Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dunn Center, ND

In a few days, Dad and I are heading east.  One of our stops will be Dunn Center, North Dakota.  Dad was actually born in Dickinson, ND just south of Dunn Center.  My grandfather wanted my grandmother’s first child to be born in a hospital.  So, when the time came my father was born at St. Joseph’s hospital on Johnson Ave.  Dad likes to say that Dickinson was so proud of him that they named the street after him. 

House in North Dakota
The first time we visited North Dakota was back in about 1999.  Mom, Dad and I were joined by my aunt and uncle and my neice and my aunt’s granddaughter.  We made the trip in August, which wasn’t the best time as we saw more than a few motorcyles motoring their way to Sturgis.  It was a wonderful trip where we were able to meet some wonderful cousins in Washburn, ND and for the first time get a real idea of that part of the family (Pope).  We attempted to locate the burial location of my grandfather’s mother in the Old Dunn Center Cemetery.  When my great grandmother died in 1927, she was buried in the old cemetery…within a few years they started moving people from that cemetery because they found that it was laying on top of a burning coal mine.  There was no money to move my great grandmother, so she remained in an unmarked grave in that old cemetery.  It may have been marked at one time, but by the time we were at the cemetery, there was nothing left.  We were able to make a pretty good guess as to where she was buried as well as her daughter who died during childbirth.  We were also able to find the house that my grandparents lived in while living in Dunn Center.  It wasn’t an easy time.  It was never a prosperous town –but I suspect that the depression hit the area pretty hard and it never recovered.  My grandfather worked at times up to four jobs to try and support his family.  By the time they left in 1943, they had three small children in that house, my grandfather’s father and sister as well as my grandparents.  Dad told me that the last time the grainery had been roofed had probably been done by his father back in the early 1940’s.  Life was not easy – my dad might have been born in the hospital – but his two sisters were delivered by the local midwife.  My grandmother told me one time that they had to live on my great grandfather’s social security check which was about $17.  She found that she could buy syrup cheaper than sugar, so she would buy that instead.  Somehow, she made that money last enough to feed her small family.  When I visited Dunn Center, ND again in 2004 – if anything it looked as if it was in worse shape than before. 
Grainery at Dunn Center
Dunn Center - Looking back from the old cemetery

The last several years have been a period of a great deal of change for the Dunn Center area.  In case you haven’t heard, there is an oil boom in North Dakota and a lot of it is centered around the Williston, ND area and Dunn Center is close by.  I am curious as to what changes have been wrought in tiny Dunn Center.  Is that house that my father’s family still there?  Has the population grown?  Does it look more prosperous?  I guess I’ll find out soon!