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Category: Hanks, ND

Williams County
Inhabited as of 7/10

A Lonely Outpost: Hanks, North Dakota

A Lonely Outpost: Hanks, North Dakota

Hanks, North Dakota, in Williams County, about 33 miles northwest of Williston, is a lonely outpost on the prairie, just one resident away from being a ghost town.

Hanks was the subject of some national media in 2008 when National Geographic published The Emptied Prairie (available at the link only with a subscription) by Charles Bowden, a polarizing piece roundly denounced by many North Dakotans in letters to editors, in the Dickinson Press for example, or the Bismarck Tribune.

In the article, Bowden characterized a number of North Dakota communities, including Hanks, truthfully with respect to their shrinking populations, but in terms that many found depressing or disparaging.

Clay Jenkinson, as the the Theodore Roosevelt scholar-in-residence at Dickinson State University at the time, summed it up in the Bismarck Tribune in January 2008:

This is a fascinating, but also unsettling, time in North Dakota’s history. Pity that all Charles Bowden saw was decay, depopulation, despair and decline.

We’re going to be an urban people with a vast (and indeed empty) prairie landscape to play in. We’ll earn our living in cities and spend our leisure time out among the potholes and pronghorns, coyotes and coulees, buttes and badlands.

As I contemplate the future of North Dakota I feel considerable sadness, but I do not see decline.

Hanks, North Dakota

In 2010, when oil was booming in the region, our artist friend John Piepkorn paid a visit to Hanks and found it sleepy as ever. John’s comments:

I stopped in Hanks, North Dakota and took some pictures of the remaining structures. I also talked to the one remaining resident for about 15 minutes, she said she had heard of Ghosts of North Dakota, and I asked if I could take a few pictures of the town.

Hanks, North Dakota

I took some of an abandoned house at the top of the hill, some of the cemetery which is north of town on a gravel road about 1/4 mile, some pics of what the lady described as the old bank (above) although it had a gas pump outside of it, and the interior looked like someone had used it as a house, and one other old house.

Hanks, North Dakota

Hanks, North Dakota

Hanks, North Dakota

Hanks, North Dakota

Hanks, North Dakota

The old school is used as a museum now which is open only on Sunday afternoons.

Hanks, North Dakota

The last remaining structure from another North Dakota ghost town, Bonetraill, is now located in Hanks too. You can see it in this Hanks post with photos submitted by Clif Nelson in 2012.

Do you know more about Hanks, North Dakota? Can you provide an update on things as they are today? Please leave a comment below.

Photos by John Piepkorn. Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Another Look at Hanks

Another Look at Hanks

Clif Nelson contributed these photos of Hanks, North Dakota, a near-ghost town in Williams County — population one. Clif’s comments:

“It was never much of a town, but they had coal mines north of town and grain elevatorsin the early 1900’s.  My Grandfather Anton Nelson who farmed about 7 miles northwest of Hanks would haul a load of grain in and haul coal home from the mines just north of the town of Hanks.  They had a bank at one time, and a store plus I’ m sure other businesses.  The school became a museum of which I have pictures included… My Uncles farmed the old Nelson homestead so we used to visit a lot out there from the late 40’s and on.  My children and family used to frequent the Museum when we would visit the Uncles in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  It was quite a museum and how long it has been closed now I have no idea.”

More of Clif’s comments are included as captions below.

It’s interesting to note the presence of the former Bonetraill school and the Zahl depot in Hanks.  It’s quite common for structures to be moved from a vanishing town to another location, many times for use as a museum or other historically-oriented destination.  In this case the structures have been moved from one withering location to another.

Hanks was featured in the National Geographic article “The Emptied Prairie” in 2008.  You can also check out John Piepkorn’s gallery of Hanks photos from 2010 here.

Back side of the old chicken hatchery

Back side of the Zahl depot…Zahl was about 5 miles east of Hanks on the Railroad line and the highway

Front of the old Zahl depot

Former bank building in Hanks, later had a gas pump in front of it, so it maybe was a store and or gas station in later life.

Old Pioneer Trails Museum. Was the school at one time.

Bonetraill township one room grade school. Township was north of Hanks.

Photos by Clif Nelson. Original content copyright ©2016 Sonic Tremor Media LLC