20 True Ghost Towns: Population Zero

20 True Ghost Towns: Population Zero

Defining what exactly constitutes a “ghost town” can sometimes be tricky.  In our years of exploring North Dakota’s abandoned places, we’ve often encountered former towns where the townsite itself is empty, but there’s a farm about half a mile down the road.  Sometimes a former town like Sims, North Dakota has an active church, but nobody actually lives on the town site.  And still other times, we will hear objections from people who feel as though we’ve misrepresented their town, or somehow labeled it a ghost town because it appears on this website, in which case we clarify that this site is about ghost towns and abandoned places, like the former First National Bank and Barber Auditorium in Marmarth, North Dakota, a town with a population over a hundred.

Here we’ve assembled our most strictly defined list of ghost towns in North Dakota, places where there are zero residents, and in some cases, zero remains.  It’s life after people, North Dakota style.

Griffin, North Dakota

Griffin, North Dakota

Griffin, North Dakota is a true ghost town in Bowman County, about halfway between Bowman and Rhame. It was once home to some of the largest stockyards in southwest North Dakota, and it was also a stop on one of America’s first cross-country highways–a route from Massachusetts to Seattle, marked in places by three foot stone markers painted yellow, known as the Yellowstone Trail.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Nobody lives in Sherbooke, North Dakota anymore, and only two homes remain standing on the town site, but there is a well-tended cemetery in the area and farms just down the road.

Bluegrass, North Dakota

Bluegrass, North Dakota

Bluegrass, North Dakota, a true ghost town, population zero, in Morton County, about thirty-five miles northwest of Mandan.  The railroad never came to Bluegrass, and the peak population was only twenty.  Today it is a true ghost town. The former service station shown here has since burned.

Josephine, North Dakota

Josephine, North Dakota

Where there was once a mercantile store and residents numbering a dozen or two, there are only two remaining grain elevators in the town that was once Josephine, North Dakota.

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters, North Dakota is a ghost town just outside the official boundary of the Little Missouri National Grasslands — a boundary visible only on maps. The church is still sometimes used for weddings and special events. Nobody lives here anymore.

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple is a rapidly disappearing ghost town in the oil patch and we have several user contributed galleries from Nicole Simpson and Mark Johnson, featuring the church shown above and the school which no longer stands on the town site.

Freda, North Dakota

Freda Depot

A train depot and the crumbling remains of Freda, North Dakota lie in the tall grass, nestled among the rolling green hills of Missouri River country. It’s a short drive southwest of Mandan to this true ghost town in Grant County.

Lincoln Valley, North Dakota

Lincoln Valley

Lincoln Valley is one of our all-time favorite ghost towns. It’s been vacant since Joe Leintz moved out in the 1970s, and we’ve been back for a visit on several occasions. The former bar and ice cream parlor stills stands on the site, as well as several abandoned homes.

Arena, North Dakota

Arena, North Dakota

St. John’s Lutheran Church is the most prominent landmark in this former town. Two homes plus a small country school building that was moved into town from somewhere else are still standing in Arena.

Sims, North Dakota

Sims, ND

Possibly the most beautiful ghost town we’ve ever been to, Sims is home to a still-active church, an abandoned home, and a cemetery on top of the hill. There are several other abandoned structures nearby, and a few inhabited farms just down the road.  This photo was featured on the dustjacket of our second book.

Straubville, North Dakota

Straubville, North Dakota

Straubville is a crumbling ruin of a ghost town, with just a handful of structures still standing and several that have collapsed.

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota

As it frequently happens, Hesper, North Dakota became a ghost town when the last resident passed away just a few years ago.

Deisem, North Dakota

Deisem, North Dakota

This former Seventh Day Adventist Church is all that remains of Deisem, North Dakota, a rural settlement where the ruins of a general store and post office still rest in tall grass.

Nanson, North Dakota

Nanson, North Dakota

Nanson, North Dakota might be the most remote ghost town we’ve ever visited. There are no telephone poles or power lines in the area, no residents, and four abandoned homes plus some miscellaneous outbuildings onsite.

Eastedge, North Dakota

Eastedge, North Dakota

Only the ruins of a railroad loading dock and two abandoned homes remain on the site of Eastedge. This town comes with some spooky lore provided by visitors to the site, including a claim that the last resident committed suicide, and that a gentleman was electrocuted by power lines while moving the white house which is now going through a slow motion collapse.

Stady, North Dakota

Stady, North Dakota

Mariah Masilko took these photographs of Stady, North Dakota, a town which we’re told has since been razed. Stady is no more.

Omemee, North Dakota

Omemee, North Dakota

Omemee, North Dakota once had 650 residents, but has now virtually disappeared and will soon pass into history as only a memory. Mark Johnson contributed the photo above of a place referred to as the “Superintendent’s house” and when we visited in 2017, we found it was only a pile of bricks.

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen is in Golden Valley County, southeast of Beach. It had a post office for one year, and boomed to a population of 20. Dave Thorson sent in these photos of Thelen which is today, a ghost town.

Charbonneau, North Dakota

Charbonneau, North Dakota

Charbonneau, North Dakota is a true ghost town in western North Dakota, about fifteen minutes west of Watford City. These photos were taken by John Piepkorn in 2010.

Aylmer, North Dakota

Aylmer, North Dakota

Although there is an inhabited farm about a quarter mile down the road, there are only these few structures remaining from the town that was once Aylmer, North Dakota.

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Do you know of a true, North Dakota ghost town we haven’t photographed yet?  Please leave a comment.

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Original Content © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media

Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.

60 thoughts on “20 True Ghost Towns: Population Zero

  1. I can’t really explain the feeling I get when I see these abandoned houses and ghost towns. I enjoy looking and imagining what the town used to be like when it had people and businesses. I also have an overwhelming feeling that can best be described as grief. I think because my parents and grandparents have all passed away. Seeing these buildings reminds me of how temporary life is. These houses and towns used to have life and activities and memory making times, but as with my own family, those who made the memories are near to be forgotten. I am almost sixty so once I am gone, then the memories of my parents and grandparents will die with me. I was born in the Mohall hospital sixty years ago. My parents didn’t make it to the hospital they had already paid for because the car broke down. My dad had to find help at a nearby farm in order to get my mom to a hospital in time. My parents were living in Glenburn at the time. I feel strongly about the connection I have to my North Dakota roots even though my dad moved our family to California back in 1956. We visited a lot, but not in the cold winters. Ha! Thank you for your awesome photographs.

    1. I remember Cashel well, there used to be a grain elevator there. And my parent now deceased talked fondly of Cashell.

  2. Milroy near Bantry nothing left of it. Eckman near Newburg I believe not sure if anything remains there either. Russell may qualify not sure how many people are left there.

    1. I am from the Eckman area it was a great little town in it’s hay day,at that time i was a Bristol as were most of the people in town,my maternal grandmother lived between Newburg and Russell her name was Freda Decker.Oh for the good old days of easy living.

      1. I grew up on a farm near Deering which is 20 miles northeast of Minon. It was on its way to becoming a ghost town until people from Minot found out what a pleasant town it is and now it has maybe 400 residents.

  3. DeSart, located South of the Rainy Buttes near New England. Our house had an addition built on using lumber from the DeSart post office. No buildings remain, a cemetery and farm are not far away from the town site.

    1. I grew up on a farm at the base of West Rainy Butte between New England and Amidon; I don’t remember DeSart though.

  4. Bonetraill ND is located aboout 30 miles NW of Williston, ND. There is a East Bonetraill and a West Bonetrail, and both are gone. East used to have a school and the Post Office, both gone. West had the Hinsverk store and also a school. There are two churchs, St Petri and Scandia Valley, St Petri has sthe steeple saved along with the cemetary, Scandia Valley was recently razed and has a sign with a picture of the church. MY grandparents are buried in Scandia Valley cemetary, along with an Aunt and Uncle. There is a farm located at each place.

  5. Interesting to see a reference to Bonetrail. I had a grand-uncle, Edward Maurice Halvorson, who lived in the area for over 20 years, from ca World War I to after 1940. He married Ruth L. Jacobson in 1919 and the apparently divorced some time after 1940. I happen to have a copy of a wedding photo of them via my late mother.

    1. I am sure my dad knew your great uncle Ed Halvorson when my dad was a boy. My grandparent’s, Dan and Marjorie Brothers, farmstead still stands today in Bonetrail.

      1. Where was your grandparents farmstead located in Bonetraill? Our farmstead was located 1/2 mile north of East Bonetraill, where Bob Hought’s farmstead is now. I attended the school there for 2 weeks before we moved into Williston in 1947, and we still went there during the summer months for several years. All of my sisters went to school there until they entered High School. Bakkens lived just to the north of where Bob Hought’s house is now. We went to St Petri church in West Bonetraill, where the Hinsverks had a store there. We had other relatives in that same area, the Halvorsons, Strands, Grodts, and my uncle Anton Leom. Bob Hought just recently passed away at 93.

      1. There are two towns named Antelope – one became Taylor and the other is a town site just northwest of Exit 90 east of Richardton. There was a small town there before the Great Depression.

  6. Bowesmont, ND doesn’t exist anymore as of about 10-15 years ago. Located northeast part of the state near the Canadian border, just off I-29. I know this because I reported on it for TV when the remaining homes were moved, burned, or buried. Only thing remaining there is a church which holds a service for former residents once a year. The year after all the buildings were taken away, residents placed “grave markers” where things once stood (City Hall, Post Office, etc.) Two farms are located just outside the town. It was also known as the transmitter tower site for KXJB-TV until, obviously, the town became non-existent. You can still see the stone church standing off in the distance when heading up interstate.

    1. I am related to Bowesmont ND. The two farms are owned by the Christensen family and my Great Grandparents the Nicholson/Christensen settled the area at each end of town. My grandfather Ed Walberg assisted in the towns move away from the steamboat landing due to the towns flooding. Ironically, I am also related to the Burke family that resided in town due to Edwin McMahon’s daughter whom married a Burke. By the way, what was the name of the pub and why wasn’t it saved? Any history would br appreciated. Thank you for your post.

  7. My Mothers family and quite afew others were raise in and around Lincoln Valley. The last time I was there there were a couple of stores 3 or 4 homes I full church and a half of another. It was hidden and if you didn’t know where it was you would never find it. I would like to see some pictures of it if you have any. I really enjoy the work you do in documenting these places. Yes someone lived there and a lot of times it was only afew families and most of them were related or came from the same areas usually Germany Russia and some of the Scandanavian countries

  8. Years ago mom & I went up to the old homestead area. Garrison dam covers it, but at times possible to see foundation. Momma remished & I listened. The farm house, barn & school house were moved above waters. My cousin & wife lived in the memory farm house. Oh the joy to beable to go into mommas childhood home & school. My mind raced, placing all the childhood memories in place. Location north of Beulah. Somewhere was the old country Church. My momma was a Christmann.

  9. How about Hong, ND? It’s about 4-5 miles NE of Knox. There used to be a depot, Elevator and elevator man’s house there. All that remains is the abandoned house. The last people living there was the Jergen Sorum family. The homes and farmland south of it are still farmed by the Borgen family and Marchus family

  10. I was surprised to see Bonetraill listed in this section. Yes, that is still home to me. I knew all the Leoms. Agnes was my 8th grade teacher. Effie Halvorson was my first serven years grade school teacher. I was confirmed with Sylvia Leom, I believe. My dad owned the Hinsverk Store at West Bonetrall. I knew every person in that whole area mainly by meeting them at our store. Duane Bakken and I were confirmed together also. Many of them are gone, of course. I live in Wahpeton, ND.
    I played baseball with Bob Hought. I think I could write a book on that whole area.
    Dale Hinsverk 701-640-0575

    1. I’ve a good friend who was from that area (he went to school in Devils Lake, worked in Langdon and Mohall but has long since settled down in Rapid City, SD). His last name is Meek.

  11. I grew up in a small town in SD that is quickly becoming a ghost town. It is sad to see houses and businesses that were once occupied now standing empty.

  12. My mother was born in Lincoln Valley Township. I have several relatives buried there, including my great grandparents! Last time I was there I believe it was the the old pool hall that was still standing with trees growing through it.

  13. Petrol, ND, was just across the SD line. During the 1970’s it still had a grain elevator, but is now only a prairie-flat memory….

  14. Nicely said! I remember Werner ND where my Dad grew up and his parents old house until it was torn down. As well as my moms parents house west of Killdeer ND. It is sad to think of the memories and people that once lived in these homes and towns.

  15. I’d seen Battleview mentioned which I think would be a good one, and I would definitely second a visit to Churchs Ferry – while there is still anything to photograph.

    Others I can think of would be Kuroki (between Antler and Westhope), Loraine, Norma, Tolley (all near Mohall).

  16. What about Fallon ND. Its about 10-15 miles NE of Flasher. There is 4 foundations, a old house with outbuildings, a cemetery, and a town hall/storage type of building. 46.514029, -101.090624

  17. Check out Vang north of Olga near frost fire -church still there 4 or 5 generations of Soli’s I was baptized and married there

  18. My great-grandmother was born in the town of Krem, ND and was the daughter of a Bavarian immigrant. From the research I’ve gotten so far, the last resident of the town died in 1988, it was home to many Russian-German immigrants, and the name is brevity for “Crimea”.

    My mother told me that my great-grandmother told her there was a dancehall where most of the residents would gather for a dance every Saturday or Friday. I’m not sure if it’s still there, but she also spoke of a roller mill being out there–and I’ve heard that’s still standing.

    This is an excellent list.

  19. Troy, I’ve never seen anything about Petrol, ND, which ceases to be on the early 70’s when the last two wooden elevators burned to the ground….

    1. Yes, unfortunately we don’t do much on places where there’s. Itching left to photograph, but if we ever run across old photos of Petrol, we’ll surely do a post. Thanks!

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