Reading the book North Dakota Curious, I was intrigued by the references to two Jewish cemeteries in North Dakota. Jewish pioneer settlements were mainly in two rural areas of North Dakota: Wishek/Ashley in the southeast produced two relatively famous (or infamous?) people – Ted Mann (founder of Mann theater chain) and David Berman (notorious gangster in the Twin Cities). Sophie Trupin wrote a book called Dakota Diaspora that tells the history of these Jewish immigrants. I had wanted to go there, but it turned out to be out of our way as we decided to head north the day we left Fargo.
The other area that Jewish immigrants settled in North Dakota was in the Devils Lake area. A group of these settlers established their homesteads about 40 miles northeast of Devils Lake, near a tiny town called Edmore. We decided to drive out to look for the Sons of Jacob cemetery. We drove along deserted country roads, past farm fields and machinery and the road seemed to stretch on forever. I gave up hope of finding this remote cemetery that was obviously not well-marked. We reached the town of Edmore, where Dale made inquiries. A man outside the only store in town seemed to know where it was. He gave us more specific directions – about 11 miles west, we would see a sign alongside the road pointing the way to the Sons of Jacob Cemetery.
Miraculously, we found it! I could see why we missed the sign the first time – it was not very big and was not where our guide book said it was. We turned onto the rutted country road that seemed to lead straight into a field of crops. Instead, on a hill to our right, we saw the cemetery.
Getting out of the car, it was extremely windy, as most of North Dakota seems to be, especially on the prairie. And these settlers undoubtedly shared a lot in common with the Ingalls family of the Little House on the Prairie series.
The small, well-kept cemetery may be remote but it is obviously well looked after. It is surrounded by a wire fence and at the entrance is a gate with a sign that welcomes visitors and invites them to sign the guest book, which we did.
The tombstones were scattered across a recently mown lawn.
The most poignant were the graves of children. I left a stone on each of their graves.
Some graves were too old and weathered to read.
Dale and I looked out at the landscape beyond the cemetery and tried to imagine what life had been like for the people here. Instead of farmland, most likely there were fields of waving prairie grasses which would have been the view that these immigrants would have seen from their modest homesteads.
And the sky – a wide open sky, that looks so much more vast here on the prairie than back home in suburbia.
Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Tombstones or Cemeteries