Plains Folk

Messing Around Highway 200


Traffic gravitates to the two main highways across North Dakota, I94 and Highway 2. Splitting the difference between them, though, is that lovely two-lane avenue, Highway 200. We spent a wonderful weekend messing around the western reaches of 200 and came home profoundly impressed with the forgotten heritage resources of the region.

The public is familiar with the Knife River Indian Villages, a National Park Service site, and now the Knife River Flint Quarries have been designated a national landmark, but along the stretch of 25 leading to 200, who bothers to turn off in Center and pay homage at the Hazel Miner monument? This odd little obelisk memorializing the girl who gave her own life to save her siblings in a blizzard is incised with a reference to Miscellaneous Record Book H in the office of the county recorder. There, on pages 130-31, we found the typewritten story of Hazel’s martyrdom.

Even if travelers follow the trail of evidence about Hazel Miner, do they notice that odd little building with bars on the windows over in the corner of the courthouse square? It’s a freestanding, brick county jail built in 1928.

All along and about Highway 200, nose around a little, and you find unexpected delights. In Zap stands an elegant community hall, and the town has a well-kept park alongside Spring Creek. “In about 1914 hardworking miners began digging coal from the North Dakota prairies surrounding Zap,” says the bronze plaque on the gatepost, and it goes on to pay tribute to the historic and continuing labors of coal miners in the region.

In Golden Valley, if you divert a block south of the main drag, you may think you have crossed into a past generation, as there on the corner is the vintage Lindemann Standard station and garage. The attached garage is filled with a collection of historic motorcycles.

Take the road along Spring Creek, and you come to Golgatha Cemetery, resting place of the Lindemanns and lots of other Germans from Russia. The incised gravestone of John and Lydia Lindemann, depicting their journeys from the old country and the ships they sailed on, is a moving document of historical identity. Back in Golden Valley, the elegant Occident elevator is a monument of another kind.

Passing through Dodge, if you look south up Main, then you have to follow your gaze up the hill to the brick and glass-block 1922 school building. Park at the end of main, and you climb a railed sidewalk up the hill to the front door. Alongside the walk stand delightfully naive concrete sculptures fashioned by students–a pronghorn, with the horns gone, and a grizzled frontiersman with a couple of fingers missing. A third statue, a bison, unfortunately was vandalized.

After lingering over these and other artifacts up and down Highway 200 and the Spring Creek valley, we ended up in Dunn Center for the annual cream can supper of the Dunn County Historical Museum. Visiting with Ed Darwin and other local historians there, we thought we were done exploring, when Clarence Schollmeyer offered to take us out to the family homestead and see the amazing buildings on it.

Clarence’s Uncle Alfred told us how he worked with his father and brother to pour the homemade concrete blocks, ornamented with split glacial rock and colored glass, that were laid up into perfectly plumb walls.

To this magic stretch of Highway 200 we will return, physically as well as verbally, in this column–come ride along with us.

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