The Pastoral Remains of Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee is a tiny unincorporated town in the far northeast corner of Mountrail county, about 40 miles northwest of Minot.  Our Savior’s Scandinavian Lutheran Church, a few miles west of Coulee, is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Unfortunately, we didn’t find out about it until after our visit.  We’ll get it next time.

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee is actually the second town to wear the name. There was another Coulee in Pembina County, which later became Hallson, and it is now a virtual ghost town.

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee, North Dakota

It looks like the last business in this building was Henry Schapp’s Liquor Store.

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee, North Dakota

We’re told the home shown above was once the parsonage of the Coulee Lutheran Parish.

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee, North Dakota

Above and below: The sad remains of a former church. We got to Coulee a few years too late.

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee, North Dakota

Many homes like this are left abandoned when the last elderly resident passes on and there’s nobody around to move in. Others are left vacant when a family packs up and moves on for greener pastures. Which one happened here, we don’t know.

Coulee, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media


29 Comments on “The Pastoral Remains of Coulee, North Dakota

  1. I used to live in the Lutheran parsonage when I was a little girl. It looked quite a bit nicer then, of course, as that was 50 years ago. I was sad to see that the church wasn’t there any longer. My dad was the minister there when I was little. My name is Ruth Overlund Gorham. Don’t remember any ghosts, other than my brother Tim’s imaginary friends.

  2. My mother was born in Coulee (or probably in the country right south of there) in 1908. I would like to speak with anyone who remembers her or any of her siblings or her 1st. husband Bennie Olaf, or her second husband Nels Nielsen. I’m doing a family history and have several blanks to fill in – I didn’t – unfortunately – ask her much about her growing up years.

    • Hi Viki,

      My grandma King may know your mother. I was just there over thanksgiving visiting my grandma asking her about the history of Coulee and how our family settled there. My dad and my uncle have now took over our family farm there. My great grandfather moved there in about 1910. 🙂

  3. Our Savior’s Scandinavian Lutheran Church is half-painted at present (passed it today, en route to Lunds Valley, and also last October). The walls are freshly painted white. The steeple bared and awaiting a new coat. Hopefully whoever is doing the work will finish soon. It really is a beautiful building.

  4. Grew up close to Coulee on a farm. I remember riding bike to Mrs. Jacobsen’s grocery store for items for Mom. She always had penny candy for us. She, I believe was a sister to Harry Enget who knitted sweaters for us and helped my Dad on the farm. In about1975, I taught Farmers Union classes in the old school.i

    • I remember spending summer days at aunt Lillie’s. She was my grandfather’s sister (Harry), my great aunt. She lived right next to the railroad tracks and my older brother Scott and I would walk the tracks to keep ourselves busy when Harry went to visit his sister. I collected a few railroad ties and some telephone glass bulbs, I still have them along with some mittens and a snoopy sweater or two my grandfather would knit. He lived in Donnybrook (about 15 miles away). I haven’t been back to the area in over 25 years. The town was pretty much gone one of the last times I remember stopping in as a kid. Scott and I wondered through the old town and I remember going through an old building and into the second floor. I fell halfway through the floor, pulled myself out. We left the building and never went back in thinking we were lucky to have gotten out. Aunt Lillie’s house was one of the last I remember in the area.

    • Lillian Jacobsen was my great-grandma!! I remember my mom telling stories of visiting ND as a child and the general store…the candy, too! Her (Mom) and her older sister would play in the display window. I never got to see the store up close – they’d moved to their house that grandpa Harry’d built by then, and he was sadly passed away – but I love to hear all the stories.

    • Mrs. Jacobsen (nee Enget) was the wife of my great uncle Harry Jacobsen. Any memories of Harry and Lillian (such as Andrew’s below) would be most welcome!

      • Lillian was my Sunday school teacher. She had all of us in her class reciting the books of the Bible. Very kind! We have an item or two of Lillians at the Pioneer Village in Kenmare. We also have about half the stained glass windows, alter, etc from Hope Lutheran Church at the Pioneer Village. The bookcase from the pastor’s office is a display case in our Military exhibit.

  5. Harry Enget was our closest neighbor growing up on the farm. I spent lots of time in Coulee and also went to church there and was baptized.

  6. As pastor of Hope Lutheran in Coulee, my dad (Rev. Karl Astrup Xavier) served the area 5-point parish from August of 1952- November of 1956.

    We lived in the parsonage pictured here, and I happen to believe with some documentation that the parsonage has not had paint since sometime in 1952! I and next youngest brother, Paul David Xavier, attended school on edge of fields by the church (“Lowland # 3”). Twila Anderson Drabus was the teacher most years. She was a good teacher one of my best in a lifetime filled with studies. Knew how to organize a classroom, and she also knew how to get to the students, who would always apply themselves more under her encouragement. Her husband was Larry Drabus, widely renowned in about four or five counties as a many years’ Santa Clause. He was also one of the last of the coal-powered steam engine locomitive engineers, on the old Soo Line “Wheat Line” run.

    Huge garden, probably a couple city lots.
    Half-barn in back still have a pen for a cow. Driveway too long to shovel in wintertime.
    Nice porch, screened then.

    The general store, “Jacobson’s cash Store” also had the local post office, Mrs. Jacobson ran that (Lillie or Liz, among maybe other nicknames.).Pop was 7 cents a bottle, with 2 cents back for deposit. She and husband Harry ran a homey store, and were remodeling and building up their retirement house about a block and a half away.

    They had a beautiful ’54 or ’54 Chevy sedan, medium brown. Their son-in-law, the one who married Carol, sometimes filled in. He was funny and the kids loved him but he would not talk as much to us as Harry did. In fact Jim, if that was his name, would be deep in the pages of the Minot Daily News at times, and would make us wait to serve us until he finished whatever article he was working through.

    More later.

    A long-ago-and-far-away residetn.

    • Thank you for the wonderful stories. I am Jim’s and Carol’s daughter, Lillie’s and Harry’s granddaughter. Your father married my parents in 1954. I spent childhood summers with Grandma and Grandpa in Coulee and went to vacation Bible school at Hope. I still can sing, “Dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping, hear our offerings fall. Everyone for Jesus. He shall have them all!”

      • Chris, I’d love to be in touch. Your Grandpa Harry’s sister Ivadelle is my grandma. Your mother and mine (who still lives independently at age 86) are first cousins, and enjoyed some visits and letters in the past 20 years or so.

  7. About the parsonage: this parsonage was the headquarters of a five-church parish. The churches were: Hope in Coulee, St. Luke’s on the road to US Hwy 2, toward Stanley; Lostwood near Stanley (still operating, close by the wildlife refuge), then Bethlehem back toward Coulee (still operating) and its neighbor, Zion.

    These churches were also later served in part by a family friend, Rev. Richard Beckmen. So this is indeed one of our true family homes!

    As a true aside, let me point out that in the 1970s, from a little country schoolhouse, there were three of us who had some pretty important jobs at the old Lutheran Brotherhood insurance company office in Minneapolis. Bob Larson (Chris and Myrtle’s son), Eldora Johnson )Orville and Elnora’s daughter) and I (son of Rev.Karl and Edith Xavier). Re-convergence..

  8. I’ve been trying to find out a bit more information on Anders Christian Anderson who had married Synneva Thue in the 1880’s and settled about 6 miles south of Coulee in 1903. Their children were Bertha, Clara, Peter, Sam, John, Henry, Marie, Emma and Oskar. I heard they were buried in St. Luke’s cemetery, but something happened to the church and it was rebuilt another 3 miles south of Coulee. I was hoping to find pictures of the old St. Luke’s from the early 1900’s as the house they had may be in one of the pictures. The house had a bay window and a wraparound screen porch. It isn’t standing any longer, but it may have been there for quite awhile after 1903. Also, I was told of a tornado going through that area in September 1930, but I couldn’t find anything that year except high winds in July 1930. My Godmother whom I got the information from seems to have a pretty rock solid memory for dates so I’m wondering if there is some tornado that happened that was just more localized and didn’t make the big news. Also, any information about Synneva Anderson (nee Thue) would be appreciated, she didn’t live too many years after settling there in 1903 so no one seems to have much information about her.

  9. I attended 3rd grade in Coulee and Mrs. Drabus was my teacher. She was a great teacher & when I moved back to Mpls the next year I was ahead of my class. Eldora Johnson was my best friend. My brother James was in 4th grade but was only there for the 1st half of the year. We were staying with my grandparents Rev. Simon & Mabel Knutson when he was the pastor of the 5 churches in the parish. I also remember that the parsonage was drafty because there was frost on the ceiling when I woke up in the morning.

  10. I was in Coulee this past Sunday,17 Jul 16, my Grandfather, Andrew Gandrud was instrumental in building ST. Lukes Church. I helped to have the St. Lukes Altar to the museum in Kenmare. I took the communion set to Kenmare it was orignally at St.Lukes. The Ira Pullen bought the first trees for St.Lukes and I planted them. I have pictures of the interior of St.Lukes. Dr. Wayne Pullen.

    • Wayne,
      Do you have any photographs of Saint Luke’s exterior. We have a photograph at museum in Kenmare of a church and we are trying to identify it. Thanks

  11. I grew up on a farm 2 miles south of Coulee until I was in the sixth grade in 1964. We then moved to Kenmare for a couple of harsh winters, but moved to Kenmare permanently arter that as we were making so many trips to town for school functions and church. It seemed we were in town twice daily as the three of us children grew up. My grandparents Thoralf and Cecilia Thompson lived to the West side of the Lutheran church. My aunt and uncle Donny and MaddyThompson lived across the street and just a couple lots East of the church. I remember going to Harry and Lillian’s store so many times when I was a tyke and getting rainbow ice cream cones and the mail. I could share so much more but I would have to look up the correct spelling of names etc. I’d love to hear more from people that grew up there. A lot of blanks could be filled in. I was surprised to see the name Schapp on the liquor store. I would like to know more about that as I had an aunt who after being widowed married a Schapp. She lived for a time directly across the street from my grandparents.

  12. I used to visit Maddy and Don Thompson and all my Thompson cousins there in the summers and on other holidays. My Mom, (Marion Harris) was Maddy’s sister. This would have been back in the late 60’s and early 70’s before the Thompsons moved to Kenmare. Uncle Don would give us each a Cool Whip bowl of firecrackers on July 4th and we’d literally have a blast!

  13. I have found memories of the general store. We sometimes sold our cream there. Lillian? was the organist for Bethlehem Lutheran and Hope Lutheran for many years. We also sold grain at the elevator and had oats ground there for feed. The annual meetings for the elevator were fun.

  14. My mother was born in Coulee as were some of her siblings. Their name was Knower.. My great grandmother worked at the creamery, Sarah Knower. Later they moved to Donnybrook were they graduated from high school. Miss going to those towns

  15. Chris, I’d love to be in touch. Your Grandpa Harry’s sister Ivadelle is my grandma. Your mother and mine (who still lives independently at age 86) are first cousins, and enjoyed some visits and letters in the past 20 years or so.

  16. Thanks for the nostalgic walk where I lived from 1946 to 1950 while my father, Rev. Willis Thompson was Pastor there. We lived in that house with the barn/garage out back. I used to walk kitty-corner from the parsonage to the general store and Post Office then operated by Harry and Lillian Jacobson (attended grade school with daughter Carol).

  17. I’m looking for anyone that knew Beulah Arneson or her mother, Amely. Or Beulah’s father, Herman. Beulah had a sister, Marilyn.

  18. I too lived in the parsonage. My dad, Morris Thompson, was told by the district office that he needed to come up with a plan to close at least 2 out of the 5 churches. This was a real strain on him as you do not win friends in closing their church. I now live in Minnesota, but have great memories of Coulee, bus rides to Donnybrook and piano lessons in Kenmore. Paul Thompson

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