Isabel, ND

Isabel, North Dakota was an unincorporated community in the north central part of the state, about 50 minutes southeast of Rugby. We were on our way to Baker when we came upon the sign marking the former site of Isabel Country School. We did not realize we were on the site of a ghost town until we began to research the location after we had returned home. The monument to the school and the abandoned farmstead shown here are all that remains.


Isabel, North Dakota

Isabel appears as a town in some publications, but not in others.  Calling it a ‘town’ is a term to be used loosely, as explained by Travis Woyen in comments below — his family occupied Isabel for quite some time.

This site is in a very sparsely populated portion of the state. According to the 2000 Census, Isabel township only boasts 70 residents.  It is a beautiful place to drive on a rolling but knotty stretch of highway, though. There is no better way to spend a hot summer day than to breeze down the back roads with the windows down and the air conditioner off (sometimes), searching for a place where, when you turn the car off, the silence is loud.

Isabel, North Dakota

Isabel, North Dakota

Isabel, North Dakota

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Isabel, North Dakota

Isabel, North Dakota

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

25 Comments on “Isabel, ND

  1. Hope it is ok to post a link:

    In that photo, if you go down to the comment by pwoyen (near the bottom of the page), the commenter says the house was built in 1908 by Gustav Kjall, and that he immigrated here from Sweden, and was the first settler in that part of Isabel Township in Benson County.

  2. Isabel is the name of the township to this day. The school was a consolidation of the smaller township schools. The school building was torn down in the 1970’s. Across the county road to the west was the Isabel store, which was a small store run by P.O. Stenhjem. That building was burned down by vandals in the 1980’s.

    The land that the school sat on, as well as the surrounding land on the north side of Hwy 19 was owned by my great-grandparents, Gustaf and Hannah Kjall (my father now has it). The house and granary (and the steel bins) are all that remain of the buildings on the farmstead. The house has been unoccupied since my great uncle Arvid died in 1964.

    So, it might be a bit of a stretch to call it a “town”, since the population was scattered fairly evenly throughout the township.

  3. It is strange that it is not in the ND Place Names book, but it is pinpointed in my ND Atlas & Gazeteer book. Smack dab in the middle of Isabel township.

  4. Travis – My grandfather, Olaf Guttromson, homesteaded straight south of the Woyen farmstead, a mile south of now Julen Hagen farm. Nothing is left of the homestead. Everything has been removed. Its a strange feeling to see a corner that once was home to a very large active family and the next generation who moved away in the 1950’s. My grandmother and 5 small children are buried at Immanuel Lutheran, north of Hwy 19. I can’t remember the Kjall farm around the Isabel school. Which direction is it? As a child I was a member of Trinity in Esmond and we had parish confirmation classes at the Isabel school on Saturday mornings. P Stenhjem ran the store and was our source for snacks while we waited for the second year confirmation students to finish before we could go home. I have some interesting old maps and records on the school in the township.
    My mother grew up on a farm just to the west of Bethany church, now gone too. Her father and his brother donated the land for the Bethany church and cemetery. Her farm had the barn and outbuildings on the north side of the road in Impark township and the house and yard on the south side of the road in a different township.

    • Hi Claudine good to hear from you Remember our folks used to visit back and forth
      Remeber rienart Rhema bubby /

  5. My great grandparents settled in Isabel in the late 1890s/early 1900s and were charter members of the Vasa Lutheran Congregation (Which according to, was located near Lat: 48° 04′ 47″N, Lon: 99° 36′ 59″W. The church is reportedly no longer standing). Two great reference books for the townships in this area are “Maddock Diamond Jubilee, 1901-1976” and “Maddock: A 100-year History, 1901-2001.”

    • The Vasa church building sits on Richard Anderson’s farm and was used as a shop. It was moved there by Russell Anderson in the eighties.

  6. Claudine – the Kjall place is about a quarter mile north of the Isabel school land.

    Jamie – the Vasa church building was moved to the Russell Anderson farm and made into a shed a few decades ago (it wasn’t a particularly big building). So technically it’s still standing, but it’s no longer a church.

  7. Does anyone have a picture of Isabel school or the Isabel store before it was tore down or burnt to the ground? My mother LaVerne Toso Leier graduated from Isabel school. She is now 80 years old and had some great stories about going to the store to buy candy when she was a child.

  8. Pingback: Ten More Lost North Dakota Places :

    • I just posted the pictures that my mother had taken of Isabel school and community store, to your facebook page

    • The picture that I had found in the back of my mother, LaVerne Toso Leier (who passed in March 2015) photo album, that I had posted this morning, of the children who went to the Isabel Township School, for some unknown reason, got posted sideways, even though it is right side up in my computer file. If anyone knows of a way to repost it right side up, please feel free. When my mother was a little girl, one of her classmates told her she should charge candy at the Isabel Community store. My mother succombed to peer pressure, and charged 3¢ worth of candy, and felt so guilty afterwards. She thought for sure she would be sent to jail if she couldn’t get her father to give her the 3¢. Luckily, her Grandfather, Jens Toso, gave her the 3¢, and she promised to never charge anything again!

  9. Hi Gene. Sorry I haven’t been back to this site for some time. This is such an interesting collection of places in ND. Some my parents talked about and some I have even seen. Its sad so many of them are gone. Scrolling thru them certainly evokes the “feel” of ND and I miss it.
    We hope to get home to Benson County next summer sometime. Maybe we can have another crazy visit at the restaurant like the last time. I enjoyed seeing you all so much. Claudine

  10. My Grandfather, P.O. Stenhjem, Peter Olaf Stenhjem had the little stare across the way from the school. My father Albert stenhjem was one of six children. I was blessed to be able to go to that store on my grandparents 50th anniversary IN 1953. I was eleven years old. I live in Montana and always have, if you meet a Stenhjem say hi to a cousin, of mine.

  11. Looks like the Isabel school marker was made with Hebron, ND brick. Doesn’t show any signs of deteration after almost 100 years. GO Hebron Brickmakers.

    • The brick Isabel School monument was more recently built by my late Uncle Reuben Brown and by Uncle Dennis Leier.

      • The Isabel school marker was built around the early 80’s but I’m pretty sure they saved bricks from the school to build it.

  12. Thanks Joan, guess that was just my Hebron pride coming through.

  13. It is my understanding that Julen Hagen’s farm was formerly my paternal grandparents farm, Nelius and Marie Liudahl, both buried at Immanuel Lutheran. I suspect my father and siblings attended sxmchool at Isabel School.

      • Hi Travis,
        We were all so proud of that ad on the cereal box. I spent most of my first 9 yrs on Gramma’s farm about 3 miles west of Isabel and N/W of your farm. Her land , later Alfie’s, bordered the road leading to Bethany Lutheran Church.
        We could see the top of your farm from my grandmother’s house, Anna Engene, sister of Josie Watterud Toso and widow of Ole, mother of Alf Engene. Alfie kept the picture from the cereal box forever.
        Grant, Judy, Julin Hagen were names often mentioned in conversations, although I don’t think I ever met any of them.

  14. It is my understanding that Julen Hagen’s farm was formerly my paternal grandparents farm, Nelius and Marie Liudahl, both buried at Immanuel Lutheran. I suspect my father and siblings attended school at Isabel School.

  15. I think the Luidal farm was sold to Grant Hagen in 1936 or37

  16. I to went to the Isabel School grades 1st thru 6th, the school was then closed… if anyone has pics of Isabel School I’d love to get them..

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