Sanish, North Dakota

Before the Flood: Leaving Sanish, North Dakota

We’ve posted several galleries dedicated to Sanish, North Dakota, the former Missouri River town that was dismantled timber and brick and dispersed to higher ground when the Garrison Dam was erected, flooding this part of the Missouri River Valley.  There’s a gallery dedicated to the construction of Four Bears Bridge, our visit to the crumbling remains during historic low water levels in 2005, a Christmas in Sanish gallery, and a look down the street in front of the school and church, but no two photos we’ve seen so far capture this time in our history as these two photos submitted by Don Hammer.

The first photo was taken in October, 1952.

Sanish, North Dakota

Make note of the landmarks.  The school in the background, upper left, and the little black building between (and partially obscured by) the elevators in the lower left. Next, take a look at the photo below, taken from almost the same spot on the bluff in December, 1953.  The abandonment of Sanish is nearly complete.

Sanish, North Dakota

The school is still there in the background, and the camera angle is shifted slightly to the left, so you can see the white church to the left of the school (it was just slightly out of frame in the upper photo), but both of the elevators near the black building in the center are gone, as is most of Sanish. Sanish and Four Bears Bridge were also featured in our book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 3.

Photos submitted by Don Hammer, one-time resident of Sanish.

Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

24 Responses to “Before the Flood: Leaving Sanish, North Dakota”
  1. Leonard Tomsik says:

    In the late 60’s and early 70’s the Army Corps of Engineers rerouted the Hocking River ( a trib. of the Ohio River)
    around the campus of Ohio University in Athens. Each year it seemed it would flood and they got tired of having
    to redo the buckled gym floor. Great accomplishment and has been successful ever since.

    • Lynn Mickelson says:

      Is almost unbelievable to see the changes in only a years’ time! Fantastic addition of photos to an already awesome web site. A big “Thank You” to Don Hammer for sharing these two photos.

      Lynn Mickelson

  2. Clif Nelson says:

    very neat,I have some old pics of Garrison Dam while it is being built taken by my Uncle who was with the Army Corps of Engineers back then…any interest?

  3. Scott Myhre says:

    Hi Troy,

    Great Pictures of the original Four Bears bridge construction! My Grandfather (Joseph Myhre) worked on that project and was credited with saving another construction workers life. As a kid, I remember a newspaper article in the New Town paper that said he dove into the Missouri river to rescue a worker that had fallen from the bridge. I am not sure of the details but I wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your pictures and stories of North Dakota before the oil boom and changes.

    Thanks Troy for all of your hard work!


    • Lynn Mickelson says:

      A ‘ditto’ to Scott’s last comment! Thanks, Troy for all your work on this wonderful website!!!

      Lynn Mickelson

  4. Tim Johnson says:

    Very interesting. And great photos. FYI: I’m originally from south of Turtle Lake (McLean county east and south of Old Sanish). Sanish wasn’t the only town in that area to be moved. In fact Turtle Lake was created from a “whole clothe” so to speak when the Great Northern Railroad cut off their tracks to Wanamaker (which was a few miles east of modern Turtle Lake). Apparently a prominent Wanamaker Citizen got into a hissing match with officials of GNR. That was in 1905.
    See (thanks to Vernon Keel, author of “The Murdered Family”)

  5. Scott Davy says:

    My Grandfather ran the drugstore in Sanish right up until the end. I think I have a box of photographs from that era, would anyone like to see them if I can find them and scan them?

  6. Don Hammer says:


    Was your grandfather’s name Bugge?

    I’d very much like to see any photos of old Sanish.

    Don Hammer

  7. Scott Davy says:

    Yes, Hjalmer Bugge.

    • Don Hammer - son of Art Hammer the cattle buyer says:

      I have a photo of the Bugge and Hammer families (and some others) on a fishing/picnic on a creek west of Sanish – Shell Creek??_ I’ll try to find it. I’ve also seen a photo of the Sanish rodeo grounds with several round tipis set up that the Indians were staying in during the rodeo. But I can’t find a copy of it anywhere.

  8. Scott Davy says:

    I will keep searching for the photos, and post them when I find them.

  9. Dave Simonsen says:

    In 1945 My parents lived in the Van Hook and Sanish area when I was born I believe both were combined to form New Town (Vanish) . we moved away when I was perhaps three, so I have no memory from that time. We returned sometime after all or most of the buildings were gone but no flooding had yet occurred. I remember the basements along the streets and the odd fact that there were many house and other types of keys left on the cement and ground. That was the day that I became interested in and collected keys from that time forward.

  10. Lance Twedt says:

    My Mom grew up in Sanish and Van Hook – Maiden name was Aubol – had two sibs – Don and Orpha. Dad was Orvin and he had a general store, her Mom’s name was Ruth and was from the Devils lake area – name – Summers.

    • Karin Noren says:

      Cousins of my mother who was Ruth Aubol…. who graduated from Parshall HS in 1928 Her parents wer There were a lot of Aubols in the area including Van Hoof and some even in Minot.
      Her father was Julius (Andy)Andrew Aubol and she was an only child. n Mother’s name was Julia Marken Aubol.

      • Lorna Aubol-Masuo says:

        Karen, I think that you had been in contact with my brother, Clare a few years ago. We lived in Sanish until all had to move out. I have to look back at some the family history, but I believe that Ruth and my dad, Marius, were cousins.

    • Lorna Aubol-Masuo says:

      I lived in Sanish until we all had to leave and moved to New Town. My dad was Marius, a brother to Orvin. We knew all their children and visited with Joyce and Orpha when they were in Minot.

      • Lance Twedt says:

        Hi Lorna –

        I remember my Mom talking about you on occasion – I am Joyce’s oldest son. Do you remember who did the Aubol family history, and where I could get a copy of it? That was probably 15-20 years ago I believe.

        My Mom and Dad (Chester (Al) Alvin Twedt never talked much about the early years – I remember visiting Lucille and Betty and Eddie, but I was very young and am pretty foggy about them, too. I think Lucille was one of Ruth’s sisters.

        I also remember Royce, Claire, and Marnie – we saw Claire in Bismarck at Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary – I think that was the last time – I believe Marnie and Millie were there also.

        Please email me at – that may be easier.

        Thanks for responding to these posts –


  11. Lance Twedt says:

    My Mom grew up in Sanish and Van Hook – Maiden name was Aubol – had two sibs – Don and Orpha. Dad was Orvin and he had a general store, her Mom’s name was Ruth and was from the Devils lake area – name – Summers. Mom’s name was Joyce Aubol.

  12. Norval Lee says:

    Leonard “the Viking” Johnson was from Sanish. He was a sales rep for the Sons of Norway
    in Fargo when the lodge opened in 1975, after having spent years in the auto industry in Fargo.

  13. Lorna Aubol-Masuo says:

    It was a small but a great town to grow up in. I will search some of the pictures that I have and will post them.

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