Rediscovering the town of Breien

Welcome to Breien. Dustin White photo

Dustin White

Unlike many of the other entries in this series, the town of Breien is a community that has continued to survive. While, now only a fragment of what it once was, Breien was a pearl on the prairie.

Beginning its life as Parkin, the small community first began to sprout up as a mail station on the run from Fort Yates to Bismarck.

Working to protect their interests in southwestern North Dakota, the Norther Pacific Railroad had built their Mandan to Mott Branch. The branch would also serve as a way to better service the early homesteaders in that area.

The new branch would help these early pioneers change from open range ranching to farming, which soon began to take off.

As the farming community was spreading in southwest North Dakota, a grain commission company in Minneapolis, Minn., began to take notice. Looking for new business, Benson, Newhouse, Stabach eyed the area, and eventually made the decision to build elevators at Parkin, Heil and Elgin.

By 1915, the grain elevator was up and running, and the new community was beginning to take shape. Relying heavily on their neighbor town of Timmer, residents of Breien were able to more easily settle in.

However, progress was slow. While the elevator was open, only small loads of grain could be hauled to it, as the roads were too bad to manage much else.

Yet, interest in the area continued to expand. By the end of that first year, a Mr. Albrecht of Albrecht and Johnson Lumber Company made their way from Flasher to Breien.

After making a bit of exploration of the area, Albrecht made the decision to set up shop in Breien. On March 21, 1916, the first three car loads of lumber were unloaded in town.

Eventually, the tiny town would grow. A school, post office, cafe, livery barn, pool hall and dance hall were built.

Living near Standing Rock Reservation, the residents of Breien would quickly form a relationship with the Lakota Indians. Surviving peacefully, unlike many other settlers in the area, residents of Breien had little worries of violence from their friends from the south.

As the community continued to grow, a name change was ordered. Operating under the name of Parkin, new names would have to be submitted, as Parkin was already being used by another post office in the state.

A total of 12 names would be submitted, with the name Breien, which was derived from early resident and grain elevator operator, Edward Jacobson’s father, Martin Jacobson Breien, chosen.

However, as Breien was still just in its infancy, the “Dirty Thirties” hit North Dakota, and the small towns in southwestern North Dakota began to disappear.

Moving away from the area, residents sought for opportunities wherever they could find them. Yet, a few did stay, allowing the town to continue on.

Today, the population is 15. While the conveniences of the past are gone, with the businesses that once operated out of Breien having vanished, the community still continues on.