are a memory….. as is the 6 pm and 10 pm curfew sirens

  4. Noon, six pm, and ten pm sirens still happen in Pembina too. Sure helped remind the kids when to be home!

  5. I was in Fordville in the 1970’s for a wedding. I haven’t been back there since. I love your website–I am a history buff. Even though I no longer live in North Dakota, North Dakota still lives in me!! I am anxiously awaiting your next post!!!!

  6. I remember playing Basketball against Fordville in the 60’s when I played for Edinburgh. It seemed much bigger than.

  7. My grandparents lived in Fordville and I remember staying at their home and have so many wonderful memories from there. Really a nice community.

  8. My God-parents still run the store in fordville. My mother and Kris’s dad are brother and sister.

  9. I just visited the website…looks good. Hope your venture with the theater is a success. You could show some old “flicks” from the 20’s – 40’s. I imagine some “shorts” or “comedies” like Laural and Hardy.

    “The General” a silent movie of Buster Keaton’s about trains. It is a roll on the floor funny.

    Richard Foat (seller of the 2055 Locomotive)

  10. When the town of Fordville was started in 1905 the name was originally Medford in connection with the name of the early postoffice by that name as well as the name of the township where it was located. But as service progressed by the Soo Line, it became increasingly difficult to correctly direct the traffic, there being another town on the same railroad line located in Wisconsin by the same name. It was therefore decided to change the name of this new town. And so … it was decided to take the last syllable appearing in the names of two of the earliest postoffices “Ford” out of Medford and “ville” out of Bellville. Thus on July 1, 1910 the name officially became Fordville. (Taken from “History of Fordville and Surrounding Area” by G.K. Ness, published in 1973.

  11. My dad Donald Omdahl owned the theatre and we lived in the structure attached to it! The structure at one time contained a Beauty Shop, Dentist Office, and a Doctor’s Office! The two offices shared a common waiting room (our living room). The kitchen was the Dentist’s office. The theatre was used for a Christian
    Coffee House and school plays. We made our living quarters work with a family of eight!!

    • Many happy hours were spent playing with the Omdahl girls, and there was always a warm welcome from their cheerful parents, Jean and Don. I remember listening to Christian music groups perform in the theatre in the 1980’s. To me, it was an exciting place to be! Chad, didn’t they also perform some school musicals in the theatre at that time?

  12. Researching and looking for Andrew/Anders Moe, whose father murdered his wife and then killed himself. I noticed that Andrew/Anders Moe is mentioned int he book by G.K. Ness and wondered if this the same orphaned male who I’m looking for? Does anyone know anything about this?
    Thank you.

  13. My family lived close to Fordville although we attended church in Dahlen and I went to school in Dahlen, also. During my growing up years, we went to Fordville every Saturday night in the summer and traded eggs and cream for groceries with Neil Bannerman at his store. We also had to visit the Johnson Store, Jehlicka’s meat market and I never missed a Saturday night movie at the Ford Theater. Maridell Ness made the best popcorn there. I wrote news for the Dahlen area for the Tri County Sun for years also. Neil had a little Drive In restaurant there, too, so we had burgers there or went home to fry up some hamburger from Jehlicka’s – it was the BEST!! Oh, and my dad got his hair cut at the barber shop there, too. I also went to Dr. Lommen and Dr. Gillespie – those aren’t such pleasant memories, though! It was important to get to town early to get a good parking place so you could see everyone who came to town and visit with neighbors and friends. There was parallel parking down the middle of main street. The town was bustling back then! North Dakota nice! Lots of great memories!

    • My great grandparents, John & Olga Johnson, immigrated from the Gjolme area of Norway to Fordville, ND, in 1890. They had 2 girls, Olga and Nettie, and, I think, a boy named Henry, who died young. Their children were first cousins, John Svie, and Olga Svie Helland (who still lives in Fordville), and Evelyn Flaaskog Shelley (my mother), and Ethel Flaaskog Doxsie. When young, Evelyn was engaged to her classmate, Marwin Lommen. He later became a doctor, and she, a pediatric nurse. I have a question for Marlene: The doctor you mentioned, Dr. Lommen – was he Marwin’s father, or Marwin?

  14. I enjoyed seeing the pictures of my home town! And I will admit a tear or two. I watched “The Ten Commandments” in that theater and probably other Saturday afternoon matinees I don’t remember. Thank you for the walk down memory lane!

  15. Fordville Grain Company was purchased by my Grandfather Dean Miller and was closed in 1996 from general business. We continue to house our grain there for our farm. My great grandmother was the first to deliver grain there when it was orginally built I think around 1905. It use to be the cheapest place in town to buy a bottle of pop!

  16. Great pictures — so many wonderful memories! I grew up in Fordville. My mom, Grace Berdahl, worked for Dean Miller at Fordville Grain Company.

  17. Both my parents grew up in Fordville. I loved the time I spent there visiting my grandma and cousins. I too saw “The Ten Commandments” at the theater with my cousins!!

    • My Grandfather owned the hardware store until the 1950’s. My brother and I lived with my grandparents for a couple years right after WWII. I was there a few years ago and was sad to see the Lutheren church was not as grand as I remembered.

  18. There was two towns close to each other called Medford and Bellville. They took ford out of Medford and ville out of Bellville. So that’s how Fordville’s name was found.Spurlock

  19. Joe and Annie were friends of my grandparents. I still have the doll crib Joe made for me 60 yrs ago.

  20. What a wonderful surprise to find this website! It was a fun trip down memory lane. I, too, lived in Fordville for 10 years in the 50’s and 60’s while my dad served as pastor at the Lutheran church. Hi to Chad and Ann….it’s been many years since we were in school together.
    Thanks to all of you who brought back memories of the movie theatre, Dr. Gillespie, Dr. Lommen, the meat market, grocery store (remember grinding coffee for purchase). I also remember the Variety Store, the post office with combination codes for the mail boxes, the general store attached to the grocery store, the outdoor ice rink, the library, and playing capture the flag on the school grounds.

  21. If there was a way to make a living for me in Fordville, I would happily donate my time and labor to restoring that theater. Seriously, we’re losing so much of America as these town wither I’d be proud to be a part of saving something timeless such as this. Anybody looking for a dishwasher? a carpenter? clerk? ditch digger?
    I’m currently in Colorado with nothing much keeping me here and I LOATHE the city.

  22. Thank you for the info, still come back to the farm and to visit Mom and Dad’s grave site

  23. I am caught up in Genealogy, and I have been pouring through some old postcards I found. When my mother in law, Margaret Rosenow, lived in Pinewood Minnesota back in 1926 she would correspond with a lot friends by letter or postcards. One of the friends she had only signed her name Mrs. Hove, from Fordville, ND. I didn’t realize there was a Fordville. Does anyone know if there was a Hove and if so maybe her children or grandchildren might have saved correspondence from Margaret Rosenow. Thank you to anyone who can help. Mary.

  24. I was a high school junior when the Ford Theater opened, and it was the most wonderful event! We lived 3 1/2 miles from town and I would have crawled on hands and knees to be there. Never missed a movie. “Gasp!” at the end of “Gone With the Wind”, when Clark Gable actually said damn right out loud.
    One year, high school was dismissed for two weeks so the students could pick potatoes. Bill Ratcliffe must have had a lot of influence!
    Neil Bannerman was such a good guy. And Herman Sobolik in the Medford Mercantile. That store had EVERYTHING. Saturday nights, main street was the place to be. A good parking spot and you could see the whole world pass by.
    It was a great place to grow up.

  25. My great-grandfather Clarence Gettman and his wife Olive and their children, Elwin, Fern, Henry, Alva, George and my grandfather Elwood lived in Fordville from 1906 until 1922. Elwin died on the farm. I am headed to Fordville next month, September 2015, to see if I can find the farm. Any help would be appreciated.

  26. I grew up in this town. My whole life was spent listening to that siren and running around town with my cousins and friends. Playing at the end of main street at the school playground. My house was right on main street. where my grandpa resided and didnt leave, until he died. I had a farm between pisek and fordville, raising horses and cattle. Id do anything to get myself back into fordville and make as lively as it use to be!

  27. We lived on a farm south of town and I was told that was the original site of Belleville.

    It was wonderful when the REA line reached us when I was in high school. Electricity … wow! Then came the telephone! party line, of course. I would call the operator and ask for “Six, please” which was the number of my good buddy, Joanne Sobolik. No cell phone could equal the thrill of hearing her answer! The girls’ basketball team was started in 1949 and we even had uniforms. But the rule was that we could not cross the center line because we were too delicate. So the guards would try to get the ball to the centers,who were on the “home” side of the court. Of course, we were not too delicate to pick potatoes and do outdoor chores on the farm..

  28. I was based at Grand Forks in the late 90’s and I did some metal detecting as a hobby. I detected around the old one-room school house south of town. It always made me think of Little House on the Prarie. Is it still standing?

  29. And I believe the “ville” comes from another former town in the area called Bellville.

  30. Does anyone know about the old Delaney grave out on the prairie east of Fordville on the north side of the road. My grandmother pointed it out to me. It was an old grave of a pioneerchild.

    • Yes. I remember being told that a little “flaxen-haired” girl was buried there.

  31. Very cool!! My great grandfather was Hub Casement who owned the theater, his daughter Jean was my grandmother. Her brothers also owned the John Deer dealer and the funeral home, Richard I believe was in charge of the tractor dealer while Don was the mortician. This my Dad’s Mom’s side of the family and I met my great grandfather when I was very young so unfortunately I don’t have any memories of him. I’m lucky enough to have met Richard and Don, two very nice men. Did anyone know my grandmother or her siblings, or her parents? How did you know them and what were they like? I would love to know, thanks.

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