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October 12: Whynot

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Whynot was the name of a general store and post office from the 1880s through the 1940s. It originated in the creative brain of Erik K. Larsgaard, a Norwegian immigrant, who came to America in 1881.

Larsgaard worked at several occupations, mainly as a traveling peddler, but he soon found a place to settle down in the southeast corner of Grand Forks County, just one mile from the Red River and 10 miles from the village of Reynolds.

Larsgaard thought that a little store could be of real service to the local farmers, but the farmers thought the plan didn’t seem feasible.

Larsgaard asked: “Why not?”

The dream of owning a general-store grew upon him, and Larsgaard kept asking the farmers about his big idea. The neighbors laughed, but Larsgaard again asked: “Why not?”

Resolutely, he saved up enough money to buy a bit of ground and build a little store.

The farmers, good-naturedly christened his plot of land as the “town of Whynot,” and Larsgaard good-humoredly labelled his business the “Whynot Store,” placing a large sign on the storefront with “WHYNOT” painted in big letters. He also bought newspaper advertisements, one of which was published in the Grand Forks Herald on this date in 1920.

The Whynot Store was a good business for Larsgaard, but operating a general-store in a relatively-isolated location was not all roses. In 1934, three men robbed the Whynot Store. One hit the 74-year-old Larsgaard on the head, and the storekeeper died about two-weeks later.

The Whynot Store continued through 1942, under proprietorship of Elmer and Beulah Sondrol. The building stood until 1953, when it was torn down.

Why should anyone remember “WHYNOT?” Well, it’s a colorful name and Erik Larsgaard was a lively character. Why not?

Dakota Datebook by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSUM History Professor

Sources:

  • Advertisement “E.K. Larsgaard, Whynot,” Grand Forks Herald, October 12, 1920, p. 3.
  • “Why Not,” Oakes Times, November 30, 1916, p. 4; an “Why Not,” Ward County Independent [Minot, ND], November 23, 1916, p. 2.
  • “Erik K. Larsgaard,” Bentru Township, Grand Forks County, 1910 U.S. Federal Census; 1930 U.S. Federal Census.
  • “Erik K. Larsgaard, P.O. Location: Whynot, Grand Forks County, N.D., Appointment Date: 6 May 1892,” U.S. Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971, in Ancestry.com.
  • Mary Ann Barnes Williams, Origins of North Dakota Place Names (Washburn, ND: Bismarck Tribune, 1966), p. 127.
  • “Around the State,” Ward County Independent, October 11, 1917, p. 17; “Fred Anderson,” Bowbells Tribune, October 19, 1917, p. 7; “Man Held As Prisoner,” Grand Forks Herald, September 24, 1917, p. 16.
  • “Grand Forks Lad Held For Murder,” Bismarck Tribune, December 24, 1934, p. 1.
  • “Resident Seeks to Revive Whynot,” Bismarck Tribune, May 31, 2006, p. 14.

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.

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