What’s in a name? In a place like this, maybe everything. Our initial interest in Lostwood was aroused by the name… Lostwood. It brings to mind images of an old-fashioned, silent town, lost in a haunting copse of elms and knotty oaks; a place where time moves slowly and the residents wouldn’t have it any other way. With a name like Lostwood, we felt compelled to visit and see for ourselves what remains.
We arrived to find Lostwood a captivating remnant of a prairie settlement, if somewhat lacking in the elm and oak tree department. In truth it is a ghost town in the sense that very little remains here to show a population of 100 residents, Lostwood’s all-time high, reported in 1920. Only a well-kept church and a boarded up school appear to be original structures. On the other hand, there are several inhabited homes in the area, and those folks likely consider themselves residents of Lostwood.
Lostwood School was featured in our first book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 1.
This school is so evocative in real life. Just bending on one knee here to take a photograph, it’s easy to have a moment of nostalgia while imagining students coming and going, carrying lunch pails and dressed in the clothing of the era.
There are population figures for Lostwood township in the US Census, but none for Lostwood as a town. According to “North Dakota: Every Town on the Map and MORE,” by Vernell and Louise Johnson, Lostwood was first known as Chida, then renamed for the lake nearby, which had been named Lostwood Lake by settlers after a load of wood was lost there in a blizzard.
Douglas Wick’s North Dakota Place Names offers an alternate explanation for the name Lostwood. About 1900, a settler cut some wood and left it here to dry, but a nearby family used it to heat their home over the winter, and when the settler returned in the spring, he discovered the wood had been “lost”.
Lostwood is perhaps better known as a duck and waterfowl breeding area and migratory and nesting bird sanctuary. The surrounding Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge is partly made-up of the Lostwood Wilderness, “a region well known for numerous lakes and mixed grass prairie”. Lostwood Wilderness “ensures that the finest duck and waterfowl breeding region in North America remains wild and unimproved”. It was created by an act of Congress in 1975.
Tim Steele sent some photos of Lostwood’s post office back in the day, and we’re trying to figure out what year the photo was taken. Can you help?
The church is quite nicely kept in Lostwood and we’re told it still holds services and hosts other events on occasion.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media
Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy