Solitude in Brinsmade, North Dakota

Brinsmade, North Dakota

Brinsmade, North Dakota was platted in Benson County, just west of Devils Lake, on October 7th, 1889 as the Northern Pacific Railway expanded progessively west, carrying settlers and their families to their eventual homes on the plains. It officially became a city in 1904.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

According to the 2010 Census, Brinsmade is now home to 35 residents in 13 households.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

Brinsmade’s most prominent features today are the abandoned grain elevators.

Brinsmade, North Dakota
Brinsmade, North Dakota

Brinsmade is the central locale in Richard K. Hofstrand’s book, “With Affection, Marten,” a fictionalized account of his ancestor Marten Hofstrand’s immigration journey from Sweden to North Dakota. It is an exceptional glimpse at what it was like to be a settler in the early days of North Dakota.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

For those interested in more history of Brinsmade, there is an out-of-print book by Susan Rolle Foy, “Memories of Brinsmade, North Dakota,” published in 1976. I have not read it, but I’ve been told it’s full of interesting information.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

The remains of an unknown structure.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

According to “North Dakota: Every Town on the Map, and Moreby Vernell and Louise Johnson, Brinsmade was named for Reverend S. Brinsmade, congregational minister of Beloit, Wisconsin. The town site was located on the original homestead of John Erickson.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

The remains of a sidewalk where there are no longer any businesses or homes to visit.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

The school did not appear to have been used for classes in quite some time. Update: Site visitor Kevin Lunde reports the school was built in 1959 and only used for ten years as the last class was excused in 1969.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

You can support our efforts to photograph North Dakota’s lost and vanishing places by ordering our latest hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains. Makes a stellar gift!

Brinsmade, North Dakota

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

51 Comments on “Solitude in Brinsmade, North Dakota

  1. Happy to say I’m one of the current residents. That school building was built in 1959 and closed in 1969 – I was in 4th grade.

    • Those that are from Brinsmade, do any of you remember the Kennedy’s? Keith, Merle, Jerry, Bill, Linda would have been the more well known. My dad Jerry grew up there and graduated from Leeds in 1961. He loves Brinsmade, has fond memories. My family still own the property where their house was I believe. My Uncle Bill goes up there often. I was just wondering. Thanks!

      • My Dad, Curtis, was buddies with Keith. He graduated in 1956 and passed away 2 years ago. I remember the house that sat on your families property. Pretty small house for all those kids 🙂

        • My dad remembers your family. Keith is still alive, he lives in Texas. I hear the house was very small. My grandparents ended up with a total of 13 kids. My dad told me to tell you hi!

      • We lived there for 10 years and I remember the Kennedys well. Between our families we made up about half the population.

  2. When you look it up on Google earth, you can follow the old rail road bed from Leeds to Minnewaukan and beyond. Some of it is under the waters of ever-growing Devil’s Lake.

  3. Pretty sure that is my dad’s abandoned elevator…and some of my fondest memories took place in that school! I believe I was a classmate of the “Lester” mentioned in an earlier comment!

    • I am Harriette Schofield. I graduated from the 8th grade in Brinsmade in 1941. We moved to Oregon
      the next year because Portland Shipyards were hiring workers. Both Mom and Dad got jobs there. Much later I was runner up Miss Oregon (representing Oregon City). Another contestant was Miss Salem. We discovered that we were in the Brinsmade grade school together…last name Evanson. What are the chances? 2 Brinsmade girls ending up as contestants in the Miss Oregon contest.

  4. I grew up in Devils Lake, I remember that elevator and the area very well, as My Grandfathers farm was 9 miles south of Leeds on the main county road.
    Mike Torgerson

    • Hi Mike, Clara was my grandmother sister, Josephine & Fred Bingham were my grandparents. My parents were George & Delores Bingham. Eddy your dad?

  5. The veterinarian from Leeds we used at our Esmond farm was Dr Hofstrand. I believe he died in the 1960’s when an animal injection mistakenly went into him instead of the animal. Is the author mentioned his son or grandson? He was a wonderful doctor and very faithful to his work and our farming neighbors.

  6. Why did so many people leave these towns you feature in North Dakota. I have heard that North Dakota is now having a boom in population lately. Are some of these towns being revitalized ?

    • With the invention of the automobile-people could travel longer distances. “Snowballing effect” resulted in: Business/people going to the larger towns. Less people stopping/shopping in smaller towns meant less product needed, thus less shipping by rail. To be more productive Railway companies began bypassing small towns completely. More folks moved to bigger towns for jobs, schools etc. Bigger became Better in the minds of many-agriculture included. Small farms no longer could “keep up” financially with the need for larger equipment, more land, etc. hence sold out or left. Something gained will always leave something lost.

  7. Why did the people leave? People starting leaving in the 30’s during the depression, and once it started the trend continued through the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s… Dust storms, grasshopper plagues, drought, no money. That and the climate, which is severe to say the least. Some folks stayed on, but slowly they passed away, and the younger folks were gone with no one to replace them. My Dad’s grocery store failed during the depression and the family moved out west. He used to show me his little metal box with hundreds of uncollected IOU’s for things like raisens, floor, rice…

  8. Heidi, your dad’s elevator is the one in the background in the first picture. Gene you are thinking of Lester Berger? Lived south of town, just across the Soo Line tracks. Claudine, the author of the book would be a nephew of Dr. Hofstrand. I highly recommend the book if you are interested in early ND history.

  9. Home of my greatgrandfather’s half brother, Henry “Ward” Salisbury at the turn of the century

  10. My mom aunts uncles and some of cousins grew up there and still own property there. My uncle Mike still lives there to this day. I used to go there very summer to ride horse.

  11. Beverly (Bingham) Janzen. I grew up in Brinsmade and went to school there though 5th grade. Very nice small town. Kevin I didn’t know you still living there.

  12. Wondering if these Torgersons were related to Lester Torgerson.?…He was a trucker and good friend of my Dad’s when they used to haul gravel with the two ton trucks in the early 50’s…..I used to ride with my Dad who wqas Clifford Nelson in his truck….Seems to me that Lester was from Brinsmade originally then maybe Leeds…Anyone know?

    • Clif, Lester torgerson was my father, I do remember seeing home movies of all the gravel trucks, Selmer and Carrie Torgerson were his parents, they lived on a farm out near Brinsmaide, My mother and father did move into Leeds, later we moved to British Columbia, and then California, my father passed away nearly 33 years ago, my mother has remarried and she lives in Leeds, Fern Buchta, and my husband and I also live in Leeds. My parents were very good friends of the Harneys from Brinsmaide.

  13. My mother, Dorothy Stewart was the youngest of 9 children born on the Stewart farm outside of Brinsmade. Mom was born in 1907 and died at the age of 103 in 2011. I have lots of stories that mom has told about growing up in Brinsmade. Her grandma, Julia Staples was a school teacher in the area and married to Dennis Staples. I took Mom back to Brinsmade and one last look of where the family lived. I was also back to Brinsmade a few years ago while doing some family history. The Srewart’s started leaving North Dakota in the mid 30’s. Lots of them settled in the Northwest. I have many cousins still living who were born in N.D.

    • Yep, I was one of them. I still have fond memories of Brinsmade and the area around that little town

  14. My mothers family were we’ll known – Harney was her fathers last name and her mothers maiden name was Cocking. Their marriage produced 4 sons and 1 daughter (twin to brother Tom). Mom and her brother Gene are still living, I will have my mother put together an article and will post a brief history of what she remembers from 1932.

  15. I enjoyed reading all the comments about Brinsmade. I grew up there and spent the first 18 yrs there. My grandfather was Tom Ose known to all who lived in that area as a Banker, baseball owner etc. My dad was Roy a mail carrier and passed away in 1972. My mom was Eva and passed away in 2010. I have many fond memories of Brinsmade especially meeting the young girl who would become my wife of 50 yrs. We will be celebrating Sept 3. Tom Ose

    • Tom, I remember you getting the first “speed bike” in town. I now live if the Twin Cities.

  16. My Grand parents Eddie & Clara Torgerson ( and other famly members) are buried at the Harlow cemetery. My goal is to next yr take a trip back to vist that area along with Devils lake.

    • Mike T.,Are you related to a Lester Torgerson or Torgeson?…my Dad was good friends in the 50’s with him…they hauled gravel together for contractors all over the state.

  17. Mike Torgerson, I thought you were my brother Mike…lol He lives in Leeds. I was going to correct your post by telling him we didn’t live in Devils We were born there 🙂 We are also children of Lester & Fern Togerson. Leslie is my sister. I have many memories of Grandma Carrie & Grandpa Selmer Torgerson’s farm in Brinsmade.

  18. I remember the time when we lived the and loved it. We lived in town in the early 60’s, not really to sure because I was to young. We moved out to the Jon Leichty farm around 1964 I believe and we neighbors to Lester Burger. They were great neighbors. I went to the school from 1966 to 1969 and after the school closed we went to Leeds school until 1972. That was the year we moved to Maddock. I still remember both elevators, post office, bar, grocery store, hardware store (sometimes) and both church’s were still all going. I’ve recently moved to Missouri but have already been back to North Dakota and visited my sister in Brinsmade (Peggy) it’s still one of my most memorable places!!

  19. My grandmother Vivian Jacobson, taught at that school. Their farm was two miles north of town. The only thing left of the farmstead is a tree line and a couple grain bins.

  20. Hello !
    I’m just watching the series “Taken” (2002).
    I’m sure you’ve never heard of “Harry Wallington Feed & Grains” in Brinsmade and went bankrupt in 1975.
    Some episodes of “Taken” are expected to take place at the exit of Brinsmade and near Leeds but the landscape do not fit.

    PS: Your site is very interesting !

    Stef (France)

  21. Brinsmade was a booming town. I remember 2 banks,a hotel, hardware store, telephone operators(plug in to connect the “crank phones”, Doctor’s office, blacksmith shop, and many others. The Lutheran Church is now in the New Rockford oldtime village along with the Brinsmade PostOffice. The Steam Thresher’s would like donations to do some repair work on the church. Earl Loken (Rugby now) made sure the church was preserved, even has the old little black hymn books in it.. We lived on a farm NW of Brinsmade but spent most of winters with grandparents in town while going to school 5th through 8th grade. Interesting to read posts. Moved back from north of Leeds to live on farm where I was born which my daughter and son-in-law own. Richard, Grandmother Vivian taught some of my kids in Leeds! We went to country school with the Tom and Mary Harney that someone else mentioned. Stef, someone who writes does use Brinsmade area as background, Sci-Fi had kids hiding in the OLD gym in Brinsmade (basement) and then associated it with going to school in Leeds. Also mentioned Cranberry Lake by Fillmore. Ira Bingaman ran the elevator pictured . I believe he owned it.

  22. In ’48, I was runner up Miss Oregon representing the town of Oregon City. I noticed that Miss Salem’s name sounded familiar. I asked where she was from. Imagine my surprise when she said North Dakota and then Brinsmade.
    Turns out we were in the Brinsmade elementary school together – first grade. What are the chances? 2 girls from the little town of Brinsmade competing in a Miss Orergon contest!
    I now live in Carmel, Ca. but have lost track of Joyce Evanson

  23. Probably no one or very few will remember my first emigration to Brinsmade; in 1951 I arrived there as a very sick child, my dad secured a small mechanic shop and we lived in the back of adjoining ‘warehouse’ building for the winter. I found a receipt one day when I was much older that showed he made $42 for the month – this was the same month I had splenectomy surgery in Rugby for a congenital condition. I remember looking out a window as I was recuperating and the following spring going to the church there and the store down the block owned by Ed Rolle. As I was walking to the store one day, on the board sidewalks, I discovered a dime, stuck in the cracks and quickly snatched it and took it to the store where I bought a big paper bag full of candy to take home to my mom. Mom was not pleased – she started crying before she yelled at me and snatched the bag of candy that I had foolishly and selfishly bought. At that time, hamburger was $.10 per lb. and I had just squandered money for a meal or two on a little bag of candy! Times were very hard for some of us and we still used to take the big copper boilers out to the coulee in the spring to get water, but people stuck together and they helped each other in these little prairie towns. We learned the value of family and community – it is hard to see some of today’s children not appreciating these values because they did not learn the hard way – the parents of my generation gave their children what they needed, not what they wanted and I am so thankful for those ideals and values that came from small towns like Brinsmade!!

  24. My name is Brian Tester. I was born in Devils Lake in 1953. My folks, Joseph and Dolores Tester, were born in Brinsmade in 1929. We moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1955, so I don’t remember anything except for my return visits back to visit family. Benno and Nora Tester were my grandparents. My grandfather played professional baseball and one time played against Satchell Paige. George and Katherine Reisdorph were my mother’s parents. My uncle, Skinner Tester, owned Tester’s Flea Market in Leeds along with a moulding shop. If any of these names relate to anybody, I would appreciate hearing back. Thank you.

    • Brian,
      Can you tell me how to get in touch with you? Long story I dont want to publish here

        • Hi Rocky,
          I am the granddaughter of Martin Tester, Benno Tester’s brother. I only recently traced Benno to Brinsmade and learned he played baseball. I would love to learn more.
          Please reply with a way I can contact you.
          Benno had 11 siblings, most of whom stayed in Wisconsin.
          M. Pohlman

  25. Does anyone remember Alma & Arnold Anderson? I believe Alma worked at the post office? She was my grandmother.

  26. My grandmother taught in Brinsmade in the early part of the 20th century. Her name was Svannau Yri . . . her brother Ernest was a dentist in Minnewaukan for many years. She married Victor Horne and moved to Penn in the early 1920’s. They lived to be 100 and 99 years old, respectively, and I heard many stories of those early years . . .

  27. My grandmother, Ruby O’Connell, lived in Brinsmade for over 70 years. My mom, Patricia O’Connell, grew up there. My moms best friend was Chick Tester. Spent many summers there as a child and loved it.

  28. I am moving a dresser that was my Grandpa Otto and Grandma Mabel Lunde’s. On the back it says E O Gunerud Brinsmade, ND and there is a 23 above it as well. I wonder if that was the person who made it or owned it at one time?

  29. I found a copy of With Affection, Marten at a used book store associated to Amazon ($25). Awesome book.

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