A Look Back in Time in Berlin, North Dakota

Berlin, North Dakota

We recently received an interesting batch of photos from Paul Ensign regarding Berlin, North Dakota. It’s a place we first became aware of when Sabrina Hornung sent us some photos back in 2011, and which we visited for ourselves in 2012.

Paul’s Great Grandfather was Wilhelm G. Lentz, proprietor of the Berlin Blacksmith & Wagon Shop around 1912, and the photos Paul sent along from his collection are very interesting.

Berlin, North Dakota

Beginning with the birds-eye view shown above, a photo from 1904 which was likely taken from the top of the grain elevator, we can identify three buildings which still stand in Berlin. We can see (1) the building known today as Legion Hall of Berlin, Post 206.

Below, the building in 2011.

Berlin, North Dakota

Around the corner is the former Blacksmith Shop.

Berlin, North Dakota

Above, the Blacksmith Shop sometime around 1912 to 1915. Below, the Blacksmith Shop in 2011. It’s numbered (2) in the birds-eye shot at the top of the page.

Berlin, North Dakota

Berlin, North Dakota

Above, another photo of the exterior of the Blacksmith Shop. Below, the interior of the Blacksmith Shop circa 1915. Paul says his Great Grandfather, Wilhelm Lentz “is center on in the photo with his children lined up to his left. My grandmother, Ella E Lentz Ensign is the youngest and farthest away from Wilhelm. She was born 22 Nov. 1910. My guess is that she is about 4 years old in this photo – maybe 5.”

Berlin, North Dakota

Below, the shop looks like an abandoned relic.

Berlin, North Dakota

Below, the derelict fire house in Berlin as it appeared in 2012. It’s numbered (3) in the birds-eye view at the top of the page.

Berlin, North Dakota

Paul sent along one last photo, which he also believes was taken in Berlin, below. “My Grandmother (Ella E Lentz Ensign) is on the right in the pic – her older sister Ida is on the left.”

Berlin, North Dakota

Unfortunately, most of the other buildings visible in the birds-eye view at the top of the page have been lost to the sands of time, including the depot. What do you know about Berlin, North Dakota? Please leave a comment below.

Photos courtesy Paul Ensign and Sabrina Hornung, original content copyright © Sonic Tremor Media

25 Comments on “A Look Back in Time in Berlin, North Dakota

  1. Looking at the Bird’s Eye View, it appears the original Depot sat east on the opposite side of the street from where it was in 1955 when my Dad, Chris Stangeland, was Depot Agent. Further, the Depot at that time (1955) had a second story above the office part for living quarters. We lived there from the spring of 1955 to around March of 1956. I was a 6th grader.

    • The legion hall was a hardware store east of the Rausch store and was owned by Ephram Just before being moved to its current location. There was a cement block building on that corner owned by Claude VanOrnum and was a plumbing shop . Directly west of that was a basement full of old bricks which was the Berlin Bank. Eventually the plumbing shop was tore down and the basements filled in. I believe Blaine Horsauger moved the Just store to its present location. The depot was west of the picture and was a 2 story building with family living quarters. I remember going there after school to watch TV in the mid 50s 54 or 55. . and was run at that time by Frank Colebank. That depot was eventually bought and moved right next to the fire hall to the north and directly across from. Blacksmith shop. It was owned by Vincent Busch and was moved again in the 60 s to his farm east of Berlin. As a kid I remember throwing rocks at the depot and breaking a few Windows. I have an uncle who is going to be 90 and an Aunt who might know what the building is on a West side of the street. Pretty sad to see Berlin today. We lived in the tourqoise house North east of the fireball towards the school.

      • You must have gone to the Depot to watch TV in 1954 and very early ’55, since we lived there spring of ’55 to spring of ’56. I can’t remember the name of the guy right now who became the Agent, when Dad left, but it wasn’t Frank Colebank. So Frank must have been before we lived there. I’ve got Dad’s seniority roster around here someplace and if I can find it, I would recognize the name of the guy who bumped Dad.

        • I told you wrong. It was Norman Colebank then probably your dad and then depot agent was Frank Butler that I got to watch TV for first time in my life. He later moved onto Kathryn N.Dak. You must have been in my brother Greg’s class. He graduated in 1963. We were originally living at the John Scoop Young farm west of Berlin. My dad was on a bridge building crew for the N. Pacific railroad. We moved into the Cisinski home on north end of Berlin right next to Young’s pasture. Later we moved into the home of Miles Horsager who was running the blacksmith shop in Berlin. That’s the torquoise home in the picture of the fire hall. My mom and a Dad lived there until 1990 when my dad passed.

          • Well, I haven’t found Dad’s Seniority Roster yet, but I did remember the name I was trying to remember. Louis Morlock I’m pretty sure is the guy who bumped Dad in spring of ’56. I knew Norman Colebank pretty well, both as a NP Telegrapher and a Ham Radio Operator. He was at Litchville for quite a few years. I actually started school in Litchville in 1950.

          • Somehow the last part of my message was cut off.

            And according to this site, 9+five is NOT 14. I tried all kinds of numbers.

            This was cut off: Walter and Harold Just were in my grade. I graduated in 1962.

          • I probably knew you as a kid. You probably remember Junior VanOrnum and the Milnor boys. I rode to high school with Harold Just as a freshman at La Moure. I’m also cousin of Charmaine, Mary Beth, James Young. Kind of neat to talk to someone from long ago. It is really sad what has happened in Berlin. I bet Glen and Mervin Ellingson were at he gas station. My uncle was working for the Johl brothers at the first gas station coming into town. Was Orville Jensen running the elevator at that time? They lived in the elevator house. Had 3 boys. Greg, Clifford and Stuart. We lived in Miles Horsager house just north of Adele Horsager. It is the torquoise house in the pictures northeast of fire hall.

          • Junior Van Ornum was a good friend, and I borrowed his/his Dad’s over-under .410 the first year I hunted, 1955.

            Yes, I knew Verne Van Ornum and Orville Jenson, and Greg. If you look at the regular Berlin posts, I have several comments in there on this.


            I later met Greg, when we came to West Fargo in 1959. Greg and I graduated together in ’62.

            There was an old fellow who drove the bulk gas truck I used to ride with once in awhile. Seems like the business was close to being just across the street from the Depot.

          • The fellow you rode with was probably my uncle Alvin “Dutch” Bender . He lived just north of Ed Olsens and was the most North west home in Berlin. He worked for the Johl Brothers oil company. It later became Economy Oil Co. Dutch and his wife never had kids and he always enjoyed when we used to go down to his station.

          • I’m pretty sure that’s the guy, but too long ago to remember his name. Yes it’s really sad to see these little towns go to pot. The railroad picking up rails due to trucking, etc. Probably the biggest thing that killed the small towns is when they did away with class ‘C’. That forced the small towns to have to go together with one, two, or three other towns in order to compete in class ‘B’ in sports.

            Are any of my old friends still around the Berlin area? Junior Van Ornum, Walter Just, Harold Just? As I remember it, 6th, 7th and 8th grades were in the same room on the west side of the school. But I could be thinking about one of the other 8 schools I attended. I’m pretty sure I was on the west side.

          • Not sure where Junior is. As far as I know Harold lives in Minneapolis/St. Paul and worked for airline as ticket agent. Sure he’s retired. Walter is possibly in Fargo area. I do know he winters in Mesa Az. I got to see him there a couple of years ago along with Marcella and his brother Don. Myron lives in Minneapolis as well. I started school with Junior’s sister Lora Lee. I got to see her at my 50th class reunion. You are right the grade 6,7 and 8 were in the upper west room of the school. My dad and mom both worked at the school for years until it closed in 1970. Mom was cook and my dad was janitor, bus driver and maintenance . Did Berlin have the new Gym yet? It was the nicest in the county. Nothing left now . Really sad.

          • Yes the quonset type Gym was there and attached to the school with a tunnel. When I visited Berlin some years ago the Gym was still standing, but a few years ago it was gone. Thanks for the info.

            Have you ever heard any mention about..um..boys watching the 8th grade girls shower through a peek hole in the plywood wall of the showers? LOL.

          • I’m sure that happened a few times in the old basement. They actually changed from coal to fuel oil in early 60s . They put in a new sewer and had new bathrooms in the old coal room and storage area. Do you remember walking through the big snow fence path to go to the post office? We played ball just across from the fuel tanks that were from Standard Oil . How about Clarence or Bob Zichur? You must have known them. My old Babe Ruth coach Milton Foggy Lacina just passed away last week at 95. You must have known Butch Ellingson Lowell Olsen . How about O’Donnells? , Bosches. They tore down the Oasis bar last summer. Only Ellinsons garage is left. Do you live in North Dakota yet?

  2. Yes, the miscreant used the leather punch on his knife to bore a small peek hole through that west plywood wall that looked right into the shower stalls. I remember taking my turn…lol.

    Interesting about the upgrades of the school over the years. Sad that it’s gone. The only name I recognize is Ellingson. Was Butch, Glenn? I remember Glenn throwing coffee cans up in the air and I shooting them with my BB gun. He remembered doing that too, ’cause my Dad was back there several years ago for a centennial or some other celebration, and Glenn mentioned that to Dad. I clearly remember doing it on the platform of the Depot.

    I was back there some years ago and located the pitcher’s mound on the old ball diamond on the east edge of town. Is that where you’re talking about? When we lived there, there was no Babe Ruth, Just Junior Legion. I played on the Junior Legion team and my Dad played on the Amateur team. I don’t remember who the Legion coach was…maybe the elder Rausch? I still have a clear picture in my mind’s eye of playing ball there and Dad playing too. Dad had played for La Moure in ’53 and ’54.

    Yes, except for a couple of years in the Military, I have always lived in good ol’ North Dakota. I presently live just west of West Fargo.

    • I forgot that the Jensens went to Harwood after Berlin. My cousin Harold Greer managed that elevator at Harwood for several years after Orville left. Harold was from a small farm near Dickey. Darreyl Butch Ellingson was a catcher on that Legion team. Unfortunately after Glen passed away Darrell worked at the shop and finally retired and passed away the day after he retired.

  3. Hmmm…well the Ellingson I’m talking about was close to my age, maybe just a bit younger…must have been Darrell then? That does sound familiar I guess.

  4. Dunno, can’t remember. I remember that John Rausch pitched, and I guess I can’t remember a single other kid on the team.

    Yes, when we came to W. Fgo in 1959, the folks either knew or learned that Jensen’s were in Harwood…possibly I came home and said: hey guess what, Greg Jensen is in school at W. Fgo. At any rate we went out to Harwood one night to visit them. Greg made the Air Force a career and passed away several years ago. After that night we visited them, I never saw Orville again, unless I saw them at Bachelorette or Graduation…but I don’t remember that.

  5. When we moved to W. Fgo I found two other guys in school there in my class who I had gone to school with in Buffalo in ’52.

    Are you still in the area?

    • I live in Rogers City Mich. I think I have a Berlin Pirate yearbook somewhere. It is a 1958 edition I believe. If I find it, I could send you some pictures. I do get back to N. Dakota once in awhile. I would love to talk with you.

      • Did some research, and found that Orville and Florence moved to Redfield, SD in 1965 and ran a motel there. Florence died in 1987 and Orville in 1991, and are buried at Redfield. Greg died in 2002 at El Paso, TX and his wife just died there last year. Apparently they had no kids.

  6. I’m an older sister to Alex & Eugene Millner. They worked for John & Clem Longs & went to Berlin School for a year or two. We lived in Berlin from 1950-1954 right next to Art Calhoun’s. I remember alot of the people you mentioned in your replies.
    We had gone through Berlin quite some time ago & visited the cemetery as my dad is buried there.
    I now live in Moorhead. Alex is at Hinckley, MN & Eugene lives at Roseau, MN on the home farm.
    Really enjoyed reading the articles & seeing the pictures.
    Rose Goeser(Millner)

    • I remember where you guys lived. My mom Tillie and Dad Kermie were both working at the school. Didn’t you move your house towards Gwinner? I graduated from high school in 1966. I do remember your name. Alex and Alloyas

  7. I graduated at the Berlin High School in 1954. I spent many hours in that BlackSmith shop when Bert Canal(sp?) was there, then Miles Horsager (Fitzgerald) ran it then Jack Weber had it after Miles.
    The (NEW GYM) was not there yet for the ’51-52 school year, but we started using it for BB beginning with eh ’52-’53 school year.

  8. Engelbert Kuehnel is the blacksmith in the photos above. After a divorce, he left Platte Center, Neb. and opened the shop in Berlin. He had emigrated from Austria in 1890. He was my great uncle.

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