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September 2nd, 2012
I just discovered your site and was intrigued with the town named Aylmer. As you can see, our last name is Aylmer, but I don’t believe there is a family connection. Do you have any information as to how the town got its name? When was it built? Did any Aylmer’s live there? I do genealogy and was just curious. The photos were very interesting. Thank you for any info you have on Aylmer. – Gertrude (Gertie) Aylmer
According to North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick, Aylmer was founded in the early 1900′s and had a country school but never had a post office. It had a peak population of 45 in 1910. It was named after Aylmer, Ontario, which was in turn named after Lord Aylmer, Governor-in-Chief of Canada from 1831 to 1835. It is unclear whether anyone with the name Aylmer ever lived there. Thanks for your email!
August 31st, 2012
Hi. I was in NW North Dakota this month. I knew there was an oil boom going on, but I was shocked by what I saw. Trucks, traffic, pollution and ugly sprawl everywhere. Temple really can’t be called a ghost town anymore. Trucks and construction non-stop there. It took us 3 hours to go from Fort Stevenson state park to Stanley. Lunds Valley has inhabitants and Wheelock is a growing town. I had been looking forward to visiting the ghost towns in ND for years, but now I’ll just stick to this website. Money is being made in ND for sure, but all of us in the car agreed that this won’t end well for anyone but the corporate bigwigs. That’s some scary bad pollution and sprawl going on. — Kate
We have heard reports of many of the western towns on our website having booming populations. We have not gotten out that far to check it out for ourselves yet, though. There are arguments to made on both sides of the oil boom. An interesting question which won’t be answered for decades is will any of the prosperity become permanent for North Dakota? Will the temporary habitation translate to new homes and new population? Or will empty shells be left behind when the oil boom is over? We saw the answer after the oil boom of the 70′s and 80′s. Will it be any different this time?
In the meantime, rest assured, there are still plenty of places to visit in central and eastern North Dakota where you won’t be so delayed by traffic. Thanks for your email!
June 24th, 2012
I recently bought an old, rare book at an estate sale in Oregon. Inside the cover, written in pencil is the following: Roscoe Reichert, Feb.15, 1898, Hillstone, N.Dak. There were also two old, faded to nearly black photographs.
I have been unable to find any information on Mr. Reichert or Hillstone. I’m thinking it might be a ghost town…any thoughts? – Bruce
We were able to locate the apparent coordinates of Hillstone. It was located at latitude 47.581262, longitude -100.341029, near another North Dakota ghost town which was known as Lincoln Valley. The site is also near the town of McClusky, North Dakota. Based on aerial imagery via Google Earth, there does not appear to be any remaining sign of Hillstone. It is quite likely an early settler, perhaps Mr. Reichert himself, who named his homestead “Hillstone” in anticipation that other settlers might join him in the area and eventually create a town — this was pretty common in those days. Even the name — Hillstone — would seem to suggest as much. A big stone on top of a local hill becomes a landmark in an era when there weren’t many named roads. By the way — if you could email us some high resolution scans of those photos, you’d probably be quite surprised at the degree to which we could bring out the details through restoration.
Thanks for writing!
May 26th, 2012
Just wondering if you have ever done any research on the old ski jump located near Fort Totten? It has been there at least since the 1940′s and as far as I know has not been used for at least 50 years, but was still standing the last time I went through that area. — Larry
Someone mentioned that location to us once before, but we were not able to get a coherent description of its exact location. If you could provide one, we would love to photograph it.
May 24th, 2012
I was wondering why all these towns are abandoned, or nearly abandoned. — Ryan
It has a lot to do with the way our country was settled. Early settlements existed on a sometimes hostile and dangerous frontier. There were advantages to having immigrants spread out across the land, farming, keeping an eye on things. Then, during the last half of the 1800′s, the fastest way to get to any distant location was by train. So settlements near the railroads began to balloon — they were connected by the railroads, lifelines to supplies and development. Every few dozen miles along the tracks, another settlement would spring up. Small settlements bypassed by the railroad vanished.
Ironically, when the automobile made living in far flung locations more achievable, the remote towns of North Dakota began to shrink. By the 1920′s, it was no longer necessary to live near the railroad. People began to choose their homes based on different criteria. And then the dustbowl happened, and the exodus from small towns accelerated. And the industrial revolution happened, and the outmigration accelerated again. And so on.
There were a lot of factors, but that’s the basic idea, not only in North Dakota, but most of the western states. Thanks for writing!
May 21st, 2012
I’m sure that you have gotten plenty of positive feedback on this site but I just had to give you more. I am 32 and my parents both grew up in North Dakota (the Mercer/Turtle Lake area). Although I grew up in Minneapolis, I spent many summers on the farms of relatives, exploring the area and developing a deep love and appreciation for the people, landscape, and my own heritage.
A couple summers ago, I went to visit my parents who had moved to Bismarck to retire. Together, we drove around the prairie they called home long ago and they showed me where my ancestors were buried, the one-room schools where my mom and dad attended school, and the farms where my grandparents grew up (long since abandoned, many of which were just foundations). It made me think about how the lives of my ancestors will never be known and how the places they lived and loved are gone forever. I was glad to at least hear the stories of my mom and dad that I can someday tell my own son.
I have always been interested in old buildings, old things, and the lives of people before me. But there aren’t many people my age and younger who share that interest and seek to preserve history. And that might be what makes me saddest of all – because without people willing to take the time to preserve structures and, therefore, stories, those things will disappear without a trace.
And that’s why I am so thrilled that YOU havethis website and committment to North Dakota history. You are not only preserving memories but you are doing so in such a way as to get people interested and passionate about seeing these places one last time or even purchasing them and restoring them to their glory.
I’ve also noticed that this is a place for older people to share their memories and make connections with one another. Reading their stories makes the ghost towns come alive for me and, I’m sure, for others as well.
Thank you. What you are doing is simply wonderful. Keep up the good work. – Maria
Thank you so much for the kind words. We started this website because we loved visiting old towns and taking pictures of abandoned places. We had no idea it would have such broad appeal. Similarly, we had no idea it would become a living history — a place for former residents to share their memories — but we’re sure glad it has. Thanks again and enjoy the site!