Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Horse Creek School

Ways To Subscribe

Deep in the Badlands of North Dakota sits one of the last one-room schools in the state. Horse Creek School, with an enrollment of eleven students as of 2020, is 16 miles from Sidney, Montana, and 38 miles from Watford City.

On this date in 1998, it was reported that the little school, which is surrounded by ranches in one of the remotest areas of the state, served as a temporary home for two stranded motorists. Nicole Horn, the only teacher, sent her students home when a blizzard started. A day later, there was a knock at her door. Ms. Horn lived in the school-provided home next to the school. At her door was a stranded motorist. Ms. Horn gave shelter to the freezing woman. The next day, amid seven foot snow drifts, a snowmobiler found another stranded motorist. He was given shelter in the school, where he spent the following night. The next day, the two motorists were able to get back on the road.

They were lucky that Horse Creek School hadn't closed as schools consolidated. The school, founded in 1910, survives due to the dedicated ranchers in the remote badlands. The local ranchers fear that their children would be forced to ride a bus for several hours a day if the school closed, so they support a larger than average mill levy to keep the school going. In order to entice teachers to the remote school, where grades Kindergarten through 8th grade is taught, the adjacent home is rent-free.

Horse Creek School provides a well-rounded education for the children, and excellent career experience for young teachers. In the late 1980s a young married couple taught six students. In 1995, Mr. Englund took the teaching job knowing he would never get a chance at such an interesting opportunity again. In 2005, the new teacher, Ms. Thingstad noted “What I’ve been told is that as long as there’s students, Horse Creek School will remain open.” All of these teachers spoke highly about how each student could get individualized attention at such a small school, and that there were never disciplinary issues. As of 2018 there were seven one-room schools left in North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa


Associated Press, “Lonely School Proves a Safe Haven,” The Bismarck Tribune, March 22, pg. 5A.

Associated Press, “School Goes on at Horse Creek” The Bismarck Tribune, December 4, 2005, 9C.

MacDonald, John, “Little School a Big Job, But Fun, For Educator,” The Bismarck Tribune, August 2, 1995, pg. 4D.

McLaughlin, Cynthia, “Several One Room Schools Still Exist in North Dakota,” KFYR News, April 24, 2018, accessed February 23, 2022.

Noll Leom, Kathy, “Si Pupils Enjoy a Teaching Team,” The Bismarck Tribune, January 23, 1989, pg. 3B.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Related Content