Neighbors: North Dakota pavilion was popular for dances, live music and even Ku Klux Klan meetings

Bob Lind
Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist. The Forum

Bachelor’s Grove is a section of woods several miles long and about a mile wide near McCanna, N.D., west of Grand Forks. It got its name from the fact several single men owned most of the property there in the early 1900s.

Bachelor’s Grove has been mentioned several times in this column , thanks to notes from folks who live in that area or did at one time. Those folks often mentioned the pavilion there.

Now John Hougen, Bismarck, sends along material about the pavilion that was written a few years ago by someone named Seth Custer.

Seth wrote that a plot of land there was purchased in 1919 by a man who built the building that became the Bachelor’s Grove Pavilion.

Little is known about the pavilion’s early years, but its most productive years as an entertainment center occurred in the 1950s, when it and the area around it were owned by Clinton Rodningen, Grand Forks. The area became the site of ballgames, horse races and other events. It included a shack where fireworks were sold, because the Fourth of July was the biggest event of the year there.


But the main draw was the live music in the Pavilion. Countless dances were held there, not to mention roller-skating.

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Different people owned the place over the years, including a Baptist church, which bought it in 1962 and used it for youth camps.

Seth wrote in 2014 that new buildings have been constructed on the site, but the old kitchen and the Pavilion still stood and were in great condition.

John writes that his friend, Dick Throndset, grew up in Grand Forks and often went to dances at Bachelor’s Grove in the early 1950s. He saw Louis Armstrong, Whoopee John, the Six Fat Dutchmen and many regional bands perform there. Others tell of hearing The Dorsey Brothers and Wayne King and their bands.

Another reason Dick liked going to the Grove was because of all the pretty girls who came to dances, and they were girls who “seemed to be lonely.”

The Grove gained a lot of new dancers when the popular States Ballroom in East Grand Forks, Minn., burned down in 1949.

But it wasn’t all fun and games.


William “Spud” Murphy, Grand Forks, told John that the Ku Klux Klan used to have meetings at Bachelor’s Grove.

One of Spud’s family’s neighbors was asked by the Klan to attend, so he went to one meeting, but when he found out how anti-Catholic the Klan was, he never went back, because he had too many Catholic friends.

Spud also told John that when his family first settled there, a number of Native Americans camped on the south side of the Grove in the summers, then went to the Black Hills in the winters. Spud’s family unearthed many arrowheads and large stones used for clubs in that area.

As to pavilions in general, they weren’t uncommon in the ’50s era, John says, mentioning those at Minto, N.D., Spiritwood Lake by Jamestown, N.D., and Herb Johnson’s Barn at Arthur, N.D. “I’m sure there were many more in North Dakota,” he writes.

Maybe you went to one, neighbor.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email

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