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Merricourt: Population Two

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On this date in 1991 The Bismarck Tribune reported on the 100th anniversary celebration for Merricourt, North Dakota. A parade was held for the entire population, which was a grand total of two. Emil and Elsie Geisler were the only residents, but 1,500 people joined the couple in the celebration.

In 1883 a post office was established in the home of the Mann family, who were homesteading a section of Young Township in Dickey County. Bertha V. Mann, the postmaster, named her post office “Merricourt” after a name she saw in a novel.

A town site was platted about two miles from the post office in 1891 when the railroad arrived. The peak population was 153 people in 1940. Despite its tiny size, the town at one point had a radio station, WPA community center, a café, bar, school, three grocery stores, inn, five hardware stores, two churches, two banks, dance hall, cheese factory, and five grain elevators. Even Lawrence Welk performed in Merricourt.

Emil and Elsie Geisler moved to Merricourt from Minneapolis in 1978, bringing the population at the time to 17. At the time, there was still a café, post office, bar, and grocery store. The last of these, the post office, closed in 1990. Of the fifteen residents who lived in Merricourt when the Geisler’s arrived, five had died and the rest moved away. The Geisler home was the only livable building by 1991.

The 100th anniversary celebration was chaired by Arnold Middlestead, who had grown up in Merricourt. He now lived in nearby Kulm, which had a much larger population – 24 people.

The centennial anniversary celebration included an entire weekend of festivities. Besides the parade, highlights included a rodeo and choir performance.

Emil and Elsie Geisler were originally from South Dakota. They had married in Aberdeen in 1948. They then lived in Minneapolis and Jamestown before coming to Merricourt after retiring. They loved living in the tiny town, even when everyone else had gone.

In their old age, they eventually moved back to Jamestown. Emil died in 2004 and Elsie in 2013.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa

Sources:
Associated Press, “Merricourt Gets Help from its Neighbor,” The Bismarck Tribune, May 28, 1991, pg. 8B.
Associated Press, “Town of Two Celebrates its Centennial,” The Bismarck Tribune, June 17, 1991, pg. 5B.
Flegel, Marjorie, “Town of Two Throwing a Party,” The Bismarck Tribune, January 27, 1991, pg. C1.
Larson, Troy, “Merricourt, ND,” Ghosts of North Dakota, https://ghostsofnorthdakota.com/2005/05/05/merricourt-nd/#more-269, accessed May 13, 2022.
Wick, Douglas A. North Dakota Pace Names, Bismarck: Sweetgrass Communications, 1988.
Williams, Mary Ann Barnes, Origins of North Dakota Place Names, Bismarck: Bismarck Tribune, 1966.
Unknown Author, “Elsie Geisler,” Eddy Funeral Home, https://www.eddyfuneralhome.com/obituary/Elsie-Geisler, accessed May 13, 2022.
Unknown Author, “Emil Geisler, The Bismarck Tribune, May 27, 2004, pg. 9A.

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