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Naming Temvik

Most towns in North Dakota are named with some connection to the landscape, the railroad or a benefactor. Grenora was named after the Great Northern Railroad, Gre-Nor-Ra. Golva was named for the first syllables of Golden Valley County. Fargo was named for the banker, William G. Fargo, and Grand Forks for two rivers’ confluence. Fortuna was named for a god of luck to imply prosperity for new settlers. And nearby Alkabo was named for the alkali and gumbo soils. Temvik, North Dakota has a different story.

The town is near Linton in Emmons County, east of the Missouri River. Temvik had its start in 1902 as a siding along the Northern Pacific Railroad. A grain elevator grew up at the spot, first called Godkin, from the efforts of a homesteader in Linton who ran a lunch counter. He later built a two-story store and post office, which his daughter ran. Local homesteaders wanted a more suitable name and chose Larvik for the original landowners of the townsite. But Larvik was already taken for a different town. So they settled on Brophy, for the man who started the community. But then he moved away. And once the townsfolk learned the other Larvik no longer existed, they settled on that name.

In 1908, two brothers named Tempel bought up nearby land and platted a townsite. They established a lumberyard, another elevator and a few other businesses. Local residents wanted a new name to honor the brothers, but Temple and Templeton were already towns in North Dakota. Someone thought of Union City. But a schoolteacher had a better idea: a portmanteau of Tempel and Larvik: Temvik. The Temvik post office took the name on this date in 1911. And the name stuck.

But Temvik declined throughout the years after its naming. The influenza epidemic of 1918 ravaged the town and Temvik’s flour mill closed as a result. The town also had no doctor. Temvik recovered and grew to 200 people, reaching its peak in 1925, with its last businesses to ever open and the reestablishment of the flour mill around that time. But the Great Depression and rerouting of U.S. Highway 83 did Temvik no good. Virtually all businesses in town closed in the following years. In 1943, the former elevator burned in a fire from a cigarette. And one by one, the buildings on Main Street were eventually razed. To quote from Temvik’s history book: “Temvik holds only the memories of a prosperous past, and faces a long future of quiet oblivion.”

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Monahan, G.M. (1967). History of Temvik, North Dakota 1902-1967. N.p.
Wick, D.A. (1989). North Dakota place names. Bismarck, ND: Prairie House

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