Melvin, Minnesota

Melvin, Minnesota

Melvin, Minnesota is in Polk County, about 14 miles southeast of Crookston, and is something of an enigma.  There is very little written history of Melvin to be found online, but the physical remains tell the story of a place which was once significant in the lives of a small number of Minnesotans.  There appear to be one or two inhabited farms in the area, and aside from the buildings in these photos, that’s about all that remains of Melvin.

If you know Melvin, we would welcome your comments below.

Melvin, Minnesota

The sidewalk now leads nowhere, but once served several buildings on this side of the street.

Melvin, Minnesota

Melvin, Minnesota

This would have been a very stately home in its heyday.

Melvin, Minnesota

Melvin, Minnesota

Melvin, Minnesota

Melvin, Minnesota

Melvin, Minnesota

Melvin, Minnesota

Melvin, Minnesota

Melvin, Minnesota

That gray streak through the middle of the photo above is all that remains of a curb which once marked the edge of the “street” in Melvin.  Now, it’s overgrown with weeds and brush and the street is simply a gravel road.

Melvin, Minnesota

Melvin, Minnesota

Just down the road, the Onstad Township hall still stands.

Melvin, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

34 thoughts on “Melvin, Minnesota

  1. This is a site with a photo of what apparently was a general store in Melvin until the mid-1940s. I guess it’s gone now. There is also an interesting discussion about it from 2010 by some descendants of the man who built and ran it.

    1. I would certainly like to read more about that. My father and Grandmother talked about Melvin often when they shared memories of the good ole days with me.

    2. Actually, the photo is the old post office and my great uncle, Forest Thorson, was the postmaster. The general store, owned by my great grandfather, Ludvig Thorson, and run by relatives was across the highway and across from my grandparents’, Orly and Jesse (nee Thorson) Gamme home which is still occupied and still a beautiful piece of property. The photos of the old and once stately home was that of my great grandparents, Ludvig and Louise Thorson, later occupied by their son, Forest Thorson and wife Vangie and sons. There were many, many wonderful days and nights spent when all the cousins were together in Melvin taking up space between the Thorson and Gamme homes.

      1. Hi Sherry,
        It’s good to get a little history of Melvin. According to my great Aunt Ida Matheson, the town in the 1800’s, early 1900’s was known as Melvin Junction. My grandmother and two great aunts were born here in the 1880’s. I have a few questions about Melvin if you would be interested in corresponding.

        Thanks and take care Jim

    1. The picture that includes the now cream colored barn and home was that of my grandparents. Back in the day all the buildings were painted a perfect yellow still lovingly referred to as ‘Melvin yellow’. It keeps us cousins grounded.

  2. Minnesota Place Names says Melvin was a ‘trade center’ at the Holmes Station on the Great Northern from, and had a post office from 1890 – 1943, with Cyrus Holmes the first postmaster. Not much else.

    1. Melvin was named for my Uncle Melvin Holmes by his father Cyrus J Holmes. My dad was younger and was always proud of the town’s name. The photos are just great especially since I have not been there myself.

  3. Well done with great pics! Your dedication to documenting these old towns and sites is much appreciated. Very nice of Kevin and Gerry to add additional information. I enjoy reading about these old towns and seeing the pictures. Thanks to all!

  4. This building by the house was the old post office. The general store was actually located across the road. Its kinda a parking spot for carpoolers. All that remains of that store is a few large boulders. The Fish and Wildlife I believe tore it down. They now own that piece across the road. I own the house and postoffice. The house was beautiful. My children and I used to go over to the Forrest and Vangie Thorson place to visit. He was the owner and worked there at one time. Up until a year and half ago the old roll top desk, the old safe and shelves for the mail were in the postoffice. The roof rotted and caused severe water damage to these pieces inside. Someone stoll the shelves for the mail. I sold the desk and safe. The safe is at the neighbors if you should want to see it. I live in the home across the road. One of the two homesteads of Melvin. Please contact me if any questions. Thanks for these awesome pictures and documenting this. I love it!!

    1. Thank you very much for sharing! I find it incredibly interesting that the post office still held those pieces of history for so long! Too bad someone had to take one without permission. Thank you for your story

    2. Oh yes, Forrest and Vangie, I knew them quite well. My parents would visit back and forth for many years, also when they lived right off county road 44 north of the Clifford and Vera Urness place. We lived on the western part of the section there. My Dad was born there and farmed there until he sold his property to Spencer Olson. The farmstead now belongs to Joseph Olson, Reuben’s grandson. Liz Solie, I know the name- but can’t pin down why, other than I know Solie’s lived in that area too when I was a kid and before. The house that is pictured, where does it stand? Next to Vanradens place? Thanks for sharing.

    3. So happy to see your response! It was my grandparents, Orly and Jesse (nee Thorson) Gamme, whose home you now keep alive. At least I’m assuming that is you who owns it as I do not know of any other homes right there still standing.

    4. Hi Liz,

      Two of my great aunts and grandmother were born in Melvin. I would like to know more about the town and area if you would care to correspond.

      Thanks Jim

  5. I don’t know much about Melvin, the town, but I understand an old neighbor of ours, Melvin Trandem, was born near there and was named for the town. That would have been in the early 1900’s.

      1. Maybe you are talking of my family as my grandparents, Orly & Jesse (nee Thorson) Gamme lived in the home right across from the store/tracks/highway. Theirs was the property with all the yellow buildings.

  6. The Onstad township hall is also the one room school house my Mom, aunt and uncle attended in the 1920 and 30s.

    1. Where did they live from the school? It wasn’t until 1950 that I started school there. I have stories of that on my facebook page.

      1. They grew up, as did my brothers and I, in the home now owned by Brian and Shea Gustafson. The house was built in the 1920s by my grandfather, Fred Reimann. It’s on the other side of the trees from Liz Solie’s home and across the road from Thorson’s.

  7. There was a huge train wreck near Melvin at one time. Very sad story–the engineer was hopelessly trapped underneath the locomotive with boiling water dripping on him–he asked to be shot, and was.

  8. I am very familiar with this old ghost town site. I grew up just north of there and drove by it many, many times in my lifetime. I have many stories about my life there and have visited with my Dad, Reuben Olson, and my Grandma, Henrietta Jensrud Olson, about their lives also, who were also raised there. I put this site up on facebook and wrote about some things that are still in my mind. If you would like to read more you can check on facebook for my page. I am listed under Mona Olson Haugen. . Beware! I am long-winded!

  9. I grew up near Melvin & know some of the folks who have commented (hi Liz!). I used to trick or treat at Mrs. Gamme’s house. She gave out homemade cookies and they were the BEST. I never went inside the store but I know it was in fairly good shape until I was in high school or college back in the nineties and then I believe it was damaged by fire.

    1. Thanks for that memory. I never knew grandma Jess (Gamme) got trick or treaters. But yes, her cookies were wonderful.

  10. PS: The Onsted Town Hall has been used as a voting precinct for years – not sure if they are still using it, but my 4-H club used to have meetings there in the 1980s.

  11. Wow…it looks so sad without the life it once had…brings tears to my eyes. Forest and Vangie were my grandparents, I have so many memories of my childhood inside that house and the acres of land surrounding it. My cousins and I would adventure around investigating all rooms, running up and down the red carpet staircase…every room unique and mysterious to a child, in perfect order and every bed was always made. Grandma baking her cookies and tending to the beautiful garden on the side of the house. This garden was the size of a football field…at least it looked that way then. Cruising with grandpa to search for deer or check on his gravel pits and stories of his shop down the road. All the turkey dinners and family gatherings…These pictures show none of that now, so thought I would share a little of what I use to consider heaven on earth.

  12. There is a picture of a train wreck in 1905 labeled as happpening in Fertile Mn by the MNHS. It was actualy in Melvin MN
    When the train derailed the engineer or fireman was trappedand was scaled by steam and hot water. There was no chance to free him so he asked to be shot. His co-workers honored his request


      An N. P. Wreck

      Freight Ditched By Broken Sand Bar On Car

      Passenger Train from St. Paul Delayed – Section Men Called Out at an Early Hour in the Morning to Clear Away the Debris – Quarter of a Mile of Track Ripped Up.

      A bad wreck at Fertile, 25 miles east of Crookston, yesterday morning on the Northern Pacific, delayed the morning passenger for four hours and occasioned a heavy loss to the railroad from broken cars and equipment. A sandbar on one of the heavily loaded cars broke, dropping the car down on the track as it was moving rapidly east of Fertile. The result was a pile up and a ripping of a quarter of a mile of track or there-abouts. (sic)

      At 2 a. m. all of the section hands and bosses along the line from Winnipeg Junction to East Grand Forks were called out by the special wrecking train and the scene of the accident was a busy one during the entire forenoon. A defective sandbar was the cause of the accident. A sandbar is the steel support upon which the car journal rests and its demolishment by the strain toppled the cars affected down onto the roadbed.

      Grand Forks Herald, Grand Forks, ND 20 Sept 1905

  13. Does anyone recognize the name Julius Wentzel? I have a letter from Martha Wentzel to my grandmother, Henrietta Kruft Rixen, from 1926. Martha was writing from Melvin, MN. Both of Martha’s parents were dead and the two youngest siblings (boys) were going to school in Fisher and staying with the Julius Wentzel family.

  14. Just ran across these old comments about Melvin. Is anyone still around? My Great Grandfather was Ole Thorson and my great grandmother was Mathilda Thorson who died when my grandmother was two. My grandmother is Myrtle thorson/Sween who was raised in Melvin by her grandmother Randi Berg. Any cousins?

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