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August Isaak as a member of the North Dakota Legislature.
August Isaak was Typical of a Hardy Breed

Froeschle, Fred. "August Isaak was Typical of a Hardy Breed." Hazen Star, 26 June 1986.


One of Hazen's family dynasties had its beginnings here in 1894 when August Isaak filed on a claim three miles north of the John Gallagher place, Hazen's post office at that time. He was among the early Germans from Russia who were to form an almost solid phalanx between the Knife and Missouri Rivers. His story is in many ways typical of that hardy breed.

His grandfather, born in Brandenburg, Germany, had moved to western Poland and then to South Russia in 1815, at the age of 25. August was born in South Russia in 1870 and came to the United States with his parents in 1878 to settle near Yankton, S.D.

In 1926, at the request of the Mercer County Old Settlers historian, E.R. Thomas, August traced the paths that brought him and his family to Mercer County. Here are some of his recollections:

"The public school I had in South Dakota was worth less than nothing. My teacher did not know a word of English at the time and he did not know the ABC's - he was about a sixth grade scholar in the German language. My father had a fairly good education in German and he taught us children German."

It was up to young Isaak to learn the English language by himself, and his writings indicate that he mastered the task.

He grew up on a farm near Parkston, S.D., a homestead on which his father filed in 1879, and in 1892 he married Katherina Breitling, whose family also had come from South Russia to settle near Scotland, S.D., in 1889. Two sons, David and Richard, were born in South Dakota.

"In 1894 there was no crop in that part of South Dakota, so I and my neighbor, John Hildebrand, agreed to look for land and a new home.

"It was on July 25, 1894 that we started going northwest through Aberdeen and Eureka on our way to Bismarck with a covered wagon, taking some extra horses along.

"We crossed Emmons County, N.D., stopped at old Williamsport and there we saw a scaffold where four Indians were hanged. We thought quite a bit about that scaffold and were glad when we left behind. We were living mostly on prairie chickens and rabbits - no hotel for us.

"We came to Bismarck and crossed the Missouri River on the ferry which was big enough for our wagons and teams, and in Mandan we met a man by the name of Sprecher…

"He told us of some good land and we started for Stanton, following the Missouri River all the way.

"In Stanton we tried to buy some bread from William Strickler, the only man we saw. He said he had some flour and we bought some. Appetite makes any food taste good and Hildebrand said I was a good cook when I served some biscuits and prairie chicken.

"We crossed the Knife River and here was an abundance of wild fruit. When we got up on the flat and looked around it looked good. I said to myself, 'This is your new home.'

"My parents knew Wm. Priebe from South Dakota and we found his place. They were so glad to see us for it was lonesome for them so far from the railroad. Mr. Priebe was county commissioner at that time.

"It was August and harvest time when we got to Priebe's place. We helped him harvest and stack his grain and the Mr. Priebe went with us to find a good homestead. I found the homestead, and filed it right away."

After filing he went to New Salem and then by train back to Parkston where his wife and children were living with his parents.

"I told my folks I had found a home about 450 miles northwest.

"My father said, 'We came 10,000 miles with you children from across the Atlantic Ocean and we found a good home here in the U.S. even though it was on the wild prairie, and I believe you are a good judge of land and you can make a good home, so make good.'

"So now I got ready to take my family. I made another covered wagon and took along 20 head of cattle - mostly milk cows - four pigs and a dozen chickens and a few household goods.

"I made the body of that wagon long. It was eight feet by 16 feet with a rack to feed hay at the back, and the pigs and chickens underneath. And so we started. I was 24 and my wife was 23 at that time - Sept. 21, 1894. My brother William, and Gottfried Manlo (?), who were young lads, went along with us.

"Our progress was slow, mostly on account of the cattle. We were on the road for 28 days. When we came to Mercer County we stopped with George Kuch for about two weeks. His first wife was my father's cousin.

"We got through the winter fine at the old Christ Oster place. The winter was mild. We brought a supply of flour along from Mandan and we had milk and butter and meat, and that is good enough for anyone.

"In the spring of 1895 I built a sod house on my homestead and I raised a good crop that first year. In 1900 I proved up (the homestead) and then rented it to old man Schramm and afterwards sold it to him.

"I moved to Mannhaven mostly to get a better school for my children. I bought grain for I.P. Baker and I built a ferryboat and had a sawmill in company with Adam Sailer - "Pipe Adam" - who sold out his share to John Oster and after that I sold out to John Netzer and move my farm on Sec. 20, Twp. 147, Rge. 85 and increased my land holdings from time to time.

"I helped build Mannhaven, and Expansion was built by us farmers and managed by John Bloodgood of New Salem and Jake Kruckenberg. The management was a failure and we lost our town.

"We built a big boat at the river at Expansion -we farmers hauled the lumber for this boat from New Salem. Most of it was 70 feet long.

EXPANSION - This view to the west shows Expansion as it appeared around the turn of the century. August Isaak was one of the town founders (Picture courtesy of Henry Miller).

"With my hired man I hauled the biggest load. We had eight horses on the wagon and we guessed the weight at 9,000 pounds. We worked hard for our town but all for nothing.

"I helped build the mill at Krem and I sold 30 acres of right-of-way to the N.P. Railway at $17 per acre along the Missouri River, but they never built up there.

"We all worked hard and made the best of it. I believe," he concluded, "we have a good home in Mercer County."

Mr. and Mrs. August Isaak with their 10 children. (Front row, left to right): Emma Guenthner, Elizabeth Guenthner, August and Katherina Isaak, Esther Schmoll and Anna Huber. (Back row): Herbert, Arthur, Hilda Bohrer, Fred, David, and Richard.

August and Katherina Isaak had 10 children, five boys and five girls. The sons: David, Richard, Arthur, Fredrick, and Herbert. The daughters: Elizabeth (Mrs. Reinhold Guenthner), Emma (Mrs. Adam Guenthner), Anna (Mrs. Theo. Hunber), Esther (Mrs. Reine Schmoll), and Hilda (Mrs. Eldor Bohrer).

His account neglects to mention that among his other public responsibilities he served three terms in the North Dakota legislature.

August dies in March 1933. His widow, Katherina, died in April 1953. Both are buried in the Luther Gemeinde Cemetery next to the plot where the family church stood for many years.

Reprinted with permission of the Hazen Star.

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