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Ashley Jewish Homesteaders Cemetery

4/6/2016:

Fifty years ago, the National Historic Preservation Act was created to help preserve the diverse archaeological and architectural treasures of America. These sites span a variety of structures and locations that chronicle life in North Dakota – including how the deceased are cared for and buried.

The Ashley Jewish Homesteaders Cemetery in McIntosh County joined the National Register of Historic Places in 2015. It’s about three miles north of Ashley in a treeless area, 275 feet square, marked with 22 marble and granite monuments inscribed with Hebrew words and symbols. A separate area was set aside for infants by tradition.

The Ashley Jewish Homesteaders Cemetery is one of three remaining visible or accessible Jewish homesteader cemeteries in the state. It has the largest number of marked graves of any Jewish homesteader cemetery in either North or South Dakota.

Ashley, in the heart of German-Russian settlements, was close to the largest Jewish agricultural settlement in North Dakota, and it was one of these Jewish-Russian immigrants who first owned the land of this cemetery.

On this date in 1908, Sarah Schlasinger was issued a land patent on this land. A few years later, she moved to her husband’s homestead and sold the land to Louis Rubin, a Jewish businessman. He in turn sold the land to Wolf and Alta Feneck in 1911, who began to use the land for burials.

In 1918, after nine burials, the Fenecks deeded the land back to Louis Rubin. In 1948, after Rubin died, his heirs transferred the property to Pauline Greenberg. In 1979, Pauline deeded the cemetery to the Ashley Jewish Cemetery Association, a nonprofit corporation made up of descendents of the Ashley Jewish homesteaders who oversaw the maintenance of the cemetery. For the past few decades these descendents had not lived McIntosh County, but they made regular trips to monitor the condition of the plot, and hired local farmers to help.

Today, the cemetery represents a significant period in the first years of state history, marking deaths from 1913 to 1932, and chronicling a culture that came, then moved on.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Sources:

Information compiled from the site form of the Ashley Jewish Homesteader's Cemetery