The Last of DeSart, North Dakota

DeSart, North Dakota

In 2004, a visitor to our website suggested a list of places we should investigate in the southwest corner of the state, a list I recall mostly from memory — DeSart, Pierce, Shollsmade, Hume, Ranger, Mound, Bessie. Back then, we had very little luck finding much on many of these places. Most of them were rural post offices where no development occurred, and another site visitor told us that nothing remained of DeSart, so we didn’t give it much more thought.

DeSart, North Dakota

Recently, Nate Reynolds posted these photos to our Facebook page and graciously gave us permission to post them here. About fifteen minutes northeast of Bowman, just off a remote and quiet country road, the last of DeSart, North Dakota — a shell of  home, and the DeSart cemetery.

DeSart, North Dakota
DeSart, North Dakota

DeSart reportedly had 75 residents at its peak in 1920. Some of them no doubt rest in the DeSart Lutheran Cemetery shown below. By the 1970s, only 6 residents remained.

DeSart, North Dakota

Photos by Nate Reynolds. Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

31 Comments on “The Last of DeSart, North Dakota

  1. Some place I have a photo(s) of DeSart main street…before it was a ghost town….My Dad took them I believe..He grew up around New England ND. I will see if I can locate them.

    • That would be great. If you can find them, use the contact page to email us and we’ll respond with an address where you can send them.

  2. Well I found the one photograph…on the back it says DeSart 1921…pretty rough shape but it give some idea…also came across a picture of the inside of the State Theater in New England ND ..thinking about 1928 or so as that was when my parents owned the theater and had the first talkie in the area,,,,,.prior to that it seems Mom used to play the piano for the silent films..both Mom and Dad had a band at the time called the Blue Birds…… another interesting item I came across again was a journal of there honeymoon trip ..June 21 to July 7 1928…a double wedding and honeymoon…the total expenses for Mom and Dad (which they itemized. Entertainment, gas, camping etc etc .Dad was a bookkeeper) came to a whopping……………$76.35 Gas and oil came to $22.65 for the whole trip…My My have times changed…LOL

  3. I have numerous photos of “Old” DeSart, North Dakota. I also have a copy of “Slope Saga) the history of Slope County, N. Dakota. It contains photos and family biographies. I have visited and photographed the field where DeSart was located. I have maps of all the buildings in DeSart, N.Dakota. I’m willing to share. I have a 1945 colored map of N.Dakota showing the location of DeSart.

    • I also have a picture of DeSarts Main street…My father Arvid Wiklund grew up in the New England area and my mother Fay Hunn in the Havelock area NO ONE HAS EVER SENT ME THE ADDRESS WHERE TO MAIL IT???????

      • Hi Terry,
        If you want to send them to the publisher of the books. Sonic Tremor Media LLC
        PO Box 6484
        Fargo, ND 58109-6484
        You can also email Troy Larson.
        Troy Larson says:
        “April 22, 2014 at 5:54 am

        That would be great. If you can find them, use the contact page to email us and we’ll respond with an address where you can send them.”
        howard DeSart

    • I would really appreciate it if you would send me whatever you have of DeSart. My great-great-great-grandfather made roots there when he came over from Germany. My family fills much of the DeSart cemetary. I have been working on the Bauman(n) history and would be so grateful if you would help me out.
      My email is:
      I hope to hear from you soon.

    • The Library of Congress has posted digital copies of old newspapers that can be viewed and downloaded on their web site “Chronicling America.” They are under the link to “digital newspapers.” On this site you can search DeSart and locate a number of articles related to DeSart from the Bismarck Daily Tribune. A lengthy article describing creation of the town and people and businesses appears under the date 24 October 1912.

  4. My mother was Helen Jones Teske, the daughter of Bill Jones and Ona Worthy Jones. Over time my family obtained ownership of the town site of “new” DeSart and just recently i have purchased it.. I am presently having a sign construced and plan to erect it close to the town site on the road to the north.

    • I read about your family in the Slope Saga. I am extremely grateful for your plan to erect a sign recognizing the town my relatives founded. Can I help with financing the sign, I would be forever grateful? I have visited the wheat field where to town was formerly located and have received photos from Ora DeSart relatives who visited and stood in the field.
      Howard DeSart

    • Mike. Thank you for undertaking the sign effort. In researching DeSart history over the years I have heard the Teske Family name come up many times as the authorities on the small town. Unfortunately I never made the connection. My Mom grew up in the AP Krenz/ Frank Ross house on the hill and I have been to the town site many times. The sign will be a great help in identifying the site. I had previously asked the State Historical Society about placing a sign but they were not interested because of the absence of buildings. Does the old Lutheran church, which previously stood on DeSart’s main street, still stand in the field to the southwest?
      Many thanks to Troy Larson and all of you for keeping alive the memory of this colorful little town.

    • Mike,
      Wow! I am so grateful that you are making and placing a sign near the town. My family would be honored.

  5. Howard;

    I am the son-in-law of Betty Mattson (Betty DeSart), of Detroit Lakes, MN. I just went to DeSart yesterday and visited the town site. I have a customer in Dickinson who coached basketball in New England, and called a farmer friend in the area who gave us directions. I walked the town site and couldn’t find so much as a foundation stone – absolutely nothing! Weeds are high and bugs bad with all the rain out there. Very pretty country. If you could send any maps or pictures I would be grateful. All Betty DeSart has is an old photo from 1910 – do you have anything more recent? I look forward to hearing from you!

    • So I have a old …and pretty beat up photo of DeSarts main street ( well some street)…probably about that same time. My Dad grew up in New England ND….if you have a interest in that I could get you a link to it.

  6. My Grandfather was a homesteader in DeSart!! My father Larry’s birth certificate states he was born in Desart. I think my Aunt Dorothy Liesch was born there as well. I visited there once, and was directed to the family that bought our farm. It was just south of the cemetery. The family lived in New England, and when I called him on the phone, he was just getting ready for supper there at the nursing home and didn’t want to miss out on that. He did remember our family though when they left in 1913 or so.

    I’m willing to pay shipping/ copying expenses, etc.. for any pictures or information on Desart. Like how did they get there? My family left from Osceola Wisconsin. Did they take the train? What was that like?
    Chuck Liesch

    Thank you!!

  7. Hi-
    My grandparents lived in DeSart in the early 20th century. My brother is doing a history of them and their times and would like to include information about DeSart. Any photos and factual information you would like to share would be very much appreciated.
    Hope all is well with you and yours.
    Pat Swerkstrom
    402 185th Street
    Osceola, WI 54020

  8. The 2-story farm house you feature on your web page for DeSart belonged to August P and Lillian (Bilges) Krenz. My Mom grew up in the house. It previously belonged to the Frank Ross family that was devastated by the influenza outbreak around the time of WWI. My Mom, Ruth Krenz Williams, taught in the one-room school at DeSart, as did her younger sister Theresa Krenz Tarpo who still resides in New England.
    I have been in touch with Howard before and would be happy to share with others materials I have researched on DeSart.

      • I would love to connect with you about Bilges family history and DeSart if you are interested.

        • I would be glad to confer with you about DeSart family and DeSart, N.D. I can research info from Slope Saga a 1178 page history of Slope County, published in 1976. I bought it from the Lutheran church minister in Amidon, when I visited in 1995. I have a few copies of postcards, maps and a hand drawn map of the business section of DeSart. You may notice that I capitalize the D in our family name but Dr. Hubert DeSart ( when we visited him in Oreye, Belgium) says that the capital D denotes nobility and I am not able at this time to determine our family status. I am trying to establish our connection with Dr. DeSart’s family, if it exists.

          The founder of Desart, N.Dakota was the half brother of my great grandfather David Desart.
          Howard Douglas Desart

    • Hi, Gary. I am Harvey J Krenz’s Grandson. I have some memories of my grandpa telling stories of what it was like growing up there before the 2nd WW. I would like to know more about my family history. Thanks Larry Weiss

  9. Since the last burial took place in this cemetery in 2002, it seems like it’s not really abandoned. People still appear to care for the graves and wish to be buried there next to their loved ones

  10. Is that a Sears & Roebuck house? The kind that came over in parts on the train and were assembled on site? We have one in our area that looks very similar and has “Sears & Roebuck” stamped on many of the boards in the attic.

  11. Hello,

    I would love to see any information about DeSart! I grew up just a few miles from DeSart and remember most distinctly my father taking me to the DeSart schoolhouse when I was a child. It had been abandoned for some years at that point, but was still in decent shape. I remember specifically two rows of school chairs, maybe about 8 in total. I believe it was torn down shortly thereafter.

    In about 1972, the Herman and Katherine Farber family gave us a go-cart, probably built by Hollis Farber I believe. It turned out to be a great a source of fun for our family. It was quite a contraption with old steel tractor wheels and two steel tractor seats. In about 1985, for the 100th year anniversary of New England, we hooked a little red Radio Flyer wagon behind it. We place a 15 gallon drum of oil in the wagon with a garden hose extending from it. We painted the entire thing red. We added a sign that said…… “DeSart Fire Department.” We drove it in the New England parade right behind the big New England fire trucks. It turned out to be a nice hit. My mother has some nice pictures of the whole event.

    So….. No one can say that DeSart didn’t have a volunteer fire department.

  12. George Jalbert Family
    reprinted from Slope Saga, Slope County North Dakota 1976
    submitted for publication by Stella Freymiller and Bernice Jalbert
    courtesy of Howard DeSart
    George Jalbert came to Slope County from Grandin, North Dakota in 1908 to homestead in Cedar Creek Township. He married Ema Narum who came from Pereley, Minnesota. They had nine children and are as follows: Louis, born December 6, 1913 (passed away) Myrtle, born August 1, 1915, married to Edwin Engraf, New England, North Dakota; Stella, born October 24, 1916, married Bill Freymiller and lives in Bismark, North Dakota; Earl , born April 6, 1918, (passed away). he was married to Ardys Christenson; Lloyd, born May 2, 1919, married Bernice Korth and lives in New England, North Dakota; Ethel, born September 27, 1922, married Joe Zich and lives in Mott, North Dakota; Francis, born in 1924 (passed away when a child), Delores, born September 6, 1929 married Al Staigner and lives at Mandan, North Dakota; LeRoy born June 28m 1934 (passed away).
    George and Emma lived on the homestead until 1951 when they moved to a farm at Binford, North Dakota. Lloyd and family operated the home farm.
    Memories of farm life include cold winters when Dad would heat up big rocks, wrap them up and put them in the sled he used to transport us to school. This kept our feet warm. I also remember how the snow piled up so high dad dug a trench to walk through to the barn and to get water from the outside well. He would have icicles from his nose way down past his chin by the time he got back to the house. He was always happy and seemed to love farm life.
    We had the Job after school of carrying in large chunks of coal which were piled up in the living room on papers around a big pot bellied stove to keep the house warm during the cold winter nights. We also had to see there was wood to start the kitchen range in the morning. Another job was to haul water with a little wagon and cream can, to filled up the reservoir on the stove where it kept warm for doing dishes and washing.
    by Stella Freymiller and Bernice Jalbert

  13. I have been doing family history and just found out that many of my 1st cousins were all baptized at the Evangelical Church in DeSart. Ole Geving and my grand aunt Aagot died in New England in 1932and 1938.Some of the girls were married to Sheldrew,Strehlow,Fresonke and Hegge. I am going to see if I can find a copy of the Slope Saga online A 2nd cousin Phylis Strehlow married Reuben Kreklau from Elgin.

  14. Barbara, Good luck in trying to find a copy of Slope Saga. I researched my copy and found only one family in your list. Henry and Alma Fresonke, submitted a very brief bio of their family along with a photo of the children, Joyce, Carol, Keith, Shirley, Henry, Betty, and Danny. I can Email a copy. Howard

    • Henry and Alma Fresonke were my grandparents, Henry was my father. Happy to provide any further information that I have.

  15. The town DESART was named after Ora R. DeSart. He was the 1st Postmaster, and the post office was established 10/25/1906. It was later changed from all capitals to DeSart on 06/19/1912. The original spelling with all caps was required, even though erroneous, to comply with Government spelling regulations. Ora’s parents came from Iowa, although he was a native of Wisconsin, and his wife may have grown up in Wisconsin after her birth in Iowa. The Post Office was located in the southeast quarter of section 18-134-98, Carroll Township, 14 miles east-southeast of Amidon. In 1911 it moved four miles southeast to the northwest quarter of section 35-134-98, where a small settlement began to develop. Ora’s son Ora Alonza DeSart’s 2nd marriage was to a relative of mine, Inez Ruth Theilen.

  16. My parents purchased some farm land and the house that stands there was from DeSart. The story is in 1921 it was purchased and moved by Steam tractors to the family farm where it sits now. The story was it use to be a hotel. 3 bedroom. Would love to see any photos prior to 1921.

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