Golden Valley – the town that met the rail company halfway

Incredible marketing and entrepreneurship in 1900 started the happy little town of Golden Valley. Out of nothing, the town started and grew – and to this day Golden Valley gives you a reason to pull off Highway 200 between Hazen and Killdeer.

The disappearing tribute to North Dakota's indigenous people -- the Indian Head State Highway Sign. Just one or two remain along Highway 200 near Golden Valley.

The disappearing tribute to North Dakota’s indigenous people — the Indian Head State Highway Sign. Just one or two remain along Highway 200 near Golden Valley.

 

We like stopping there because it has a peaceful and protected feel to it. Nestled in a valley, noise, weather and outside traffic is minimal.  Plus, it has a couple of interesting shops for browsing and a great little place for food and libations.

snowy hilllside at Golden Valley North Dakota

Sunrise at Golden Valley, North Dakota

The town is a tribute to perseverance and entrepreneurship.

George V. Bratzel took lemons a corporation served him and turned them into proverbial lemonade.  He was a rail agent for the Northern Pacific Railroad in Hebron, North Dakota. The company shipped him to the far end of the state, to Beach.  Then, yanked him back to Hazen a couple of years later and fired him.  It turns out his supervisor at the railroad wanted his son to have a job, so Danielson was fired to make room for the son.

“Ha!” Bratzel said. “I’m just gonna make my own town!”

Northern Pacific told him, “Go right ahead, and we’ll build a rail line to your town.”

(I suspect NP didn’t think Bratzel would succeed – but he did.)

Bratzel searched for a location for his town; he traveled and surveyed the prairie north of Hebron, North Dakota. One late summer day, he spotted a valley about 40 miles north of his home. The colors of the valley were – you guessed it, golden.  And since the initials of his first and last name were GV, he named the town Golden Valley.

The First Golden Valley before it was moved next to the Northern Pacific Rail Line. (from the ND Historical Society collection.)

The First Golden Valley before it was moved next to the Northern Pacific Rail Line. (from the ND Historical Society collection.)

He called the Northern Pacific on its bluff, and it responded.  It built the line along the best route engineers could find.  It was about one-and-a-half miles from where George had set up his town. So again, turning those lemons into lemonade, he picked up the town and moved it to the railroad.

From NDSU library: paul-weiracuk (left) and james-opsahl (right) at the weiracuk homestead near golden valley-

From NDSU library: paul-weiracuk (left) and james-opsahl (right) at the weiracuk homestead near golden valley- Permission of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo, ND – www.ndsu.edu/grhc

He promoted the town heavily, even sponsoring a free dance for all the region’s ranchers and farmers.  Isolated across the rolling prairie, families, as well as single men, looked for any chance they could find to socialize. A community dance, in 1914 was a rare event. That’s why all the neighbors from across the rolling prairie and distant towns came to see what he had built — Golden Valley. Some even moved to the new town.

Golden Valley about 30 years after it was moved to be near the RR tracks.

Golden Valley about 30 years after it was moved to be near the RR tracks. Permission from the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo, ND – www.ndsu.edu/grhc

Once the town was set up along the tracks, farmers brought their grain to town where they could make more money than if they hauled it many miles down the road.  They were willing to work for it even without a grain elevator.  They loaded rail cars one shovel at a time, pitching their grain from their wagon into rail cars.golden-valley-grain-elevator-at-sunrise

Later, the grain elevator was built and the town became a commercial and transportation center.  One of the more successful businesses was an earth-moving company that did much of the work on the Garrison Diversion projects.

One of the success stories of the region is marked with an antique truc.

One of the success stories of the region is marked with an antique truck.

Now the town’s main draw is the Saddle Sore Saloon where festivities are hosted, even outdoor street dances and wedding parties.

The Saddle Sore Saloon in Golden Valley is the central gathering point. The Saloon’s Facebook Page includes this photo and other like it.

For example, on Valentine’s Day, the dining room serves Prime Rib with baked potato, salad bar, and a desert for $24.00.

 

From the Saddle Sore’s Facebook page, a summer evening collection of motorcycles and vintage cars.

 

 

 

 

 

Across the street from the Saddle Sore is a curio store, a flea market of antiques and collectibles.

Across the street from the Saddle Sore is a curio store, a flea market of antiques and collectibles.

golden-valley-gas-pumps-nov-2016-copyAround the corner, one of the most brilliant Gems in the United States – a Harley-Davidson museum, with a motorcycle from each year – all of them in running order and operational.  The museum is bright, clean, and more impressive than most small town museums of any sort.  Ya gotta know the guy, to see it. It’s his private collection, but he’s willing to open it to let you in.

The private collection of Harley-Davidson motorcyles is a worthy attraction to the community.

The private collection of Harley-Davidson motorcycles is a worthy attraction to the community.

That’s why motorcyclists who like to explore the 2-lane highways of the prairie can put this on their destination list.  Anyone who likes photographic road trips, any time of the year will be rewarded with a trip to Golden Valley.  They may give a tip of the hat to tribal elder, historian and businessman August Little Soldier who did much to provide industry to the Three Affiliated Tribes.

And give a tip of the hat to the famous roadside bronc of Wayne Herman world bareback rider who will greet you.

golden-valley-cowboy-sculp-nov-2016-copy-2

 

He is not here

You know it had to be one of the worst mornings ever, that first Easter morning. Not only were Mary and the disciples mourning the death of Someone whom they loved, they were afraid. So they were hiding from the Romans, fearing they would be next.

A dark place

They were grieving. They were afraid.  They felt abandoned.  They felt hopeless.  Grief. Loss. Fear. Sadness. Sorrow. Confusion. Abandonment.

Mary got up to leave. She must leave. She had something to do. It was a dark place Mary went, the cemetery where they left the lifeless body of  Jesus.

Imagine the long, tearful walk she walked alone.  Tears. Could there be so many tears?  She had never cried like this.  She had never gone through this.  No one had ever gone through this. She must have been frightened.  She must have been sad.

She must also have been in love.  She loved Jesus so much she left the safety of the others hidden in that grief-filled room.  She went alone.  No one else had the love or the guts to do what she had to do, visit that borrowed tomb.

I cannot imagine her confusion when she arrived and she met what she thought was a gardener.  Her frame of reference, her point of view were shaped by the horrible hours she had just experienced.  The betrayal, the arrest, the trial, the torture, the spikes, the blood, the darkness, the earthquake, the torn temple veil — all shaped her mind and left her little prepared for the next event that topped anything she had experienced in the last three days.

A light shines in a dark place

She looked for a dead man and thought she found a gardener.

“Please Sir, what have you done with the body?”

The body?  A dead lifeless form that had held the Man whom she loved?

“Mary, it is I.”

He’s alive! He is risen!

Where there was darkness, now there was light!

Can there be, has there ever been such a shocking turnaround?  Not merely from darkness to light, but rather from death to life?

Light was shining in the darkness of that morning, but also in the dark gloom of her thoughts, her mind and her heart.

He is alive!

You know the story. She ran back to tell others.  John — the disciple who writes more of love in his Gospel than the other three, the one who wrote those famous words, “For God so loved the world, He gave…”  loving John ran to the tomb.  From fear and grief now to unbelievable excitement.  John ran.  Peter ran.

Peter outran John.  He was first.  He stooped down, and there were the grave clothes, neatly folded. (Isn’t that just like Jesus to leave things better than he found them?) Angels met Peter and the disciples.

He is not here. He is risen!  It is Easter this morning as I write this. I look up. I look past the cross. I look past the darkness.

He is not here. He is risen

He is risen!

Footnote:  And so, here in little Wilton, I don’t have to look far to see the story.  All within sight of my home (if it weren’t for the trees) are these pictorial reminders that Jesus is a Risen Savior.