Another Look at Hanks

By / October 7, 2012 / Hanks, ND

Clif Nelson contributed these photos of Hanks, North Dakota, a near-ghost town in Williams County — population one. Clif’s comments:

“It was never much of a town, but they had coal mines north of town and grain elevatorsin the early 1900’s.  My Grandfather Anton Nelson who farmed about 7 miles northwest of Hanks would haul a load of grain in and haul coal home from the mines just north of the town of Hanks.  They had a bank at one time, and a store plus I’ m sure other businesses.  The school became a museum of which I have pictures included… My Uncles farmed the old Nelson homestead so we used to visit a lot out there from the late 40’s and on.  My children and family used to frequent the Museum when we would visit the Uncles in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  It was quite a museum and how long it has been closed now I have no idea.”

More of Clif’s comments are included as captions below.

It’s interesting to note the presence of the former Bonetraill school and the Zahl depot in Hanks.  It’s quite common for structures to be moved from a vanishing town to another location, many times for use as a museum or other historically-oriented destination.  In this case the structures have been moved from one withering location to another.

Hanks was featured in the National Geographic article “The Emptied Prairie” in 2008.  You can also check out John Piepkorn’s gallery of Hanks photos from 2010 here.

Back side of the old chicken hatchery

Back side of the Zahl depot…Zahl was about 5 miles east of Hanks on the Railroad line and the highway

Front of the old Zahl depot

Former bank building in Hanks, later had a gas pump in front of it, so it maybe was a store and or gas station in later life.

Old Pioneer Trails Museum. Was the school at one time.

Bonetrail township one room grade school,township was north of Hanks.

Photos by Clif Nelson
Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

About Author

Troy Larson

Troy Larson is a father, husband, author, photographer, publisher and devoted cat person. Troy is the President of Sonic Tremor Media and co-founder of


Daryn Rabbe

I’ve been told my great grandparents, Samuel & Julia Rabbe, were among the first homesteaders in Bonetraill Township south of Hanks. I remember the tales of hardship my grandfather Joel used to tell me about attempting to make a living there. – working the coal mines, raising chickens, hauling water, ect. My family eventually moved south to Williston not long after my grandfather Sam died on the back of a buckwagon en route to the hospital suffering from appendicitis.


I remember playing basketball (grade school) in the Hanks Gym. I was from Fortuna.

Colby Crawford

The gas pump belonged to the gas station that formerly stood next to the bank building and now has been demolished. There is still a hole in the ground where the building once stood. The school closed around 1970 and the museum is still open in summer months from 1-5 pm on Sundays. It is well worth the visit.


I grew up north of zahl. The population of hanks is more than one. Lol. But the museum is amazing and so is the area!


Are you sure the museum t is still open on Sundays again….my brother Randy and I were by there last August and it appeared to have been closed for sometime then…I posted numerous pics of this town and the museum on this site…one is here

Michael F. Schultz

My grandfather, Herman A. Schultz, originally of Green Lake, WI, was the original pioneer homesteader in Hanks, ND, in about 1902. We still own the land and the farm buildings are in the first picture in your series. My Grandmother, Helvine Ausland Schultz, was the first teacher in the school in your pictures. My father, Frederick HC Schultz, graduated from Hanks High School in 1938, with 5 other seniors, in this school in which grades 1-12 were taught. In a way, I owe my existence to this school. In 1919, during the post World War I influenza epidemic, everyone in Hanks caught flu except my grandfather and grandmother. The sick people were moved into the school and taken care of by them, they noticed each other, and were married soon after. From these humble origins my father went on to become a university physics department chairman. He lived 92 years and passed away last week. Late in life, his distinguished academic and scienfitic career notwithstanding, his fondest memories were of life on the farm in Hanks, and World War II Navy Service. His ashes will be interred in the Hanks Cemetery, also in your pictures. I would be most interested in hearing from anyone with Williams County, and especially, Hanks roots.


Leave a Reply

Back to Top