Photo of Spiritwood Lake from JC Graphics.
Foamy Lake & Snow On The Water Woman
By Dakota Wind
SPIRITWOOD, N.D. - A friend of mine called me up and asked me if I had ever heard of Spiritwood and if there’s any meaning to its name. Spiritwood is a little community just east of Jamestown, North Dakota, off of I-94. After a quick search through my notes and a search of the town in early North Dakota records I came up with the following.
Spiritwood was originally founded as Eight Siding when it was constructed by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1873. The citizenry changed the name to Spiritwood in 1879. There was a bonanza farm in the vicinity, itself called Spiritwood Farm, which was one of the largest of its kind in Dakota Territory which was managed by Cuyler Adams.
Adams himself took the name from the nearby body of water, Spiritwood Lake. The Dakota know the lake as MnitȟáğA, Foamy Lake. Of course, there is a story associated with the lake.
The Dakota have it that a long time ago, there was a maiden named Mni Awá’wá Wiŋ, whose name means “Snow On The Water Woman,” or perhaps “Snowy Water Woman."
The young woman, Snow On The Water, was struck with such desperate longing to be with him...
The Dakota say that there was a fight or battle a long time ago on the shores of the Foamy Lake. A brave young man gave his life defending his people. The young woman, Snow On The Water, was struck with such desperate longing to be with him that she plunged herself into the lake to be with him forever more. Her spirit lingers yet there.
Gradually, when settlers arrived and began to name places and map things, the lake’s name was recorded as “Spiritwood Lake.” When Adams established his bonanza farm and township, rather than impose a foreign name on the indigenous landscape he bucked the trend and named it after what he thought the Dakota called it, Spiritwood.