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Random Points of Interest

Little Muddy Creek Power House

Little Muddy Creek Power House

Angel Laws recently sent us some photos of a place outside Williston that we had never heard of. We asked visitors to our Facebook page for information, and we received a photo and some useful links that helped to reveal the history of this place.

Little Muddy Creek Power House

Someone sent us this photo of the place we’ll refer to as the Little Muddy Creek Power House and Irrigation Plant (if anyone knows the official name of this place, please comment below). The State Historical Society of North Dakota has this photo in their collection, the work of photographer Bill Shemorry, with the following description:

During Williston’s emerging days, irrigation was thought to be a panacea for the farmers and a great effort was made to organize it under a new law passed by Congress. OUt of this grew the Williston Irrigation District encompassing about 15,000 acres of land along the Little Muddy Valley and the north bank of the Missouri River. Water flowed into the canals for the first time in mid-summer 1908 and for more than a decade and a half after. The 3,000 horsepower lignite fired electric power plant powered the irrigation project.

In 1913 the United States Department of the Interior published the “Eleventh Annual Report of the Reclamation Service, 1911-1912” and described the project like this:

The plan of the Williston unit provides for a series of motor-driven, centrifugal pumps on a barge in the Missouri River; a settling basin receiving the water from the barge, and a main canal of 100 second-feet capacity extending along Little Muddy Creek to the power plant, where two sets of steam-driven turbines operate centrifugal pumps to lift water 51 feet into E canal. From the main canal, about midway between the river and the power plant, electrically driven pumps raise 35 second-feet 28 feet into B canal, and from this canal 20 second-feet are raised an additional 28 feet into C canal. The main power station is located close to a 9 foot vein of lignite coal from which fuel is obtained.

In short, this was the power and pumping station that took water from Little Muddy Creek and directed it to neighboring crops. It was powered by coal which was mined in a nearby vein. Unfortunately it lasted fewer than 20 years and has been abandoned for the better part of 80 years, maybe longer.

Little Muddy Creek Power House

Angela Laws sent us her photos of this place. It is located outside of Williston, east of Little Muddy Creek, about a third of a mile west of the intersection of County Road 9 and 53rd Lane Northwest.

Little Muddy Creek Power House

Little Muddy Creek Power House

Little Muddy Creek Power House

Little Muddy Creek Power House

From the appearance of this place, it’s obvious that young people have been coming here for decades. It is just outside the fence of a neighboring farm, which Angel tells us was vacant and for sale at the time of her visit. It goes without saying that anyone with plans to visit should be careful and try to get permission from the property owner, whomever that might be.

Little Muddy Creek Power House

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Little Muddy Creek Power House

See more of the Little Muddy Creek Powerhouse:

Photos by Angel Laws, original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

All That Remains of Grand Harbor

All That Remains of Grand Harbor

This school house still stands, right off Highway 2, between Devils Lake and Rugby. If you make that drive, you’ll see it just north of the highway. To our knowledge, it is the only remaining original structure from the town that once was Grand Harbor, ND

Grand Harbor, North Dakota

Grand Harbor was founded in 1882 on Teller’s Bay, Devils Lake, and moved one mile north to this location in 1897 to be near the railroad junction. Anything that might have remained in the original location would now be underwater due to the rise of Devils Lake. A suspiciously large population count, 225, was recorded in 1890, but tallies in subsequent years never surpassed 50 residents.

Grand Harbor, North Dakota

Hancock Concrete now occupies the adjoining plot of land, and there is also an occupied home or two on-site.

Grand Harbor, North Dakota

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Grand Harbor, North Dakota

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

Fort Abercrombie: Gateway to the Dakotas

Fort Abercrombie: Gateway to the Dakotas

The original Fort Abercrombie was constructed in 1858, and it was the first military settlement in what would become North Dakota. Fort Abercrombie was 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. Due to flooding concerns, the fort was rebuilt in 1860 on higher ground, at its present location.

Fort Abercrombie

The fort was besieged by the Sioux for more than six weeks in 1862, an event that came to be known as the Dakota War of 1862.  Four soldiers were killed and two wounded.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

With the frigid Dakota Territory winter approaching, the fort was abandoned as a military outpost on October 23rd, 1877. The town of Abercrombie was officially established nearly seven years later, about a half mile west.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Fort Abercrombie was largely forgotten for decades, but started to come back to life when the WPA began reconstruction of the original fort in 1939 and 1940. You can read more about the history of Fort Abercombie here.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

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.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Fort Abercrombie is featured in our new book, the softcover Special Edition of Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 1.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

The Red River has shifted its track over the years and the land under part of the site was compromised.  This marker provides a nice reference point for getting your bearings on the site.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

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

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Lonely High Cliff Country School

Lonely High Cliff Country School

Don Collings sent us these photos of High Cliff School with the following comments:

These are views of High Cliff School in Cow Creek Township, about 20 miles northwest of Williston. I attended this school with my brothers and sister (the Collings’ kids, along with the Haven’s, Barkie’s, Benth, Kjos and Brothers kids. The school reopened in 1953 and closed in 1961. To my knowledge it is still standing.

Ghosts of North Dakota is a wonderful web site. Keep up the great work.

High Cliff School

Of all the remote country schools in North Dakota, this one is one of our favorites for the beautiful setting.

High Cliff School

Do you know anything about High Cliff School? Please leave a comment below.

high-cliff-school3

Photos by Don Collings. Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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Lost Bridge of the Badlands

Lost Bridge of the Badlands

Lost Bridge was on the Little Missouri River, about 23 miles north of Killdeer in Dunn County. The name “Lost Bridge” holds a coincidental double meaning in this case, since the bridge no longer exists.

Lost Bridge Site

Above: An image from Google Earth. You can still see the missing swath of trees leading to the river’s edge, where the old Lost Bridge once stood.

Lost Bridge on the Little MIssouri River

These photos were taken by the Historic American Engineering Record, and the notes from the file tell an interesting story:

The Lost Bridge is a three-span, riveted Parker through truss, bridge designed by the North Dakota Highway Department and constructed in 1930. The bridge is associated with the Great Depression and stood relatively unused until approach roads were constructed in 1953 and paved in 1963 (north side) and in 1967 (south side). Thus, the bridge is well known in the State as “Lost Bridge.”

In short, this bridge was built to employ workers during the depression, but without roads leading to it, it was left unused for decades.

Lost Bridge, North Dakota

Today, there is a sign along the highway that tells the story in more detail. It reads:

More than a few ranchers have probably had to look for a lost cow in this country, but few people would suppose that even the world’s most famous Badlands were a place where you could lose a bridge.

A new bridge was built just downstream from here in 1931. A grand opening ceremony was scheduled for July 4, timed to coincide with the Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo. The governor was to orate, military maneuvers held, and a small orchestra was to play for dancing on the bridge. But torrential rains forced postponement, and many people left before the festivities were held the next day (in a sea of mud).

Bad luck continued. The roads leading to the bridge were supposed to be paved, but the onset of the Great Depression left no money available for construction. Locals dubbed the modern highway bridge with only dirt roads leading to it “Lost Bridge”, and the name stuck. The approach roads were graded and graveled in 1953, then paved in 1968 (ed. note: this date is contradictory to the HAER information quoted earlier in this post). The original structure was replaced in the 1990s.

Lost Bridge on the Little MIssouri River

We don’t know the exact year these photos were taken, but the road appears to be paved on both sides of the bridge, so the photos must have been taken in 1967 or later.

Lost Bridge on the Little MIssouri River

Lost Bridge was built in 1930, and renovated or improved on a number of occasions in 1953, 1959, 1967, and 1970. The bridge was demolished in 1994 and a modern highway bridge now does the job.

Lost Bridge on the Little MIssouri River

This bridge was also called the Killdeer Bridge, Dunn County Bridge, and the Little Missouri River Bridge.

Lost Bridge on the Little MIssouri River

Lost Bridge on the Little MIssouri River

Lost Bridge on the Little MIssouri River

Lost Bridge on the Little MIssouri River

Lost Bridge on the Little MIssouri River

It’s a shame to see this bridge demolished, but there is a piece of the bridge that was erected alongside Highway 22 (below) after it was taken down.

Lost Bridge of the Badlands

Below: From the vantage point of the photographer, the old road would have stretched straight ahead into the distance. The new highway bridge has no superstructure above the roadway, but you can see it on the left.

Lost Bridge of the Badlands

Although there is no longer a romantic steel bridge to see at this crossing, the scenery going down into the river valley is amazing and highly recommended. What do you know about the Lost Bridge of the Badlands? Please leave a comment below.

Original Content © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

The Haunting and Deserted Tyner Cemetery

The Haunting and Deserted Tyner Cemetery

Tyner’s derelict pioneer cemetery is all that remains of a rural settlement in Pembina County once known as Tyner.  Cemeteries are not something we usually feature as an entity all their own, primarily because there are plenty of websites out there which focus on cemeteries and family history already.  However, Terry visited Tyner Cemetery in August of 2012 to photograph the headstones for some of his wife’s family — the McCurdy’s — and was moved by the solitude of the site.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

This pioneer cemetery is a relic of an immigrant community which is today scattered amongst rural farmsteads and nearby small towns in Cavalier County. It is in the middle of a farmer’s field and no longer even has a road leading to it. The only access is on foot, there is no fence, and as you can see from the photos, the entire site was quite overgrown at the time Terry visited in 2012. This cemetery tells a tale that was written a very long time ago.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

I’ve attempted to transcribe the stones wherever they can be read. Update: We found some headstones in our photo archive that had not been previously posted, and those photos are at the bottom.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Samuel McCurdy, born Aug. 19, 1866, died Nov. 3rd, 1899, aged 33 years.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Mary McEwen, died Apr. 14, 1894, age 20 Y’s, 2 M’s, 14 D’s
Maggie McEwen, died Oct. 19, 1894, age 16 Y’s, 2 M’s, 20 D’s

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

A.C. McCurdy, Oct. 5th, 1888 to May 17th, 1975
Alice, wife of A.C. McCurdy, July 27th, 1884 to Sept. 14th, 1938

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Eliza Jane, wife of Samuel Hillis, born in Ireland, Aug. 17, 1840, died Mar. 31, 1914

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Frederick W. Mountain, died Feb. 7, 1899, aged 6 mos. 14 days.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Roy Tuson, died Mar. 26, 1892, aged 7 mos.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Alvin, son of John J. and Catherine Hughes. died Oct. 28, 1891, aged 14 years, 4 ms. 7 days.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Baby Symington, born Sept. 28, 1899, died October 15, 1900

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Mary Gladys, Daughter of Peter & Kate Cameron
Died Jan. 19, 1889, Aged 2 yrs. 4 mos. [?] days

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

John Symington
Died May 12, 1890, Aged 29 yrs, 6 mos.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Peter McLean
Died Oct. 7, 1893, Aged 30 years, 30 days

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Eliza Ann, wife of James Byers
Died Mar. 8, 1894, Aged 74 years

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

John Coughlin, Born May ?, 1812, Died Dec. ?, 1895
Mary A. Coughlin, Born Jan. 12, 1882, Died July 2?, 1895

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Roy Giles, Son of Mr. & Mrs. Thos G. McConnell
Died May 20, 1899

Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Driscoll Church… Like They Just Left Yesterday

Driscoll Church… Like They Just Left Yesterday

It’s always amazing when you run across a place like this rural Driscoll Church… like they just left yesterday.

We were on our way to visit Arena, North Dakota in September, 2016, when we drove right past this place and decided to stop for a visit.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Zion Lutheran Church is in Burleigh County, Harriet-Lein Township, and is described as “rural Driscoll.” In reality, it is about ten miles north of Driscoll, or eleven miles southeast of Wing, North Dakota.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

When we arrived, it wasn’t easy to tell from the outside whether Zion Lutheran was still an active church or not. It looked like it. It is weather-tight with a steel roof, good paint, and intact windows. The grounds were well-maintained too. Perhaps a congregation still assembled regularly?

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

A quick search revealed Zion Lutheran has it’s own Facebook page. Although Zion Lutheran no longer has services every Sunday, special events are still happening here, and planning is underway for a 100th Anniversary celebration next year. Below: The cornerstone planted in 1917.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Above: The sacristy is just inside the door.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Above: Some information for anyone who wants to make a monetary donation to preserve Zion Lutheran Church. Below: Even though they held a service here in July of 2016, nobody touched the keys apparently, because they’re still covered in cobwebs.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

The sanctuary exists in a state of beautiful suspended animation, awaiting the next wedding or funeral.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

The piano also made it through the service with some of the cobwebs on the lamp still intact. We would have never guessed while we were there that it had been so recently used.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

In the sacristy.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

In the basement of Zion Lutheran, the kitchen where generations of people attended pot luck lunches.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Above: The Lein family name substitutes for the numbers on the clock. Below: An abandoned farmhouse stands in the distance, a remnant of an increasingly rare agrarian lifestyle. The end of that living condition, brought about by mechanized farming, the end of the railroad era, and an aging population not replaced by a younger generation, leads to places like this… rural churches standing lonely on the prairie, used less and less frequently, until all who have a personal connection to the place have moved on, to another place or another plane.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

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

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This Lost Highway Leads to the Bottom of a Lake

This Lost Highway Leads to the Bottom of a Lake

We’ve visited a few lost highways before, like this one in Minnesota, or this flooded road near Devils Lake, but in my opinion, this is the most significant lost highway in the state of North Dakota, for reasons I’ll explain below.

While there are many reasons a highway becomes lost — rerouting of the road, mining, and freeway construction, for example — this road fell victim to the greatest flood in North Dakota history, a man-made flood, and now, this lost highway leads to the bottom of a lake.

North Dakota Lost Highway

About three miles north of Twin Buttes, North Dakota, on the Fort Berthold Reservation in Dunn County, Highway 8 becomes a dead end at the point shown above. In the upper left you can see Lake Sakakawea in the distance, the reservoir which forced the abandonment of this highway. There was an area on the left where we could see previous visitors had been driving around the barricades, but we chose to park here and hike the mile to the bottom.

North Dakota Lost Highway

Just a little further down the road, a second set of barricades were set up on a narrow stretch of the road, and you can’t drive around them, so we didn’t regret the choice to set out on foot.

North Dakota Lost Highway

North Dakota Lost Highway

The appearance of the road changed with the grade. In places where the grade was a little steeper, the remains of the road were plainly visible, with weeds and prairie flowers growing up between the cracks in the heavily weathered surface.

North Dakota Lost Highway

North Dakota Lost Highway

In other places, where the grade flattens out a bit, runoff sediment from the hills above has been settling for decades, obscuring the asphalt surface beneath a carpet of gravel and overgrowth.

North Dakota Lost Highway

North Dakota Lost Highway

The road traces a path down the side of a butte and the scenery is absolutely amazing.

North Dakota Lost Highway

North Dakota Lost Highway

Just as we found ourselves distracted by the amazing scenery and feeling like we were on a nature hike, we were reminded that cars used to travel the road on which we were standing at highway speeds.

North Dakota Lost Highway

The road parallels a deep ravine to the west, and there were no remnants of guard rails at any point along the road that we could see. Apparently, there was nothing to keep an inattentive driver from a quick trip to the bottom. Whether this rusted old wagon ended up at the bottom of the ravine in a tragic accident or was simply dumped, we don’t know, but aerial imagery shows it has been there for decades.

North Dakota Lost Highway

North Dakota Lost Highway

In one spot, a section of the highway slides away from the rest due to a minor landslide in which a portion of the hillside has separated and started to creep downhill.

North Dakota Lost Highway

North Dakota Lost Highway

Above: As we neared the bottom, we found a section of the road where someone had burned a bunch of old tires.

North Dakota Lost Highway

About a mile down the road, we finally arrived at what is today the bottom. This lost highway originally would have continued down into the Missouri River Valley, but today that valley is full of water and this is the end of the line. In the photo above, the water is a small bay of Lake Sakakawea (I’m not sure if it has a name, but Mandan Bay is just a few miles west) and the water is a little lower than average.

North Dakota Lost Highway

Beyond the end of the asphalt highway, small pieces of asphalt, weathered and broken down from runoff and fluctuating lake levels that bring periodic inundation, litter the prairie grass.

North Dakota Lost Highway

Someone made the trek to the bottom for a bonfire and a couple beers.

North Dakota Lost Highway

So, where did this highway go? It went down into the valley where the water is shown in the photo above, and it would have curved to the right around the point in the upper right of the photo, where the bulk of Lake Sakakawea is today. The highway led to the town of Elbowoods and the Four Bears Bridge, which was the only crossing over America’s longest river, the mighty Missouri, for miles around.

In 1953, Garrison Dam was completed, and the Missouri River Valley became a reservoir, or Lake Sakakawea. In one of the great injustices of modern times, the Three Affiliated Tribes lost 94% of their agricultural land, as detailed by author Michael Lawson in his book “Dammed Indians: the Pick-Sloan Plan and the Missouri River Sioux”.

The Four Bears Bridge was floated upriver and re-erected with new approach spans near Crow Flies High Butte. The communities of Elbowoods, Van Hook, Independence, Sanish, and others were forcibly evacuated and disappeared beneath the waves.

In addition to the evacuation of the towns which once stood in the valley, the Garrison Dam contributed to the abandonment of farms and towns even on high ground by cutting off transportation routes between the northern and southern portions of the state. Where you once would have been able to cross the Missouri River here and visit someone on the other side in just a few minutes, the drive is now an hour or more in many places due to the size of the lake and the required drive around the east or west ends.

There are few remnants today of the pre-Garrison Dam era, but this lost highway is one of them, and we’re glad we got to visit.

North Dakota Lost Highway

Above: Looking back from the end of the road, as we prepared to hike a mile uphill. We got our exercise this day.

What do you know about this old highway, Four Bears Bridge, and Elbowoods, North Dakota? Leave a comment below.

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

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