• Thelen, North Dakota

    Abandoned: Thelen, North Dakota

    Thelen, North Dakota, sometimes spelled Thelan, is a blip on the historical record of our state. It was established in 1916 and had a post office for just a year, from 1920 to 1921, with Troy E. Beach as the postmaster. Thelen’s peak population of 20 dropped to 4 by the 1930s. North Dakota Place […]

  • Hesper, North Dakota

    True Ghost Towns: Population Zero

    Defining what exactly constitutes a “ghost town” can sometimes be tricky.  In our ten years of exploring North Dakota’s abandoned places, we’ve often encountered former towns where the town site 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 […]

  • North Dakota Cyclone, 1895

    North Dakota Cyclone, 1895

    I ran across this photo while I was perusing the photos at the Library of Congress and I was totally blown away.  Clinton Johnson took this photo, captioned “North Dakota Cyclone,” in an unknown North Dakota town in 1895, just six years after North Dakota statehood.  It appears to depict a menacing tornado bearing down […]

  • Grasshopper Plague

    The Grasshopper Plague

    The 1930s could be described as a perfect storm of hardship in America. The Great Depression devastated the national economy and job market and a persistent drought compounded matters in the Midwest and contributed to the Black Blizzards of the Dust Bowl era. The skies from Texas to the Canadian plains were sometimes so dark, […]

  • Grassy Butte, North Dakota

    Dust Bowl Grassy Butte

    Grassy Butte, North Dakota is a very remote Badlands settlement in McKenzie County near the Montana border, an unincorporated community with a population in the dozens. In the 1930s, Grassy Butte was one of a multitude of places where the locals who’d arrived in search of the American dream faced sad realities and hard choices. […]

  • Maltese Cross Cabin

    Theodore Roosevelt’s Mobile Home

    On Theodore Roosevelt’s first trip to North Dakota in 1883, before he made Elkhorn Ranch his home, he stayed in a modest frontier cabin about seven miles south of Medora at Chimney Butte.  It was still the Dakota Territory then and the future President was bolstering his rawhide credentials.  The National Park Service has a […]

  • Russell Lee, Highway Number 2, North Dakota

    Dust Bowl North Dakota

    Russell Lee was a trained chemical engineer who passed on a career in the field in favor of art. He is best known for the incredible number of photographs he took during the Dust Bowl for the Farm Security Administration.  Mr. Lee spent a good portion of 1937 in North Dakota photographing families, farms and […]

  • Lincoln Valley, North Dakota

    The Ruins of Lincoln Valley, North Dakota

    Lincoln Valley, North Dakota is in its last days.  The structures that remain standing are largely in tenuous shape, might stand another few decades at best, and they’re far outnumbered by places long gone.  Browsing through our Lincoln Valley archive, we realized we had a lot of photos we’d never posted before, particularly photos of […]

  • Sherbrooke, North Dakota

    Sherbrooke Cemetery

    We shot these photos of Sherbrooke Cemetery during a visit to the nearby ghost town and namesake, Sherbrooke, North Dakota, in Steele County in October of 2013. This cemetery was established in 1899 by Sherbrooke Methodist Church which has long since vanished from the town site. The Oxton family name was common in this cemetery. […]

  • Corinth, North Dakota

    More Corinth, North Dakota

    We visited Corinth in May of 2010 and we were thrilled at the photo opportunities. Corinth is in Williams County, about thirty minutes northeast of Williston. A follower on Facebook reports the 2014 population of Corinth is 4 residents.  Please enjoy these previously unpublished shots. Inside the doorway of the school. From a distance, Corinth […]

  • Raleigh, North Dakota

    Raleigh, North Dakota

    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 […]

Sanish, North Dakota, 1926

Lost Beneath the Lake: Sanish, North Dakota

Old Sanish, North Dakota came to an end in 1953, when the river valley it occupied for over half a century became the bottom of North Dakota’s newest reservoir, Lake Sakakawea. Sanish’s residents left for higher ground, as did the residents of other low-lying towns like Van Hook and Elbowoods.  Buildings were demolished and the […]

Sims, ND

THE BOOK: Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 2

Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 2 is nearly identical in construction to the first book — 88 pages with a hardcover and beautiful dustjacket.  In Volume 2, we’ve chosen to emphasize the photos, and we’ve included places like Manfred, Barton, Bantry, Brantford, Roseville, Raleigh, Bentley, Freda and many more, frequently in full-page photos.  Ghosts of […]

Fortuna AFS

Fortuna Air Force Station: 1977

Steve Sampson is a former airman once stationed at the Fortuna Air Force Station, and he took the photos you see here.  He posted a comment regarding one of the photos elsewhere on the site, and it’s such a great story, we wanted to highlight it here. We contacted Steve to get permission to post these […]

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Do You Have Photos of These Places?

Since 2003, our stated objective has been to document North Dakota’s vanishing small places before they’re gone.  In the years since, we’ve also tried to pay attention to places that were lost long ago, places where there’s nothing left to photograph, through postcards and vintage photos. Now, we could use your help to shine a […]

caledonia-feature

Crossing Caledonia Bridge

We first visited the Caledonia Bridge in 2006 and found it closed to all but foot traffic. We think it’s the second oldest still-standing bridge in North Dakota, having been built in 1895, and second only to the Viking Bridge near Portland. The Viking Bridge was built in 1885 and was restored in 2006, and […]

Straubville, North Dakota

Ten More Lost North Dakota Places

Sometimes we photograph a place and find out years later that it’s gone, sometimes the place is gone by the time we get there.  But the one constant is that the list of places is growing all the time. Here’s another list (the original is here) of ten more significant North Dakota places that have unfortunately […]

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Ten Lost North Dakota Places

It’s always a thrill to see enthusiastic residents get involved in saving historically and culturally significant places in their communities, but in North Dakota’s vanishing small towns, the losses frequently outnumber the wins by a significant margin. It’s something we’ve seen time and again in over ten years of photographing North Dakota. What follows is […]

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The Wolf Family Murders

One of the worst crimes in state history occurred April 22, 1920 on a farm just north of Turtle Lake. For historical context, automobiles were still a rarity in rural North Dakota at the time, prohibition had just gone into effect, and a national system of roads was yet to emerge. Neighbors knew each other. […]

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The Tappen Visitations

In the summer of 2006, the tiny town of Tappen, North Dakota briefly became the center of the UFO community when the Briese family experienced some unexplained events. In April of that year, 16 year-old Evan Briese reported a triangle-shaped UFO on the family farm.  According to a story published in the Fargo Forum on […]

Ghosts of North Dakota

Goodbye Old Friend

In October of 2013, we were on a trip to Steele County and Terry was messing around, taking photos in the sideview mirror to pass the time.  To get a clearer photo, he rolled the window down and snapped this: The blue circle on the left is Terry’s favorite polarizing filter for the wide-angle lens […]