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Wells County


Wells County is named for Edward Payson Wells of Jamestown, North Dakota (1847-1936), who was a banker and early promoter of the James River Valley as well as a member of the legislature.


Surrounding County Courthouses: 

N – Pierce County and Benson County

E – Eddy County and Foster County

S – Stutsman County and Kidder County

W – Sheridan County


Created:  January 4, 1873                      Map of North Dakota highlighting Wells County

County Seat:  

Sykeston      1884 – 1894

Fressenden  1894 – present


County Courthouse – Fessenden


Location:  700 Railway Street North / 7th Avenue North

Built:  1895 – 1896

Style:  Queen Anne

Architect:  John W Ross of Grand Forks

Contractor:  H B Chess


Description:  The building faces west and is a two story red colored brick structure. The building is located on spacious landscaped grounds in the center of Fessenden. The building has a course stone basement. On the west side, the entrance towards the south has two arches on the west and one arch on the south with a recessed doorway. In the center is a turret with glass on the second story. The north side of the front, has a peaked roof. The roof is hipped with soaring, parapeted chimneys. In the interior, the hallway on the first story runs east-west with wood stairs at either end ascending to the second story and descending to the basement which contains the old iron jail cells. The County District Court courtroom is located at the northwest corner of the second story and features plaster walls and ceiling; lawyer’s railing with turned balusters and newels; jury box with early models of swivel armchairs upholstered in brown leather; and a carved and paneled judge’s bench. The building houses the County District Court of the Southeast Judicial District. An addition was constructed on the east side.


Note:  The brick was manufactured by the H T Von Wagoner Company in Minot and the lumber was obtained from W E Cooke of Harvey. Others involved in the project were D McDonald, superintendent of construction, E A Folendorf and John Swanson, basement excavation, E J Makinson, head bricklayer, Joe Buck, lathing, W M Cahill, plastering and George A Herald., furnishings.


See:  National Register of Historic Places – Wells County Courthouse


See:  The Southeast Judicial District includes Barnes CountyDickey County, Eddy County, Foster County, Griggs CountyKidder County, LaMoure CountyLogan CountyMcIntosh County, Ransom CountyRichland County, Sargent County and Stutsman County.


History:  The county was created in 1873 and Skyeston was named as the county seat in 1884 when the county was organized. The county was first named Gingras County after Antoine Blanc Gingras (1821-1877), a wealthy trader of French and Chippewa Indian parentage residing in the Pembina district. The name was changed in 1881 to WEllls County. A two story store was purchased from Harry L Durbrow in 1884 and served as the first courthouse. The county seat was moved to Fessenden in 1894 and the first courthouse was torn down. The second and present courthouse was constructed in 1895 to 1896 at a cost of $19,000.



County Courthouse – Fessenden 

























County District Court courtroom



















Old jail cells





Picture County Courthouse

Photos taken 2007, 2009 and 2024