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Bergen, North Dakota: Population 7

Bergen, North Dakota: Population 7

Bergen is a near-ghost town in McHenry county, just off Highway 52, about 30 miles southeast of Minot. The town was founded with a post office in 1905, and the railroad arrived in 1907. Bergen’s peak population was reportedly 98 residents.

Bergen, North Dakota

Like most of the little railroad towns we’ve photographed, the population began to dwindle during the Depression and Dust Bowl years, partly due to hardship, and partly due to changing transportation and agricultural practices. According to the 2010 Census, only 7 remain. These photos were taken that same year.

US Census Data for Bergen
Total Population by Place

1960 – 52
1970 – 24
1980 – 24
2000 – 11
2010 – 7

Bergen, North Dakota

Bergen is near Balfour, Kief, and several other towns we’ve photographed.

Bergen, North Dakota

A site visitor has asked about a murder/suicide that reportedly happened in the farm house where she lives in the Bergen area (see comments below). Do you know anything about it?

Bergen, North Dakota

Bergen, North Dakota

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Bergen, North Dakota

Bergen, North Dakota

Bergen, North Dakota

Above: The former Bergen Public School, home of the Bergen Vikings. This school was only used for a little more than a decade–built in the 50s and closed in the 60s.

Bergen, North Dakota

Bergen, North Dakota

What do you know about Bergen, North Dakota? Please leave a comment below.

Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Abandoned Maza School

Abandoned Maza School

This former schoolhouse is virtually all that remains of a town that was once Maza in southern Towner county, a short drive south of Cando.  In 2000, the population of Maza was listed as 5.  In 2002, the city was dissolved.  Today, there are some scattered buildings in the area and a farm or two.

Maza School

We ran across this building in 2008, sitting right beside the highway. Terry snapped a few quick photos, and we promptly forgot all about them. We rediscovered them eventually, but couldn’t remember where they were taken.  Our Facebook fans were able to identify the location as Maza. Fun!

Update: a visitor has commented to say this school apparently burned sometime in 2015/2016. Maza School is no more.

Maza School

Does anyone know the official name of this school? What do you know about this place? Please leave a comment below.

Maza School

Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Oldest Standing Structures in North Dakota: Gingras Trading Post

Oldest Standing Structures in North Dakota: Gingras Trading Post

Long before the arrival of the settlers brought by the Homestead Act of 1862, this part of North Dakota was a center of commerce in the fur trade. The Metis people, a mixed-race culture of Native Americans and French, English, and Scottish explorers, lived and traded in this area throughout the 18th and 19th centuries (French explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye, arrived in what is now North Dakota in 1738).

GhostsofNorthDakota.com

Gingras (pronounced Zhin Graw) Trading Post is in Pembina County, northeast of Walhalla, about four miles from the Canadian border.  The buildings shown here are more than 170 years old, the oldest standing structures in North Dakota. (Note: The Kittson Trading Post store in Walhalla was built about the same time, but was moved from its original site, so technically, these are the oldest structures still on their original foundations.) The store shown here was built in 1843 (the State Historical Society says 1844) by Antoine Gingras. At that time, this settlement, known as St. Joseph, was considered part of Pembina, a pre-Dakota Territory settlement of Native American, Metis, and European Settlers. It would later be renamed Walhalla.

Gingras Trading Post

The log structure shown above was the store, and doubled as a dwelling until the house was completed. Much later, after the Trading Post had fallen out of use, this building was converted to a barn. It was later restored to its original appearance, and that is how it looks today.

Gingras Trading Post

According to the State Historical Society:

The restoration project was partially funded by a National Park Service historic preservation grant. Historic and archeological research was conducted by Nick G. Franke of the State Historical Society of North Dakota and Nancy Woolworth of the Minnesota Historical Society. Foss, Englestad, and Foss of Fargo served as architects, and Grant Braaten of Walhalla was the general contractor.

Gingras Trading Post

Inside the Gingras Trading Post. Behind the pelts hanging on the wall you can see a few of the lighter-colored new logs that were used when the trading post was restored.

Gingras Trading Post

Trade through this area was primarily via the Red River Ox Cart Trails, a network of trails that facilitated trade between British North America (later Canada) and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Gingras Trading Post

Gingras Trading Post

Gingras Trading Post

In the attic of the trading post. Louis Riel, the founder of Manitoba, was exiled from Canada in 1870, and reportedly hid out in this attic for a time.

Gingras Trading Post

Gingras Trading Post

The building shown above was the home built on the site shortly after the store. It has also been restored to it’s former appearance.

Gingras Trading Post

Under those blue walls is a wood-lath construction, assembled from split saplings, nailed to underlying logs with square, iron nails, and plastered with clay which was then troweled smooth.

Gingras Trading Post

In my personal opinion, this part of North Dakota is the anti-Medora. It is rich in history but virtually unknown, undeveloped, and under-promoted. Pembina Gorge, just west of this trading post, is an absolute treasure that most know nothing about. What do you know about Gingras Trading Post? Please leave a comment below.

Click Here to visit the State Historical Society’s page on the Gingras Trading Post.

Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Haunting Lignite Church

Haunting Lignite Church

For years, this church has been marked on one of my maps as “Haunting Lignite Church,” a descriptor I pasted on it due to its weathered exterior, devoid of paint, and the tall steeple that stands high above the prairie. I found out about it a long time ago, and knowing nothing about it, marked it as a place I wanted to photograph the next time I was in the area.

Haunting Lignite Church

In July of 2016 I finally found myself passing by and stopped to get a few photos. The church is in Burke County, just a mile southwest of Lignite, at the end of a long road into a farmer’s pasture. I posted some of my phone photos on our Facebook page, and visitors Jade Feldner and Lisa Knutson both commented to say this church is in their family’s pasture. It originally stood in Lignite, and was a Norwegian Lutheran Church. It was moved here at some point in the past and was used as a barn for a time.

Haunting Lignite Church

Haunting Lignite Church

What do you know about this church? Please leave a comment below.

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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The Old West Charm of Appam, North Dakota

The Old West Charm of Appam, North Dakota

Appam, North Dakota is in Williams County, in the extreme northwestern part of the state, about 25 miles north of Williston. The terrain around Appam is a rugged grassland, quite dry, with chalky, alkaline soil, and gently rolling hills. We first visited this tiny unincorporated settlement in May of 2010, and found a place that is a shell of its former self.

Appam, North Dakota

North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick says Appam was founded in 1916 as a Great Northern Railroad town. The significance of the name “Appam,” is not known.

Since Appam is unincorporated, reliable population figures aren’t available, but there were a handful of occupied homes, and it looked like residents numbered a dozen or two. The oil boom was just ramping up to full steam at the time, and new residents would arrive in town not long after we shot these photos.

Appam, North Dakota

The former Appam State Bank still stands, and it is ripped right from the pages of a western novel, with its false front and peeling paint reminiscent of a place where old west outlaws would ride up on horseback for a daring daylight raid.

Appam, North Dakota

Although little remains of the original town, signs have been posted on the remaining buildings, identifying each of them by their former purpose.

Appam, North Dakota

The building shown here was a store and pool hall, at one time known as Holm’s, and it previously wore the name “Christopherson’s.”

Appam, North Dakota

Appam, North Dakota

Appam, North Dakota

Appam, North Dakota

Sidewalks still exist where prairie settlers once went about their daily business, in the days when the population of Appam was near 100, but today the grass and weeds invade with a persistence that will eventually win the battle.

Appam, North Dakota

The large white building down the street from the store/pool hall has a “Hendrickson Bros Hardware” sign affixed to the boarded-up front window. It was moved from another town called “Plumber” (perhaps spelled Plumer?) around 1920 when the railroad decided to change course (see comment from Gary Folkestad, below).

Appam, North Dakota

It looks like someone started to paint this place, but the ladder only reached just so high.

Appam, North Dakota

In a sign that Appam’s residents have not forgotten, someone has erected signs where many of Appam’s long gone structures once stood. Above, the site of the former Dance Hall. Below, all that remains of Jens Hillestad’s garage.

Appam, North Dakota

In 2015, Appam was the subject of some unwanted publicity when a resident was charged with storing stolen merchandise in Appam. According to the Billings Gazette, a man used a site in Appam to house “huge amounts” of stolen items. The man was caught when stolen power tools and ammunition from a heist in Crosby, North Dakota were found in his car during a traffic stop.

Appam, North Dakota

Above, the former site of the mercantile and post office, which was founded in 1917 with Mrs. Frances Pilgrim as the Postmaster. She held the position for forty years. Below, the absence of Bethany Lutheran Church has left this lot as a flat, empty spot on the prairie.

Appam, North Dakota

What do you know about Appam? Can you provide an update on how things have changed since we took these photos? Please leave a comment below.

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

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Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church is in Pierce County, about five miles west of Rugby, North Dakota, or ten miles west of another place we recently visited, Meyer Township School #1.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

This church is particularly beautiful, and you can see it from US Highway 2 if you find yourself traveling in the area. I’ve driven by it a dozen times and always said “I’ll stop next time.” This time, I finally did.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

There is surprisingly little information available about this church, so if you know any of its history, please leave a comment.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

There is a small cemetery out back, and the Pierce County Tribune ran a story in 2010 about a gentleman who was working to catalog all the graves. The old pump remains behind the church, too.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

What a pleasant change of pace this was. I approached the door to see what the sign said, and I was very surprised to find it read:

“Welcome to Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church. This church was built in 1915 by Norwegian settlers to this area. No regular services were held after 1988. You are welcome to enter the church and look around. PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL. Secure the door when you leave. Thank you.”

I was very grateful that the property owner took the time to make this sign, and that I was able to go inside and look around.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

I pushed through the double swinging doors which led to the sanctuary and my jaw dropped. Aside from a thick coating of dust, it looked like the parishioners just walked out of this place yesterday.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Of all the pews in the church, this one in front of the piano appears to be a favorite sitting spot. I couldn’t resist the urge to plunk out the opening bars of “Let It Be.”

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Like prairie churches? Check out our hardcover book, Churches of the High Plains.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

This church is still in such good condition, I really hope someone takes up the cause before it begins to deteriorate. The inside is largely dry, the windows are intact, and a new roof would go a long way toward extending the life of this place by decades.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

After I finished photographing the main floor, I headed for the basement. The door at the bottom of the steps was unlocked, but it required a firm shove to open.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

On the other side of the door, the darkened dining room. It was considerably darker than it appears in these photos, and I had to stand there for a moment to let my eyes adjust.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

The fact that these items were still present and largely unbroken is emblematic of the respect with which previous visitors have treated this church. Let’s hope future visitors continue to treat this place with the same reverence.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Nielsville Bridge Drone Flyover Video

Nielsville Bridge Drone Flyover Video

A while back we posted a blog about the Nielsville/Cummings bridge over the Red River between Cummings, North Dakota and Nielsville, Minnesota. The bridge has deteriorated significantly and is presently closed pending replacement by a new bridge.

Max Schumacher (YouTube Channel here) recently visited and sent us an email to share the drone video he captured. It’s amazing footage of this historic Red River crossing, and it’s available in HD too, so if you have the capability, stream it to your largest TV for full effect.

Video by Max Schumacher. Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Short Creek Church & Cemetery

Short Creek Church & Cemetery

Short Creek Church is in northern Burke County, a short drive southwest of Portal, North Dakota, and just over three miles from the US/Canada border. If I’m not mistaken, it was a Lutheran Church for its entire active life, and served a congregation of many Scandinavian immigrants, and settlers of German ancestry as well.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

I’m not sure when they stopped holding regular services in Short Creek Church. If you know, please leave a comment below.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

Short Creek Lutheran Church

The Short Creek Church sign shown above was donated by Susan Kay Swenson.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

In a time when most historic places like this are locked up tight to deter vandals, it was something of a surprise to find this church open for visitors. Let’s hope Short Creek Church can continue to be free from troublemakers so future generations can enjoy it, inside and out.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

I went up the stairway toward the bell tower, but the belfry was not easily accessible, so I settled for a photo looking down from the stairs, below.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

Short Creek Lutheran Church

The plaque on the wall left me a little curious for more details on this church. It says the church was organized in 1904 and completed in 1916, but the sign outside says the church was established in 1908. Who can clarify the details? Please leave a comment.

It was also interesting that another Swenson, Reuben, organized a restoration and re-dedication of this church in 1981. 35 years later, Short Creek Church is in need of another freshening. It’s a reminder of how quickly things can deteriorate without human intervention.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

In the sanctuary, a tattered American flag hung behind the altar, with several of the stars missing. It wasn’t clear to me how they were removed or why they were missing, but at risk of sounding dramatic, it reminded me of postapocalypse movies in which a worn American flag is meant to insinuate midnight in America.

I sat quietly in one of the pews for a moment and soaked in the ambience before taking the photo above.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

Short Creek Lutheran Church

The small cemetery behind the church has a surprising number of internments. See the full list on the Rootsweb page for Short Creek Cemetery.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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