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Category: Larson, ND

Burke County
Inhabited as of 5/10

Six Years Gone in Larson

Six Years Gone in Larson

We first visited Larson, a near-ghost town in Burke County about 85 miles northwest of Minot, on a stormy day in May of 2010. According to the Census that same year, Larson had a population of 12.

As I recently planned a trip to photograph some Saskatchewan places, I decided to stop in Larson before I crossed the border to check on things and see how much had changed in six years. We had been told there was more activity for a time due to the oil boom, and a man camp had been planned for the area too, so I was unsure what I would find when I arrived. Would Larson be bustling with new activity? Would Larson’s previously vacant properties be inhabited with new residents who had repurposed them as housing, as we’ve seen in so many other western North Dakota communities? I wanted to find out.

Larson, North Dakota

Larson is just off Highway 5 and you can see St. John’s Lutheran Church from the road. I pulled in to get a closer look and found it looked much worse for wear. The exterior arch over the main entry is completely gone, and someone took down the protective plywood over the windows. Below, the church as it appeared in 2010.

Larson, North Dakota

This church was featured in our book, Churches of the High Plains.

Larson, North Dakota

As I explored the places we’d visited six years earlier, it became quite clear that nature is taking back many of Larson’s vacant places. The old service station is considerably overgrown. Above, 2016, below, 2010.

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

The former service station doesn’t look like it has long to live. We featured this gas station in our first book, which is now officially out-of-print, and we’re down to our last few dozen copies. If you want it in its original hardcover format, last chance.

Larson, North Dakota

The former bar is also in much worse shape than it was in 2010. All the signs have been torn down and weeds and brush have overtaken the building. See it as it appeared in 2010 here.

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

Above: Looking down the street toward the former bar in 2016. Below: the same scene in 2010.

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

There were still a number of abandoned houses in Larson to go with the inhabited homes of the few residents who remain. I didn’t see any increased activity from the oil field, or any sign of a man camp. Perhaps a local resident can help bring us up to speed on the happenings over the last six years in the comments below.

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Storm Clouds in Larson, North Dakota

Storm Clouds in Larson, North Dakota

Larson is a near-ghost town in Burke County, about 38 miles northwest of Kenmare, or sixty miles northeast of Williston. It was established in 1907 and had a peak population of 114 in 1920. Larson, and the nearby town of Columbus, were named for Columbus Larson, an early postmaster.  There’s a good-sized concentration of residents with Scandinavian heritage in the area.

Larson, North Dakota

US Census Data for Larson
Total Population by Place

1960 – 62
1970 – 35
1980 – 21
2000 – Does Not Appear
2010 – 12 (CDP)

Larson, North Dakota

We arrived in Larson at the same time a storm front was moving in which made for some dramatic skies as a backdrop. The former church was the first place that caught our eye. The kicked-in front door told us vandals had already been there.

Larson, North Dakota

Can’t you just imagine classic American automobiles coming and going at this old filling station on the corner of Division Avenue and 2nd Street?

Larson, North Dakota

Larson was quite sleepy for decades, went through something of a revitalization during the height of the oil boom, then slowed down again as oil prices dropped. We’re told it is still busier than it was before, though (see comments).

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

The people in this house had the best TV reception in town.

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

We didn’t know for sure, but this looked like the old Larson school. Can someone confirm?

Larson, North Dakota

We’ve been told Murphy’s Fine Food and Spirits was quite the hangout back in the day.

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

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