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8 Questions with Photojournalist Jack Dura

8 Questions with Photojournalist Jack Dura

At Ghosts of North Dakota, we occasionally like to check-in with artists and photographers (like Mariah Masilko and John Piepkorn) who’ve shown a passion for North Dakota and its vanishing, forgotten places and Jack Dura certainly qualifies. We caught up with Watford City journalist, photographer, and frequent explorer “Travelin’ Jack” between road trips to find out more about his background, his thirst for adventure, his favorite bird dog, and favorite places, from the Badlands to the North Dakota prairie. Q: I…

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Duck Inn and Waddle Out of Venturia, North Dakota

Duck Inn and Waddle Out of Venturia, North Dakota

Venturia, North Dakota is located in McIntosh County, just north of the South Dakota border, forty-five miles east of the Missouri river, about nine miles southwest of Ashley, North Dakota. Like most shrinking rural communities across the state, Venturia was founded as a railroad town, but today the tracks are gone. We visited Venturia on an overcast day of intermittent sprinkles, and we were excited by the photo opportunities but we needed a break from the rain. It took us…

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The “City” of Leal, North Dakota

The “City” of Leal, North Dakota

Leal is a small town in Barnes county, an hour northeast of Jamestown, or 73 miles northwest of Fargo.  It was founded in 1892, and incorporated as a village in 1917, but in 1967, North Dakota eliminated the “village” and “town” incorporations in the state, making all incorporated places “cities.” So, today, Leal is a “city” with a population density of 142 residents per square mile. Sounds like a hoppin’ place, right? Not really. The population density figure is a…

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How Much Longer for Ghost Town Arena?

How Much Longer for Ghost Town Arena?

We first visited Arena, North Dakota, a ghost town in Burleigh County, about 35 miles northeast of Bismarck, in 2004, and we’ve been keeping our eyes on it ever since, with the assistance of some kindred spirit adventurers who check-in from time to time to let us know what’s happening. We’ve been told the tiny one-room school shown above was originally somewhere else, and that it was moved to this location. A different building, Arena Public School, was torn down…

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A Ghost Town Built from Coal and Bricks

A Ghost Town Built from Coal and Bricks

Sims, North Dakota is a beautiful near-ghost town, founded in what was at the time a somewhat remote spot on the prairie of Dakota Territory, about 35 miles west of Mandan. The Northern Pacific arrived in 1879 and extra boxcars were set aside to be used as businesses and shelter until a proper town could be constructed. The original settlers were attracted to coal that was easily mined here, and several early names of the town were “Baby Mine” and…

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Oldest Standing Structures in North Dakota: Gingras Trading Post

Oldest Standing Structures in North Dakota: Gingras Trading Post

Long before the arrival of the settlers brought by the Homestead Act of 1862, this part of North Dakota was a center of commerce in the fur trade. The Metis people, a mixed-race culture of Native Americans and French, English, and Scottish explorers, lived and traded in this area throughout the 18th and 19th centuries (French explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye, arrived in what is now North Dakota in 1738).

North American Bison of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

North American Bison of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

During their historic journey to the Pacific, Lewis and Clark reported enormous herds of North American Bison in the midwest, so large that they “darkened the whole plains.”  Wagon trains sometimes waited days for passage through herds numbering in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.  But by the early 1900’s the bison were reaching their low-point.  Over-hunting, drought, and encroachment on their natural habitat by humans and cattle drove the population of bison down to only several hundred animals…

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Boom and Bust in Corinth, North Dakota

Boom and Bust in Corinth, North Dakota

Corinth is a near-ghost town in Williams County, about thirty-four miles northeast of Williston. Although one of the residents has taken over a portion of the town, Corinth is still fairly intact with lots of original buildings in time-worn condition. Corinth was founded in 1916 and reportedly had a peak population of 108 around 1920, and although that figure began to dwindle almost immediately, the Post Office stayed open until 1969. Corinth was an unincorporated town and as a result,…

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The Strange Tale of the Midnight Rider: Serial Killer Eugene Butler

The Strange Tale of the Midnight Rider: Serial Killer Eugene Butler

In the late 1890s and early 1900s, residents near the tiny town of Niagara, in the new state of North Dakota, began to hear strange noises in the night. The sound of galloping hooves punctuated the quiet countryside. It was Farmer Eugene Butler again, who had recently started riding his horses late at night, yelling at the top of his lungs. It was strange behavior from a man who was known to be a wealthy, successful farmer, if somewhat reclusive….

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Hamberg Flashback

Hamberg Flashback

We visited Hamberg, North Dakota, a near ghost town in Wells County, about 18 miles east of Harvey, for the first time in 2008, to photograph an old school which has since burned in an accidental fire. Thanks to Heidi Ermer, we can now take a brief look at Hamberg as it appeared in yesteryear when there were residents numbering in the hundreds, as versus the approximate 20 residents who live there today. Heidi sent us the following postcards. The…

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Legend of the Devils Lake Monster

Legend of the Devils Lake Monster

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know “ghosts” is a metaphor that refers to the ghosts of our past, and most of the time, that manifests itself here in the form of photos of our vanishing places. Sometimes though, we run across a story so interesting, a piece of forgotten history or local lore so fascinating, that we feel compelled to write about it. This is one of those instances. There are published accounts from…

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That Time Our Vehicle Went to the Ghost Town in the Sky

That Time Our Vehicle Went to the Ghost Town in the Sky

On occasion we’ve been asked if we know how many miles we’ve driven in pursuit of North Dakota ghost towns and abandoned places, but we’ve never really had an answer because we didn’t really start keeping track of our mileage until a few years ago. We did, however, have a metric we used to keep track of how much driving we’ve done… the number of vehicles we’ve gone through. We’ve driven about ten different vehicles, and worn-out three of them…

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Lonely James River Church on a Hill

Lonely James River Church on a Hill

We’ve passed this place a dozen times in our travels. It usually happens something like this… we’re on a tight schedule, wanting to get to all of the places we’ve planned to shoot before the sun sets, or the weather turns bad, so we pass on by, promising to hit it next time. Then, we usually get ten minutes down the road, and we start regretting the choice not to stop. So, this time we decided to stop and photograph…

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Ghost Town Charbonneau, North Dakota

Ghost Town Charbonneau, North Dakota

Charbonneau, North Dakota is in a very sparsely populated area of western North Dakota, in McKenzie County, about fifteen minutes west of Watford City. As far back as 1960, Charbonneau had already been de-listed from the Census, but according to North Dakota Place Names by Douglas A. Wick, Charbonneau was founded in 1913 and a peak population of 125 was reported in 1920. Charbonneau’s name was derived from nearby Charbonneau Creek, which was in turn named for the interpreter on…

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Watch Lincoln Valley Become a Ghost Town

Watch Lincoln Valley Become a Ghost Town

We’ve visited the ghost town of Lincoln Valley a number of times, and we’ve posted about why it became a ghost town ( a railroad that never arrived, primarily). We’ve heard stories and read newspaper articles about the glory days, and marveled at descriptions of a town that included churches, stores, a gas station, an implement… all the things you would expect in a small rural town. It was hard to imagine, though, considering we visited for the first time…

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The Twin Towers of Josephine

The Twin Towers of Josephine

Once upon on a time there was a pioneer settlement named Genin at this spot in Benson County, about halfway between Maddock and Oberon, North Dakota. That settlment was later renamed Josephine, but it never really became a town. The highest population ever recorded was approximately 30, and some of those were folks who lived in the surrounding countryside. The truth is, Josephine was really just a glorified railroad siding along the Northern Pacific Railroad. The remains of the town…

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Ghost Town Lincoln Valley, North Dakota

Ghost Town Lincoln Valley, North Dakota

Lincoln Valley, North Dakota is in Sheridan County, about 8 miles NE of McClusky. Lincoln Valley was a primarily German/Russian settlement when it was founded in 1900 by George and Conrad C. Reiswig as Lincoln. In 1912 the name was changed to Lincoln Valley. There were hopes that the railroad would come through Lincoln Valley and spur a boom, but the tracks never came and Lincoln Valley slowly withered. We first visited Lincoln Valley in 2004 and took these photos. Before…

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Hurricane Lake Church Approaches the End

Hurricane Lake Church Approaches the End

At one time, there was a “town” near Hurricane Lake, in the northeast corner of Pierce County, about 7 miles northeast of York, North Dakota. It was a “town” because it had a post office, but in reality it never had a sizable population. Hurricane Lake was founded early in relation to many of the towns we visit — in the 1880s — and was a stage coach stop, never having had the benefit of a railroad line to boost…

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Revisiting Nanson: The Ghost Town in Waving Country

Revisiting Nanson: The Ghost Town in Waving Country

We visited Nanson, North Dakota, a true ghost town with zero residents in southern Rolette County, in 2012. We traveled through waving country to get there (when an occasional car or truck passed, the drivers frequently waved) and found a townsite rapidly disappearing. There were only four significant structures still standing in Nanson, and the Great Northern Railroad tracks that led to the founding of the town were long gone, too. On Easter weekend, 2017, we decided to make a…

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Four Book Combo w/ Free Puzzle

Four Book Combo w/ Free Puzzle

Get all four of our books with a Ghosts of North Dakota 4-book combo: Ghosts of North Dakota Volume 1: Special Edition (softcover, featuring twenty pages of content not included in the original) Ghosts of North Dakota Volumes 2 and 3 in the original hardcovers Churches of the High Plains (hardcover) That’s 426 total pages, in four full-color books featuring some of the best photos from the Ghosts of North Dakota project — ghost towns, near-ghost towns, churches and abandoned places across the…

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What Happened to Ghost Town Omemee, North Dakota?

What Happened to Ghost Town Omemee, North Dakota?

Omemee, North Dakota, a ghost town in Bottineau County, has been a source of intrigue since we first became aware of it in 2005. We were initially made aware of Omemee by a North Dakota resident who alerted us that someone was trying to sell lots in Omemee to out-of-state buyers under questionable circumstances, an effort which amounted to nothing in the end. Later, Fargo resident Mark Johnson sent us some photos of Omemee taken around 2010, and we also…

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Norway Lutheran Church Overlooks Perseverance

Norway Lutheran Church Overlooks Perseverance

We visited this beautiful place, Norway Lutheran Church, in April of 2017. It’s in McHenry County, about 15 miles southwest of Towner, North Dakota, and it is perched on the hill above the Souris River Valley. The Souris, known to locals as the “Mouse River”, has flooded many times, particularly in 1969 and 2011 (a 1976 flood was serious, but not as severe as ’69 or ’11), and 6 years later, the legacy of the 2011 flood can still be…

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A Slow-Motion Disaster in Ghost Town Aylmer, North Dakota

A Slow-Motion Disaster in Ghost Town Aylmer, North Dakota

If you didn’t know better, it would be easy to look at these photos and assume this place was struck by a powerful prairie tornado. Grain bins are ripped open, the roof of the former bar has caved-in, and the building leans at a precarious angle. Pieces of several structures have blown down and lie decaying in the grass some distance away with their rusty nails pointed skyward, waiting for an unsuspecting explorer to test their tetanus shots with an…

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Bethel Lutheran Awaits Just One More Potluck

Bethel Lutheran Awaits Just One More Potluck

The cornerstone for this church along County Road 5 reads “Bethel Hauges Norsk E.V. Luth. Kirke, 1915”. Put more plainly, that’s Bethel Hauges Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church. The building is located in northern Wells County, about 10 miles east of Harvey, and although the cemetery is still active, the building stands abandoned and boarded-up. In the place where the Lord’s word could once be heard on Sunday mornings by 80 or 100 parishioners at a time, Bethel Lutheran awaits just…

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The Abandoned Kincaid Power Plant

The Abandoned Kincaid Power Plant

Kincaid Power Plant is about four miles south of Columbus, North Dakota, in Burke County, about seventeen miles southwest of Flaxton. It reached the end of its journey and was abandoned in 1966. The 1971 Burke County and White Earth Valley Historical Society book describes this plant as follows.

Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Grassy Butte, ND is in a very sparsely populated area of western North Dakota, in southern McKenzie County. It does not appear in any of the census records back as far as 1960, but it reportedly harbored 100 citizens at one time. Monica Hardy contributed these photos in 2010 with the following comments: The building that looks like a church in the background of the post office/museum pictures are of a private home. Someone renovated the home. There were other bldgs…

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The Story of How Ghosts of North Dakota Began

The Story of How Ghosts of North Dakota Began

It occurred to me the other day that we’ve told the story about how Ghosts of North Dakota began in countless interviews over the years, but we’ve never posted it here, so for those who might be interested in how this project began, this is the tale. In 2003, myself and Terry Hinnenkamp, my roadtrip friend and fellow adventurer, were working at the same Fargo Top 40 radio station, Y94. Halloween was coming up and we had this goofy idea…

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Built from the Earth: The Hutmacher Farmstead

Built from the Earth: The Hutmacher Farmstead

The Hutmacher farm is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is considered the midwest’s finest still-standing example of the earthen abodes built by Germans from Russia. Believe it or not, Alex Hutmacher lived here until 1979. The Hutmacher farm has been undergoing restoration. You can get more information here. These photos contributed by Kim Dvorak. More reading on the Hutmacher farm here and here.

True Ghost Town: Stady, North Dakota

True Ghost Town: Stady, North Dakota

Stady was founded in 1907 and was a stopping point on old highway 85. The peak population of 60 had dropped to 11 by 1940, after the highway moved. Stady is now a true ghost town — totally abandoned. MJ Masilko contributed these photos with the following comments: I’m sending you some pictures I took in May of 2006 of a ghost town called Stady. It’s in Divide County, 16 miles SSW of Fortuna. There didn’t seem to be any…

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The Quiet of Forbes, North Dakota

The Quiet of Forbes, North Dakota

Forbes, North Dakota is in Dickey County, about thirty miles southeast of Ashley, right on the South Dakota border. On nearly every trip, we go out looking forward to seeing a certain town, but on the way home, we realize another town was better or more fun.  In this adventure in June of 2011, Forbes was that town — the pleasant surprise.

Argusville High School

Argusville High School

Argusville is located right off I29 about fifteen minutes north of Fargo. It was founded in 1880 and dwindled to around 100 residents by the 1980’s, but experienced a population boom after the turn of the millennium. Argusville now has a population of 475. So this abandoned high school is a rare spot in an otherwise budding town. The last class graduated from this school in 1997 when it was known as Cass Valley North High School.

Postcards from the Edge of North Dakota

Postcards from the Edge of North Dakota

This is a simple truth. There is no greater pleasure per penny than searching through a box of old postcards in an antique store. A little hard on the lower back if you’re wearing the wrong pair of shoes, but pleasurable none-the-less. Here are a few old postcards featuring scenes from Marmarth. Year of the above photo is unknown but I’m guessing early 1930s. Look closely — on the left, behind the grassy median, several black sedans are parked. And on the…

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The Remains of Minot Air Force Station

The Remains of Minot Air Force Station

When we ran our Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of our first book, we offered supporters the opportunity to name a location they would like us to photograph in exchange for their support. One of our supporters asked us to visit and photograph the former Minot Air Force Station, about 14 miles south of Minot. Minot Air Force Station was the first major Air Force installation in North Dakota, predating the other Minot and Grand Forks bases. It was…

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