Rediscovering the town of Timmer, N.D.

Now just a memory, the town of Timmer has vanished. This bridge sits near where the town once sat. Dustin White photo

Dustin White

Once known as one of Morton County’s liveliest towns, Timmer had a promising future. Today, nearly only the memories remain. 

As Morton County was being settled, the area in the southeast soon seen settlers taking up homesteads on nearly every quarter of land. Having come from many different countries, these pioneers had one thing in common; the desire to make a new life. 

The early years would prove to be quite trying for these early settlers. While trees could be found along the river bottoms, the closest lumber market was in Mandan. Since transportation in the area was still only beginning to develop, a great amount of effort was required in building the first homestead shacks and log cabins. 

Once shelter was built, the early pioneer families still had many hardships to overcome. With a near constant threat of prairie fires and floods, as well as the perceived threat of American Indians in the area, life was difficult. 

Adding to the problems, rattlesnakes were a persistent danger, with many snake dens in the area, a threat ranchers in the area continue to face. 

Eventually, a community would begin to form. Finding a need for a Post Office, school, churches, as well as other necessities, a town would find its foundation. 

An initial Post Office would be opened four miles southwest of Timmer, named “Stevenson,” as it was on Don Stevenson’s homestead. 

Foundations of a town
In 1907, a new Post Office was opened, known as Finch, named after Bert Finch, whose home housed the Post Office. Finch would open a small store. The fledgling community was beginning to take shape. 

A large boost for the future town occurred in 1910, when the Northern Pacific Railroad finally reached the area. Along the tracks, dozens of little villages would sprout up; Timmer would be put on the map. 

Lots quickly were laid out, and Timmer was mapped. Soon, a bustling town began to prosper. 

On July 21, 1910, Timmer would become official, when the Post Office was established. Continuing his work from previous years, Finch was appointed postmaster. 

Named after C.L. Timmerman, who was a pioneer rancher, Sims merchant and Mandan banker, Timmer soon began expanding. In just a short time, businesses sprouted out of the prairie. 

Having been spurred on by the N.P. Railroad, a depot would be built, along with the Timmer Bank, a branch of the First National Bank of Mandan, the Potter Hotel, the Bingenheimer Lumber Company, a pool hall and a livery barn. 

With the new businesses, and the opportunity provided by them, the town grew quickly. Fast settling into Timmer, residential homes spread across the land. The future of Timmer appeared promising. 

Additional business would open. Soon Timmer boasted a store, meat market and elevators, which served farmers from miles around. A restaurant would also be built, as the need to feed the carpenters who were building up the town was needed. 

However, Timmer was still lacking. While education has been deemed important from the early years of the area, a formal school building had yet to be built. Instead, local families would open their homes up in order to allow area children to be taught. 

In 1914, community members came together to rectify this issue, and Timmer’s first school began to take shape. By the fall of 1915, classes had begun. 

Continued expansion
By 1914, North Dakota was ranked fifth in the nation in automobile ownership. As more individuals in the county began to purchase vehicles, Timmer saw another boost to its population. 

Soon, it became necessary to expand their school into a two-room building, with a full basement. Other business would also open, as they were deemed necessary. 

The first Chevrolet Agency in the area was opened, along with a garage and service station. Automobiles had begun to change the face of the booming community. 

With the additional ease in which individuals could travel, Timmer continued to be considered a prime destination. As the population continued to boom, expansion in the city grew. 

In 1917, the St. George Catholic Church was built. Later on, a second bar and pool hall were built. 

Eventually, as with many growing communities, there was a need to share information, and a small weekly paper was born. A photo shop would also open in the community. 

Life leaving
Timmer would become known as one of the liveliest towns in Morton County, a title they truly earned. For those in the area, it was the destination, offering both luxury and entertainment. 

Twice a day, the “Galloping Goose,” a small mail and passenger train, would pass through Timmer. Those stepping off at the depot had a whole assortment of activities to choose from. 

While one could converse at one of the pool halls or bars, hand-cranked move shows and bowery dances would also draw large audiences. As baseball season came, Timmer’s own team would be energetically cheered on. 

Every year, Timmer would also host a large rodeo on or around the Fourth of July. Coming from miles around, the town would burst at the seams. Setting up camp, local American Indians would come days ahead of the event, and call Timmer home.

However, the golden age of Timmer would soon come crashing down. With the 1930s, drought overtook the land. 

Rural farmers and ranchers, unable to support themselves, began to lose their land. With money scarce, they joined countless others who moved out of the area, searching for any available opportunity. 

Business in Timmer began to slow, and as the population declined, hope was fading away. Slowly, businesses were closed, and the building torn down. 

As the businesses left, so did the residents. The Great Depression would wipe out Timmer. 

By the early 1950s, the N.P. Railroad would remove their depot from what was left of Timmer, and before long, the tracks were removed. Timmer was no more. 

Over the years, signs of Timmer would vanish. The many buildings that once stood in the area either moved, or were torn down. Landmarks were dismantled, and nature took back the land. While a few farms continue to stand in the area, nearly all signs of the lively town are gone. 

Only two landmarks remain; two cemeteries that had lied outside of town. Marking the northeast edge of town, the unmarked St. Georges’ Catholic Cemetery still remains, as well as the Fairview Cemetery, located two miles southeast of Timmer. 

Today, Timmer continues to live on in memory; a reminder of a bygone time.