A Peaceful Start
Incredible marketing and entrepreneurship in 1900 started the happy little town of
Golden Valley. Out of nothing, the town started and grew – and to this day Golden Valley gives you a reason to pull off Highway 200 between Hazen and Killdeer.
We like stopping there because it has a peaceful and protected feel to it. Nestled in a valley, noise, weather and outside traffic is minimal. Plus, it has a couple of interesting shops for browsing and a great little place for food and libations.
The town is a tribute to perseverance and entrepreneurship.
George V. Bratzel took lemons a corporation served him and turned them into proverbial lemonade. He was a rail agent for the Northern Pacific Railroad in Hebron, North Dakota. The company shipped him to the far end of the state, to Beach. Then, yanked him back to Hazen a couple of years later and fired him. It turns out his supervisor at the railroad wanted his son to have a job, so Danielson was fired to make room for the son.
“Ha!” Bratzel said. “I’m just gonna make my own town!”
Northern Pacific told him, “Go right ahead, and we’ll build a rail line to your town.”
(I suspect NP didn’t think Bratzel would succeed – but he did.)
Bratzel searched for a location for his town; he traveled and surveyed the prairie north of Hebron, North Dakota. One late summer day, he spotted a valley about 40 miles north of his home. The colors of the valley were – you guessed it, golden. And since the initials of his first and last name were GV, he named the town Golden Valley.
He called the Northern Pacific on its bluff, and it responded. It built the line along the best route engineers could find. It was about one-and-a-half miles from where George had set up his town. So again, turning those lemons into lemonade, he picked up the town and moved it to the railroad. (Railroad history is essential to North Dakota — and landmarks still abound such as this rail car near Blaisdell.)
Promoting the Town
He promoted the town heavily, even sponsoring a free dance for all the region’s ranchers and farmers. Isolated across the rolling prairie, families, as well as single men, looked for any chance they could find to socialize. A community dance, in 1914 was a rare event. That’s why all the neighbors from across the rolling prairie and distant towns came to see what he had built — Golden Valley. Some even moved to the new town.
Then, once the town was set up along the tracks, farmers brought their grain to town where they could make more money than if they hauled it many miles down the road. They were willing to work for it even without a grain elevator. They loaded rail cars one shovel at a time, pitching their grain from their wagon into rail cars.
Later, the grain elevator was built and the town became a commercial and transportation center. One of the more successful businesses was an earth-moving company that did much of the work on the Garrison Diversion projects.
Now, the town’s main draw is the Saddle Sore Saloon where festivities are hosted, even outdoor street dances and wedding parties.
For example, on Valentine’s Day, the dining room serves Prime Rib with baked potato, salad bar, and a desert for $24.00.
Around the corner, one of the most brilliant Gems in the United States – a Harley-Davidson museum, with a motorcycle from each year – all of them in running order and operational. The museum is bright, clean, and more impressive than most small town museums of any sort. Ya gotta know the guy, to see it. It’s his private collection, but he’s willing to open it to let you in.
That’s why motorcyclists who like to explore the 2-lane highways of the prairie can put this on their destination list.
Anyone who likes photographic road trips, any time of the year will be rewarded with a trip to Golden Valley where they can see a reminder of bronc rider Wayne Herman. And if you’re lucky, you’ll run in to one of August Little Soldier’s family. He was a long time historian, elder and businessman for the Three Affiliated Tribes, MHA Nation who ranched in the area.