Adam Fielding lived his coming-of-age years in Traill County, North Dakota near the turn of the 20th century. It’s easy to imagine the role Island Park in Mayville might have played in his life. My first look at Island Park was this postcard, gentlemen in their Sunday best rowing their parasol-shaded ladies around the lagoon. The park reverberated year round with concerts, political rallies, church services, picnics and holiday gatherings. In winter, skating parties took to the ice by the light of roaring bonfires on the bank.

Adam had done his father’s bidding, worked the farm and attended the normal school, taking away from it a mastery of Latin and the conviction that his future lay not in teaching, but in opening the frontier to business. The morning after stupefying the faculty with his cogent commencement address, he was already out, comfortable as a house cat in his window seat on a train headed west. Dakota was young but growing fast.

~Chapter 6, The River by Starlight

My second look at Island Park was up close and personal when I traveled to North Dakota and spent two perfect August evenings there. Island Park was serenely the same as the park in the postcard, yet very different. Still lush and beautiful—but deserted, save for a lone runner in the twilight, cutting a path across the park, here and gone.

Adapted from “Then and Now: Island Park, Mayville, North Dakota,” originally published in Ancestry, March-April 2009