The oldest Jewish pioneer cemetery in North Dakota has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The recognition, which officially came on June 5, adds prominence to the rural Sons of Jacob cemetery, the last reminder of the Jewish homesteading community in Garske, which is about 20 miles from Devils Lake.
From 1883-1925, about 100 Jewish people from Eastern Europe homesteaded there, trying their hand at farming and practicing their beliefs free of persecution.
While most stayed to claim their homesteads, they left shortly thereafter due to difficulty farming in the region and minimal resources. Some moved on to bigger cities or Devils Lake, where there was “full Jewish communal life” and major holidays were celebrated in the courthouse, according to the cemetery’s website.
The application for the national register said there are at least 17 burials there, including 13 markers. It was the burial ground for Jews farming in the region from Winnipeg to Grand Forks.
The last burial was in 1935.
The cemetery was largely forgotten until the early 2000s when Hal Ettinger, a Jewish descendant of the Garske community, traveled from Kansas in search for his family history.
Ettinger, contacted other descendants of people buried there and put up a plaque, which names all of the homesteaders, and rededicated the historic site in 2006.
Since Ettinger died several years ago, a group of descendants and locals have cared for the place.
(Adapted from Caroline Grueskin, Bismarck Tribune)