From Wanamaker to Turtle Lake

The following summary is based on information from The Early History of the City of Turtle Lake found in the 50th Anniversary Book (1905-1955) for the city of Turtle Lake, North Dakota.
The story about Turtle Lake actually begins in 1884 when Peter Miller was appointed postmaster for the area.  The office was located in his farm home on the south shore of the small lake called Turtle Lake.
In 1903, The Northern Pacific Railroad Company began survey work to extend the branch line west from where it then ended in Denhoff. When Miller learned of these plans, he was sure the branch line would run by his location because this was the only post office in that area.
With rumors of the railroad’s plans, several businesses were built on the Miller farmland. The new residents were further encouraged when they heard that the railroad had purchased extra land near there from a Mr. Wanamaker
(sometimes spelled Wannamaker). The land was for double-siding purposes, suggesting that the railroad would definitely run through there. At the same time, Christian Paulson replaced Miller as postmaster, and the post office was relocated in the new village of Wanamaker.
The modest building boom that followed stopped suddenly when it was learned that the railroad would not extend this branchline to Wanamaker. Local lore is that this decision was made after Mr. Wanamaker sued the Northern Pacific Railroad for injuries he received while traveling on another line owned by the railroad.
Local business leaders selected another town site on the east shore of Turtle Lake, but those plans were abandoned when the railroad insisted that it would build no further west from where work on the line ended in a grain field on land owned by A. F. Eggert. The railroad purchased enough land for double-siding purposes and to accommodate a “Y” for trains to turn around, meaning that this would be the end of this branch line from Carrington.
The site for the new town of Turtle Lake was platted in May of 1905, and every building from the small village of Wanamaker was moved to the present town site in the fall of that year after the ground had frozen.
Prepared by Vernon Keel,
author of