Lefor, North Dakota

I have always had a sense of pride about how my ancestors came to North Dakota from the Banat and the difficult life they encountered as pioneers. I recently read a fascinating book by Stephen Ambrose on the building of the railroad in the US. The problems of building of the railroad in the late 1860's and the migration of the Banaters to North Dakota in the 1880's and 1890's told me I was missing something.

I did a little research and a couple of things kept going through my mind. First, I was taken back to Sue Clarkson's history of the Banat and the three waves of migration to the Banat and how difficult life was. Next, I was struck by the primitiveness of North Dakota at the time our ancestors make the trek.

Steve Herold
November 20, 2000.

Before the Banaters

The first written record of white men entering Stark County goes to General Alfred Sully and the Sully Expedition of 1864. General Sully was in charge of of 3500 soliders pursuing the Sioux. At one point they camped overnight near present day Gladstone before fighing the Sioux again in the Badlands.

The railroad came to Bismarck in 1873 and surveys to determine the best route to take west of the Missouri were conducted. On several occassions the survey parties were attacked by Sioux. In 1879 construction of the Northern Pacific railroad began west of the Missouri river. Most of the towns along the Northern Pacific in Stark County were established in 1882. The last mention of Indian problems is a note of Jerold Douglas being buried with military honors on a knoll near Gladstone on July 4, 1880.

The first settlers

John Braun came to America and settled east of Lefor about 1882 in an area known as Plum Creek. Mr. Braun was from Benschek and had many friends in Joseffalva. He wrote saying where he was homesteading was a land flowing with "milk and honey." He stated that here in America they could find a freedom that they couldn't imagine, that their sons would not have to serve in the military as in Hungary, and that here in America they would get 160 acres of land free as a homestead.

The first group of people from Joseffalva came to North Dakota in 1891 and settled in the St. Stephen's area south of Richardton and east of Lefor. Mr. Braun arranged for the keep of them until they built their sod homes and started farming.

The Lefor area was first settled by Hironimus Lefor and Joseph Goetz in the spring of 1892. When the settlers first came to Lefor they referred to the area as Schnellreich, which means "Quick Rich." By 1898 Lefor had grown to 42 families and they built a sod church and Schnellreich became know as St. Elizabeth. In 1903 the old sod church was replaced.

To be continued.


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