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Former Danzig Resident Keeps N.D. Town From Being Forgotten

Lind, Bob. "Former Danzig Resident Keeps N.D. Town From Being Forgotten." Forum, 20 September 1995, sec. 1B.


Geneva Roth Olstad was happy to see a Danzig Burger on the menu of a restaurant in Ashley, N.D.

I realized, she says in a book she has written about Danzig, N.D., that Danzig may not be on the map anymore but it hasn't been forgotten.

Her book goes a long way toward keeping Danzig remembered, too.

Geneva, of Fargo, has compiled a book of pictures and clippings and remembrances of her old hometown in McIntosh County.

Geneva Roth Olstad, of Fargo, grew up on this farm in Danzig, N.D. She is the author of a book on the former McIntosh County town.

Her book contains 313 pages; that's more than the highest population Danzig ever had.

Today, Geneva says, Danzig consists of one family living in a log house and four crumbling buildings.

But she grew up on a farm just across the road from the town. To her, Danzig is home.

Geneva, who worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture bioscience research lab at North Dakota State University for 30 years, decided a couple of years ago to put something together about her hometown. I got started and became obsessed with it, she says. I finished it in November 2004 after a year of almost day-and-night work on it.

The book, titled simply Danzig, North Dakota and subtitled Gone But Not Forgotten, contains cold facts and warm memories galore.

The first settlers were Germans from Russia, who initially settled four miles west of the eventual village site in the 1890s. The first building they built was the Danzig German Baptist Church.

But when the railroad didn't go through that site, the settlers moved to the spot where the town was established midway between Ashley and Wishek and named after Danzig, Poland.

But Danzig never incorporated as a city. Its top population was 240.

This is an undated photo of Main Street in Danzig, N.D.

It had many businesses over the years, though. Among them: the general store owned by John Hetzler, with shelves lined with school supplies, drugs, groceries; two ice houses, with ice collected from two lakes and packed in straw to keep it from melting; the Danzig Mink Farm; and the Danzig Pool Hall, which also sold groceries.

The book contains newspaper clippings concerning weddings (which always were beautiful); about Scrap Iron Week during World War II; of the Lehr (N.D.) Boy Scouts camping on Pudwill Lake near Danzig; of farmer Ed Roth reporting his wheat yield was 12 bushels to the acre in 1957; of Leonora Weber, Danzig, joining the Womens Army Auxiliary Corps in 1943.

Then there was poor J.J. Weber who, according to a 1916 newspaper article, visited Wishek between trains last Monday on business to look for a servant girl. These, however, seem to be a very scarce article.

Theodore Donner was born in New Danzig, Russia, in 1882, and came to Danzig in the New World with his parents when he was 3.

The Donners lived in a sod home. The closest trading center was Ellendale, N.D., a four-day trip away. Theodores father earned $70 from his first crop; that would be his total income for the year.

Theodore married Anna Pudwill, owned a garage in Danzig, saw his four daughters graduate from Wishek High School, had a successful farm and served in the state Legislature in 1917.

Gerneva Roth Olstad
Author
Worked in the U.S. Department of Agriculture bioscience lab at NDSU

His story is one of many stories of Danzigs residents in Geneva's book, a book she says she put together because I wanted to know about Danzig and leave the information for others.

People with ties to Danzig appreciate her efforts; 200 of them in 22 states have bought her book.

It was a massive job, pulling it all together, but she got the job done thanks in no small part to the unsung hero behind the scenes: Genevas husband, Dennis, who she thanks in her book for fending for himself the many times I forgot to look at the clock while at the library reading microfilms about Danzig, and ignoring the minutes used on my telephone calling card.

So three cheers to Dennis and to Geneva. She has made sure her hometown is memorialized in a book as well as on a menu.

Reprinted with permission of the Forum.

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