Villard Township

The first post office in McHenry County was in Villard, which is now extinct. Villard was located in Township 145 N, Range 78 W, Section 10, according to the 1910 atlas. By 1929, the township was named Falsen.

The post office was moved several times in the later years of its existence, but the first post office in Villard was located about fifteen miles southwest of Towner, on the Orland Grove farm, which has also been known as the old Kongslie place. Carl and Myron Espeseth erected a marker on the site, and Mrs. Espeseth prepared a history of the Villard Post Office, which she read at a Pioneer Daughters Club of Towner meeting. Her prepared speech was published in the Minot Daily News on Saturday, July 31, 1954.

The Pioneer Settlement of Villard was founded and named by Edmund Hackett, who apparently was the first mayor of Bismarck. Hackett learned of plans of the Northern Pacific Railroad to build from Jamestown into the Mouse River Valley, via Minnewaukan. Hackett came to the Mouse River Valley apparently in 1881, although we have no record of the date. He picked the site and put up a stake on which he painted the name "Villard". He then returned to Bismarck. The name was chosen for Henry Willard, then President of the Northern Pacific.

The land in McHenry County had not been surveyed in 1881. Squatter's rights was the rule. It was not until 1882 that a vanguard of settlers actually came and stopped at Villard.

The first settlement at the site appears to have been by Yankee Robinson in the spring of 1882. He was the first settler in the county, followed shortly by Gustave Swenson and family, George Hoffman and family, and Richard Copeland.

That year, 1882, Villard became an inland post office. It was a two-room log house with a sod roof and floor. A fireplace of native stones heated the rooms in the winter.

One source told us that mail came to Villard three times in the winter of 1882-1883. It was delivered by a half-breed with a dog team from Fort Stevenson. George Hoffman was the first Postmaster, appointed in June of 1882. He hauled the first mail to Villard from Bismarck.

Richard Copeland was the second Postmaster, appointed in November of 1884. He taught the first school in McHenry County at the Villard Post Office in 1884-1885. The children who attended his school were: Albin and Fritz Winquist; their cousins, Willie, Oscar and Anna Swenson; and Herman and Teckla Hoffman. The parents paid the teacher. His salary is not known.

Richard Copeland also edited the first newspaper, called "The Villard Leader", in this entire section. The first section was published March 6th, 1886. Mr. Copeland had purchased the press and other equipment from Colonel Clement A. Lounsberry of Bismarck. The press was one that had been damaged by fire. It had been used to publish the Bismarck Tribune.

Editor Copeland engaged in a journalistic joust with Frank Spears, owner of the Mouse River Advocate, published at New Port (Towner). Both newspapers were published in the claim shacks of the publishers at small cost.

Johannes Kopperdahl wrote from Villard a number of articles for Norwegian language papers on the opportunities of the Mouse River Loop and territory.

Richard Copeland left Villard in 1890 and went to Washburn, as he soon noted that Villard was a town without a future. In 1890, he started "The Washburn Leader." He was elected States Attorney for McLean County for three years. In the spring of 1894, he moved to Towner, but still feeling the urge to go west, relocated to Williston in 1895. He was a good Democrat and well-known for his attacks on the Republican forces at the North Dakota Capitol.

The first meeting to discuss the organization of McHenry County was said to have been held at Villard. It was a conference between Colonel O.M. Towner, who had a ranch near New Port, and Edmund Hackett, the founder of Villard. The record shows that they regarded themselves as commissioners delegated to organize the county.

An election was held in 1885 on order of the Territorial Legislature of Dakota. Scriptown won the majority of votes, so became the first county seat of McHenry County. It was located about three miles east of Velva.

The list of first settlers at Villard apparently would include George Hoffman, E.H. Copeland, Gustave Swenson, Yankee Robinson, Ivar Gjellstad, Ole Hovin, John Larson, Lewis Larson, Martin Bredalen, Erick Espeseth, A.J. Olsie, Hans Hanson, J.H. Kopperdahl, Anton Jevnager, Marius Stutrud, Lars Hanson, John and Hans Braatan, Petrin Anderson, Sam Koto, Simon Bernt, Engebret Hestness, and the Penroys.

In 1881, Rev. O.H. Aaberg from Grand Forks County of the Red River Valley and Rev. Harstad drove through the Mouse River country. They found no settlers. In 1883, Rev. Aaberg returned. On November 1st, 1883, religious services were held at the Villard Post Office. No doubt this was the first Lutheran service in this area. Rev. Aaberg baptized Knute Spokely and Charles Gasman, the first to be baptized in this vicinity.

The log house at Villard has disappeared long ago, and the post office no longer exists, but the church services on that November day were epoch making for the Lutheran Church in Northwest North Dakota. The sermon was preached by Rev. H. Aaberg. He held many services at the Villard Post Office and in the homes of settlers from 1883-1886.

In 1885, a Congregational pastor by the name of Rev. Royce was said to have preached the first English sermon in McHenry County at the home of J.M. Pendroy. A Catholic priest, Father Claude, came to visit the Mouse River Valley in 1884. He was there from 1885-1886.

Anton Jevnager hauled mail from Minnewaukan on a Starr Route which ended at Burlington. He made the trip twice a week with horses. He lived about four miles west of Villard, which was the halfway point on his trail. He served four post offices along the route, including Broken Bone, which is now Pleasant Lake, Scriptown, Villard, and St. Carl, which was four miles east of Minot and Burlington. He had several assistants, including Martin Bredalen and Ole Rom. Part of the route was designated as the "County Road" by the County Commissioners in 1885. Then the Great Northern Railroad pushed westward from Creel City, now known as Devils Lake. In 1886, Jevnager's route was discontinued with the arrival of the railroad at Minot in 1887.

Carl Julsrud, an early teacher in the Rugby territory, wrote in his diary that he also carried mail to the Villard Post Office. In the winter, he often had to use snowshoes and skis.

Martin Young had been appointed Postmaster in 1890, and Strous hauled the mail. George Hoffman was again appointed Postmaster on December 28, 1895. Hoffman left in 1897. Peter Kongslie was the next Postmaster, appointed in February, 1898. He hauled mail from Velva to Villard.

Erick Espeseth was appointed Postmaster on April 12, 1902. The post office was then moved to the Espeseth home. During the flood of 1904, it was moved to the Lars Hendrickson farm, and later to the Martin Bredalen prairie farm, where it remained until the end of the flood.

Lars Hanson was the next Postmaster. He was appointed on the 28th of April, 1904. The post office was then moved to his store near the Koto Bridge. Lewis Larson was appointed Postmaster on January 30, 1906. He bought the store from Hanson, and the post office continued there.

Herbrand Lee was appointed Postmaster on April 20, 1909. The post office was moved to the Lee home. It continued there until the start of rural free delivery in 1911. The name Villard was discontinued that year, and Denbigh became the post office. Pederson hauled the mail out from Denbigh when Hanson, Larson and Lee were the postmasters. 

Joe Brown hauled mail out from Denbigh beginning September of 1911. He continued until the fall of 1918. Mrs. Brown was a very able substitute for she hauled the mail while Joe did other work. The mail men watered and fed their horses and ate their lunch at the Erick Espeseth and Martin farms. Both places had running spring water in front of their barns.

Edwin Brown started hauling the mail out from Denbigh in December of 1918. He continued for thirty-four years. He, too, stopped, watered, and fed his horses at the Bredalen place. Mr. Brown stayed there when a blizzard came up. He used a car or sleigh mobile whenever possible. He had some very tough roads, both summer and winter. If it was not mud, it was snow.

As of April, 1976, Lowell Crawford (a son-in-law of the Browns) is the mail carrier. He, too, has the problems of snowbanks and high water, where he has to drive many miles out of his way to deliver the mail.


  • James and Charles Penroy
  • Henry Lee
  • A.J. Masteller
  • Andrew Statheim
  • Axel Lyng
  • Albert Peterson
  • Thomas Brown
  • Lars Larsen
  • Herbrand Lee
  • Edward Samuelson
  • Sam Kota
  • Erick and Gurine Espeseth
  • Lucas Larson
  • Anton Jevnager
  • Martin Bredahl
  • Henry Orth
  • Edward Orth
  • Olaf and Dora Stutrud
  • Christen Rensla
  • Lars and Pauli Larson
  • Martha, Oliver, Herman, and Gus Wolhowe
  • Eline Hestness
  • Knute Roland
  • Hans Christianson
  • Lars Hendrickson
  • Ole Pederson
  • Peter Sivle
  • Wendlin Senger
  • Arthur Burchett
  • Emanuel Freese
  • Oscar and Celia Selberg
  • Martin Storhaug
  • Matte Freese
  • Mary Diebler
  • Frank Brown
  • George Brown
  • Thomas McMahon
  • Charles Rollag
  • Arlie Welton
  • M.W. and Jake Hostetler
  • Fred Aufderheide
  • Joseph Wild
  • Carrie Bruse
  • George and William Smith
  • John Lindsey
  • John Davis
  • Hubert Tate
  • James and Mary Taliaferro
  • Mike Witish
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