Werner, North Dakota and a Bridge to Nowhere

Werner, North Dakota and a Bridge to Nowhere

Werner, North Dakota is in Dunn County, about 13 miles east of Killdeer. We’re unsure of the exact population, but in 1971, when residents voted to dissolve the town, the vote count was 7-2 in favor of dissolution, so the headcount is quite likely in the single digits these days. Although we were really a couple decades late in photographing the town as it once was, we decided to visit and shoot Werner, North Dakota and a bridge to nowhere.

Werner, North Dakota

Werner was a rare town in at least one respect — it was incorporated as a Northern Pacific Railroad town in 1917, but the Post Office wasn’t established until two years later. In most cases, the Post Office would have been established before, or concurrently with, a town’s founding.

The bridge shown here spans Spring Creek on the southwest edge of Werner.

Werner, North Dakota

We looked for a plaque on this bridge that would identify the builder, but we couldn’t see one anywhere. In the early days of North Dakota statehood, most bridges like this were built by out-of-state bridge builders like Gillette-Herzog Manufacturing Company out of Minneapolis, Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio, and the Milwaukee Bridge and Iron Works, but by the time Werner was founded, North Dakota bridge builders, like Fargo Bridge and Iron Company, had entered the market. If you know who built this bridge, please leave a comment below.

Werner, North Dakota

Visiting these places in modern day, sometimes nearly a century after they were built, it’s frequently hard to imagine how useful they were. This bridge spans Spring Creek as part of a road that doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, and its main purpose seems like it might have been to make access to the nearby fields easier.

Werner, North Dakota



Werner, North Dakota

Tire tracks in the long grass leading to this bridge made us think that someone occasionally still drives over this bridge–a brave someone. We got nervous just walking on it.

Werner, North Dakota

Werner, North Dakota

As for the town of Werner, it was like other places we sometimes encounter, where we were unsure if we were going to be seen as trespassers. On the west side of town, there were three deteriorating vacant homes down one seldom used “road,” abandoned so long ago that it was more like two rutted wheel tracks in the tall grass, and we weren’t sure if we could respectfully wander down the road without upsetting someone, so we stayed out.

Werner, North Dakota

The rest of Werner’s vacant properties are somewhat spread out around the town site, with open spaces in-between. When it had a population of over 200 residents, these vacant lots were full of homes and businesses. Werner even had its own newspaper at one time, the Werner Record. According to the out-of-print North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick, the last business in Werner was the service station, which closed when operator Arthur Kummer passed-on in 1970.

Werner, North Dakota

What do you know about Werner, North Dakota? Please leave a comment below.

Werner, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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4 thoughts on “Werner, North Dakota and a Bridge to Nowhere

  1. Werner had a high school. I just read an excellent book “Scoria Roads” by Norma Thorstad Knapp who grew up near Werner. Her mother graduated from Werner in 1939 and she has many memories of Werner and the Vang Church, near there.

    1. Thank you very much, Sandra Penke, for mentioning my book “Scoria Roads.” In this book, I wrote about growing up Norwegian in western ND and how the sweet, safe areas where I lived were impacted by the recent oil boom. My paternal grandparents, Nels and Amanda Thorstad, lived in Werner in the 1930s and early 40s. Both my parents also lived there for a time and both graduated from Werner High School. My dad, Edwin Thorstad, the youngest of four boys, lived there the majority of his life and graduated from Werner High School in 1930 . Mom, Arleen Nodland Thorstad, was raised on a farm south of Werner, lived with Aunt Mable Nodland Knudson in Werner during her high school years, and then graduated from Werner High in 1939.

  2. The Werner little white house with the green roof was built by my grandfather Paul M. Hoffer. It was completed in 1919. My dad was the first baby to born in the house.

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