Husband John’s father Ivan was born to Harry and Lenore Greenfield, in Bantry, ND in 1911. After completing blacksmithing apprenticeship in Ohio, Harrry traveled to the west coast, including San Francisco and Seattle, but eventually settled in Bantry ND, where he homesteaded, living in a sod house initially, then build a farmhouse. He also opened a blacksmith shop in town (at the time a booming place of over 200 inhabitants). He met Lenore Matz from WI, who was in town searching for her father (another long story). The two married, and Harry built a two-story home in town for Lenore and the family they would have, ordering furniture from Sears Roebuck in Chicago, which was delivered to them by train. Harry and Lenore had the world in the palm of their hand at this point, with the farm, the blacksmith business, and a large home in town. They had two children, Ivan Ralph Greenfield (B. 1911) and Eugenia Greenfield born a few years later. Lenore died in the 1918 flu epidemic, and Harry was so devastated at the loss that he lost interest in both the farm and the business, soon moving back to Ohio to ensure that his children were closer to family who could help him care for them. Harry died a few years after leaving Bantry, leaving Ivan and Eugenia as orphans, each sent to live with a different family member.
Ivan often talked with us about his childhood in Bantry, both the hard times and the good times, and felt strongly about visiting the town toward the end of his life just for one last look. John, son Mark, and Ivan made that pilgrimage in late 1990’s, and found a town down on its heels, but still with a bar, a church, and a post office that was open two days a week, and a population of around 18.
As we move across the nation, on our way from life in Michigan to life in Washington state, it seemed a given that we visit Bantry for one last time. That visit was today. We were extremely fortunate to meet and converse with two people, one of whom still lives in Bantry (one of 5 current residents) IN THE HOUSE THAT HARRY GREENFIELD BUILT! What are the chances? This gentleman’s family has owned the house for at least two generations; it was one of two in Bantry that looked well-maintained. (Bantry has recently been featured in a recent book on “Ghost Towns” of ND: http://www.ghostsofnorthdakota.com/2010/05/18/bantry-nd/
Most of the buildings still in Bantry are derelict, overgrown, and sad-looking. Some have been torn down or fallen down. Still, there is evidence of a town once occcupied by a hardy group of people who could handle the loneliness and harsh weather of this area. We were curious about the people who remain in this area, that to many of us would seem like a lonely and devastated region from which families would flee. We were fortunate to meet Darlene Tiffany at the Bantry Cemetary, who lives in Towner, ND, the closest town to Bantry. She and a group of other interested people have formed an association to maintain the cemetery, record the history of the people who are at rest there, and contribute to the updating and maintenance of historical documents about the hardy inhabitants of Bantry, this remote town. She was an amazing woman with a wealth of knowledge of the families who farmed and lived in this area, speaking of the families by name as though she knew them all, although she knew some only through her research through various records. This was LUCKY FIND #1 today! Lucky find #2 was running into the man who owns and lives in Harry Greenfield’s former house!
|Massive cottonwood tree - base must be 6 feet in diameter|
|Harry Greenfield's house|
|Close-up of Harry Greenfield's house|
|The appearance of most homes remaining in town|
|John with gentleman who now owns and lives in the house built by Harry Greenfield|
|Bulldog Honey Farm Honey, the sole business remaining in Bantry, ND. The current owner of Harry Greenfield's home gave these to us as a gift. (BTW, DELICIOUS!!!)|
|Someone has spruced up the church; new roof, new paint.|
|Bantry Township Hall|
Sometimes, reaching into the past is painful....sometimes, reaching into the past is rewarding. Today was both.