#740 – Dick Bernard: Snapshots in the history of Sykeston ND

Other posts in this series:
Other posts in this series:
Feb 11, 2013: “Sykes High, oh Sykes High School”
May 4 (the main article): Thoughts on Sykeston High School at its Centennial
May 9 A 1957 Social Studies Test
June 12 Remembering Sykeston in late 1940s
June 29 Sports in 1950s small towns in North Dakota
July 3: Remembering Don Koller and the Lone Ranger
This post will be of particular interest to people with a specific interest in Sykeston ND history.
A week from today, the celebration of the Centennial of the Sykeston High School is in its first day. I graduated from this tiny school in 1958, and since May 4, have been remembering various aspects of the school and the town and the times of the 1940s and 1950s. The first post, with links to two others, is here.
I’ve done lots of family history over the years, and by now I know myself: once I open the memory gate, one thought begets another, and this “chapter” visits a bit of the history of Sykeston in the year 1951; which then begat an idea to revisit the history of Sykeston as it was in 1940, through the eyes of the United States Census.
Most of the content of this blog will be the links. I hope you take the time to look.
In an earlier chapter I had sought out a visual image of Sykeston back in the 1940s, and came across this Geological Service map of the town in 1951:
(click to enlarge)

Sykeston from a USGS topographic map, 1951.  (www.usgs.gov for this and other maps.)

Sykeston from a USGS topographic map, 1951. (www.usgs.gov for this and other maps.)

This gave an opening to try to reconstruct, through the memory of a then-11 year old, who lived where in this tiny town. Of course, an 11 year old’s range tends to be very limited, and interests immediate and focused, and mine certainly was. But I’ve tried to reconstruct that year, and recently I sent the Sykeston 1951001 street grid to a dozen people, along with a list of who I thought lived where in the town. Thus far, three contemporaries, none of whom currently live in Sykeston, have taken the bait, and helped fill in the blanks, resulting in this incomplete but surprisingly full list: Sykes residents 1951001 (Each of these links is a single page, easy to print out.)
Having done as much as I could with 1951, it occurred to me that the 1940 United States Census had not too long ago been released to the public, and I could probably get more information from that document. Indeed, it took not too much effort to find Sykeston, Wells County, North Dakota. The link is here. It is eight pages in all, and can be printed page by page if one wishes.
Today I elected to reduce the information on those eight pages into a more user friendly form, and the three page pdf is accessible here, naming everyone who lived in Sykeston in 1940, and giving some tentative generalized data for the interested reader: Sykeston ND 1940 CensusRev Note particularly the Preliminary Statistics on page three. They say a lot about the life and times of what was probably a pretty typical tiny U.S. town in 1940.
There is a great deal to be said about 1940 compared with 1951. I will only say that I was surprised at the apparent change in the population of Sykeston in the eleven year period, in the midst of which was World War II. I had expected to see mostly the names that I knew in 1951 on the 1940 list. There were some, but not many, and that surprised me.
For persons acquainted with Sykeston this can be the launch for some interesting conversations at reunion.
Tomorrow: Remembering the Field of Dreams. Sports in 1950s small town North Dakota.

1 reply
  1. Leila Whitinger
    Leila Whitinger says:

    Thank you for posting this. I was interested to see how many people were employed by the CCC and WPA, since my parents and their families vacated their farms and moved to Michigan during the 30s because of the drought, dustbowl and depression. I can’t even imagine how difficult life must have been for those families who remained in North Dakota.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.