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Rediscovering Oakdale

Courtesy Photos Oakdale, a town that died decades ago, was captured in the undated photos above. Thorvald Bang, who grew up near Oakdale, was given the photos for his birthday last year. The stagecoach shown in the above photo reportedly took mail and people to Oakdale at one time.1 / 2
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A photo of a town that died decades ago drifted between several states recently and made its way back to a family who recognizes it. It is a photo of Oakdale, which used to be located 12 miles northwest of Killdeer.

"It just brought back memories of old days and what we talked about when people got together," Thorvald Bang said about receiving the photo. "I remember riding there with my folks in a little truck and I rode in the back."

Bang's daughter, Ruth Farmer, went to a family reunion in Beatrice, Neb., over the summer where the photo surfaced.

"I live in Indiana, I went to Nebraska, met a cousin from Arizona, who had a picture of North Dakota," Farmer said with a laugh. "I'd heard of Oakdale, but I'd never seen a picture, so that was exciting to see a picture."

The cousin didn't know a thing about Oakdale.

"She was like 'Oh this picture means a lot to you, why don't you have it?' so she just gave it to me," Farmer said.

Farmer and her sisters framed a copy of the photo and gave it to Bang for his 80th birthday. He grew up on a farm a few miles away from Oakdale.

"Of course we went into the store and Dad would always buy us kids little hard lemon drop candies and then he bought some gas," Bang said.

Mamie Kelling of Killdeer, who used to live outside of Oakdale, also remembers the store.

"When I was real small we did our trading there," Kelling said.

She remembers buying and selling cream and eggs.

"It seemed like you could buy anything you wanted," Kelling said. "I remember my mother bought a hat once for Easter."

Bang and Kelling remember a hand crank phone, as well.

"The first one in Dunn County and, yes, you could call Dickinson by a hand crank telephone," Bang said.

A post office was constructed in Oakdale in 1895, said Linda Kittilson, a Dunn County Historical Museum volunteer. That was likely the birth of the town, she added.

"The mail was hauled by stagecoach from Dickinson to Oakdale twice a week," Kittilson said.

Kelling remembers the post office well.

"In 1942, the post office was moved to our farmstead," Kelling said. "After it was moved, mail from Killdeer came out to our place until 1958 when they closed it."

After the post office moved, the store was abandoned, Kelling said.

She has fond memories of the dance hall that was in Oakdale.

"I remember going there with my mother during the first World War," Kelling said. "That's the only building I remember anything about, except the store."

She was 6 or 7 the last time she was at the hall.

"We were just kids then, so we just really were just watching," Kelling said. "We liked it."

There were several other businesses in the town, including a hotel, barbershop and a blacksmith shop, Kittilson said.

There was also a school established in the early 1900s that went up to the eighth grade. Since the railroad was closer to Killdeer, which grew quickly, Oakdale eventually fizzled out.

"Before I can really remember, most of the businesses were gone except the store and the post office," Kelling said.

Several other small towns in Dunn County died after the railroad came through, Kittilson added.