Sweden (North Dakota) Post Office

I see in the newspaper today there is an event listing for a “Post Offices of Northeastern North Dakota” exhibit open house, 1 to 5 p.m., at the Pioneer Heritage Center in Icelandic State Park, Cavalier, North Dakota. Peculiar as it may sound, taking note of the post offices that have come and gone throughout a region’s history can tell you something about what has gone on, in the places you stand, before your time.

Monument marking the Sweden, North Dakota, Post Office
Monument marking the Sweden, North Dakota, Post Office

A couple months ago I was driving east on ND County Road 9 just approaching Nash, North Dakota, when I saw a peculiar evergreen tree standing proud all by itself along the side of the road. Noticing as I drove past that there was a monument marking the tree, I decided to stop and investigate.

Here is what the monument reads:

Monument marking the Sweden, North Dakota, Post Office

In 1879, a Post Office named Sweden was establsihed on a site 450 yards south of this marker. It was housed in a log building in which William McKenzie operated a general store. It was one of two Post Offices, Grafton being the second, authorized through the efforts of Thomas E. Cooper, who became its postmaster. John M. Almen was appointed postmaster in Sweden.
Mail was brought to Kelly’s Point on the Red River by steamboat and carried to Grafton and Sweden, a distance of about 20 miles by Murdock McKenzie.
When the railroad reached Grafton in 1882, Sweden Post Office was discontinued, to be replaced in 1891 by Nash Post Office, Charles Hanson Postmaster. 1963

Fifty years after the monument was dedicated, I stood there reading it. The monument was placed 80 years after service stopped at the Post Office. From end to end, 130 years have come and gone, sun and snow, on this piece of earth, since they were delivering mail and I was just finding out about it. I wonder about the other post offices that are remembered by the Icelandic State Park exhibit, and I hope I get the time to visit there someday.

Butte Saint Paul State Recreation Area

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting Butte Saint Paul in the Turtle Mountain region of North Dakota. The snow still deeply covered the path up to the summit, so I was obliged to admire the scene from below.

According to NDParks.com:

In 1850, George Anthony Belcourt, the state’s second missionary, embarked on a journey to preach the gospel to the Native American Indians settled around Ot Accowabiwinins, the highest known peak in North Dakota at that time. Unfortunately, Belcourt and his company of guides and sled dogs were caught in the midst of a giant blizzard, so they sought refuge atop the peak by burying themselves deep in the snow. On January 25, Belcourt offered a Thanksgiving mass where he blessed a wooden court that he had placed on top of the mountain, which he subsequent named Butte Saint Paul.

Looking up the butte, I couldn't see the wooden court. But it looked like some kind of rock pillar was there. I wasn't sure what to call it … an obelisk?

From the North Dakota Parks and Recreation website:

According to a Belcourt biography by Rev. James M. Reardon, in January of 1850, Belcourt, his gui

des and sled dogs set out to visit the Native Americans in this area in order to teach the gospel. The group was caught in a blizzard and sought refuge on the highest peak (580 feet) by burying themselves in the snow until the storm broke. On Jan. 25, which coincides with the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Belcourt offered a Mass of thanksgiving for their delivery from the blizzard. Belcourt blessed a large wooden cross and planted it on the summit of the hill naming it Butte St. Paul and dedicating it to the conversion of the Indians of the vicinity.

Eventually the cross disappeared, but 80 years later its remains were discovered and a cairn 12-feet high was erected to mark the spot and included a commemorative bronze plaque. Ten acres surrounding the marker were designated as a state park. Plans were to reinter Father Belcourt at the foot of Butte St. Paul, but this has never been carried out, and his body remains in Memramcook, New Brunswick.

So, it was a wooden cross, that makes more sense. And now I know it's not an obelisk or a pillar at all, but a cairn.