Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Grassy Butte, ND is in a very sparsely populated area of western North Dakota, in southern McKenzie County. It does not appear in any of the census records back as far as 1960, but it reportedly harbored 100 citizens at one time. Monica Hardy contributed these photos in 2010 with the following comments:

The building that looks like a church in the background of the post office/museum pictures are of a private home. Someone renovated the home. There were other bldgs in the town that had been renovated into private homes. This town is very close to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park… no hotels located in this town at present.

Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Terry and I passed through Grassy Butte in 2016 and intended to stop and get photos of the church, but on the day we arrived, the weather was not cooperating, so we opted to continue on our way with plans to stop in Grassy Butte some other time.

Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Check out some sobering photos of Grassy Butte during the Dust Bowl years.

Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Photos by Monica Hardy. Original content copyright © Sonic Tremor Media

52 Comments on “Grassy Butte, North Dakota

  1. Cute little museum, stopped in there in 08, ran by a retired lady..cannot remember her name off the top of my head.

    • Her name was Dee Fleck. She passed away not long ago. She was my Grandmas good friend.

    • The buildings are still there and in use. By the looks of it, these pictures are recent, since the gas station had a face-lift within the past few years. There is also a fire hall, community hall, a Lutheran church, county shop, a construction company, and a bar. Still a thriving community.

      • Hello Lisa,
        My name is Shari Day Post, my mother is Delma Barker. I believe she taught at the country school in 1954-1955 just outside of Grassy Butte. Do you know much about the school. In her memory, she says the school may have been just south of town and near the Darwin family farm. She talks about two families that she taught. Possibly three.



        • Hi there, I was just looking on here as in going through my Aunt Maybelle Westerlund Zumwinkle’s things I found she taught at Grassy Butte school sometime I think in the 1920’s. Maybelle and my Aunt Ethel and my Dad Chester Westerlund were all born in a sod house outside of Keene, ND in Mckenzie County, ND. I a have a few photos of the sod house they had and some of the neighbors. My name is Shelley Westerlund Phillippe and I live in Baudette, MN

  2. I have been here before. But for the life of me I can’t remember when or why. The picture with the museum and the church sparked that memory. Very cool picture.

  3. I am virtually certain that Grassy Butte has the claim to fame of being the last and only operational sod post office in the US, until the ’60s

    • A Bismarck artist named Gary Miller did a print of the sod post office. He did a series of dilapidated farms & outbuildings, including an old stone barn S of Mandan. I have a few — they are some of my favorites. Miller used to have a shop in Bismarck, on ? corner of 3rd & Broadway, and another in ?Scottsdale AZ.

    • My grandparents, Tom and Agnes Cain, had corrals for the horses used for postal delivery. They were on 6 Mile Ranch. No one knows why it was called 6 mile, since it was 2 or 3 miles south of Grassy Butte on 85. It became part of the Little Missouri Grasslands when they moved to Idaho.

      • Hello Dennis,
        My name is Shari Day Post, my mother is Delma Barker. I believe she taught at the country school in 1954-1955 south a mile or so, outside of Grassy Butte. Do you know much about the school. In her memory, she says the school may have been near the Darwin family farm. She talks about two families that she taught. Possibly three.



  4. The Post office museum is made of logs with a sod roof – built in 1912as a store, used as a post office from 1914 until 1962. Contains a collection of items used back in the ‘good old days’.

  5. My Aunt Maybelle Westerlund Zumwinkle was a teacher in Grassy Butte back in the late early 1930’s. I have old photos of her students and the area. She was born outside Keene, ND Mackensie county ND along with my Aunt Ethel and my Dad Chester E. Westerlund. Would love to take a road trip there someday!

    • Do your photos identify the students? Anyone named Cain is an aunt, uncle or my mother. They had the 6 mile ranch south of town on 85, but less than six miles . No one knew where the name came from. They had corrals for the postal riders to change horses. That income kept them going through the drought, but in 1937 they sold and went to Idaho. The land became part of the Little Missouri Grasslands. My grandfather, Tom Cain, was county assessor and an organizer of the Killdeer Rodeo.

      • I am just now this year going through my ancestors pictures again. I don’t think there are any names, but there might be. I will comment on here again if I find anything!

    • I found out later that it was in the late 20’s through the early 30’s she lived in the area.

  6. The sod museum was the post office and was photographed in a Life magazine issue during the 50’s . New post office came into being about 1962. Dances were regular Saturday events in the town Hall in the 50’s and 60’s (when I was a teenager growing up on a ranch 14 miles south). The white Church is Catholic and hosted “annual hunter’s supper” in the 70’s and perhaps 80’s and held summer mass. The Methodist Church was active into the 60’s (maybe longer). There was an elementary school taught for several years by Mrs Lucille Knudtson (who is still living).
    The little grocery was handy and 10 miles closer than a trip to ‘town’. The oil boom has probably increased the population today.

    • I remember Mrs. Knudtson. As I posted earlier I lived in Grassy Butte and went to school there in 1973-74. I Didn’t remember the teachers name untill you mentioned it… Thank you!

  7. I am from Grassy Butte…although, I won’t admit it–I claim the Badlands as my home!! Yes, the Catholic church renovated a few years back and is now a private residence. They had some great Hunter’s Suppers there and men came from all over to hunt and attend this event every year!! Also, the elementary school was closed about 10 years ago and renovated in to a private residence. There was another gas station that had a pool table and arcade game run by Lamphear’s and I think that closed maybe 8 years ago–I think it may have burned down. And yes…the dances were great–people came from Belfield, Dickinson, Killdeer, Watford City, Williston, and Fairview/Sidney. They were alot of fun and had some great bands that came to play!! I remember dances in the late 70’s to mid-80’s, then I moved away, so don’t know exactly when they stopped completely. I think the old hall burned down when that other gas station burned down. The worse part about living there was an hour and a half school bus ride…one way!!

    • My Aunt Maybelle Westerlund Zumwinkle taught school in Grassy Butte back in about the mid 1920’s. I have photographs from her teaching years. She was born in a sod house in Keene, ND as was another Aunt and my Dad. Shelley

    • Why wont you say you were from Grassy Butte? I think I was related to the whole town and loved visiting my grandparents, aunts and uncles, even though we only went back in the summers, over the 4th of July.

  8. Beautiful little town…. I live in florida… Ill trade place for a week… summer only tho… Im near disney Ill get you resident discount to the park…. lol…. I can only wish….

  9. I was raised near Sentinel Butte nd live in Mandan I miss western No.Dak. I love my westren NDak
    heritage I think Sentinel Butte is a neat city went to school in the 1950s and 60s
    miss the good old days go back to wisit often

  10. My mother, Mariam Hanson lived just outside of town on the Hanson homestead in the1920’s and early 1930’s. She frequently went back to visit and stopped by the post office where the family homestead is shown. The homestead is currently located within the Roosevelt park.

  11. I’m from Watford City and I worked road construction on 85 right by Grassy Butte the summer of 2000. I remember loading up on sunflower seeds and granola bars from the gas station before my shift every day. We had our company picnic at the city park. I recall hearing someone telling me that the post office was shut down just recently…

  12. My grandfather, Axel Shjeflo homesteaded 160 acres about a mile west of Lake Ilo, a few miles south of Dunn Center in 1909. He married Judith Rudd fron Yankton, SD, and they started their family in that little sod house. In 1916, they decided to take up ranching and moved to the edge of the Little Missouri Badlands, about 9 miles north of Grassy Butte. During the next 25 years, they lived in 14 different places in and near Grassy Butte, Kildeer, Halliday, Medora, and Dickinson – with five children in tow. They ceased farming and ranching during the “dirty thirties” and Axel began working on construction of roads, bridges, and dams for Dunn County, Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Parl, North Dakota State Highway Dept., and Garrison Dam.

    • Hi Nancy… I bet our families knew each other. We homesteaded in Dunn Center and most of the children of Killdeer, Lake Ilo and Dunn Center would have known each other. I’m now 60… and never lived on the farm, but in Dunn Center several times when the farmhouse was moved there in the late 50’s, early 60’s. My family are the Hamlin’s and Barker’s

  13. My Dad’s brother homesteaded 7 miles east of Grassy Butte. Eventually, my Dad acquired that piece of property in addition to 700+ acres. He and Mom raised six children on the farm/ranch. Dad died in 1959 and Mom lived on the property with my oldest brother. Mom left the farm in 1993. She lived to be almost 101 years old. I have very fond memories of Grassy Butte and the surrounding community. I went to Scoria Butte school a mile from our farm. I remember my parents taking cream and eggs to Zubke’s store in exchange for groceries. Mrs. Evans owned the other grocery store. There were two bars–one owned by Dolacheck and the other owned by Denver Marucheck. There were two gas stations owned by Lawrence Westrum and Bill Petrazak. (I apologize for any name misspellings). Georgia Murray would fry hamburgers in her home to feed those who desired a meal. You could always run into neighbors at the Post Office which during my time was operated by Grace Warren. There was a baseball field where the Methodist Church stands where neighbor boys could get together and play a good game. When my parents took cream and eggs to Grassy Butte on a designated day, this was also a time to visit with all the neighbors and catch up on the latest “news.” The dances were the best!! That was a time to meet people of the same age from far and wide and if someone couldn’t do the waltz, 2-step or polka, the band would play the Hokey Pokey so everyone danced at least once. Grassy Butte women who supported the Community Club would serve sandwiches during intermission–a good money raiser for the Community Club. These were the greatest of times!!

  14. Beverly you spoke about the Hokey pokey, have you forgotten about the butterfly and the good old square dances. Of course you are somewhat younger than I am so maybe our memories differ. I can’t understand the lady that said she would not admit that she grew up at Grassy Butte, I am very proud of having grown up there. Had a wonderful childhood and feel blessed for being allowed to live in that community and with the many wonderful neighbors both near and far. I wish every child could have happy memories of heir childhood such as I have.

  15. I grew up hearing about Grassy Butte from my dad and mom. When I was in high school they finally took me on a road trip to see where my dad (Robert Walker) grew up. I have great memories of the stories dad would tell of the dances/get togethers they would have. I still don’t know if the story of him riding his horse through the dance hall is true…anyone care to elaborate?

  16. My great grandparents are the Mr & Mrs Donald McKenzie who worked that post office

    • Those those were also my great grandparents. My mother used to play in the post office when she was little. Her mother was their daughter Margaret. Small world

  17. I lived in Grassy Butte in 1973 and 74. My brother and I went to grade school there. I was in 4th grade and he was in 5th.

  18. My Mother’s family came from The Badlands on the Little Missouri. Grassy Butte was their address. They were the Trotters. We still have cousins there and my brother Gary lives in Grassy while working in the oil fields.

  19. Is Grassy Butte near an native American Indian reserve? If yes, which tribe?


    • Harriet was my aunt, she was never the post mistress, she just passed away a few years ago. Her son lives in Grand Forks
      Kim B

      • I was a nurse at the Baptist home, in Bismarck, where she spent her final days. She told me that story. Can you tell me anything else about her? Thank you for replying.

  20. A 1.5 hour bus ride to school, one way. Oy. I can imagine the fun it was in the dead of winter in a blizzard. Hardy stock out there in the Great Plains. You guys are some of the best people in the whole world.

  21. The post office was still open as recently as a couple of years or so ago, for I recall it being one of the post office box options I was eyeing while living in Watford City where there were no available boxes. I miss western ND immensely, for I fell in love with the badlands and the entire region while living and working there. I wished I had photographed Grassy Butte (I shot a tremendous amount of landscapes, old homesteads, etc. during my time off), for I drove through on US85 all the time. I shot in both Trotters and Sentinel Butte but never here.

  22. Thank you so much for the short video of Grassy Butte. My family is from Jamestown but farmed for a bit west of there. I so long for the Dakota land. Good growing dirt and great people.

  23. i spent some summers just about 6 miles N or Grassy Butte w/my Aunt and Uncle (Jerry & Louise
    Orf) in the early 50’s. My dad’s brother (Bromley Carr) raised several children in Grassy Butte and one son is the postmaster and also owns the Long X Bar in Grassy Butte. Dale Orf and his wife still live on the original homestead of Benton and Millie Carr (Louise is one of their daughters). I cherish the memories…was raised in northern McKenzie County (sent to Indian Hill School and Williston High School (class of 1961) Darlene Carr in Gresham Oregon.

  24. We used to get some mighty fine food there when we drilled a horizontal well just west of there up over the hill there for Conoco back in 88? The food made our camp food look terrible. Never saw who cooked it. Think it may have been a bar there maybe. Cully Barrett was my drillers name.

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