Grand Rapids School

Grand Rapids, North Dakota is a town in Lamoure County that owes its existence to a lie. Captain Homer T. Elliot built the first homestead between Jamestown and Huron, Dakota Territory here in 1879. Not wanting to travel many miles to get his mail every day, Elliot reported to the government that a town called Grand Rapids had sprung up, and appointed himself Postmaster.

Grand Rapids, North Dakota

It was a self-serving lie. A town named Grand Rapids did not yet exist. Nevertheless, a stagecoach line arrived soon after, and then another. If it weren’t for Elliot’s little white lie, Grand Rapids, North Dakota would not exist today.

Grand Rapids, North Dakota

We visited Grand Rapids specifically to photograph this school which, according to a fading plaque on the site, was built in 1916 but hasn’t been used since 1962.

Grand Rapids, North Dakota
Grand Rapids, North Dakota
Grand Rapids, North Dakota

A small one-room school stands in the weeds just down the road.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp copyright © 2014 Sonic Tremor Media

14 thoughts on “Grand Rapids School

  1. Thanks Troy for the back story on Grand Rapids! Looking for more ghosts in that territory! Wish my parents were
    still living to share more authentic early history on Grand Rapids. As I child, I recall it was often a topic of their conversation as “the big city”….Kathy

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  2. For not have being used for 52 years, looks to be in pretty good shape! Someone must have been looking after it over the years.

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  3. If you think that’s interesting, read up about how it was the county seat until the title was literally stolen by a bunch of gun toting cowboys from LaMoure! There is still a museum in the Grand Rapids park that holds more memorabilia as well. Just head north from the school. Worth another trip!

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  4. My uncle owns the property the school sets on so I am familiar with its condition. It looks good from a distance but up close you can see how it has deteriorated, especially the interior. My dad and most of his siblings attended school in this building. I would love to see someone restore the building.

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    1. It was a childhood dream of mine to restore along with my dad Eugene Smith from Marion. Making a hotel out of it would have brought some business to the area. We went camping sometimes in Grand Rapids park & saw many of the musicals at the Summer Theatre.

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  5. Are the park, golf course and Summer Theater still going? I spent a lot of time in the area in the 70’s. I went to high school in LaMoure.

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  6. Recently, I was in Grand Rapids. the School House building is still standing. Lots of memories, I attended the first 8 grades in that building. Also, my Dad, cousins & siblings.
    Grand Rapids is looking good, has been kept up by families of the area, as well as Zion Lutheran Church. The Horseshoe Bar & Grill,
    is a must for a great dinner. It is in the Store building that was Henry’s Grocery. And the LaMoure County Museum & Park, should be on everyones “Bucket List.”

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