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Sherbrooke’s Decline


Sherbrooke, North Dakota is a shadow of its former self. Once the county seat for Steele County, it’s now a ghost town surrounded by farmland. Once a thriving farming community, the old townsite is now home to several abandoned structures, slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Settlers came to Sherbrooke in 1881 after the village and township was platted. It was named after a town in Quebec. A variety of businesses and buildings came to Sherbrooke. It became the county seat in 1885 after Hope, North Dakota had held it temporarily. The village boasted everything from a blacksmith shop to a stage line. A courthouse was completed in 1886 and enlarged two years later. Its second story hosted community events like church and ice cream socials.

Another prominent building was the Sherbrooke House Hotel. It had five bedrooms. President William McKinley spent a night during a visit in 1896. The mother of the town sheriff owned the hotel, but “Ma Elliott” later sold it to a man who moved the hotel farther north.

Despite Sherbrooke’s initial prosperity, the town lacked a railroad and was not on a river. While a railroad was staked out north of town, World War I channeled interest and resources elsewhere. The surveyor’s stakes were later removed, though farmers plowed around them for years.

In June of 1918, the location of the county seat was put to a vote. Hope, Finley and Sherbrooke were on the ballot, with Finley winning, and Sherbrooke receiving less than twenty percent of the vote.

Sherbrooke residents rebelled, and after a second vote in November, took the matter to the state Supreme Court. But the court ruled in favor of the voters, saying they had the right to relocate the county seat. The court’s syllabus even stated that a county seat should be accessible with a railroad or navigable river. Sherbrooke had lost, and Finley won.

On this date in 1919, Sherbrooke was beginning to lose its businesses. The Steele County Tribune published its last issue and left for Finley. Soon there was only the post office and one remaining store. Residents moved houses to Finley, and Sherbrooke just kept declining. By 1982, the town had two residents. Today no one lives there.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


Coghlan, J. (1921). Reports of cases decided in the supreme court of the state of North Dakota May 21, 1918 to March 15, 1919. Rochester, NY: The Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company. Retrieved from:

"https://books.google.com/books?id=D78EAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA155&lpg=PA155&dq=bugbee+et+al.+vs.+steele+county,+nd&source=bl&ots=4GUu7WRA6p&sig=bPoj_pxQNolbG754x_r4WvOgxW4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiHvYf77KrMAhXItoMKHVLeBJwQ6AEIMjAE#v=onepage&q=bugbee%20et%20al.%20vs.%20steele%20county%2C%20nd&f=false" https://books.google.com/books?id=D78EAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA155&lpg=PA155&dq=bugbee+et+al.+vs.+steele+county,+nd&source=bl&ots=4GUu7WRA6p&sig=bPoj_pxQNolbG754x_r4WvOgxW4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiHvYf77KrMAhXItoMKHVLeBJwQ6AEIMjAE#v=onepage&q=bugbee%20et%20al.%20vs.%20steele%20county%2C%20nd&f=false

Hope Centennial Book Committee. (1982). Hope Through the Century 1882-1982. Fargo, ND: Knight Printing Company. Retrieved from:

"http://www.webfamilytree.com/Hope_Centennial/townships/sherbrooke_township_and_village.php" http://www.webfamilytree.com/Hope_Centennial/townships/sherbrooke_township_and_village.php

"http://www.ghostsofnorthdakota.com/category/sherbrooke-nd/" http://www.ghostsofnorthdakota.com/category/sherbrooke-nd/