WALHALLA (ST. JOSEPH)
A beautifully situated community located in the wooded river valley at the slope of Second Pembina Mountain, Walhalla (or Old St. Joseph) got its start when trader Norman Kittson built a trading post here in 1843 to take advantage of the many Ojibwe and Metis who camped here throughout the year.
Antoine B. Gingras, a half-breed trader, also started a post here in 1843. Later, in 1848, Father George Belcourt established a mission here which was called St. Joseph to work with the 50+ families who made this their regular home. In 1851, additional missionaries arrived, and in 1853 the Pembina Belfry, known as the “Angelus Bell”, was relocated to St. Joseph to officially sanctify the mission. The bell is believed to have been brought from Pembina to St. Joseph by Red River cart.
By 1860 the settlement had become an important fur trading post, with a population of 1,800—mostly Metis half-breeds and Plains Ojibwe. In 1862 a post office was established and it was a burgeoning town with a strong community. However, by 1870, the good furs became scarce in the rivers and streams of the Pembina hills, and the buffalo had virtually disappeared. By 1871, Walhalla was inhabited only by a priest, the U. S. customs inspector, and some 50 Metis people who had settled here (more or less) permanently.
The town revived and was platted in 1877. It was renamed Walhalla by the Icelandic people who were settling in the region. Although most of the Metis inhabitants left the area, some families still remain in the area until today, and each year a festival is held at the Gingras Trading Post State Park.
Originally known as Leroy’s Trading Post, Leroy was established as a Metis community during the 1850s. This post, on the Pembina River, consisted of several households of Metis log cabins scattered in the timber along the river. In 1873, Father LaFlock transferred the Saint Joseph Mission from Walhalla to Leroy to serve the Metis living here, and a post office was established in 1887.
Over the decades, the town lost most of its inhabitants to out-migration and old age. The town is now a ghost town, with no census returns during the 2010 census. However, an interesting legend, or ghost story, does persist for Leroy. A road, known as White Lady Lane, goes through the Tetrault Woods between Leroy and Walahalla. Local legend tells of a young girl who became pregnant out of wedlock. Her religious parents forced her to marry the man against her will, and after the wedding, the baby died. The distraught girl hanged herself from a bridge, and her ghost has been seen hanging from the bridge in her wedding dress. The bridge is located down a narrow road off County 9.
This small town, now nearly a ghost town, Olga was originally known as St. Pierre, due to the mission established by Catholic priest, Cyrille Saint Pierre, who was assigned as postmaster in 1882, but it was shortly thereafter renamed Olga in 1883.
A small Metis community lived at this location, and it was a favorite camping ground for the Plains Ojibwe and Metis. During the 1800s, and a famous battle between the Ojibwe/Metis and Dakota Sioux—the Battle of O’Brien’s Coulee—took place about a mile from Olga in 1848.
WPA Federal Writers Project (1935). North Dakota: A Guide to the Northern Prairie State. Washington: USGPO
Barnes-Williams, Mary Ann (1966). Origins of North Dakota Place Names. Bismarck: Tribune Publishing
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities