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Make Way for New Town


On this date in 1950, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the town site of New Town, North Dakota. A furrow of earth was cut on the future Main Street for the town, which was being created out of the certainty that the Garrison Reservoir would flood other towns along the Missouri River.

About 900 residents of Sanish and Van Hook had to relocate, and they decided to join together as one town. But what to call it? The name Sanhook was proposed, as was Vanish, an ironic name for the town replacing those lost under the dam's waters. The new town was eventually named just that. New Town. No vote or proposal was ever held for the name.

At the time of the groundbreaking, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was appraising properties that would be lost in Sanish and Van Hook. Surveyors were also working to reroute the railroad and Highway 23. Studies were also underway for the construction of a new bridge south of Sanish.

As the townsite of New Town began to take shape, the site was platted and lots were sold. Land for a school was presented as gift to the school district, and each church congregation was also given a free lot.

New Town's first election was in 1951, with the decision to dissolve the governments of Sanish and Van Hook on the ballot. Both towns approved the measure. Another election weeks later transferred both towns’ assets to New Town. By this time, New Town was just one building on Main Street, but homes and businesses would come within the year. The first business was a bar, followed by a lumber company.

Today New Town is a growing city of over 2,300 people on a major route for the state’s oil industry. A casino, historic sites and water recreation draw visitors, and despite its heartbreaking origin, New Town today is a bigger city on the state’s biggest lake.

Dakota Datebook written by Jack Dura


Larson, T. (2013). Building four bears bridge. Retrieved from:

McMaster, J. (1976). New Town 1951-1976. Retrieved from:

"http://www.newtownchamber.com/6.html" http://www.newtownchamber.com/6.html