Riga Township

Also known as Township 156-N, Range 78, Riga Township is located in the old Lake Souris bed. One of its most prominent landmarks is the Buffalo Lodge Lake bed, situated on the west side of the subdivision. There are many sandhills, overgrown with trees, that were formed when Lake Souris dried up, leaving a delta of sand that blew into the sandhills. Grogan's Grove is the largest, and located east of Buffalo Lodge Lake, but there are also sandhills in Sections 13, 14 and 36. A U.S. Forestry station was built in Section 36 in 1931.

Another important landmark is White Rock Hill, in Section 12. White Rock Hill was named for the many white rocks on the hillside, although several of them have been taken for use a building materials.

The area that was to become Riga Township was an active habitat for Native Americans, who are believed to have come to the area as soon as the glaciers receded, and North Dakota became habitable. Indians camped along the shores and beaches of Buffalo Lodge Lake in Sections 7, 18 and 19, attracted by the fresh water, fishing, and waterfowl. Additionally, the surrounding prairies were good grazing for buffalo, antelope, deer, wild sheep, and elk. Horses could also be grazed there.

L.W. Lillich is thought to be the first rancher in Riga Township. He came from New Rockford seeking secure free range for his cattle, and settled in Section 13, a tract of wooded sandhills. The nearest town large enough to supply provisions was Devils Lake. The first white child born in the township was Irven Lillich.

The George Grogan family came from Pembina County in 1890, and is credited with being the township's second rancher. A portion of his land would later become known as Grogan's Grove.

A Norwegian immigrant settled in a tract of land in Grogan's Grove, but he left after seeing an Indian in a tree. Lillian Grogan later filed on the land that he abandoned.

Before Towner was established, mail had to be picked up in Devils Lake. Mr. Grogan put a mailbox up on a telegraph pole along the railway bed south of his ranch, and the Turner section men deposted his mail there. Finally, a Riga post office was established in 1902, with Mr. Springer as the first postmaster and storekeeper. Rural delivery began in 1911, with George Brown as the first mail carrier.

The Acme Elevator was built in Riga in 1902, and Neprud and Olson erected a second elevator. Before the Maxbass-Towner branch began, surrounding farmers marketed their grain in Riga. Jonathan Peterson ran a lumber mill in 1902, supplying much of the supplies needed by early settlers. The town also had a livery barn, blacksmith shop, railroad section house, two churches, a hotel, and several residences, most of which has since been moved away.

The first church service in Riga was held in the Indiana School House, with the Reverend K.W. Gress presiding, on June 23, 1901. His congregation later joined with the Riga Methodists to build a church in 1905, a structure that was moved to Silva, North Dakota in 1928. The Reverend J.G. Moore was the presiding Methodist elder of the district, and the main speaker. A Baptist church was built in 1903, and later moved to Deering. Wilson E. Proffitt, who came with his family from Indiana in 1902, helped to build the Peterson Store and the Baptist Church that spring. He also helped to build the first Riga school house in 1903. The first camp meeting was held at Grogan's Grove in 1907, conducated by the Reverends Ehlers and Thompson of the Northwest Holiness Association, and camp meetings were held annually for many years.

When the pioneers settled new areas in North Dakota, one of the first things they did was provide for the education of their children. The first school built in Riga Township was the Indiana School, and the Reverend Joseph, a Dunker, was its first teacher. The school and church were organized by Mr. and Mrs. Pleasant Thompson. Rev. Dunker also held religious services there. In the winter of 1903, a school was held in Albert McFarlane's shack, about a half mile south of where the White Rock School would later be built. Miss Nellie Thomas, who would later become Mrs. George Elliott, was the first teacher. In September of 1906, Miss Yowell began teaching in the Matthews claim shack east of Lars Longager's.

Initially, rural schools were as much a part of the landscape as farms and herds of cattle. However, beginning in the mid-1900s, the trend has been toward redistricting, reorganization, and school consolidations, eliminating the one-room schoolhouse that once served North Dakota, and most of America, so well. The last one-room schoolhouse in McHenry County was the White Rock School in Riga Township.


  • L.H. Kuderling
  • Rose Knudson
  • Henry Erickson
  • Sarah Blocker
  • Albert and Jesse McFarlane
  • Olavus Jenson
  • Charles Hermon
  • Loretta and Newell Mathews
  • Henry Walker
  • Patrick O'Neil
  • August Schmidt
  • William Houghlting
  • John Lobby
  • Lucy Hall
  • Jonathan Peterson
  • Patrick Dwyer
  • Hilda and W. Armstrong
  • William Bernson
  • C.S. Allison
  • Jacob Dean
  • Frank Evenas
  • Andrew Thompson
  • Jacob Iverson
  • Loyal Richardson
  • Lars Langager
  • Albert, Leon and Alonzo McFarlane
  • Fred Bacon
  • Guy M. Butts
  • Josiah Roberts
  • Pleasant M. Thompson
  • Stephen and William Cowell
  • Emil Gross
  • Douglas Finch
  • Arthur Saylors
  • Charles Buck
  • John Joseph
  • Alex, Patrick, A.H., H.C., and Emil Weddle
  • H.J. Bert
  • John Richardson
  • James Nicholas
  • Nancy Doyle
  • Loretta and Henry Britsch
  • Peter Stenbakken
  • Kate and Nina Seright
  • Stephen Ordway
  • John Seright
  • Joshua Peterson
  • Cora Setchell
  • G.H. Miller
  • H.T. Anderson
  • H.T. Anderson
  • James Gibney
  • Butler Lamb
  • John Osborn
  • Albert Solberg
  • Charles Studness
  • Alma Stabaugh
  • Cora Cross
  • Irven, Luther, and M.S. Lillch
  • N.E. Flora
  • Ole Anderson
  • Julius Jacobson
  • Joseph Jenson
  • H. Bruns
  • George Grogen
  • Edward Dilley
  • Maggie Reinecke
  • Joseph Mikson
  • Harden Bailey
  • Edwin Elvis
  • William Flowers
  • William Hitson
  • Charles Downey
  • Alvah McFarlane
  • E.L. Osmundson
  • Laura Bradshaw
  • Oscar McFarlane
  • Edward Jacobson
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