The story of Kensal, North Dakota starts with two homesteading shacks in the middle of the prairie, about 30 miles north of Jamestown. Like many other towns in North Dakota, it grew up along a rail line in the early 1890s. A train station was built near the two shacks 1892. One of those shacks had the honor of receiving Kensal’s first bride in 1893, before the two shacks were hauled away to farmsteads.
A sod barn, depot, coal sheds, dwellings and elevator all sprang up in Kensal after the Minnesota Loan and Trust Company laid out the town. A church came in 1893, and in the next decade so would a public school, hardware stores, a lumberyard, bank, newspapers and a woodmen’s lodge. Secret societies came as well, like the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Brotherhood of American Yeomen. Kensal was hopping by 1907.
But that fall, a fire destroyed a string of businesses. Fanned by northwest winds, the flames that started in the Farmers Mercantile store consumed a hardware store, drug store, ice house, hotel, barber shop, harness shop and general store. The goods from most of the stores were saved. When the fire was over, the only building on the block that had been saved was the Kensal Implement company , thanks to the response of the new fire department from the nearby town of Courtenay.
In 1909, an overturned lantern in a barn caused another fire resulting in a $5,000 loss, claiming horses, cows, hay and other items. By this time, Kensal had organized its own fire department, which saved another barn threatened by the fire. In its first couple years, the Kensal fire department had also been called out for another barn fire, a house fire and a pump house explosion.
The town had incorporated on this date in 1908 by a vote of 67-1. Its population peaked in 1910 with about 450 people. Today, about 160 people make Kensal their home.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
Snape, W. (1910). History of Kensal with Kensal directory. Carrington, ND: Press of the Carrington Record. Retrieved from:
U.S. Census Bureau (2013). Census of Population and Housing. Retrieved from: