Hazen 75th Anniversary Book 1913-1988

Hazen 75th Anniversary Book 1913-1988, Hazen, North Dakota, 1938

The Ghost Towns That Became Hazen

In the closing years of the 19th Century, three towns sprang up in the rural area that became part of Hazen. Now they are ghost towns, phantoms of a bygone age and vanished dreams.

Mannhaven was the first of the three, founded in 1896. Krem and Expansion became towns in 1899, though Krem had existed a few miles away as a post office on the Carl Semmler farm since 1888.

Mannhaven and Expansion were river towns in an era when the Missouri was the liquid highway to the Northwest, when riverboats continued to supplement the services of distant railroads. Krem held faint hopes that perhaps the railway branch line from Mandan might continue northwestward from Stanton to pass through on its way to its projected destination in Sidney, Mont.

The founders of Mannhaven were Henry Mann of New Salem and two farmers living near the Missouri, Jacob Bohrer, Sr., and Fred Bohrer. They organized a stock company, erected a store building and warehouse, and built the steamboat “Bismarck,” to haul grain down the Missouri. Subsequently a lumberyard and grain warehouse were built; John Wee put up a blacksmith shop; John Young established the “Mannhaven Journal.” a weekly newspaper.

In 1903, Dr. L.G. Eastman arrived in Mannhaven to set up a practice and to provide medical care to Indians on the nearby Ft. Berthold Reservation.

Next came the Mercer County State Bank, organized by Adam Sailer, Sr., Fred Bohrer, and H.L. Benschoten. E.M. Thompson was the cashier. Adam Sailer, John Sailer, and Michael Zeiszler opened “The New Store.”

After the railroad reached Hazen in 1913, Mannhaven began to decline. By the 1980s, a lone cottage remained to mark what once had been a busy river port.

Expansion also owed its beginnings to New Salem man, John Bloodgood. He and Jacob Kruckenberg built the steamboat “Expansion” with the financial assistance of farmers in the area. C.B. Heinemeyer’s History of Mercer County relates that Miss Kathryn Gallagher christened the boat with a bottle of real champagne.

Henry Sagehorn came from Ft. Yates, where he had been in charge of a soldiers’ canteen, to establish Expansion’s first store. He also served as postmaster following Jacob Kruckenberg, Expansion’s first postmaster. John Bohrer, Sr., later bought the Sagehorn store and erected an elevator. In 1905, the I.P. Baker interests of Bismarck established a lumber yard. John Bohrer, Jr., became manager. A year later the lumber yard was taken over by Benjamin Stoelting. In time, the town also fell victim to the railroad and was abandoned more than two decades before it was inundated by Lake Sakakawea in the early ‘50s.

Krem was the German-Russian nickname for the Crimea. In 1888 it became the name of Mercer County post office, and in 1899, the name of the town. It owed much of its growth to a 50-barrel-a-day flour mill built was rebuilt the same year and continued its reputation for quality milling.

Krem’s real growth began in 1902 when Martin Netzer built the first general merchandise store. The following year, William Richter opened a second general merchandise store, leading to spirited competition, and attracting trade from a wide area.

When the courthouse in Stanton was destroyed by fire in1905, Krem became a favored contender for the county seat, outpolling Stanton 236 to 136, but failing to get required two-thirds majority. Krem’s confidence in the outcome was so great that community leaders had had the new courthouse vaults delivered to Krem via Garrison.

Despite the defeat at the polls, Krem’s growth continued. Dr. L.G. Eastman moved to Krem from Mannhaven, leasing Fritz Uhl’s building, which up until then had served as a pool hall and “blind pig.” Eastman converted it into a medical office and drugstore. Later it was one of the first buildings moved from Krem to Hazen where it continued to serve for several months as a doctor’s office and drugstore.

Two newspapers had their beginning in Krem. The German American, founded in April, 1912, a few months later moved to Kasmer and ultimately became the Golden Valley German American. In September, 1912, The Mercer County Star was established by W.P. Thurston and J.C. Schleppegrell, and was published in Krem a little more than a year before moving to Hazen where it became the Hazen Star.

There were two banks: The Citizen’s State Bank had Louis Scharf as cashier, and C.N. Janzrn as assistant cashier. The Farmers Bank of Mercer County had R.N. Harmsen as its cashier.

Otto Krause and Ed Doherty operated pool halls. Martin Netzer added several rooms to his residence, providing hotel services. Shortly afterwards Mrs. E.E. Searle became operator of a second, more conventional hotel. Frank Wernli owned and operated the Knife River Lumber and Grain Company; John Keierleber had a livery stable. Adolph Krueger, Sr., opened a blacksmith shop; Emanuel Schwalbe started a meat market, subsequently run by Gottfried Schulz, followed by Fred Trunske. Krem was booming, but the boom came too late.

In the fall of 1913 the Northern Pacific’s branch line reached Hazen, marking the beginning of the end for Krem. Its population peaked early 1914 at around 300. The last inhabitants left Krem in 1941.

Hazen’s German-Russians

No ethnic group has had a greater impact on Hazen than the German-Russians.

Some writers refer to them as Germans from Russia; some as the Russians-German, a direct translation from the “Russlandduetsche.” But in the Hazen area the term German-Russian is so traditional that other terms seem unnatural. They were Germans who migrated to Russia and lived there for nearly a century before many of them migrated again, this time to the United States.

Most of the German-Russians in the Hazen area originally came from the southwestern Germany—Schwabians from Wurtemburg, Pfalzer from Palatinate—and settled in the Black Sea area of Russia, primarily in Bessarabia and Crimea.

They had been lured to Russia by offers of land, freedom from conscription, and the right to maintain their own customs and traditions. For nearly a century they did well in Russia, but although they became Russian citizens, they never became Russians. They clung fiercely to the German language, to their religion, and to their customs. They maintained a steadfast separation from the Russian people, rarely intermarrying, staying within their own communities, and while the German language underwent change in Germany over the years, the language the German-Russians spoke when they came was essentially the German of 100 years earlier.

It was the good fortune of the German-Russians that at about the time conditions in Russia were becoming intolerable, the Great Plains in the United States were being opened to settlement and agriculture.

Land agents, the railroads, and homestead opportunities combined to paint a picture of an American Garden of Eden. Many northern Europeans already had become disillusioned with this land of opportunity when they found the semi-arid land was not what they had expected. But for the German-Russians, it was like home. The Great Plains offered the kinds of terrain and rainfall they had in South Russia. Much of the homestead land was gone by the time they reached the United States. Only the two Dakotas still had extensive lands available, so it was no accident that the largest numbers of German-Russians settled here.

The patterns of migration were predictable. Families, relatives, and friends followed each other to the United States and to the Dakotas. The German-Russians were realists. In their letters home they tended to tell it like it was, but in view of their familiarity with the conditions existing in the Dakotas, the stream of immigrants continued.

The pattern of migration to the Hazen area was fairly consistent. The new arrivals most often came first to an area southeastern Dakota Territory, around Yankton and Scotland.

So it happened in May, 1886, an expedition of German-Russians left Scotland and headed northwest in the direction of Bismarck, Dakota’s territorial capital.

Thirty wagons carried five families and their possessions. Leading the group were Daniel Schimke and William Priebe who had left Elgenheim, South Russia, the previous year. With them were John Suess, Sr., William Richter, and Robert Lauf, and their families.

Heinemeyer’s History of Mercer County relates how they traveled:

“Each member of the party had a strong, high-wheeled wagon, covered with canvas tarpaulin. Each had two sturdy oxen, necessary cooking utensils, bedding, some tools, and a hand plow. Daniel Schimke also possessed two ponies and a compass.

“Their route lay through Mitchell, Aberdeen, and Williamsport, to Bismarck. They crossed the Missouri River on a ferry to Mandan. Then they followed the Northern Pacific Railway Company’s right-of-way as near as possible to Hebron.”

In Hebron they saw wagon loads of buffalo bones and learned the bones sold for $6 to $10 a load, so they set up a camp north of Hebron and began collecting.

It was while they were engaged in this enterprise that they encountered H.C. Loy of Stanton, the county assessor, and Steve Card, county surveyor. They traded some bread for part of a deer Card had shot, and learned from Loy that there was plenty of good land north of the Knife River not far from Stanton. Loy pointed them in general direction, and a few days later Schimke and Richter started out, taking along the compass.

In their struggle to retain the German language, the immigrants usually had their pastor conduct German classes for a month or so after public school vacations began each spring. As a result, classes had strong religious overtones; much of the instruction was from the Bible and catechisms.

The greatest difficulty for many came when the United States entered World War I, and German became an enemy language. Bitter confrontations arose. Patriotism was brought into question, complicated by a residual loyalty to Germany.

The Hazen Star reported an incident in which three young men vandalized a schoolhouse, among other things tearing down some red, white, and blue bunting draped over a picture of George Washington. The charge against them was not vandalism. They faced the much more serious charge of sedition.

It was during the farm recession of the Twenties and the Great Depression of the Thirties that the German-Russians best demonstrated their special qualities.

They had bought with them and ability to hunker down, work hard, and do with little. During the years when farm failures were common all over North Dakota there were no bankruptcies among the German-Russian farmers who lived between Hazen and Missouri.

It was perhaps World War II that completed the German-Russian integration into America society. Every family had a son or close relative serving in the armed forces. The growing mobility of Americans speeded the need for language commonality. While some may have thought Germany couldn’t be all wrong, Hitler was hard to take.

The churches were the last stronghold of the German language. After the war was over, both the German language and the German-Russian customs faded from the churches too.

Today it would be hard to find an ethnic group that better exemplifies the American ideal of free enterprise. The German-Russians made it the old-fashioned way. They earned it.

Reprinted with permission from the Hazen 75th Anniversary book.

Krem in their homes around the turn of the century.
Expansion boosters raise their hats in salute, around 1915, shortly before town’s decline.
Mannhaven was still growing when this shot was taken from a bluff over the village.
Expansion in their homes around the turn of the century.
As chief engineer of Krem Roller Miller, Henry Klundt wore uniform suitable to his station.
The absence of automobiles indicated this may be one of the earlier pictures of Krem’s Main Street. Careful count shows reveals nine buggies.
The Ed Heinemeyer homestead between Stanton and Hazen was in many ways typical of those estalbished by the earliest settlers in Mercer County.
This neighborhood gathering of the August Isaak, Jacob Mohl, John Neuberger and Gust Schlender families was a typical Sunday afternoon get-together among families in early days of settlement.
This carefully maintained earth home is one of the few still occupied in North Dakota. Otto and Elfrieda Goetz make their home in this house built by Otto’s grandfather.
Mercer County Ethnic Origins—1. Anglo-American and Swedish. 2. Anglo-American 25%; Norwegian 25%; German-Russian; Swedish; German. 3. Norwegian; German-Russian; Bohemian; German. 4. German 90%; German-Russian 10%. 7. German-Russian; Bohemian; German; Anglo-American. 42. Indian (From Prairie Mosaic: An Ethnic Atlas of Rural North Dakota).


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