Krem Greeted Birth of Hazen With Little Joy

Froeschle, Fred. "Krem Greeted Birth of Hazen With Little Joy." Hazen Star, 24 April 1986.

For the first quarter of this century the Krem roller Mill was one of Mercer County's prominent landmarks. After surviving fires and storms it finally succumbed to changing times. The building was razed in 1934 and the chimney came down in the early 40s.

Although Krem could be described as the mother of Hazen, the town evinced little joy over the birth of its offspring.

By 1913, Krem was the largest town in Mercer County. With 500 people, two banks, three general stores, a doctor, drug store, lumberyard, garage, livery stable, creamery, hotel and restaurant, Krem boasted a 75-barrel-a-day flour and feed mill as its principal landmark. The town was built around the mill rather than the Krem post office, which was located five miles away on the Carl Semmler homestead where it stayed from 1889 until it came to town in 1900.

When the first issue of the Mercer County Star appeared in Krem, Sept. 20, 1912, most of Krem's residents were nervously awaiting word on what the railroad was going to do.

Newspapers in the area were full of reports on railroad plans. In 1912 the Northern Pacific's north branch out of Mandan had reached Stanton. Some stories said the branch would go north from Stanton towards Elbowoods and then along the Missouri to Sidney, Mont., forming a passenger loop from Mandan to Glendive. This plan apparently would include railroad service for Krem.

A more worrisome version held that the railroad would go west from Stanton along the Knife River and Spring Creek, also looping back to Glendive, leaving Krem about eight miles from the rails.

Much of Krem's business community was contemplating flight if the railroad took the route along the Knife because that obviously would doom Krem to a future as an "inland town," a fate considered economically disastrous in those days when the railroads played a critical role in community development.

The railroad did little to impede the rumors and may have actively promoted them for it was railroad policy to keep proposed town sites a secret to be shared only with the Tuttle Land Company, the railroad's chosen instrument for town site development.

The following spring the word was out. The railroad's North Branch was going to go west from Stanton through the proposed towns of Hazen, Beulah, Zap and Olanta (Golden Valley), and possibly as far as Dunn County in 1913.

At this point many of Krem's businessmen knew they were going to leave, but they didn't know where they were going until the railroad and Tuttle Land Co. designated and surveyed a site.
On Sept. 5, 1913, The Star announced, "Northern Pacific surveyors will start surveying the town site of Hazen next Monday. They expect to finish the job in a couple of days. Then one can pick out the lot he wishes and start the erection of buildings as he will be protected by the town site people."

The scramble was on, an unseemly rush to get in on the ground floor at the new town. Although many Krem businessmen clung to the hope their town would survive and even grow, the railroad had sounded Krem's death knell. The town that one expected to become the county seat was starting its slide into oblivion, helped along by fires and a couple of tornadoes.

In 1906 Krem had gone all out for the county seat after fire destroyed Stanton's courthouse. To Krem the election seemed like a sure thing that new courthouse vaults had arrived via Garrison even before voters went to the polls. Mercer County people favored the move to Krem 236 to 136 - pretty good, but not enough to meet the legal requirements of a two-thirds majority, so the new vaults went to Stanton.

The late Carl Semmler is credited with naming Krem, some say because it was the German-Russian nickname for the Crimea in South Russia, an area from which many early settlers came. In any case, "Krem" appears to have been an adaptation of "Crim." The town's name invariably was pronounced "Krim."

Krem's landmark, the Krem Roller Mill, also had its share of bad luck. The first miller was Louis Reuter, who held his job and title only a year before he was killed by lightning while on his way to church one Sunday morning in 1900. In time the mill got so busy it often ran out of coal and had to burn straw to heat it boilers, a practice blamed for the fire, which destroyed the mill on St. Valentine's Day in 1906. It was rebuilt the same year.

If rumors are true, the mill's management made its most unfortunate decision in 1913. The story was that Northern Pacific was willing to finance relocation of the mill in Hazen, but that the owners opted for loyalty to Krem.

Six years later the mill quit grinding flour and in 1916 it was dismantled. Krem's last major landmark, the mill chimney, was torn down and the bricks were used in the construction of the Mann Howard home in Hazen, built on the southeast corner of Third Street and First Avenue West.

Today it takes a diligent search to find any evidence of Krem, Mercer County's onetime metropolis.

Reprinted with permission of the Hazen Star.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller