Hidden History: Preserved Wabek schoolhouse in a “ghost town”

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Two schools joined together to form Wabek Consolidated School in Wabek — what’s now become a ghost town. It served over 500 students in its 45 years of being open.

Back in the day, you would have found Wakbek south of Plaza and west of Makoti.

The school opened around 1917 and at one time, had 115 students in a single year.

Hunter Andes is a high school English teacher who wanted to save the school from being demolished. He said the Plaza township wanted to destroy it so he started a petition to save it.

“I got 52% of the township to sign my piece of paper to save it,” said Andes. “That was three years ago and now I’ve raised over $50,000 and we have a new steel shingle tin roof on it.”

Andes says that the next project here will be updating the floor.

Another interesting feature at the schoolhouse is this hole in the ceiling. Andes says a husband and wife who taught here for a few years actually used it to climb into their home.

“They had a family up there and during the day, during the day they had a babysitter watching their baby,” said Andes. “It was quite a different life than we live today.”

According to Andes, Wabek is a ghost town that was dissolved in 1966.

He said the last time the building was open for school was in 1960 and then it was used as a place to vote until 1980.

“That doesn’t really constitute it being open, I mean they used it a couple times every four years so it’s been, it’s been more or less abandoned for 71 years,” he said.

He says finding the history of small towns in North Dakota is hard but he loves hunting for information because of his background in journalism and English.

“I know how to find sources and stuff. Old books, without old books and people telling me, these hundred years old coming here. You listen, you listen closely and then by doing that you learn more. You probably should write it down,” he said.

Andes says that in the 1930 census, there were only about 70 people in town — but that doesn’t mean the building was any less important to the people who lived here.

“The people who were here, this town is very important to those families,” said Andes. “I’ve learned that with the people I’ve talked to, their roots, even though everything is pretty much gone, their roots run very deep here.”

Which is the very reason why Andes says he created the Friends of Wabek charity, in order to raise money to preserve the building.

“It makes me feel humbled that I was able, especially when those 100-year-olds come in here and they’re like thank you for saving this and it’s like you’re welcome, I’m glad I was able to,” said Andes. “Again I have no connection to this place but just being in here, it’s like traveling back to 1920.”

And the pieces still left, show that.

This pew came from a church, this teacher’s desk came from the Sanish school. The books are from a township school near York and from the Plaza school.

And one more thing — Andes said the names on the chalkboard are some of the people who have visited the schoolhouse.

“Instead of just bringing a notebook in like I probably should’ve, I just said ‘Hey, just sign your name on the chalkboard.’ So I finally did get a notebook a couple of months ago,” said Andes.

Andes said he will continue to fundraise to make repairs and improvements to the building and that every donation matters.

Andes said he wants the school to be an event venue and hopes to have a school reunion for people who attended Wabek.

“Small donations people give, I mean that’s, that’s just as important because that pays the electricity bill, that you know pays to just get the little things done and keep the place up,” said Andes. “So I guess a donation big or small is just so important.”

Andes says he wants the school to be an event venue and hopes to have a school reunion for people who attended Wabek.

If you would like to donate to Friends of Wabek or set up an appointment to see the schoolhouse, you can email Andes at: hunter.andes@outlook.com.

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