Vandals blamed for flooding grounds and historic buildings at Bonanzaville
WEST FARGO — An apparent act of vandalism caused more than 200,000 gallons of water to flood the ground and possibly foundations of at least three historic Cass County buildings at Bonanzaville.
"I've been here nearly five years, and we’ve never, ever had any vandalism," Bonanzaville Executive Director Brenda Warren said Monday, Jan. 7. "I just can't imagine who would want to purposely destroy precious artifacts and historic buildings. It’s heartbreaking."
Warren said Special Events Coordinator Melissa Warren discovered massive amounts of frozen water around the South Pleasant Church on Sunday, Jan. 6, after an event held in the Cass County Historical Society’s event center. Melissa Warren heard running water and found water flowing from two outdoor spigots at the church on the east side of Bonanzaville.
“It was definitely deliberate,” Brenda Warren said. “It was clear they were not just accidentally turned on.”
Brenda Warren said someone must have broken into the village, which is fenced in and closed to visitors during the winter holidays. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office was called to the village and plans to investigate, though finding suspects may be difficult, Brenda Warren said.
“By the time we found it, all the footprints that might have been there were gone,” Brenda Warren said.
Melissa Warren was able to turn off the water, but when West Fargo public works officials arrived, they estimated about 201,000 gallons of water had been pumped into the grounds. Public works staff estimated the spigots were likely turned on around the evening of Dec. 31.
The massive amounts of water pooled around the church and flowed to a historic gazebo, schoolhouse and courthouse.
Brenda Warren said it's not yet clear how much damage the water may have done to the buildings.
“We probably won’t know the full extent of the damage until this spring and all the ice melts,” she said. “We’ll start pumping water the minute the snow starts to melt.”
The schoolhouse, built in 1895, was a former Mapleton Township school. The Bonanzaville courthouse is a former schoolhouse in Cass County that was moved to the village and filled with original Cass County Courthouse artifacts.
South Pleasant Church, built in 1890, was moved to Bonanzaville in 2015 to replace the more than 100-year-old St. John’s Lutheran Church, which was struck by lightning and destroyed by a fire in July 2014. South Pleasant Church was donated to Bonanzaville by its former congregation and moved from Christine, N.D., to the West Fargo site after the Pioneer Village raised $125,000 to help pay for renovation costs such as a new foundation and updated amenities needed for the many weddings and events held there.
Bonanzaville, which is run by the Cass County Historical Society, has video surveillance on the property, but the spigots are just out of view of the cameras, Melissa Warren said.
The Pioneer Village sits on about 12 acres and is home to 43 original Cass County buildings, with more than 400,000 artifacts. The village receives a stipend from Cass County each year but is primarily funded by grants, donations and private fundraising.
To help pay for the water bill and any damage, the historical society started a GoFundMe page , with a goal of raising $2,500.