North Dakota August 20, 2018
Huge Things Actually Happened In These 5 North Dakota Small Towns
Every small town has a story. Even if there are only 10 residents left, a history lingers in each place of everyone who has lived there and everything that has happened. In the case of some of these towns, things much bigger than them happened. Things that brought on the attention of thousands more than live there. These 5 fascinating small towns had huge things happen in them, sometimes very literally, that have made them notable today despite their size.
If you want to think literal huge, Blanchard has most of the world beat. This tiny town of just 26 residents in eastern North Dakota had the world's tallest man made structure, the KVLY-TV mast, until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai beat it in 2008. This mast still remains the tallest structure in the entire western hemisphere. At 2,063 feet, it towers over the landscape. And the craziest part? The second tallest man made structure in the western hemisphere at 3 feet shorter, KRDK-TV mast, is only 5 miles away. You can certainly see a lot from Blanchard!
Zap is a pretty peaceful NoDak small town at 237 residents, but in the course of one day that completely changed. During spring break of 1969, thousands of college students amassed at the town during what they called "Zip to Zap." It was never supposed to be that big of a party. The plan was originally thought up by just a few people at NDSU but was somewhat unfortunately picked up by the Associated Press and spread around way beyond that. It was the first and only riot in North Dakota that had to be broken up by the National Guard. Needless to say, the residents of Zap were not very pleased with having between 2000 and 3000 loud, drunk, high, or a combination of the three partying young adults on their lawns.
This itty bitty town of 34 residents gained international attention and even had a movie made and named after it, but what brought that attention on was not very good. It gained its infamy due to a man named Craig Cobb moving there, buying up as much land as he could, and trying to force the current residents out. And for what? He wanted to turn it into a purely white nationalist community. The residents held strong, but his aggression towards them grew until he started threatening them with guns and was subsequently arrested and no longer allowed in Leith for four years. Recently, his probation was up and he has been allowed to return (but hasn't as of yet). However, another couple living in the town is believed to be heading towards the same motives and the town's government has decided it'd be better to dissolve the town completely rather than let them take over. The vote was scheduled for July of 2018 but has been pushed to the fall. Whether Leith will remain a town or not is still undecided, but its story remains huge international news.
This one is another literal huge happening in a North Dakota small town. Rutland, population 163, cooked up a behemoth burger in 1982 that broke the record for the world's largest. The griddle used to cook that massive sandwich has been saved and transformed into the sign seen above. Seeing it in person really gives a perspective on just how huge this things was. At 3,591 lbs, it certainly fed a lot of people that day!
Michigan (the town, not the state) has a population of just 294, but in 1945 over that amount of people were injured and another 34 were killed in what was the worst train wreck in all of North Dakota's history. This tragic accident occurred when two trains, both Empire Builders of Great Northern Railway carrying mostly soldiers and families coming home just after the end of WWII, collided just outside of Michigan. The front train had to make an emergency stop and the other train was not alerted quick enough to stop once it caught up. It plowed into the rear cars of the front train and was described to have completely split them in two. As mentioned, over 300 were injured and people lost their lives. This wreck will never be forgotten and surely is one of the saddest, most horrific things to happen in a North Dakota small town. Today, the town has monuments commemorating those lost and the residents of the town who immediately set to work rescuing and helping those hurt or stranded.
What other well-known, huge things happened in North Dakota small towns that you know about?
Here’s an insane story from one that has gone down in legend.