13 People and 3 Churches in Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief is a near-ghost town in McHenry county, and is home to the first Russian Baptist Church ever established in the United States. Although only listed as having a population of 13 in the 2010 census, the amount of activity we saw on our visit to Kief seemed to suggest a larger population, perhaps twenty?  Kief has a bar which was open for business on the day we visited.

Update: we’ve been told the bar has since closed.

Kief, North Dakota

Kief has a total of three churches still standing, but only one appeared to be still in use.

Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota

US Census Data for Kief
Total Population by Place

1960 – 97
1970 – 46
1980 – 36
2000 – 12
2010 – 13

Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota

Many of the abandoned homes in Kief were in quite good condition, and Minot, the closest sizable city, is only forty-five minutes down the road. We thought Kief would be the perfect place to buy a hobby home for a reasonable price.

Kief, North Dakota

From the era when a guy came out to your car and pumped your gas, washed the windows, and checked the oil.  Let’s bring that back, can we?

Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota

Kief is also home to one of North Dakota’s longest running cold cases. Donna Jean Michalenko disappeared from Kief on November 2nd, 1968. Michalenko disappeared after a night of drinking with a male companion, who claimed he dropped her off at her ex-husband’s house. She was never seen again.

The investigation into Michaelenko’s disappearance was hampered by the fact that she wasn’t reported missing for six weeks after she disappeared. If you have information regarding the disappearance of Donna, please call the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office (the county where Donna lived) at 701-537-5633 or the McLean County Sheriff’s office (where she allegedly disappeared) at 701-462-8103.

Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota

Kief First Baptist Church’s claim to fame.

Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota
Kief, North Dakota

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

70 Comments on “13 People and 3 Churches in Kief, North Dakota

  1. WOW!!! Does Someone want to invest? I will gladly move my family up there to remodel & upgrade.
    Turn it into a resrt or vacation spot!

  2. Great pics that bring back wonderful memories. My mother graduated from Kief High School with my grandparents farming just south of town. Kief actually had a 100 yr reunionin 2 yrs ago. I was unable to attend but they put out a video that was really cool. My mother and aunt were interviewd along with alot of the older folks with their memories of Kief. Hey, is it true, I heard Earl’s bar reopened?

      • My Mother was born there. It seems my Great-
        Grandfather was responsible for naming the town of Kief. He and his wife moved there after fleeing Kiev with their children. Family name (although there are 3 different spellings that I am aware of due to Ellis Island) is Korchenko (which is my Grandfather’s spelling)

    • I spent many happy childhood days on my relatives’ farms around Kief but was unable to get tot he reunion. Do you know how I might get a copy of the video that was made? I would love to have a copy.

    • Do you know where I might view or access a copy of the video you mentioned?

  3. I believe Benny still keeps the store open at the old gas station. My stepmother was from Kief (Karen Ebel). She died last year from cancer (2009) but my father Keith Lorentzen still lives in Butte.

    • Marie Ebel b. 1919 married William Arndt b. 1912 (parents Jacob & Jetta Arndt) on 29 Sept 1939.
      Looking to connect with some relatives to share family history. Jacob’s parents were Friedrich Arndt and Minnie Suckert Arndt. Minnie passed away in 1919 and is buried in Rosenfield Cemtery, Kief, ND.
      Is there a website for the cemeteries in that area? Thx and stay well. Inez (Arndt)

      • Hi Inez,

        My father is Jacob Arndt Jr. and of course my grandparents would have been Jacob & Jetta Arndt Sr. I just talked to my Aunt Marie about a month ago, as it was her birthday. I had such an enjoyable time visiting with her by telephone. She lives in a nursing home in McClusky. I grew up on a farm south of Butte, and now live in DeBary, Florida.

        I would love to correspond with you regarding our family history. My sister and I work on researching our family history, but as you know, we can always use help.

        My email is mknopp98@gmail.com
        My full name is Marcella (Arndt) Knopp

        Hope to hear from you.


  4. I grew up about 15 miles south of Kief…Kief was our address although I went to High School in McClusky…I was shocked that the bar opened….is there enough people to keep it going?? But then I hear ND is really rocking with all the oil activity going on……one of my friends saw on TV not long ago ND had more oil than Saudia Arabia …..

    I was home 3 years ago….and of course drove through Kief…..was wondering how long the post office had been closed.


    • The bar in Kief is open. People like to drink there, nothing else for miles around. I remember 10 years ago delivering cigarettes and pop to Benny’s grocery store. ND is booming with the oil business, but not in the Kief area.

  5. I was back in Kief for the reunion ( 100 year ) and try and make it back to the area every few years. I have a lot of relatives in the cemetery there so thats to the personal that do a great job keeping up the area. I too stopped in the bar in Kief but only had a few soda pops so had to visit with all just a month ago. I think my heart will always be back in Kief as we had a lot of fun times growing up in the area. Thanks for the write up and the pictures.

    • I remember sams store.
      And sam was one of a kind.
      Would u happen to have a pic of the store. And of sam.

        • Hello Neil. I am assuming you are the same Neil that had the Blacksmith’s Shop in Butte? I don’t know if it is allowed to post an email here, but if you have a scanner it would be great to have any older pictures of Kief or Butte. mlm_1950@yahoo.com

  6. very interesting to see all the old buildings, and the gas pump where i used to get gas. and also the lutheran church where i went to sunday school. so many memories. was great to be back at the celebration a few yrs ago, seen so many old friends and nieghbors. and the best part was camping right in town for 3 days. Awsome web site thanx.

  7. I taught a rural school near Kief, directly out of high school (1953 -54). I played backetball with the Kief’s men while teaching there. These are great prictures, I feel so sad and depressed when I see these old towns disappear.

    I also lived in Regan, ND during that time and it should also be placed on the Ghost Town list, nothing there but a few homes.

    • Hi cousin Darwyn! I love looking at these photos as well. Lots of fun memories in Kief. Sam’s grocery store,the outdoor theatre, walking up and down the Main Street on Saturday nights with friends as a kid. Of course we had our hair up in curlers because the next day was Sunday and church! Hope all is well with you and Sonya.

      • Hi LaVonne-going through this wonderful “Ghost Towns “of Nd and saw this posting from you-My step father, greatest creation God made, was from Washburn ND-Robert Reiser. He actually wrote the music and words to the school song. There are still several Reisers in ND-my brother John Reiser is in Minot and another brother, teacher in Cando, Robert E ReiserJr. Family moved from Underwood to Mohall in 1955-My mother was a Miller from Underwood, her name was Yvonne Reiser. So close to your name. Would be interesting if your husband is related not too many generations past-sorry I assumed Reiser is your married name-would love to hear if we have a connection-I am on Face Book and my e-mail is-deannabaker6644@outlook.com– deanna Baker

  8. Very fun to see this. I grew up near Kief. My great aunt still lives there and I saw a building that she owns, in the pictures. My childhood home, that my folks still live in on a farm near there, was moved from Kief 35 years ago.

  9. Pingback: Keith lorentzen | Adventureonwat

  10. My Mother, Anne Schielke, daughter of Sam Schielke, and was born in Kief in 1916. About 20 years ago we had a Schielke reunion in Minot. Relatives took us all around Keif, Butte, Lincoln Valley, etc. My mother married Konrad Suelzle from Butte in 1935. His family owned the General Store in Butte which sold groceries among many other things. Mother graduated from Keif High School in about 1934 and my Dad graduated from Butte about 5 years earlier. I was born in Minot and was raised in Crosby located north of Williston where the oil activity is.

  11. Kief Lutheran Church was one of 6 (no typo) served by my father, Rev. Karl Astrup Xavier in the 1949-1952 era. I was barely old enough to remember about Kief and yet do not have at hand a photo of the church. Therefore, I am unable to pinpoint which church as portrayed here is the one served by my father.

    The McHenry county area was heavily Norwegian Lutheran, although its proximity to Minot brought about a certain diversity to the area, mostly from railroad and commerce. There were also in the Kief and Butte areas a number of sod houses still around at the time.

    If I run across photos or newspaper stuff from the Kief area I will gladly post.

    Thanks tons for sharing all of this.

    • I remember your Dad, he was pastor after Rev. Selid. Kief was generally a Ukraine community. The Lutheran church is the first one pictured. My parents lived in the “green” house before I was born. My Dad ran one of the service stations.

  12. Inez,

    My grandparents were Jacob & Jetta Arndt. My dad was Jacob Arndt Jr. Would love to share family history with you.


  13. This was great to see these pictures. My husband, Gary, grew up south of Kief and tells stories of growing up around there. I grew up at Butte but really didn’t go to Kief much till I was in high school. Benny Krueger just died this past week, in fact I think his funeral is today. We attended the reunion a few years ago. It was fun to see and visit with old friends. The Baptist church there is very active . That is the only active church left there.

    • My family grew up on a farm SE of Butte & SW of Kief. Kolchevskys now own it. I still come back to Butte every couple of years and stay a few weeks with Ron & Donna Plesuk so I can visit Knodels, Hegney, other Plesuks, and any of the older folks that are part of my childhood memories. My Grandmother, Agnes Antonov, was married to, Dan Sr. in their later years. Our families (Roy Antonovs & Danny Letvins) would get together for dinners often. I will be going back to Butte at the end of this June to bring my father’s ashes home. Roy Died Oct.10, 2013 at ripe old age of 91. Butte & Kief area will always be “home” to me.

  14. Lived in the area for 9 years — 1972 to 1981. Our address was Kief but we lived closer to McClusky. I played softball on the Kief Elevator team with Betty Blumhagen, Lenny Mortenson and many others whose names excape me! Haven’t been back in years but glad to hear there is an active church there and that Earl’s is open!!

    • you must be related to marion higgins (dieterle), her and i went to mcclusky high school together, i actually was back in mandan, nd this summer and had a nice visit with her on her property. she is such a fun loving person.

    • Hi Joanne,
      I was on Earl’s bar softball team way back then. I was always the catcher. My cousin Jackie, Cindy Ganje and Donita Martwick were all on the team then. Those were the best summers!

  15. Benny passed away this winter in Jan of 2014. he was my dads first cousin

  16. If I remember right, my grandmother was born in Keif. Hazel Korolsky Udelhofen

    • Hi Megan, your grandmother was my dad Sam’s sister. I remember visiting them with my parents and brother on my only trip to North Dakota back in ’68 or ’69. Hoping to make another trip there this summer or next.

      • Hello John. I am Mary Lou. I “used” to be the youngest of the Udelhofen family. The book you mentioned. Is that book the one that Garnet Sitch-Ellertson put together?
        I do have a few pictures of Uncle Sam and Aunt Margie with their kids when they were in ND.

        • Hi Megan, John, and Mary Lou! I am Fred Korolsky’s granddaughter!

          • Would you be the youngest? And does your mom Joyce, check out this site on occasion?

  17. My great grandparents, Miron and Christiana Dislevy (Yecovenko) settled and are interned just down the road about 9 miles in Butte. A place I’ve never visited. They had 10 children, (2 unknown), Nellie, Nick, Stacia (my grandmother), John Henry, Elizabeth, Lena, Jake, and Anna.

    Much is unknown! Please feel free to share your knowledge base, data, and research. My grandmother Stacia married Samuel Senchuk, believed to be interned somewhere in Oregon. They had 3 children, Helen, Alma, and Bertha (my mother). Stacia and Sam split, and Helen worked and Alma and Bertha were adopted by the Joe Goebel(sp) family. Lots of unknowns here.

    If you would like to share, please contact me at email: varias5@gmail.com

  18. Thank you for sharing all these wonderful photos! Both my paternal great-grandparents were Ukrainian immigrants, Charles & Carolina Bighouse, of Butte, ND, and John & Martha Wash (Ivaschenko) of Kief. John Wash was the cofounder of the first Russian Baptist Church in Kief. He and his wife fled Russia/Ukraine due to religious persecution. They had 12 children. I will list their names in case someone remembers them. (Pauline Lushenko, Edith Kerchenko-Potatpenko, Elizabeth Bighouse, Stephen Wash, Matthew Wash, Peter Wasch, Mary Docos-Griggs, Andrew Wash, Phillip Wash, Michael Walsh, Lillian Wash, and John Wash Jr.) I would like to get in contact with Robin Gordon, the lady who commented above. I have greatly enjoyed all the comments. To Michael Mullenmaster, I have an old North Dakota newspaper article about a Dislevy and my Bighouse relative, dated 1912. Also, have run across the Dasenko name (mentioned above) in my family history searches (related by marriage). To Megan J. Udelhofen, I have a mini bio on your family. If you don’t already have it, I will share. Thanks again for the photos and blog, such an amazing journey!

    • I am Mary Lou Manz, Aunt to Megan J. Udelhofen. I was wondering if you could tell me what the name of the Bio is that you mentioned? I have only begun to gather information on family. Are you on facebook also?

  19. It was good to hear from Gary Karpenko. Your Dad was one of a kind and we loved to visit his store in Kief and visit with him. He was a kind and gentle soul. I remember coming to your home in Kief after church for Sunday Dinner. Your Mom made the best borscht I have ever eaten, she was a wonderful cook. I think you were just a little guy then. Mike and I and Dell played basketball for awhile and then Mike and I took your car and the gun and went crow hunting. Good Times!

    I used to stop in Kief at Earl’s Bar for a glass or two of courage and directions before going to the Hoffman farm to see Kathy. I eventually wore her down and got her to say yes and marry me.

    Sorry to hear Benny died. Another interesting person to have a conversation with.

    In my soon to be published book, This Dummy Pulls His Own Strings, I have a chapter titled, My Home Town, about Drake and Kief is mentioned as the place where I met Kathy for the first time in the chapter, Love of My Life, My Happiness. The book is an autobiography about my ill spent youth, a modern day Tom Sawyer, who hitchhiked to Washington state at the age of 16 and rode A boxcar back home. Served time in the Army and Navy and while in the Navy was filmed on National TV saluting the flag draped coffin of John F. Kennedy and attending the funeral. I was a Golden Glove Boxer and NDANG boxing champion. Was lost in the ND Badlands. Pretty much a rebel without a clue. My friends refer to me as a North Dakota reject because I now live in MN.

  20. What a wonderful place, why doesn’t someone buy the whole town and then sell lots and lets get a town going again. I would love to live there.

  21. My great grand parents were Ukrainian immigrants. They lived in Kief around 1908 to 1920 ish. My great grandmother is buried there some where. My mother states it was on the family farm. Her name was Walhva (or Vera) with the last name could be one of three, Kohonas, Korunes, or Korunetz. I do know that my grandfather and some of his siblings were born in Kief. Family members names are Nestor and Vera Korunetz (Korunes) and their children are; John, Pauline,Anna, Fred, Samuel, Mary, Rose, Phillip, and Elsie. In the 1920’s, my family moved to Michigan. I have not had the chance to visit this town or area. If anyone has any information on my family from this area or that time period. I would love to hear about it.

    • Hello, I am from the Yukon in Canada and have seen some of these names together and some of them seem to have been in the Kabanuk Family tree that I had researched and found from the librarian at the the Minot Library. I am looking for some history of my great grandparents Omelka and Dorothy ( or Anna )Kabanuk who had a house there. There was a photo in a book that had Dubovoy and Michalenko pictures with them. Would someone help me out to find this book for my relative that is trying to find it so i can have it for Christmas. Also, they were immigrants from Kiev, Russia.

      • Hello relatives out there in the USA!!

        i am adding to my own write up that I now know the right names of my great grandparents.
        Omelka Kabanuk was Odarka Dorothy Kabanuk’s husband.
        Matilda Kabanuk was buried beside my great grandfather in KIEF, N.D.
        Did anyone know Omelka and Odarka’s family?
        They had three children, Anna, Peter and Vladimer Kabanuk who ended up in Canada back in the day.

  22. Does any I have a pic of strommes bar in kief
    Also train depot
    And sam karpenko store. When did that close
    And old elevator before it burnt down.
    is the old school still standing.
    if u please could send me. I would be greatful….

  23. My brother sent me this link. Our Dad, Paul Kabanuk, was born near Kief on a farm 1911. His Dad was Steven Kabanuk who came from the Ukraine with his mother Matrona Kurku. Lots of our relatives are still in North Dakota. Not sure if I’ve been there or not. Kief is such a pretty town. I’m sure when the snow flies it is much different. So nice to read all the posts. Great pictures.

    • Hello, I am from the Yukon in Canada and have seen some of these names together and some of them seem to have been in the Kabanuk Family tree that I had researched and found from the librarian at the the Minot Library. I am looking for some history of my great grandparents Omelka and Dorothy ( or Anna )Kabanuk who had a house there. There was a photo in a book that had Dubovoy and Michalenko pictures with them. Would someone help me out to find this book for my relative that is trying to find it so i can have it for Christmas. Also, they were immigrants from Kiev, Russia. Steven Kabanuk wa my great grandfather Omelka Kabanuk; as noted on the Kief Centennial book.

      • correction; Steven Kabanu was my great granfather Oomelka Kabanuk’s first cousin as found written on the North Dakota Centennial Book on line. I want to know more about Dorothy who was my grandpa’s wife from the the Aichiles family . Can someone answer me?

        • Have you tried searching on http://www.familysearch.org
          This site is free. Also if you have a Mormon Church in the area they can get you on Ancestry.com free of charge. At least here in ND that is the case. They have been helpful.

          I have a cousin who used to live in the Kief/Butte area. I’m not certain if she could help you in any way, but I will do a copy and paste of your post and email it to her. I believe she is in her 80’s now. Good luck.

          • I s there someone out there that can tell me about these relatives? Or go to the Kief graveyard and take apicture of Dorothy Kabanuk’s grave? She should be beside Omelka Kabanuk. He was buried beside her sister Matilda Kabanuk.
            I searche don line and found Matilda and Dorothy on the german ancestry posts.

  24. Awesome photos and story! Sounds like an interesting little settlement that could be revived. I think it would be a nice place to settle and relax! Keep up your good work, I enjoy it!

  25. My dad and I went out to Balfour this past summer. It was an amazing trip and we got some beautiful pictures. We decided to stop and check out Kief on our way home. I was completely in love with this little town and all its churches. My dad and I plan to visit more towns this summer!
    We love your page and your stories, keep them coming!

  26. Within the next 5 years or so I plan on buying the small green house and restoring it, and maybe possibly living there.

  27. I grew up in Kief, Karen Dislevy Jochims. I remember Pastor Xavier and Pastor Selid, before Xaavier, and Pastor John ad Dolly Johnson. Peggy Karpenko (Gary too) were good friends. Diane and Lorraine Michalenko were good friends too. Their Father ,Nick, owned one of the bars in Kief. There were also 3 elevators there, my Uncle Charlie Schatz ran one of them.my Father John Dislevy ran one of 3 rvice stations there. When I was in college I drove his bulk truck and delivered gas to farmers when he had surgery. He was one of the founders of Kief Lutheran church.so many memories…Elaine Volson (Zackopyko) watching Sat. free movies, softball @ the school and sooooo much more. The creamery Rauschenberger ran and there were 2 grocery stores, Sams’ being the largest.lots of characters too. Bill Kizima being one. Anyone interested contacting me I’m on Facebook.

  28. I know Kief, ND and some of the Volochenko Family. Roger and Audrey Volochenko opened a bar there maybe 20 or less years ago. Roger donated before his death some land to the town for a park for the kids. I find it hard to believe that there are only 13 people left in town. But that can be true if they are not counting the people who live on the farms surrounding the town of Kiefer!

  29. I visited Kiev several times a long time ago. I dated Lorraine Michalenko when I was an airman at Minot AFB. We went our separate ways but I would love to make contact with her to see how our lives have gone. Now that we are senior citizens I am not a creeper or stalker just would like to talk /email. I am not on Facebook so if someone has an email , address or whatever o would appreciate it. Thank you. Ron Nelson

  30. Does anyone have any info on the Bokovoy family, my mother was Sherry Bokovoy.

  31. I grew up about 10 miles south of Kief.but didn’t get to town a lot.my brothers,still live in the Martin area,3 and one in Drake,with our oldest in Alabama,I lived in Ca. 51 years last year moved on to Fl. Both parents in the Kief cemetery along with youngest brother. My oldest granddaughter and I stopped there in 2014. It is sad that the buildings are so old,and can’t be updated and new businesses ,maybe rented to hunters,

  32. I am the granddaughter of Dan and Martha Eachenko. My birth mother, Bullah Eachenko died suddenly when I was months old and I was adopted. I would love to know if anyone remembers Bullah and/or my grandparents.
    Thank you.

  33. If anyone has information on the Sipchenko family that lived in the area, would you please share?
    My great great grandfather was John Sipchenko who immigrated there from Russia in the early 1900s. He was a captain in the Crimean war.
    His son, Zenko Sipchenko was a pastor of the 7th Day Adventist church. He had two sons, Sidney and Walter. Walter was my grandfather.

  34. Hello, I am also a descendent in the Bokovoy family. My great grandfather was Jacob Buckaway (I think they changed it to sound more English and less Russian). His father was Trofim Bokovoy and Trofim’s father was Daniel. Trofim’s brothers Anton and Cornelius also immigrated to Kief in the late 1800’s-early 1900’s. There are a few Bokovoys buried in the Kief cemetery but I have yet to visit there.

    • My great grandfather on my dad’s side was Anton Bokovoy, brother to Trifim. There is a little booklet called “Pilgrims of the Prairie by Andre Dubovy (1983) with background. “Five Brothers from Harchenko” by Douglas Bokovoy has a chapter on the Trifim clan.

    • My great grandfather was Anton Bokovoy, and his son Samuel was my grandfather.

  35. Does anyone know how I can get a copy of the book ‘Kief, North Dakota: 100 years of History’?

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