Farmer Philip Greenberg reported on behalf of the colonists in 1901:

“We had a very good crop this year and all of the Jewish farmers were greatly benefited by the threshing machine which the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Society of New York placed here. All of the farmers threshed in good season. This is the first time that the crop of the Jewish farmers has been threshed before November since they have been here.” (North Dakota History, Jewish Colonies at Painted Woods and Devils Lake.)


Davis Rubin wrote a letter that was printed by the Historical Society of North Dakota:

“I settled in 1892. I took a homestead and bought land (a quarter section). Got money from the Jewish Society of New York at six percent. We got money from the local banks at twelve percent and a bonus of ten percent, so can’t wonder a Jew couldn’t farm. The first Jewish settlement was founded by Baron de Hirsch. He was a millionaire and left money for these settlements. He built them homes and got them farming outfits, but most of them left in ’88 or ’89. There was no donations. When I come in 1892 all the colonial settlers left except three or four. Most of the Jews that came in the 90s made good. The colonial settlers had a rabbi and everything in the religious line. But there was very little improvement in the county and very little to do. When they threshed, they slept in the straw piles and drank slough water, and they decided most anything would be better than farming, so they left. The Jewish Relief would lend $500 to $800 on a quarter section of land. My home was in Overland Township, T. 857, R. 62, Section 30.”

signed Davis Rubin


Excerpted from an article in the *Hampdon Newspapers, written about 1912

Abraham Calof, the Sage of Overland township points out the advantages of the township clubs and wants some organized. “Many times a man lives thru something which he does not take earnestly, not thinking that it will sometimes make the first play on life. Of course we mean individual life but it is a true fact that such happenings occur in communities and also in nations, one side of a man turning or forming a whole group and the whole life becomes different and with other results. It is not quite a year, or in the winter of 1911, when the county superintendent of schools, J.A. Haig, called a meeting of the school board directors in the county court building. …He showed the pleasure of a sociable life, and with glancing words showed what uniting will do and with inspiration cried out: ‘farmers form clubs in your townships, come together in your clubs oftener and oftener.’ It is not quite a year since Mr. Hale has sown these kernels and the results are already seen. Clubs have been formed and already a new life shines in the farmers atmosphere. Many of the hardships that the farmer was compelled to undergo, and which he kept to himself because he had no remedy for them at hand, can now be removed and instead of forsaken farms and divided families, where the children of the farms fly away to the cities like birds from their nests, the farm home will then become a real ‘home sweet home.’ ”

Dear people, I am a friend of everything that lives and breathes, but as I am a farmer. I love the farmer best and therefore would like to see him happy. I know that everything he owns was bathed in his own sweat and therefore I see that the club in his community is the angel of his fortune.”

Mr. Calof goes on to suggest that the clubs have buildings with a stage, a piano and maybe a skating rink. These clubs would sponsor dances, plays, debates, discussion about farm business etc. He ends with: “Nothing is too big or heavy if we have the will to finish the task set before us.”

* Mike Connor writes, “Hampden is a small community (still in existence) about 4 miles further east on ND#17 and than 9 miles north on Ramsey County #3….they had a newspaper at that time…”


And some sentiment from Julius Glickson who is best known for being the proprietor of a clothing store in Devils Lake. This was sent by his grandson from a date/address book from 1923.

“One thing that goes the farthest toward making life worthwhile, that cost the least and does the most. It is just a pleasant smile. Smile. Smile a while and while you smile, another smiles and soon there is miles and miles of smiles and life is worthwhile because you smile.”

Bennie Greenberg’s Letter

The following is taken from “Memories of an American Jew” by Philip Cowen.

Benzion P.O. Ramsey Co., N.D. April 22, 1897

”Hon. Philip Cowen: I have read in your paper about the colony at Vineland (he refers to the Alliance Colony). I cannot help them
financially, but I can advise them not to accept any assistance from anybody. Just try to overcome their misfortune. I know it by my own experience. I came to North Dakota in the Spring of 1888. When I left Michigan, I had a couple hundred dollars, but the expense for myself and my family from Michigan to North Dakota took all of it. When I landed at the depot at Devil’s Lake I had $2.50 left in my pocket. I took a pre-emption claim and I started farming. The first year we had a very fine crop, but a few days before harvesting a frost and we lost all our crop. Of course we had hard times. We were assisted with provisions to live through. The next two years we lost our crop by drought, and the year ’91 we had an abundant crop, the biggest that N. Dakota ever had, but the winter set in so early that we could not thresh, and I lost $1500 of grain that rotted in the shacks. A great many of our farmers lost their crops in the same way, so you can see how much we had to stand. In the winter of ’91 I lost six horses and four head of homed cattle, and now I have five good horses and harness, nine head of homed cattle, and all the farm implements: that is, plows, harrows, mower and rack, two self binders and a good lumber wagon, a pair of sleighs, a good frame house 18 by 24 with additional summer kitchen, a stable, and plenty of grain and all kinds of poultry, chicken, geese and turkeys, and all I owe on it is between $250 and $300. We make a fine living, and if we had taken assistance from anybody I do not believe we would have remained on the farm. But now I hope, if we get a couple of good crops, we will be well-to-do and I own 160 acres of land free from encumbrance.

I hope you will print my letter so people shall read it and know something about farming. We have about twenty families in our colony yet.

From a Jewish farmer of the Colony Chananel,
Bennie Greenberg

(Mr. Greenberg was a subscriber to the “American Hebrew Newspaper”)

Joseph Steinman on The Dakota Territory

The following is part of a letter to Monroe Schlachter of The Anti-Defamation League from Joseph Steinman, Samuel Steinman’s brother, written Oct 5, 1953 describing life in the Dakota Territory in the late 1800’s.

Dear Mr. Schlachter,

The first Jewish Immigrants farmers who in 1882 settled on the 50 homesteads in North Dakota, then, Dakota Territory was sponsored by Baron De Hirsch and my parents often told me, and I also overheard conversations between them and some of the other early settlers, who had also moved to St. Paul, of the hardships they endured during the 5 years that they remained on their farms.

My father, who was unmarried at the time, was allotted 160 acres in Mc???? Co. Section 2, Township 745, Range 81, adjoining the Indian Reservation.

There were several large families one being Baruch and Channu Dorfman and their sons and daughters. My father married their daughter Sara in 1884 and I was born in 1885. Another large family where the Confelds. Mrs. Confeld was the eldest daughter of the Dorfmans and they also had a large family of sons and daughters. One other large family where the Goldsteins. Mrs. Goldstein being my father’s sister and they also had a large family of sons and daughters. Io 1887 the Confelds moved to Minneapolis and my parents and the Goldsteins moved to St. Paul and later the Goldstein family moved to Portland, Oregon.

The men helped each other build their log cabins and as there was no glass available they had trap doors to close the openings when the weather was unfavorable. My mother used to tell about how scared she used to get when an Indian stuck his head through the opening and stare at her but she got along very good with them and when I was born an Indian girl used to come over and take care of me.

I understand that a Mrs. Meyers, the wife of another settler was so scared when her husband was away that she barricaded the door.

I was told that some of the Indians from this reservation used to do some trapping and sell the hides to Mr. Oxman at Devils Lake and then buy whiskey at a Blind Pig of which there were many at Devils Lake. Mr. Oxman was a relative of my grandparents, the Dorfmans.

The winters were very severe and my father had a clothes line from the cabin to the shed where he kept his ox in order not to get lost during a blizzard. One of the Jewish farmers lost his way in a blizzard while walking from his cabin to his shed and his body was never found.

For fuel they used to dig lignite coal, and for fish all they had to do was submerge a basket into Painted Woods Creek which ran through my fathers land and they would scoop up a basket full.
For some extra money some of the farmers went out on the prairie and picked up bones of the buffalos that William Cody (Buffalo Bill) had killed and hauled these bones to Washburn. which I think was tbe county seat. Some of them also worked one winter for the Soo Line when they built the railroad through that section.

I left my parents home when I was married 46 years ago so naturally I have forgotten the names and some of the incidents that were told to me.

(The rest of the letter just gave names and addresses of relatives that might remember more of the history)