During our trip in July of 2014 we had the opportunity to visit several places that once stood in Elbowoods, North Dakota, a town erased from the map when the Garrison Dam flooded the Missouri River Valley. Not far from the Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church, this homestead, settled by the Wells family, sits vacant. Diane P. commented about this place on our Facebook page and filled in many of the details.
The homestead was settled by “the late Ralph Jr. & Olive Wells […] The late Ralph Wells Sr. also lived there until he passed away. Ralph and Olive were my Uncle and Aunt. Ralph Wells Jr. served as our Tribal Chairman for the Three Affiliated Tribes in the early seventies and died in office.”
The Wells grandchildren have fond memories of this place. One of them, Swadeau H. also commented on our Facebook page about living in this house. She said:
This house pictured was our old family home. Things were never the same after it was relocated due to the dam. It’s amazing that it was a really good sized house but had no electricity or running water.
Today, this homestead sits empty, very far off the beaten path. We’re not sharing the exact location of this one for privacy reasons.
We had actually never heard of this place and we weren’t aware of its existence until I discovered it by accident as I was looking for abandoned places near Lake Sakakawea in Google Earth.
It’s an unmarked, unmaintained field road that takes you out to this site, and even then we couldn’t drive right up to it. We got out and hiked the final quarter mile through thigh-deep prairie grass.
You can do a lot more reading about Lake Sakakawea and another town lost to the Garrison Dam project by checking out our posts on Sanish and the Four Bears Bridge.
The setting where this old homestead resides is idyllic. If I was going to live on the prairie, this is exactly the kind of pastoral, green landscape I would seek out.
Do you have our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains?
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy