Captain Duncan Graham was a Scotsman who came to North Dakota after getting started as a fur trader for Hudson’s Bay Company. Graham believed there was profit to be made in the trading business, and he founded a trading post on the island that now bears his name. Though the date is in dispute, Graham is believed to have inhabited the island around 1810 to 1817; far earlier than the flood of homesteaders to come six decades later.
Grahams Island is a state park today. The south side of the island is an anglers’ and campers’ paradise, but the north side of the island is a sadder story. Devils Lake is a closed basin and has been subject to fluctuating water levels. The decade between 2005 and 2015 has seen some of the highest observed water levels ever, and there are at least four farms along the north shore that are now abandoned and partially submerged. The roads that once led to these family homes are now submerged, leaving a beautiful landscape of man’s work slowly giving way to nature.
One of the few structures with some heritage still-standing on Graham’s Island. It looks like a former country school.
We were thrilled to see it looks like someone is actively working to restore this school. There was a scaffold set up along one exterior wall and the window frames had been stripped and nicely repainted, hopefully in advance of getting new windows. It would be great to go back in a few years and see this place all fixed up!
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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