Donnelly School and an Abandoned Church

Donnelly School and an Abandoned Church

Donnelly is in Stevens County, Minnesota, about 10 minutes northwest of Morris, and home to about 241 people as of the 2010 census. It was founded in December 1871, and was originally known as “Douglas”, but was renamed Donnelly in honor of Minnesota Congressman Ignatius Donnelly. Congressman Donnelly is perhaps better known for his book Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, a work which maintains Plato’s writings on Atlantis are factual. The book became the basis for many of the Atlantis legends of popular lore.

We went to Donnelly in 2012 with the intention of getting some shots of the very impressive former public school.

We’re told the owner of the school has (or had) a woodworking shop in the back of the school for a time.

The front of this school is completely overgrown.  Troy had to navigate through the bushes to get onto the front steps and take this photo.

For a town with as many people as Donnelly, we were surprised to find it still had quite a few derelict places to photograph, including this service station which looked like a place out of time.

This church had a notice of forfeiture posted on the door due to back taxes.  The notice had an expiration date of May, 2012 for the owners, a couple from Doylestown, Ohio, to pay more than $5,500 in back taxes, or forfeit the property to Stevens County. We have yet to hear how the situation turned out. Please post a comment below if you know.

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

33 thoughts on “Donnelly School and an Abandoned Church

  1. Hi,

    My grandfatther, Richard Anderson (Dick) used to own the filling station in these pictures. Where is the picture of the door taken?

    My mother, Patricia Anderson Norlin grew up in Donnelly and went to that school. I have many fond memories of going to the Threshing Bee, etc…

    Thanks for sharing these pictures!

    Cindy Hanson

  2. OMG….this is so sad! This is my town….my school! I lived here from birth in 1945 until graduation in 1963! Thanks for posting. I’m gonna go have a good cry now.

  3. I am Doddie Williams’ older sister and also grew up in Donnelly from 1941 to 1959. OH, the memories!! These are very sad photos to view! The population was 400 in the 50’s. The picture of the old town hall holds so many memories of roller skating and “free wedding dances”! Remember Mrs. Lang pounding on the piano? They don’t make them like her anymore! Thanks for doing this; I remember playing with your Mom as a child.

    1. A Donnelly reunion would be so great–all of us are ageing now, but we all share so many memories of our years in Donnelly.

  4. I have a picture of my Dad (in his work uniform) and myself standing in front of the door of the station. what a great time growing up in Donnelly. I’m with you Ruth – so excited to see everyone at the reunion.
    I loved listening to Mrs. Lang -eating apples from Kruize’s tree. So many wonderful memories.

  5. I don’t live too far from Donnelly and have driven through many times always captivated by the old school house. If i were rich i would restore it for my personal residence. Would help if I won the lottery or bought a ticket once in a while lol

  6. Here’s something about Donnelly that I’ll bet a lot of people don’t know… the Laurentian Divide crosses Highway 9 just south of town, maybe a mile or less away. It’s a continental divide of sorts- all streams and rivers north and west of this divide flow into Hudson Bay via the Bois de Sioux and Red Rivers, and all streams south and east flow to the Gulf of Mexico via the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.

    Sadly, there are only of handful of markers in western MN that identify this important geographical feature, and the only map that it is even noted on is the biennial MnDOT map.

    Just thought I’d mention this! Thanks

    matt cary St. Michael, MN

  7. My father, Joesph, was raised in Donnelly, from 1927 to 44, He live with his grandparents, John and Gretude Ruff. Have had lots of memories of going there to see family and friends. Loved to go to my Grandfarthers farm outside of time.

  8. I was raised in Donnelly and still consider it ‘home”. My dad, Jim Root was Postmaster and my mom, Dolores worked at the Donnelly Super Market. I attended the school through 2nd grade. It was then closed and we all got bused to Morris. Wonderful memories within these pictures, thank you!!

  9. some follow up the old school is owned by Gordy Lea he has a wood working shop in the back of the building (the elementary wing)several years ago the Morris area school class of 55 had their 55th class reunion. The day b/4 several Donnelly area students had a mini reunion up in Donnelly we wanted to go in the school but the owner would not let us. I was invited to tag along because my Mom had taught some of the students of the class in Donnelly I sent 6 years there after the school was closed it was used for some other purposes for a while probably the early ’80’s when it was completely abandoned. the last time it was open to the public as far as I know as when an all school reunion was held there I believe in the early ’90’s the church and blacksmith shop were recently bought by the Sullivan brothers for storage they are junk dealers. The hall is still in excellent shape and used for many functions during the year. The old hardware store is owned by Howard Kill who also owns HD & co (the old co-op store) I think they use it for storage they recently bought the old bank building and put their antique business in there. restaurant was closed down because the owner could not afford to put in the improvements demanded by the state inspector My aunt pearl had an antiques hop inside Larry’s sheet metal shop until she sold out and moved to Morris. There are still some business thriving in Donnelly, the co-op, the elevator, HD & co, body shop and a hair salon and the liquor store St John’s church is still going. I am a former Donnelly area resident now living in Morris

  10. I grew up in Donnelly and went to school at this school and have wonderful memories there. The school had the most beautiful wood work I had ever seen. I work at the cafe, which was called Sax’s cafe when I worked there. The Donnelly Hall was the place to be when I was growing up because Vigil and Theresa Fults ran roller skating there every Friday night which was the high light of all of us kids in and around Donnelly chance to get out and be together. Friday night was Whaumpom night, which is where the stores would combine the names of the people that signed up in all the stores that night. I have such fond memories of Donnelly from when I was a kid. Thanks for letting me ramble.

  11. I have lived in the Donnelly area for 15 years. There may be old being and a church that was once a residence that is closed but there are still a lot of great things happening in Donnelly! The annual Threshing Bee for one bring people in for miles away. The 4-H club is very active with 20 plus members! Yes, a lot of things may be run down but I think of Donnelly as a town with warmth cause of all the great people who do live there.

    1. Amen to that! I like small town living. I absolutely loved my neighbors in Donnelly! It was such a great little town.I miss it greatly!!!

  12. My Grandfather George O. Lupkes Sr., whom, I never met worked on this school. He ran away from home when he was 12 years old to get away from his tryanical father. When my family drove by the school, I could just about mouth the words as my own father spoke them. “My Dad worked on this school when he was 12 years old.He didn’t have it so good at home. He helped carry the bricks. There’s no reason why young kids can’t work like this today. There’s a lot of bricks there, can you imagine having to move all those bricks? Kids today don’t know how good they got it”. I’ve stopped telling this story to my own children. “My Grandpa George ran away from home when he was 12. . . . . “.

  13. I grew up in Donnelly from 1980 to 2001. It was a great town, and while I never had the opertunity to go to the school, I loved going to Sax’s cafe and buying candy at the little store, now HD & co. I enjoy all your memories and stories. The city has a great history and should never be forgotten.

  14. The Donnelly school was our back yard playground and we alway has lots of friends there to play with! My maiden name was Bouressa.

  15. I also went to the school and had a great time does any body remember the huge slide on the play ground . and playin L.M on the LONG side walk . i come back every fall to hunt an fish its a great place. Steve Huebner

    1. Yes…how could we forget the huge slide??! We used to sit on pieces of waxed paper and slide down to make us go faster! So many memories there. Also the merry-go-round and how fast we could make it spin! Anybody remember playing on the fire escape?

  16. So this post is old, but I am just looking at it now. I grew up in Donnelly… well I am still growing up in Donnelly. I go to the high school in Morris, and just moved 1/2 mile out of town, from the house my grandma, Jan Greiner originally Erstad grew up in! As far as the church goes it’s full of junk from the famous auction going, junk collecting brothers from the area, sadly it’s going down hill. Donnelly is still going strong, we are got a few new residents this past summer of 2016. The Lutheran churches are doing alright, better than the old Catholic one in the pictures at least! I could go on and on about Donnelly… Lots of history in this little town and I love learning about it!

  17. I grew up in this town. My father(Kelly strand), Grandfather (Vernon Strand), my great grandfather (Robert Strand), and so many more generations back grew up here. I played outside for hours, walked to the park, and played at the Threshing Bee, later becoming Threshing Bee Queen in 2010. These pictures are amazing.!

  18. My father, Dale Wendt grew up in Donnelly and I was born there in 1950 and my family lived near the Kongsvinger Church. We moved to the Glenwood area when I was a young child. We used to go to Donnelly often to visit family members and friends of my parents. Donnelly always has a special place in my heart.

  19. I started at the school in second grade after having gone to country school just a mile north of the Kloos farm a mile east of Kongsvinger church. Skated many weekends in the Donnelly hall. So sad to see the school overgrown and so many abandoned buildings. At least many good memories of ice cream socials in the park and of course the roller skating. Plus winning spelling bees in the classrooms and Christmas programs on the kindergarten stage! My brother Philip Kloos still lives on the Kloos farm that our grandfather started years ago.

  20. I was born in Morris in 1967. My family is from Donnelly. If that is the Catholic Church kiddy corner from the Lutheran Church, I was baptized there. I still have family there, in Morris, Chokio and surrounding areas. Tammy Jo Stahn, daughter of the late Daniel Marion Stahn. My grandparents were KK Stahn and Agatha Stahn. My Godfather was Joe Koppel.

  21. I went to that school also. Really sad to see how the town has deteriorated. Did a lot of roller skating at the town hall and we remember all the Saturday night dances there as well. Wonderful place to grow up.

  22. I was raised in Donnelly from birth in 1924 until WWII when I joined the Marine Corps. I remember playing with the Phifer boys and hooking our sleds in the winter to farmer’s horse drawn sleds who had come to town for supplies. Sometimes we got going really fast and were afraid to release the rope, so we often had a long walk back to town. My dad, Allie Olsen, was the mail carrier in and around Donnelly for many years. After WWII I lived in Mississippi and now Alabama, but continue to visit relatives near Donnelly whenever I can.

    1. Oh, Auntie Vesta, you know your nieces, and nephews from Morris loved going to Grandpa and Grandma.Olsens in Donnelly. Such sweet memories, and such a loving family., I thank God for my Mom Gayle, my Aunts. Evie, Vesta, and Suzy, and of course, Allie and Meda. Best family ever.

  23. I was lucky enough to grow up as a little boy neighbor to Allie and Meda. Wonderful memories of growing up in Donnelly and abundant opportunities to have great fun. My Grandparents moved to Donnelly in 36 and had a small grocery store for years in what became later as Larry Anderson sheet metal shop. My Dad raised in Donelly went to war came back and worked at the Creamery like a whole bunch of other people. Then was the rural mail carrier taking over for Allie Olsen when he retired. Harold was Mayor of Donnelly for a bunch of years. St Johns Lutheran was built in 54 by local contractor JJ Hilla with lots of volunteer labor from the people.

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