North Fargo park, site of bone find, was once home to graveyards

Investigators converged on Trollwood Park in north Fargo Tuesday, April 28, after a passer-by found what may be human bones. Dave Samson / The Forum

FARGO — Trollwood Park in north Fargo where bones were discovered Monday, April 27, was once home to three small cemeteries that served what used to be known as Cass County's poor farm.

Fargo police said Tuesday they were aware of the park's history, but added a thorough investigation would still be conducted into Monday's discovery of human bones in the area.

Fargo police and the Cass County coroner began looking into the matter Monday night after a passerby reported finding bones.

Officers remained in the area overnight and local investigators were joined Tuesday morning by agents from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which is assisting Fargo police in the investigation.


trollwood bones olson photo 2
Bones were found in Trollwood Park in a wooded spot between the park and the Red River and adjacent to the Edgewood Golf Course on Monday, April 27. Dave Olson/The Forum

People out for walks Tuesday morning strolled past yellow police tape that closed off an area of the park extending from the concessions building to the edge of Edgewood Golf Course and from Kandi Lane to the muddy edge of the Red River.

Investigators appeared to focus on a wooded slope near the river, which was continuing to recede from spring flood levels.

Trollwood bones, olson photo 1
An investigator works in a patch of woods between Trollwood Park and the Red River on Tuesday, April 28. The photo is taken from the adjacent Edgewood Golf Course. Dave Olson/The Forum

Police said the bones would be collected for examination and an attempt would be made at identification, adding it is believed the bones had been in the area for an extended period.

If the bones are from the area's cemetery days, it will not be the first time such remains have surfaced.

According to stories in The Forum's archives:


Cass County moved more than 350 graves from the Trollwood Park grounds in 1985 after river bank erosion began exposing bones in an area once known as Cass County Cemetery #3.

In 1999, erosion exposed 10 wooden caskets in the same area.

Officials determined the caskets were empty, as the remains they had contained were moved in the relocation effort conducted about 14 years prior.

However, at the time the caskets were discovered a number of bones were found as well.

One group of bones was found when a local university anthropology graduate literally stumbled onto them. A second batch was discovered by the county's "cemetery sexton," who had been alerted to the earlier find.

The bones found in 1999 were relocated to Springvale Cemetery, a county-run graveyard near Holy Cross Cemetery north of Fargo, according to a Forum story from the time.

Investigators converged on Trollwood Park in north Fargo Tuesday, April 28, after a passer-by found what may be human bones. Dave Samson / The Forum


Information contained in other stories said the Cass County Hospital, which also served as an asylum for the poor, was built in 1895 on land now home to Trollwood Park.

The name of the hospital was changed to Golden Acres Haven in the early 1960s when it became a nursing home exclusively.

In 1974, the structure was taken over by the Fargo Park District and demolished shortly thereafter.

During the time the hospital was in operation, the building and its surrounding acres served the community as a multipurpose institution and some of the land was used for cemeteries for low-income patients and residents.

Such graveyards have been referred to by various names, including potter's fields and pauper's cemeteries.

Ultimately, three cemeteries were established.

The first, which started being used in 1899 and was known as Cass County Cemetery #1, was located in the southeast corner of Trollwood, where Elm Street meets Kandi Lane.

Cass County Cemetery #1 was in the same area where bones were found Monday.


Area where bones found in Trollwood Park
Bones were found Monday evening, April 27, in Fargo's Trollwood Park near the Red River and next to Edgewood Golf Course.

What was known as Cass County Cemetery #2 was established on the park's oft-flooded peninsula and was used until 1947.

Cass County Cemetery #3 was used from 1947 to 1985, when it was relocated due to riverbank erosion, according to The Forum's archives.

Cemetery #3, where bones and caskets were uncovered in 1999, was located at Broadway and Kandi Lane, according to stories in the Forum archives.

After remains were relocated in 1985, Fargo Park District and Cass County officials came to an agreement that the county would survey the locations of the cemeteries and the park board would mark them in some way.

When the caskets and additional remains came to light in 1999, it was discovered that the agreement between the park district and the county was never followed through on and officials from both sides vowed to rectify the situation, leading ultimately to stone markers being put in place to indicate the locations of the old cemeteries.

Park District Executive Director Dave Leker said Tuesday it's likely some graves remain under Trollwood Park and with continued erosion of land near the river it's possible more bones will continue to be found.


Information about the location of Cass County's three former pauper cemeteries can be found here .

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at
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