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Author: Troy Larson

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

Passing Through Merricourt

Merricourt is a very remote town in Dickey County, about fifty miles south of Jamestown. There are fewer than a handful of residents in Merricourt — just one family remains in this near-ghost town. We didn’t intend to visit Merricourt when we went on an adventure in October of 2014, but some last minute route changes took us right through town, so we stopped to snap a few shots, nine years after our first visit.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
An Abandoned Port of Entry in Northgate, North Dakota

An Abandoned Port of Entry in Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate is a fascinating near-ghost town right on the Canadian border, about 70 miles northwest of Minot. It was originally founded one mile to the north, but moved one mile south to its present site. While the original town site retained the name North Gate (with a space) this town was renamed North Gate South, and then re-dubbed Northgate (without the space) when the post office was established in 1914.

Northgate, North Dakota

Above: The former Northgate Port of Entry building. The road to the east of Northgate is the highway which formerly functioned as the port of entry, but it is now closed and well-posted by US Customs and Immigration. The new border crossing is about a half mile west.

Not wanting to attract the attention of US Customs and Immigration by driving toward the border on a farm road, we took a long walk down the road to get pictures of the former Port of Entry building. We got within twenty feet of the Canadian border.

Northgate, North Dakota

As mentioned by a site visitor in the comments section below, the building in the background of the photo above is the former Canadian Port of Entry building, on the Canadian side of the international border. The road to the right of the building shown above was gated when the former border crossing was closed.

We visited another former border crossing in Noyes, Minnesota.

Northgate, North Dakota

Update: we’ve been told this building has now been demolished. The old Port of Entry is now gone.

Northgate, North Dakota

This is the view from inside the Port of Entry building.  The town outside is the original North Gate.

Northgate, North Dakota

The town in the background of the above photo is North Gate, on the site of the original town platted in 1910.  It is now in Canada.  It’s unclear how may people live there. We did not see any activity. We’ve been told the Canadian government was planning to demolish what’s left of North Gate, if they haven’t already.

Northgate, North Dakota

To get quite specific, in the photo above, the asphalt road in the foreground is US territory.   The grassy ditch just beyond the road (where the railroad crossbuck is planted, just on the other side of a barely visible barb-wire fence) is the US-Canadian border.  The dirt road and homes at the rear are in Canada.

Northgate, North Dakota

A couple years later, we visited another impressive abandoned border crossing in Noyes, Minnesota.

Northgate, North Dakota

Terry ventured onto the road to take this photo, but we escaped without any customs and immigration entanglements.

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

These elevators are along the now closed highway which originally crossed the border.

Northgate, North Dakota

There were a lot of places built in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century that were affected by changing policies at the international border. One of them, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Caribou, Minnesota, was featured in our book, Churches of the High Plains.

Northgate, North Dakota

We met a not-so-tactful Northgate resident who first asked if we were lost, and then informed us they didn’t like strangers poking around in their town. All in all, an eventful visit.

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

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

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

Abandoned: Freda, North Dakota

Freda, North Dakota is a true ghost town in Grant County about 35 miles southwest of Bismarck.  Freda started out as a Milwaukee Railroad town, and once had a population  of 50 plus its own bank.

Freda, North Dakota

Freda, North Dakota

Freda, North Dakota

Today it is totally abandoned with the remains of its depot crumbling in the elements. There is one other structure next to the depot, and the ruins of several other buildings on the town site. The depot originally stood about a half mile to the south, but was relocated here. There was also a grain elevator here at one time, but it was moved to Raleigh.

Freda, North Dakota

Freda, North Dakota

We spoke to an area resident who didn’t even know Freda still existed. If you don’t know what to look for, you’ll probably drive right past it. One interesting footnote: according to North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick, a meteorite fell in Freda in 1919 and is now displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

Freda, North Dakota

Above: Inside the depot.

Freda, North Dakota

The building above looks like it may have been a store or perhaps a post office at one time.  Update: user Ken Laches tells us it was a post office (see comments.) Below: a look inside tells us harsh weathering has been going on for decades, and it looks like someone has scavenged some rusty tin from the back wall.

Freda, North Dakota

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Freda, North Dakota

The foundation of the former church, on the east end of Freda.

Freda, North Dakota

Freda, North Dakota

This abandoned farm stands just about a mile or two north of Freda.

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
8 Terrible Fates Our Ancestors Faced

8 Terrible Fates Our Ancestors Faced

We’ve all heard the stories from our parents and grandparents about having to walk to school with no shoes, uphill (both ways), and there’s certainly an air of humorous exaggeration in many of those tales, but not too much exaggeration. The truth is, daily existence as a pioneer on the prairie was a hard life, and the people who came to the northern plains were taking their lives in their hands, and facing dangers we can scarcely imagine today. Yes, we have our own challenges today, but take a moment to imagine living on the frontier when there were no antibiotics, or in a small city when there wasn’t a fire hydrant on every corner. At risk of sounding morbid, examining some of the terrible fates our ancestors so frequently faced helps us understand and appreciate the sacrifices they made so we could have a better life.

Tetanus

The idea for this post came to me as I read “With Affection, Marten” by Richard K. Hofstrand, a partly fictionalized chronicle of his ancestor Marten Hofstrand’s experience as an immigrant from Sweden who became a settler in the area of Brinsmade, North Dakota. The portion of the book dealing with the death of one of the Hofstrand children from tetanus was horrifying.  A tightening of the muscles in the back caused the boy to literally bend over backwards, his hands clenched to his chest. His jaw locked, and eventually, respiration stopped. The Hofstrand boy’s only misfortune had been to step on a rusty rail. It was a simple mistake that resulted in an illness that could not be reversed with the technology of the day. It was a terrible fate for a tiny misstep.

Exposure

The harsh prairie winters on the northern plains claimed victims every year. Animals needed to be tended, and someone had to get water from the well, or get wood from the pile. People did not always have the luxury of simply staying inside until the storm blew over.  After a terrible series of blizzards in January of 1888, the Springfield Daily Republic reported on deaths in Dakota Territory. “Near Raymond, Dakota, two sons of WILLIAM DRIVER were frozen to death within a few feet of their barn. CHARLES HEATH is missing, and J. H. CLAPP has been discovered badly frozen, he having been out all night wandering upon the prairie. JAMES SMITH and two sons, aged 15 and 7, started for a load of hay six miles north from Minot, Dakota, on the 11th, and have not since been heard from.”

Sister Jeanne d’ Arc Kilwein, who once taught at the school in Haymarsh, North Dakota, related a story about how she and another sister tied themselves together with rope to avoid getting lost in the snow when they had to go to the well in a snowstorm. They made it back safely and had a good laugh about it, but in truth, going out in a blizzard was a dangerous undertaking that sometimes had to be done, and sometimes people paid with their lives.

Fire

W.H. Johnson
The final resting place of W.H. Johnson

In the days before electricity was widespread, fires were commonplace, partly due to the use of candles, oil lamps, and gas lighting, and partly due to the all-wood construction of so many pioneer-era structures.  Much of the city of Fargo was destroyed in a fire in 1893, and firefighter W.H. Johnson died soon after from burns he sustained fighting the fire. Bismarck also suffered a devastating fire in 1898.

In 1899, just across the river from Fargo, in Moorhead, Minnesota, a former policeman was killed.  The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican reported on February 18th, 1899, “Moorhead is in gloom over the tragic death of Sandy McLean last night. A fire broke out just before midnight at the residence of John Hokstad […] McLean attempted to pass between the burning house and that of Mrs. Nelson when the chimney toppled over and a mass of bricks struck him on the top of the head, causing instant death.”

One of the most tragic examples of death by fire involves the deaths of a schoolteacher and six pupils near Belfield, North Dakota, in 1914. 22 year-old schoolteacher Gladys Hollister and six of her students died when a wind-whipped prairie fire caught them in the open.  The Bismarck Daily Tribune reported Hollister and the six students ran from their country school and attempted to reach a plowed field when they saw the fire approaching.  They were overtaken by the fire less than seventy feet from safety. In a tragic twist of fate, the thirty mile per hour winds fanned the flames with such force that the fire raced by the school without consuming it.  If they had just stayed in the school, they would have survived.  The Tribune reported, “Miss HOLLISTER, who was in a most pitiable condition, with 90 percent of the skin of her body burned, was unconscious, but regained consciousness long enough to say that she realized she made a mistake in leaving the school house, but did what she thought was best.”

Tuberculosis

San Haven
San Haven Sanatorium

Sometimes referred to as consumption in the early days, tuberculosis was a real danger in the pioneer era, before antibiotics made the disease manageable. The disease affected the lungs and was typified by an infectious cough that spread the bacteria easily through the air. Treatment often involved fresh air and quarantine at tuberculosis sanatoriums, and North Dakota was home to just such a facility, San Haven Sanatorium, near Dunseith, in the Turtle Mountains.  More barbaric treatments, like intentionally collapsing a lung, were sometimes ordered. Photos taken by Nora Thingvold, a nurse who worked at San Haven in the 30s, and the first person account of  Mary, a ten year old girl who was a patient in the 1960s, tell the tale better than I can.

Lynching

Vigilante justice was a reality on the prairie, and lynchings happened. Deserved or not, Charles Bannon was lynched on a cold January night in 1931, in the tiny town of Schafer. When the Haven family stopped picking up their mail, and debts went unpaid, McKenzie County Sheriff C. A. Jacobson went to the Haven homestead to investigate.  There he found Bannon living in their home, and claiming to have dropped them off at the train station, where they had left for Oregon.  The Haven’s bodies were later discovered on the farm and Bannon charged with the crime.  On January 29th, 1931, a lynch mob, fearing that Bannon would be taken from McKenzie County and escape justice, broke down the door on his tiny Schafer jail cell, and took him to the bridge over Cherry Creek.  In 2005, the Bismarck Tribune reported, “They tied Bannon’s hands behind his back, tied the hangman’s noose around his neck and the other end to the bridge railing. The men lifted him to the railing and yelled at him to jump. Charles Bannon’s last words, it’s said, were ‘You boys started this, you will have to finish this.'”  He was found at 2:30 am by the Watford City Police Chief, still hanging from the bridge. He was the last recorded person to be strung up by vigilantes in North Dakota.

Murder

The Wolf Farm on the day of the funerals.

Although we like to remember “the old days” as a simpler time, where things were “better” and people more good-natured, the truth is, there were still evildoers, just like today.  One such bad guy was responsible for the death of seven members of the Jacob Wolf family, and a chore boy, Jacob Hofer, on April 22nd, 1920. All the victims were killed with shotgun blasts, except the youngest Wolf girl who was murdered with a hatchet. Baby Emma Wolf was the only survivor. All told, it is considered the worst mass-murder in North Dakota history. The Wolf’s neighbor, Henry Layer, was tried, convicted, and died in prison, but many believe the police, and politicians eager to further their careers with a conviction, condemned the wrong man.

Death by Horse

I consulted our friend Derek Dahlsad, who runs the excellent Dakota Death Trip blog [Facebook here], and he reminded me that simply living in the age of horse and wagon forced our ancestors to risk death every day, simply by riding in a wagon or tending to the horses. “The driver falling out of a moving vehicle and being run over by it happened a lot — and seeing that these are horse drawn vehicles, it’s not like a car accident, where the car goes off the road and crashes when the driver is gone, but when you’ve got horses running the machine then they’re just going to continue on to wherever they’re headed towards; likely the dead body is found on open prairie and the horses are at home, or the horses and plow are waiting at the end of the field for instructions on how to turn around and the body is in the furrows.” In one gruesome example, a White Rock, South Dakota man died in 1906 when he was dragged by a horse-drawn wagon. In another more common circumstance, a Fort Rice, North Dakota man died after he was kicked by a horse.

Trainwreck

After horses, trains were the primary means of transportation for nearly fifty years for settlers on the prairie, and trains also posed a danger to their passengers. The Williston Graphic reported in April 18th, 1907, “The Great Northern palatial coast train, Oriental Limited No. 1, running at a rate of thirty five miles an hour, was ditched at 1:23 a.m. three quarters of a mile east of Bartlett, N.D., and eleven passengers were killed and twelve seriously injured as a result. With the exception of the Pullman sleeper and the observation car, the entire train consisting of eight coaches was completely destroyed by fire which was started immediately after the passenger train left the track. The ten unknown passengers killed were burned to death in the wreckage before their bodies could be rescued.”

Have you heard stories about the dangers your family faced in life as settlers on the prairie?  Please leave a comment.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
A Lonesome View on Barton Street

A Lonesome View on Barton Street

Originally called Denney, this unincorporated community was founded along the Great Northern Railroad in 1887.  The name was changed to Barton in 1893. Barton is in Pierce County, about twelve miles northwest of Rugby.  In the 2010 Census, it was listed as having 20 residents.

Barton, North Dakota

We chose to visit Barton after a vocal visitor to our Facebook page suggested it on more than one occasion.  It turned out to be a great suggestion — Barton has abandoned buildings on both sides of its former main street–Barton Street.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Update: We’re told the Barton Sportsman’s Club was torn down in Summer of 2013.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

There was once a school in Barton, and the town had over two hundred residents at one time.  If someone can tell us what building these steps once led to, we’d love to hear it in the comments.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

This old home reminded us of Little House on the Prairie.  You can almost imagine weathering a blizzard in this little place, with a fire in the wood stove and a kettle of hot soup to keep you warm.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

We’ve heard from one resident of Barton who seems to have a problem with the use of the word “abandoned” in describing some of the buildings, preferring to describe the structures as being “in disrepair” instead. In our opinion, it’s splitting hairs.

Merriam-Webster Definition of Abandoned: left without needed protection or care

Abandoned is not intended to mean unowned. If a building is no longer used for the purpose it was originally intended, if its windows are boarded up, if its gutters have fallen and the roof has caved in, if it has weeds and grass growing up around it, or if its been vandalized and never repaired, then it’s not a big stretch to call it abandoned, whether things are stored in it, and whether someone owns it or not.  It also doesn’t mean people are welcome to walk right in, or take things.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

This would be a great place to spend a peaceful moment waiting for a bus, if there were any buses running in Barton.  As it is, it looks as though someone had a bonfire here.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

The owner of the outhouse had a good sense of humor.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

At the time of our visit, this old shop was on its last leg.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

This photo of Barton Lutheran Church was featured in our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton has a very impressive city park which hosts (or hosted) Haakenson family reunions every year for a time.

Barton, North Dakota

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
11 North Dakota Attractions You Can Visit for Free

11 North Dakota Attractions You Can Visit for Free

One of the things we’ve always loved about photographing North Dakota’s abandoned places and roadside attractions is that it feels like an alternative form of tourism–that is to say, most of these places are interesting and fun to visit, but there are generally no crowds and no admission fees.  However, when you have the kids in the car, or Grandma and Grandpa tagging along on a day trip, sometimes you need something a little more family friendly, with fewer rusty nails to step on (and cheap is always good). So, gas up the family truckster. Here are eleven North Dakota attractions you can visit for free.

Fort Abercrombie

Fort Abercrombie

The original Fort Abercrombie was constructed in 1858, and it was the first military settlement in what would become North Dakota.  Fort Abercrombie is a relic of the first transportation boom in the Dakota Territory — riverboats. Before the railroads, riverboats were one of the most efficient means of hauling cargo, and the Red River became a highway between Fort Abercrombie and Winnipeg.  Two reconstructed blockhouses and the original guard house now reside at The Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site.  Fort Abercrombie is right on the Red River, about forty minutes south of Fargo.

Gingras Trading Post

gingras-trading-post

Gingras Trading Post is northeast of Walhalla about four miles from the Canadian border. The trading post was established in 1801 as a center of commerce on a sometimes hostile frontier.  According to the State Historical Society: The buildings at Gingras State Historic Site are the oldest standing structures in North Dakota. They have been restored to their original appearance by the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Cartwright Tunnel and Fairview Lift Bridge

Cartwright Tunnel

Cartwright Tunnel and Fairview Lift Bridge, in McKenzie County, just a short drive southwest of Williston, is a two-for-one attraction–a lift bridge on the Yellowstone River (which was only raised one time), and North Dakota’s only railroad tunnel.  Both have now been converted to tourist attractions, and are free to explore.  Bonus: on a hot summer day, the Cartwright Tunnel features natural air-conditioning in a pitch black and blissfully cool tunnel.

Dakota Thunder and Frontier Village

frontier-village1

Dakota Thunder, in Jamestown, is billed as the World’s Largest Buffalo. It’s a concrete statue of a North American Bison which stands at the east end of Frontier Village, a replica frontier town with actual buildings from places around the state.  It’s free to get in, and for a few extra bucks, you can visit the National Buffalo Museum which is also on-site.

Standing Rock Hill Historic Site

standing-rock1

Standing Rock Hill Historic Site, not to be confused with Standing Rock Reservation much further to the west, is a scenic and sacred site south of Kathryn and west of Enderlin, in Ransom County.  Standing Rock Hill Historic Site consists of four Native American burial mounds, the largest of which is marked with the small standing rock shown here.  Getting to the site requires a fairly steep uphill drive on a minimally maintained road, and the trip should only be taken by the adventurous if the weather is bad.

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte is the highest point in North Dakota, in Slope County, near Amidon, and of the fifty state high points, one of only seven on private land. It’s a fairly strenuous thirty-minute hike to the summit. The property owners are known to be friendly to the climbing community as long as you’re respectful and pick up after yourself. The last time we visited, there was a porta-potty at the base, but there are no other services of any kind, and no admission fee.

Northern Pacific High Line Bridge #64

High Line Bridge

High Line Bridge is the longest railroad bridge in the state, and like the Gassman-Coulee Trestle in Minot and the Sheyenne River Bridge near Karnak, we chose to photograph it and feature it here due to the railroads’ pivotal role in settling North Dakota. High Line Bridge is in Valley City, there’s a park at the base of the bridge, and plenty of restaurants and accommodations in town. No admission fee.

Painted Canyon

Painted Canyon

Painted Canyon Visitor Center is right off the north side of Interstate 94, a few miles east of Medora.  If you’re entering the Badlands from the east, this is your first chance to get a look at them from a scenic overlook, and it is amazing.  While it costs a few bucks to get into Theodore Roosevelt National Park a few miles west, the Painted Canyon Overlook is free.

Jensen Cabin at Wadeson Park

jensen-cabin1

Jensen Cabin, in Barnes County, was built in 1878 by Norwegian immigrant Carl Bjerke Jensen, made from hand-hewn oak.  The cabin and the land were donated to the State Historical Society by the Wadeson family in 1957.  This cabin was in pretty bad shape until it was restored in 1981.  It’s a beautiful drive to get here if you drive the Sheyenne River Valley Scenic Byway from Valley City, and the placid and soothing Wadeson Park Spillway is right across the road.  It’s a nice history lesson, and it’s free.

Gassman Coulee Trestle

Gassman Coulee Trestle

Gassman Coulee Trestle is one of three very large railroad trestles we’ve photographed, the others being the High Line in Valley City and Sheyenne River Bridge near Karnak. Gassman Coulee Trestle, just west of Minot, is an attraction in the roughest sense–you can drive under it, photograph it, or just stand in awe of it, but there’s no visitor center or anything like that. It’s just a great place to be outside with your camera on a hot summer night.  There was once a ski resort under this trestle, and the former ski lodge is still there, but now it’s a private residence.

The site of Old Sanish

Sanish, ND

Old Sanish lies beneath the waves of Lake Sakakawea most of the time, but sometimes, if the water is really low, you can see the remains of Old Sanish.  With the water at normal levels, the ruins are submerged, but you can still visit Crow Flies High Butte, see the monument to Old Sanish which features photos of the town, and get a fantastic panorama view of Lake Sakakawea and Four Bears Bridge.

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Raleigh, North Dakota, Population 9

Raleigh, North Dakota, Population 9

Raleigh is a secluded little town in Grant County, just a short drive southwest of Mandan. The population is nine, and there are exactly two businesses in operation. The grain elevator does a brisk business, and the local tavern is called The Dogtooth — named after the hills which cut a ragged swath through the township.

Raleigh, North Dakota

We visited Raleigh at the suggestion of Karla, the owner of the Dogtooth, Raleigh’s only watering hole, and we’re glad we did. There are plenty of good places to photograph, plus they had cold drinks and hot cheeseburgers, as promised. Just make sure you bring cash, no credit cards at the Dogtooth.  Update: a site visitor reports the Dogtooth has closed. See comments.

Raleigh, North Dakota

There were black and white photos on the wall of The Dogtooth from some day long ago — some men were pictured around the Freda Grain Elevator, just before they moved it (in the standing position) to Raleigh. We spoke with Karla at length, and she told us the Raleigh school now stands in Flasher.

Raleigh rests in the bottom of a natural bowl, and we were surprised to find we couldn’t get phone service anywhere.

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh was featured in our hardcover coffee table book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 2.

Raleigh, North Dakota

We’re told the owner of this now-closed store passed away nearly three years ago.

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

This looks like the remains of the former Raleigh School

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

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

Nanson: A North Dakota Ghost Town

As we set out to photograph ghost towns in early May of 2012, we had Nanson in mind as our ultimate destination.  We’ve known about Nanson for quite some time but somehow we just never managed to make it there — it was time.

After driving all day through an array of locations, we reached US Highway 2 and drove into Rugby for some lunch — huge double cheeseburgers at the Cornerstone Cafe (now closed). After lunch, we departed for Nanson.

As we headed north of Highway 2 we were struck by the wide open space and the brilliant blue sky.  The green rolling hills brought to mind the opening sequence of ‘Little House on the Prairie.’  The trees got more sparse, and farmsteads flashed by less frequently. Sometimes it gets quiet in the car on drives like this. Conversation slows, and one of us turns down the radio in an almost involuntary reflex — unconscious appreciation for some rare silence in an increasingly noisy age. As we traveled further into the countryside, traffic diminished and Terry reminded me we’d entered waving country — when a rare truck passed, the driver lifted one hand and waved

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

The Shadow of Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley is a beautiful near-ghost town nestled in a valley in Mountrail County, about fifty-four miles northeast of Williston.  It is one of those towns where we showed up a little too late, because there aren’t many of the original buildings still standing.  It is a mere shadow of its former self.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley was considered a rural post office and the population of the town never exceeded 100.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Terry’s photo of this elevator is featured on the cover of our first book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 1, and the affordable, softcover Special Edition, too.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

This is the remains of the former Lunds Valley school, destroyed by fire. Wylora Christianson sent a photo of the school before it burned.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Sidewalks remain, long after the buildings are gone.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

We’ve seen references online where the name of this place is sometimes spelled as one word, Lundsvalley.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

See also: Lunds Valley School before it burned

See also: More Lunds Valley

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
13 People and 3 Churches in Kief, North Dakota

13 People and 3 Churches in Kief, North Dakota

Kief is a near-ghost town in McHenry county, and is home to the first Russian Baptist Church ever established in the United States. Although only listed as having a population of 13 in the 2010 census, the amount of activity we saw on our visit to Kief seemed to suggest a larger population, perhaps twenty?  Kief has a bar which was open for business on the day we visited. Update: we’ve been told the bar has since closed.

Kief, North Dakota

Kief has a total of three churches still standing, but only one appeared to be still in use.

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

US Census Data for Kief
Total Population by Place

1960 – 97
1970 – 46
1980 – 36
2000 – 12
2010 – 13

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Many of the abandoned homes in Kief were in quite good condition, and Minot, the closest sizable city, is only forty-five minutes down the road. We thought Kief would be the perfect place to buy a hobby home for a reasonable price.

Kief, North Dakota

From the era when a guy came out to your car and pumped your gas, washed the windows, and checked the oil.  Let’s bring that back, can we?

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief is also home to one of North Dakota’s longest running cold cases.  Donna Jean Michalenko disappeared from Kief on November 2nd, 1968. Michalenko disappeared after a night of drinking with a male companion, who claimed he dropped her off at her ex-husband’s house. She was never seen again.

The investigation into Michaelenko’s disappearance was hampered by the fact that she wasn’t reported missing for six weeks after she disappeared.  If you have information regarding the disappearance of Donna, please call the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office (the county where Donna lived) at 701-537-5633 or the McLean County Sheriff’s office (where she allegedly disappeared) at 701-462-8103.

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief First Baptist Church’s claim to fame.

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

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

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

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Griffin is a true ghost town in Bowman County, along Highway 12, about halfway between Bowman and Rhame, North Dakota. Although there are some working farms and ranches in the area, there’s barely a town any more, and no apparent residents in the actual townsite.

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

A maximum population of 67 was reported in 1930, but the post office closed that same year and the town quickly vanished. This old schoolhouse is the most prominent remaining structure from Griffin.

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Above: a look inside the old schoolhouse.

Griffin was once the home to some of the biggest stock yards in southwest North Dakota, and reportedly had a store and lumber yard.  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.

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Griffin is just one of many true ghost towns we’ve visited in North Dakota, where the buildings still stand but the people are gone. See a list of true ghost towns, population zero.

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Griffin was a Milwaukee Road railroad town, and known as Atkinson until February 10, 1908, when the name was changed to Grifiin to honor H.T. Griffin, the Assistant General Passenger Agent for the railroad. What do you know about Griffin, North Dakota? Please leave a comment below.

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Backoo’s Lonely One Room School

Backoo’s Lonely One Room School

Backoo, North Dakota was founded in Pembina County in 1887 along the Great Northern railroad line, about five miles northwest of Cavalier, but little development occurred and the population never exceeded fifty. This lonely one-room school stands alongside the highway, just miles from the incredible beauty of the Pembina Gorge.

Backoo, North Dakota

Although it was an unincporporated community, a post office in Backoo operated from September 26th, 1887 until October 11th, 1988. This schoolhouse now sits among a loose cluster of farmsteads and rural businesses. It is prominently posted “No Hunting.”

Backoo, North Dakota

Backoo, North Dakota

Backoo, North Dakota

Backoo, North Dakota

Backoo, North Dakota

Backoo, North Dakota

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
9 Questions with Artist Mariah Masilko

9 Questions with Artist Mariah Masilko

Mariah (MJ) Masilko is a talented artist and photographer, a kindred spirit who has shared a number of places with us over the years, including ghost town Stady, North Dakota, the end of the Masonic Lodge in Calvin, and others. We caught up with Mariah in between artist and mom activities, and she was kind enough to give us some insight on her work.

Q: Where do you live, and what is your connection to North Dakota?

I’m currently in South St. Paul, MN. I was born in Grand Forks, and my parents still live there. I also lived in Fargo for a short time when my first son was born in 2004, and my husband managed the Red Bear restaurant in Moorhead.

Q: What do you do for a living?

I’m a KeyCite Analyst at Thomson Reuters, the former West Publishing. I determine relationships between court cases and hook them together to help legal researchers.

Q: If I’m not mistaken, you have a connection to some places in Grand Forks that no longer exist, correct? Can you tell us about that? Does your personal connection to a place that’s gone now inspire your art?

mariah-masilko-webWell I grew up in the Riverside neighborhood, and my street and the houses that were on it are now gone. I think growing up in an old neighborhood like that may have helped shape my love for old buildings, but the most important building to me was the old St. Anne’s Guest Home. It was just a few blocks from my house, a former old folks’ home and before that, a hospital. It was abandoned around 1982, and walking past this big abandoned building every day made me curious. I was 13 when I first got up the courage to go inside, and my life has never been the same since! I have always been drawn to old things and historical things, but this was when I became addicted to abandoned things. St. Anne’s isn’t technically gone – it was threatened a few times but luckily it was saved. It is no longer abandoned, and while it’s great that they’re using it and it lives on, I still miss the days of exploration and adventure, walking down those long dusty halls and finding something new every time. I look for St. Anne’s in all the places I photograph. Sometimes I see an arch or a color of paint on a wall, and it will bring me back to those old hallways and all the excitement I felt back when I was an 8th grader, poking around St. Anne’s with my Kodak Instamatic 126 camera.

Q: Tell us about some of the North Dakota places you’ve photographed. Do you have a favorite?

San Haven would have to be my favorite! I’ve been there 5 or 6 times. It’s the most creepy place I’ve ever been (and I’ve been to some creepy places!) Sadly every time I’ve gone, more things have fallen down. I last was there in 2011, and most of the buildings were in bad shape. I’d love to go again some time!

Another place I love is Sarles, because my grandparents lived there and I spent so much of my childhood in that town. So there’s an emotional connection I have to the abandoned school because my mother and all her brothers and sisters went there. That’s another building that’s in bad shape. I find it beautiful, but also sad. When I explored it with my mother she walked through the rooms, telling me about an amazing teacher who made the school more than just bricks and glass and plaster. The materials that go into a place are only part of what makes buildings – they are built for humans and the things humans do inside them shape their character as much as their physical form.

The ghost town of Charbonneau was another favorite of mine, along with Brantford, Temple, Antler, and the radar base at Fortuna. Really I have many favorites – there are so many beautiful lonely places in North Dakota! Abandoned schools, churches, and hospitals are my favorite subjects.

Q: You have an affinity for Kirkbrides. Can you explain what a Kirkbride is and tell us why you love them?

“Kirkbride” refers to a style of asylum architecture and mental health treatment that was popular in the mid to late 19th century. It was based on the ideas of Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, who believed the mentally ill were human beings suffering from an illness which could be cured. Before then the mentally ill were kept in prisons and chained up in basements. Doctor Kirkbride came up with his design based on his theory that such illness could be cured through beauty, rational order of architecture, fresh air, sunlight, and being far away from urban centers. The building itself was part of the treatment. The Kirkbride Plan called for a central administration building with wings set back at regular intervals. Of course the moral treatment Dr. Kirkbride had envisioned never really worked out. Mental health is much more complex than that, and the institutions were victims of their own success. By the mid 20th century, overcrowding and underfunding had led to patient neglect and abuse. About 75 Kirkbride buildings were built – some are still in use today, but many were abandoned due to shifting attitudes about mental health care, the deinstitutionalization movement, and new drug treatments. They fell into disrepair and because of their size have often been deemed by cities and states to be too expensive to reuse, and most of those have been demolished. Only 34 still stand today. Many people know the negative history of mental institutions, but few also take into account the history and positive intentions of their design, and the sad fact that we’ve come full circle and ironically, more of the mentally ill are in prisons again today than are being cared for in psychiatric hospitals.

I never thought I’d get into such a thing, but when I stood next to my first Kirkbride (the one in Fergus Falls, MN, which I visited for the first time in 2006), I couldn’t put into words the intense feelings I felt next to such an immense structure with such a complicated history. I rarely have words, but I do have a camera! It’s how I say the things I don’t know how to say.

In May of 2013 I was part of a group of photographers who took on the entire Fergus Falls State Hospital in an event called “Project Kirkbride.” Now I’m involved with a new advocacy group, “Preservationworks,” which is committed to preserving the remaining Kirkbride asylums.

Q: Is there a place you want to photograph, in North Dakota or beyond, that you haven’t been to yet? Why do you want to shoot it?

In North Dakota I haven’t explored the southeast corner, so I’d love to check that area out sometime. I don’t have any specific places in mind yet. Outside of North Dakota my dream is to shoot in Pripyat and the exclusion zone around Chernobyl. It seems like the ultimate in abandoned places! A place that was vibrant and full of life one day, and a couple days later was empty, with everything left behind. A haunting reminder of a terrible tragedy.

Q: Your artistic pursuits extend beyond photography. What do you do? Any exhibitions coming up?

I paint some of the lonely, abandoned things that I photograph. I sometimes work with oils, and more recently I’ve been mostly doing watercolor. I have four young children and finding time to paint is a challenge! I’m looking for a place to exhibit at Art-A-Whirl in Northeast Minneapolis in May (editor’s note: 2016), and am considering applying for the Grand Cities Art Fest in June.

Q: Where can people see more of your work?

My website, www.mjmasilko.com is mostly my paintings and drawings, but has some of my photography as well. It is a work in progress, and I hope to get some more blog posts up soon about various places I’ve photographed!

Q: Where can we follow you?

The best place is my Facebook page.

Photo by Mariah Masilko. Original content copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media

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

Vintage Views of Devils Lake

We’ve been collecting postcards and vintage photos for years with the intention of doing a book one day. Today, I discovered a couple postcards depicting vintage views of Devils Lake, and thought we should share these on the site.  The quality of the first postcard was so good, we were able to zoom and bring out some interesting details.

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

This street scene depicts Fourth Street in Devils Lake, circa 1937.  There was no postmark on the card, but I was able to date the photo based on the movie listed on the theater marquee.  “Captains Courageous,” a movie based on the Rudyard Kipling novel, starring Freddie Bartholomew and Spencer Tracy, was released in 1937.  The movie would be remade in 1977, and again in 1996.

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

The opposite side of the street is home to a Red Owl grocery store and Montgomery Wards.

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

Look at the beautiful art deco marquee on the Hollywood Theater.

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

In addition to the Fourth Street scene, I found this vintage postcard showing the State Deaf School in Devils Lake. Year of this view is unknown, but construction of this building began in 1892.

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
8 Questions with Photographer John Piepkorn

8 Questions with Photographer John Piepkorn

Ghosts of North Dakota has been lucky over the years to make the acquaintance of a number of talented artists and photographers who share our passion for the history and austere beauty of the prairie. One of those artists is John Piepkorn, who has contributed photos of Hanks, North Dakota (population one), the Hamlet School, and the Wheelock School, among others.

John took a few minutes from a busy schedule of photography, fat tire biking, and holiday festivities to answer a few questions for us.

Q: You’re in Minnesota now, correct? Where do you live, and what is your connection to North Dakota?

I live in Minnetonka, Minnesota. I went to college in the Fargo-Moorhead area where I met my wife Ann, who grew up in Fairview, Montana, which is literally on the state line with North Dakota. We would go to my in-law’s house one or two times a year, and as a result, I have driven across the state of North Dakota too many times to count. I have always been fascinated by the abandoned farmsteads, schools and churches that dot the landscape and wanted to know the stories behind them. North Dakota is really under appreciated. I think the scenery in some parts of the state, while sometimes stark, is still beautiful.

Q: What do you do for a living?

I am a photographer for a cataloging company in Minneapolis. Our company sells aftermarket products for motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles and personal watercraft.

john-piepkornQ: Tell us about some of the North Dakota places you’ve photographed. Do you have a favorite?

There are so many really interesting places in North Dakota. It’s tough to pick just one favorite, but I would say some of the one room schoolhouses in the SW part of the state, like Griffin, or Gascoyne or Nebo or Grand River. The landscape in that part of the state really gives the images a feeling of desolation. I think it really “fits” the subject matter. When you are out there, it’s hard to imagine being a kid and attending school in a place like that.

I’m also fascinated by the abandoned churches, they were the things that were often the center of the community and anchored people to the land. Of those, I would say Hurricane Lake Church in Pierce County is on of my favorites (maybe because it has such and interesting name).

Also, not to be too long winded, there are some really beautiful grain elevators, especially the faded wooden ones like in Charbonneau, ND.

Q: Is there a place you want to photograph, in North Dakota or beyond, that you haven’t been to yet? Why do you want to shoot it?

I’ve been across the state multiple times, but I haven’t been to the NE part of the state all that much. I enjoyed the western part of the state from a photographic standpoint simply because the lack of trees makes it easier to compose my photographs. There are too many spots I have mapped out to pick just one, I want to find all these abandoned places and capture these images before the structures fall down or are torn down.

Q: What is your process for finding out-of-the-way places? Do you use mapping software? Navigation? etc…

You will eventually find some interesting spots to photograph by driving down just about any gravel road in North Dakota, but since I have a limited amount of time to be out taking photos, I try to make the most of my time. I purchased some ND DOT maps which are pretty detailed, and show the old schools and churches that I like to shoot. I cross-reference those sites with Google maps to see if the structure on the map is still standing, then try to plan out an effective route to see as much as possible in as short a time as possible. Panoramio is also a great site to find some of these out of the way places. When you are out driving around, a GPS is a necessity. Sometimes you don’t get phone service, so a Garmin or Magellan system is invaluable.

Q: Artists frequently strive to monetize their craft and achieve the dream of making art for a living. Is that something you work toward? What do you do? Any exhibitions coming up?

My goal is make enough off my photos to fund my next North Dakota photo trip. I’ve had two photo exhibitions so far featuring images of these abandoned places. I’m working on my proposal for my next one. I’ve sold a number of photos and have had images published in a number of publications.

Q: Where can people see more of your work?

On FLICKR.com

Q: Where can we follow you?

On Facebook at Abandoned North Dakota or Abandoned-South Dakota

Original content copyright © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Video: White Butte — The Highest Point in North Dakota

Video: White Butte — The Highest Point in North Dakota

Last summer, we had the opportunity to go back to White Butte for the first time since 2007, so we couldn’t resist the chance to go to the summit and get some GoPro video in HD.

White Butte is in Slope County, and of the fifty state high points, it is one of only seven that is on private land — North Dakota, Nebraska, Maryland, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Illinois. The rest of the states’ high points lie mainly within state or national parks.

We opted not to include any narration on this one, just the beautiful view from the summit of North Dakota’s highest point.

Stream this one to your TV if you have the capability. It looks great on a big screen.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Legend of Miniwashitu: Missouri River Monster

Legend of Miniwashitu: Missouri River Monster

The pseudo-scientific field of cryptozoology deals with theories of creatures unknown to science, many of which have their origins in Native American lore. Stories of Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest, and the Wendigo in Minnesota and the Great Lakes region, originated with native people. Even North Dakota has a mysterious but little-known monster.

A legend of the Dakota nation tells the story of Miniwashitu; a Missouri River monster of terrifying appearance and effect.  Author Melvin Randolph Gilmore, one-time curator for the North Dakota State Historical Society, wrote about Miniwashitu in 1921.

It is said that in the long ago there was a mysterious being within the stream of the Missouri River. It was seldom seen by human beings, and was most dreadful to see. It is said that sometimes it was seen within the water in the middle of the stream, causing a redness shining like the redness of fire as it passed up the stream against the current with a terrific roaring sound.

miniwashitu-featureAnd they say that if this dreadful being was seen by anyone in the daytime anyone who thus saw it soon after became crazy and continued restless and writhing as though in pain until he was relieved by death. And it is said that one time not a very great many years ago this frightful being was seen by a man, and he told how it appeared. He said that it was of strange form and covered all over with hair like a buffalo, but red in color; that it had only one eye in the middle of its forehead, and above that a single horn. Its backbone stood out notched and jagged like an enormous saw. As soon as the man beheld the awful sight everything became dark to him, he said. He was just able to reach home, but he lost his reason and soon after that he died.

It is said this mysterious “Miniwashitu” (water monster) still lives in the Missouri River, and that in springtime, as it moves up-stream against the current it breaks up the ice of the river. This water monster was held in awe and dread by the people.

It’s not hard to imagine the dread people felt considering the horror of the legend–a red, hairy serpent of the Missouri River, with one eye, a horn, and sharp spines along its back. Its appearance was accompanied by a terrifying roar, and it imparted blindness and insanity on anyone who saw it. Death followed soon after.

Come spring, perhaps it’s best to avert your eyes from the Missouri River, and avoid the terrible visage of the Miniwashitu.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Video: Driving the Badlands of Old Marmarth Road

Video: Driving the Badlands of Old Marmarth Road

We’ve visited Marmarth, North Dakota on several occasions, but it wasn’t until this past summer that we had the opportunity to drive the badlands of Old Marmarth Road, also known as Old Highway 16. We took quite a few photos while we were there, and shot some GoPro video too. This is our look at a scenic drive you just won’t experience by sticking to the interstate and the standard scenic overlooks. We found the change in landscape between the beginning of the video (on the rolling prairie) and the end (in the badlands), particularly interesting.

We uploaded this in HD, so if you have a Chromecast or Roku, or some other streaming TV capability, try watching this on a bigger screen. It looks really nice. Enjoy.

Photos and Video by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp copyright © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Say Goodbye to the Sanger County House

Say Goodbye to the Sanger County House

We first visited Sanger in 2004 and quickly fell in love with the County House. Someone had told us it was the former post office in Sanger, but we visited again in 2013 and an area resident told us it was known as the County House — the remnant of a boarding house from the horse and wagon days. Back then, it was a two day journey between Minot and Bismarck, and the County House’s location in Sanger was a convenient stopping point for travelers to spend the night.

We watched for a decade as the condition of the County House got progressively worse until, last week, our friend Kelsey Rusch sent us a photo of the County House now.

Sanger County House

The Sanger County House is now just a pile of lumber. If you never got to see it as it was, here are a few of our photos when it was still standing.

Sanger, North Dakota

Sanger, North Dakota

Sanger, North Dakota

Sanger, ND

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

More Historic Automobile Bridges

This is part two in our series about historic North Dakota automobile bridges. In part one, we focused on Sheyenne River crossings in southeast North Dakota. This time, we’ve photographed historic steel bridges in East-Central North Dakota, on the Sheyenne, Goose, and James Rivers.

Some of these bridges are closed and abandoned, others are still in use, and one has been restored, but they will all share the same fate without human intervention, so we’ve chosen to document them here.

Norway Bridge

Norway Bridge

Norway Bridge

Norway Bridge spans the Goose River in Traill County, about halfway between Hillsboro and Mayville, North Dakota. It’s a Pratt pony truss bridge constructed by Jardine & Anderson of Fargo and Hillsboro in 1912 at a cost of about four thousand dollars. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is considered significant because its construction by a local contractor makes it rare considering most bridges at the time were built by larger firms like Fargo Bridge & Iron Co. and other out-of-state bridge builders.

Norway Bridge was our first stop on this trip and we arrived early in the morning, when frost was still present on the timber deck. The bridge still gets frequent use — we saw several vehicles cross just in the few minutes were were there.

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Viking Bridge

Viking Bridge

Viking Bridge

Viking Bridge

Viking Bridge is the oldest documented automobile bridge still-standing in North Dakota. It was built in 1885 by C.P. Jones out of Minneapolis and originally spanned the Goose River between Mayville and Portland, but in 1915, Jardine & Anderson were hired to move this bridge to its present location, about a mile and a half northwest of Portland, North Dakota, in Traill County. It served traffic until 2006, by which time it had deteriorated to the point that it was no longer safe.

In 2010, Viking Bridge was rehabilitated by architecture and engineering firm KLJ. Today there is a informative plaque on-site detailing the bridge’s history.

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Washburn Township Bridge

Washburn Township Bridge

Washburn Township Bridge

This abandoned Washburn Township bridge was one of our favorite destinations on this trip. It spans the Sheyenne River at a spot in Griggs County, about four and a half miles east of Cooperstown, but today it has fallen into serious disrepair. There’s a dam just a few dozen feet to the southeast of this bridge, and the sound of rushing water coupled with the beautiful location make it the perfect spot to drop a line, or just dangle your toes in the river. It’s hard to imagine how someone hasn’t led an effort to turn this into a public park yet.

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Tyrol Township Bridge

Tyrol Township Bridge

Tyrol Township Bridge

This Tyrol Township bridge is in Griggs County about nine miles northeast of Cooperstown. It is built from steel supplied by the Inland Steel Company of East Chicago, Indiana, a company which existed for 105 years from 1893 to 1998, when it was absorbed by a multinational. We don’t know the year of construction or builder of this bridge, so please leave a comment if you know more.

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Nesheim Township Bridge

Nesheim Township Bridge

Nesheim Township Bridge

If you were to approach this bridge from the south you would travel a road that is now barely more than a tunnel through the trees as it descends into the Sheyenne Valley.

Nesheim Township Bridge

This Nesheim Township bridge (not to be confused with “Nesheim Bridge,” which is next) is in Nelson County, just over three miles south of McVille, North Dakota.

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Nesheim Bridge

Nesheim Bridge

Nesheim Bridge was built in 1904 by Fargo Bridge & Iron Company, in Nesheim Township, Nelson County, about 2 1/2 miles southwest of McVille, North Dakota. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Dayton Township Bridge

Dayton Township Bridge

Dayton Township Bridge

Dayton Township Bridge is a tiny steel bridge on the Sheyenne River in Nelson County, about 28 miles southeast of Devils Lake. It was built sometime in the 1910s by the Fargo Bridge & Iron Company.

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New Rockford Bridge

New Rockford Bridge

New Rockford Bridge

The New Rockford Bridge, on the north edge of New Rockford, North Dakota in Eddy County, was once New Rockford’s main bridge across the James River. It was built by Fargo Bridge & Iron Co. in 1904. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, partly due to its Warren truss construction, which is rare in North Dakota. Unfortunately it is now closed to vehicle traffic and falling into disrepair.

We found the scenery of the marshy wetlands along this stretch of river beautiful, but we only had to look below the bridge to see bicycles dumped in the river. It would be really nice to see a rehabilitation happen here. As with several of the other closed bridges on this list, this could be a real attraction as a fishing bridge or public park if it was just given a little TLC.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Sunday Morning on the Prairie at Norway Lutheran Church

Sunday Morning on the Prairie at Norway Lutheran Church

Norway Lutheran Church is in Nelson County, forty-three miles southeast of Devils Lake, not far from the valley where the Sheyenne River carves its way through the North Dakota landscape. Terry and I were on an adventure to photograph old steel automobile bridges, but as always, we were scanning the countryside for other abandoned things and roadside curiosities to shoot. As we traveled down a gravel road, Terry spotted a weathered steeple sticking up above the treeline, and we made a short detour to this place.

Norway Lutheran Church

Norway Lutheran Church looks as though it has not been used in quite some time, but someone has taken the care to secure it from the elements by covering the former windows, and even took the time to paint them with faux-window frames for aesthetic purposes. Quite nice. The green shingles are peeling in places, though, and this church will need some TLC in the foreseeable future.

Norway Lutheran Church

It reached almost 60 degrees on this day in the second week of November. We couldn’t resist the urge to take advantage of the good weather.

Norway Lutheran Church

Norway Lutheran Church

Norway Lutheran Church

The cemetery is still well-cared for and regularly used. We saw some internments that were as recent as 2014. Quanbeck, a name that survives today with local landowners, was one of the more prominent family names in the cemetery. The cemetery is also listed at Find A Grave.

Norway Lutheran Church

If you enjoy prairie churches like these, please check out our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains. It makes a perfect gift, and every order helps us offset the cost of documenting these vanishing places.

Norway Lutheran Church

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Historic Bridges of the Sheyenne Valley, part one

Historic Bridges of the Sheyenne Valley, part one

If you’ve followed this site for any length of time, you know we occasionally like to photograph bridges, for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s for their historic significance (like Caledonia and Romness Township bridges), and other times it’s because the bridge is huge and awe-inspiring, as is the case with the High Line, Karnak, and Gassman Coulee railroad trestles.

In this case, we’ve decided to photograph most of the historic automobile bridges of the Sheyenne River Valley, some abandoned but many still in use, while they still exist. Just like the structures of prairie ghost towns, these bridges are endangered by time and natural events. Floods, weather cycles, and normal wear and tear take a toll on these bridges, and without restoration, they will be gone someday. Also, it’s hard to resist the urge to go out and shoot photos when it’s sixty-some degrees in November.

Just a final note, I’ve labeled these bridges geographically, or in accordance with how I’ve seen them referenced online. If you know the official name of any of these bridges, please leave a comment.

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Walcott Township Bridge

Walcott Township Bridge

Walcott Township Bridge

The Walcott Township bridge is in Richland County, about a mile or two south of Kindred, North Dakota, twenty miles southwest of Fargo. It is closed to all but foot traffic.

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Richland County Bridge

Richland County Bridge

This Richland County Bridge is along a decidedly lonely and particularly beautiful stretch of unpaved road, about two and a half miles southwest of the Walcott Township bridge shown previously, or seven and a half miles directly south of Davenport, North Dakota.

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Barrie Bridge

Barrie Bridge

This bridge is in Richland County in the small rural community called Barrie, about eight miles southeast of Leonard, North Dakota, or twenty seven miles southwest of Fargo. Barrie Congregational Church, established in 1889, has a beautiful building just down the road from this bridge.

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Shenford Township Bridge

Shenford Township Bridge

This bridge is in Shenford Township, Ransom County, about thirteen miles northeast of Lisbon, North Dakota. As I traveled to the site, I was overcome with the ambience of the harvest as I passed farmers’ trucks lining the unpaved roads. I could see four pillars of smoke on the horizon from those who were already burning off their fields, and the smell of rich earth and smoke  washed-over me.

I arrived to find a beautiful, steel bridge spanning the Sheyenne River. This bridge was built by Hewett Bridge Company sometime between 1907 and 1911. A pickup rumbled over the span while I was there and it was thunderous.

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Colton’s Crossing

Colton's Crossing

Colton's Crossing

Colton's Crossing

Colton’s Crossing is a 128-foot pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge was built by Hewett Bridge Company of Minneapolis in 1907. They were the main bridge contractor in Ransom County at the time, and they were also responsible for the other Ransom County bridges in this post. Colton’s Crossing is the oldest surviving through truss bridge in Ransom County.

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Martinson Bridge

Martinson Bridge

Martinson Bridge

Martinson Bridge

Martinson Bridge is in Ransom County, about thirty miles south of Valley City, in the Sheyenne State Forest. This bridge was built in 1920 and has undergone substantial reconstruction and improvement over the years. Of all the bridges I visited on this day, this one was probably in the best condition.

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Little Yellowstone Bridge

Little Yellowstone Bridge

Little Yellowstone Bridge

At the east end of the bridge — once a pleasant little roadside attraction, now vacant.

Little Yellowstone Bridge

Little Yellowstone Bridge

I wonder if Mindy and Nathan are still together.

This bridge is in Little Yellowstone Park, on the border of Ransom and Barnes Counties, just south of Kathryn, North Dakota.


In part two of this series we’ll be sharing more bridges in the region north of Interstate 94. To get notified when we post a new installment, drop your email in the form below.

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Photos by Troy Larson, © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media

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

If you enjoy posts like this, please check out our hardcover coffee table books in our online store, or pick them up in a store near you.

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.
Langberg’s Church That Became a School

Langberg’s Church That Became a School

This place is the Langberg country school, in Bowman County, just down the road from Nebo and Adelaide Schools, and only four miles from the border with South Dakota.

Langberg Township School

We’re told this place was originally a church and later became a school, and someone told us it was actually a residence for a time as well. If someone can fill in the details of that transition, we’d love to hear it in the comments below.  Today, it stands with its door open, waiting for someone to come along and rescue it from the sad fate that awaits all abandoned structures on the prairie.

Langberg Township School

Langberg Township School

This part of the state is very sparsely populated and antelope run wild on the prairie.

Langberg Township School

Langberg Township School

The ladder leads up to the loft in the bell tower.

Langberg Township School

Langberg Township School

Langberg Township School

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media

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

Nebo School on Borrowed Time

In Bowman County, about eleven miles south of Rhame, North Dakota, this place remains, if only on borrowed time. Known simply as Nebo School, this little structure is the ruin of a North Dakota country school. There is very little information on the web about this particular school, so if you have a connection to this little school, please post a comment below and maybe we can remedy that.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Five More North Dakota Sites You’ll Love

Five More North Dakota Sites You’ll Love

If you’re like us, you enjoy all things North Dakota. Here are five more North Dakota-related sites you should check out.

Wild In North Dakota: They might be the most followed North Dakota-oriented site on Facebook with over a quarter-million followers. Wild in North Dakota is a non-profit organization dedicated to the “promotion, education, and awareness of the wild horse herd” in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Facebook | Website

1897 Red River Valley League: This excellent site chronicles the 1897 Red River Valley Baseball League which featured teams from Fargo, Grand Forks, Moorhead, and Wahpeton-Breckenridge. “The league featured future major league players, local heroes, reckless characters, economic unrest, and spirited rivalries.”
Facebook | Website

Dakota Death Trip: This fascinating site highlights the hardships our ancestors faced by examining the lurid. Through these stories of tragedy and misfortune, we learn a lot about the reality of life on the plains. Sometimes sad, other times humorous, you’ll get lost in Derek Dahlsad’s Dakota Death Trip for hours.
Facebook | Website

Fargo Underground: An underground chronicle of the happenings and events in North Dakota’s largest city via a super-clean, easy-to-navigate website, constantly updated with photos and videos. If you want to know what’s happening in Fargo, this is a good place to start.
Facebook | Website

Bismarck Cafe: Also known as BisMan Cafe and Bismarck Pride, this site features the latest news and happenings from the Bismarck/Mandan metro, plus historical data and photos from our state capital.
Facebook | Website

Photo by Terry Hinnenkamp

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

The Murdered Family

The Murdered Family (softcover, 347 pages) by Vernon Keel. Based on a true story about the mass murder of the Wolf family, The Murdered Family raises questions about the guilt of the man convicted of the crime. A wave of fear sweeps across the barren prairies of central North Dakota in April of 1920 with the tragic news that seven members of a farm family and their hired boy have been brutally murdered at their home just north of Turtle Lake in McLean County.

murdered-family

A massive search for the killers begins immediately in the midst of an intense statewide election campaign. Three weeks later, eager investigators encouraged by nervous politicians get a signed confession from one of the prime suspects in the case. He is sentenced that same day to life in the state penitentiary in what the New York Times referred to then as ”the most rapid administration of justice in the country.”

From the beginning, the man denies his guilt and says his confession was obtained under duress, intimidation and fear. In November, his lawyers file a motion in district court asking that his plea of guilty be withdrawn and for a trial upon the merits. Their motion is strengthened when some new evidence is discovered on the Wolf family farm only days before the motion is filed.

Some ninety years later, people in the area still recall the words the convicted man was supposed to have said: ”My eyes have seen but my hands are clean!”

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

Gascoyne, Eight Years Later

Gascoyne is on the east edge of Bowman County, in southwest North Dakota, about fifty-five miles south of Dickinson. The town, not far from the South Dakota border, was first called Fischbein, after a family who settled the area, but the name was changed to Gascoyne in 1908. According to the 2010 Census, there are 16 people still living in Gascoyne.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Abandoned Country School in Adams County

Abandoned Country School in Adams County

This Adams County country school is one of hundreds simply withering away in the elements across the plains of North Dakota, having served its purpose in educating the children of the earliest settlers.

Adams County Country School

Most township schools like these, a single room structure constructed to conform with standard plans, were 18 x 32 and were staffed by a single teacher with students from first through eighth grade.

Adams County Country School

Consolidation and elimination of one-room schools began in 1908 when President Roosevelt appointed the National Commission on Country Life, and continued as automobiles became the primary mode of transportation for country residents, and mechanized farming reduced rural populations.

Adams County Country School

This school was posted “No Trespassing” so we didn’t get to go inside. It is located about six miles northeast of Reeder, North Dakota, not far from Wolf Butte Church.

Adams County Country School

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

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

Revisiting Tiny Haley, North Dakota

We revisited Haley, North Dakota in July of 2015, eight years after our first visit in 2007. We had mentioned to a convenience store clerk that we were out photographing ghost towns and abandoned buildings, and she said, “You guys need to go to Haley.” We weren’t far away, so we stopped in for a visit and some photos, and discovered Haley had a population of two, going on three.

Haley, North Dakota

When we returned to Haley in 2015, we found it to be a little less “town,” and a little more farm. We had hoped to speak with the residents again, but we were visiting on a weekday this time, and they may have been busy at work because nobody seemed to be around. There were quite a few vehicles around, though, and it had a much more lived-in atmosphere than we remember in 2007.

Haley, North Dakota

Haley is in southeast Bowman County, just over a mile from the South Dakota border.

Haley, North Dakota

Haley, North Dakota

Haley, North Dakota

The drive through Haley is a blink and you’ll miss it kind of thing.

Haley, North Dakota

Haley, North Dakota

Haley, North Dakota

The one-room school in Haley looks a little more weathered than the last time we were there.

Haley, North Dakota

The Haley Lutheran Church is part of the Scranton Lutheran Parish. It was originally organized as a congregation in nearby Pennville, South Dakota, then moved to Haley, on December 4th, 1946. If you love prairie churches, please check out our book, Churches of the High Plains.

Haley, North Dakota

The sign in front of the church reads “St John’s Lutheran Church, Haley, ND. 8:00 AM Sunday Worship. Pastor Mary Peterson.

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

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