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Bicycle, North Dakota

11/22/2016:

A number of communities have come and gone in McKenzie County, where Watford City sits at pretty much the heart of everything. A century ago, however, many towns dotted the prairie in that largest county in the state.

One example is Bicycle, North Dakota. The name was Anglicized from nearby Beicegel Creek. Bicycle was located about six miles northwest of Grassy Butte, and on this date in 1916, the post office was established. Anne Fane was Bicycle’s postmaster before the site moved west six miles to the home of Reuben Lyon, who took over from Mrs. Fane. Louis Elstrand and Frances Cook were later postmasters. The original Bicycle sat at the entrance to Scairt Woman Road along County Road 50.

The place didn’t last long. The little post office closed on Halloween in 1935 with mail service switching to Grassy Butte. Other McKenzie County towns met similar fates. Charbonneau, North Dakota, declined in the 1950s and ‘60s after its school and post office closed. Schafer began to die when the railroad went around the one-time county seat. Rawson dissolved its government in the early 2000s. And Juniper, at the mouth of Cherry Creek on the Little Missouri River, was platted, but nothing ever built. Even the county seat saw changes as it was hosted by Alexander and Schafer before winding up in Watford City, which was located on the Great Northern Railroad line.

At the time of Bicycle’s beginnings, Watford City was barely three years old. A hundred years later, the boomtown could barely keep up with its population, which grew to over 7,500 people.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources

Wick, D.A. (1988). North Dakota place names. Prairie House: Bismarck, ND.

McKenzie County Township Map: "http://county.mckenziecounty.net/usrfiles/Township_Map.pdf" http://county.mckenziecounty.net/usrfiles/Township_Map.pdf