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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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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
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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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
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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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
The Derelict Beauty of Meyer Township School Number 1

The Derelict Beauty of Meyer Township School Number 1

It’s been closed since 1959, but Meyer Township School Number 1 still stands, right off US Highway 2, just a couple miles east of Rugby, North Dakota. It’s a frequently photographed place due to its highly visible location right next to the highway–just as I was leaving, someone else was pulling in to get some photos of their own.

Meyer Township School Number 1

Meyer Township School Number 1

This school, built in 1897, is one of the more unique ones we’ve seen with its asymmetrical layout, but the birds seem to love it.

Meyer Township School Number 1

A visitor to our Facebook page, Peggy Heise, says her grandfather was in charge of hiring the teachers for this school back in the day, and they lived together on a farm just west of the school.

Meyer Township School Number 1

With all the traffic that this place gets, it’s a little surprising that someone hasn’t fixed it up and used it as some kind of summer roadside attraction… I would definitely stop here to buy a postcard and a cold soda on a drive across the prairie.

Meyer Township School Number 1

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Visiting the Town That Never Was: Rival, North Dakota

Visiting the Town That Never Was: Rival, North Dakota

Years ago, Wylora Christianson sent us a photo of a grain elevator, the only remaining structure from a town that never was: Rival, North Dakota. She was under the impression that the elevator was to be torn down soon, so she felt compelled to photograph it.

The Rival Elevator is so named because, as a Soo Line townsite, it was intended to rival the nearby Great Northern Railroad town of Lignite, North Dakota. North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick says this site was the terminus of the Flaxton branch railroad line. A post office existed here for two years, from 1907 to 1909, with Chester Teisinger as the postmaster, but no settlement of any significance developed. 

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
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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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
What Will Become of This Historic Bridge?

What Will Become of This Historic Bridge?

In May of 2014, I took a trip along the Red River to photograph a bunch of historic bridges for a potential future book, and found this place, a bridge I had never visited before.

Officially it is Traill County and North Dakota Highway Departments Project No. FAS 71A. Locals refer to it as the Nielsville Bridge, after Nielsville, Minnesota, the closest community to the bridge (Cummings, North Dakota is a few miles west).

Built in 1939, the bridge was in pretty bad shape when I visited in 2014–it had been repaired a number of times, and asphalt patches were visible in the road deck in several places. In 2015, a hole opened up in the deck and the bridge was closed. It has been closed ever since, and the question remains–What will become of this historic bridge?

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

This bridge was completed in 1939. For historical context, it was the same year Lou Gehrig retired due to the illness that would later bear his name. World War II was just about to begin, and the sculpture of Theodore Roosevelt’s head was dedicated on Mount Rushmore.

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

I paid particular attention to this bridge and several others on this trip because they are becoming more rare all the time. As the years pass, these steel truss bridges are being torn down in favor of modern highway bridges, which is good for transportation purposes, but bad for nostalgics who get a thrill from driving under the romantic arches of these relics from the industrial revolution.

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

Last I heard, locals were trying to raise awareness about the need for funding to restore this river crossing, whether that be through a new bridge, or a restoration of this beautiful span. As it is, local farmers are forced to drive 8 miles one direction or 7 miles in the other direction to cross the Red River on the next available bridge.

Update: Plans are moving forward for a new bridge, which is not a good sign for this bridge.

Update 2: Shortly after we posted this, Max Schumacher sent us a link to drone video he captured at this bridge. See it here.

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

Just around the corner from this bridge, on the North Dakota side of the Red River, is this rural church.

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

Do you enjoy old bridges? Check these out: Historic Bridges of the Sheyenne Valley, More Historic Automobile Bridges, and the Rusting and Abandoned Klondike Bridge, on the South Dakota/Iowa border.

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Abandoned Nuclear Antiballistic Missile Base

Abandoned Nuclear Antiballistic Missile Base

For almost half a century, from the end of World War II until the fall of the Soviet Union, our world existed on the precipice of nuclear annihilation. The threat of an instant and irreversible descent into nuclear war hung constant over our heads, the pendulum of power sometimes swinging our way and sometimes back toward the Soviets. It was this race for superiority that led to the creation of this place, the most advanced nuclear antiballistic missile facility ever built.

Check out our new video about the Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex near Nekoma, North Dakota. This video was uploaded in 4K resolution, so if you have the capability to stream it to your largest TV, you should definitely give it a try.

Read more here, here, and here.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
5th Avenue in Cleveland, North Dakota

5th Avenue in Cleveland, North Dakota

Cleveland, North Dakota was founded in 1882 by settlers who came from Cleveland, Ohio. It is in Stutsman County, right along Interstate 94, about 20 minutes west of Jamestown.

Cleveland, North Dakota

Cleveland once had over 300 residents, but like many small rural communities, declined with the railroad transportation culture. In the 2000 Census, Cleveland had 112 residents in 52 households. By 2010, the number had dropped to 83 residents from 40 households. These buildings along 5th Avenue tell the tale of a slowly vanishing prairie town.

Cleveland, North Dakota

The former Cleveland Grocery looks like it has been deserted for quite some time.

Cleveland, North Dakota

The former bank went through some changes. You can see non-original brickwork that was used to fill the window and door openings, presumably to make them smaller and more energy efficient in a cold, North Dakota winter.

Cleveland, North Dakota

According to North Dakota Place Names by Douglas A. Wick, Cleveland did not officially incorporate as a city until 1968.

Cleveland, North Dakota

This building strongly resembles some of the old hotels and bunkhouses we’ve seen. Can you tell us what it was?

Cleveland, North Dakota

There is also an impressive former public school in Cleveland, but it looks like someone has purchased the property for use as part of a heavy-equipment business of some sort, so we didn’t photograph it.

Cleveland, North Dakota

The first Post Office opened in Cleveland in 1882 but closed in 1884, with Windsor, North Dakota becoming the closest mail stop. In 1900, a new post office opened in Cleveland. Today, this utilitarian structure is the Post Office for Cleveland.

Cleveland, North Dakota

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Is Minot’s Derelict Oak Park Theater Coming to Life?

Is Minot’s Derelict Oak Park Theater Coming to Life?

Oak Park Theater in Minot has been vacant almost as long as I can remember. I was born and raised in Minot, and I attended quite a few movies in this theater as a kid. I saw Jaws here (through my fingers, because my hands were clasped over my face every time that music started…. duuuuuuh duh), the forgettable ensemble movie Earthquake, Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and most notably, Stars Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, in 1977. By the time The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters in 1980, Oak Park Theater had fallen out of favor and Cine 5 at Dakota Square Mall was the new place to see a movie. For most of my young adult life, I remember this theater, and the strip mall in the same parking lot, as a vacant, derelict facility in somewhat sad condition.

The building has been used off and on over the years since then (as a church, a pool hall, and a discount theater), but has stood largely unused of late with only the memories of locals to color the tale — remembrances of the sparkling, lighted star atop the pole out front, and lines of people stretching across the parking lot, waiting to get in. After a showing, moviegoers in the balcony could exit out the door on the south side of the building, and it was always a shock to push open the door and emerge on the metal staircase into the cool night air.

Oak Park Theater

The era of the multiplex called an end to Oak Park Theater, but unlike the Empire Theater in downtown Minot (which was a paradise paved to put up a parking lot), the Oak Park Theater has managed to avoid the wrecking ball all these years, and now, nearly four decades later, this old lady might be poised for a comeback.

Oak Park Theater

According to the Minot Daily News, a Minot businessman has plans to re-open the Oak Park Theater in June of 2016 after a sizeable renovation and expansion. Plans include adding a second screen, and the renovated Oak Park Theater will become a theater for discount movies, indie features, film festivals, and onscreen gaming.

Oak Park Theater

Do you have memories of Oak Park Theater? Please leave a comment below.

Oak Park Theater

These photos were taken in November of 2014.

Oak Park Theater

Photos by Troy Larson, © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
A Sleepy Saturday in McGregor, North Dakota

A Sleepy Saturday in McGregor, North Dakota

The McGregor town site was established in 1910 and assumed the name of a nearby rural post office which had been established five years earlier. We visited McGregor, in Williams County about 45 miles northeast of Williston, in 2010, and we were somewhat surprised by the large number of vacant buildings.

McGregor, North Dakota

Although McGregor does not appear in the Census records (it’s an unincorporated community) a population of 250 was reported for 1920. We we roughly estimated the population at around 20 on the day we visited. We’re told McGregor got a lot more active in the two years following our visit, when the oil boom spurred a housing crunch in western North Dakota.

McGregor, North Dakota

During our visit we could see birds going in and out through the hole in the roof of the school.

McGregor, North Dakota

McGregor, North Dakota

McGregor, North Dakota

A sleepy Saturday in McGregor.

McGregor, North Dakota

McGregor is not far from several other places we’ve photographed — Bethel Lutheran rural Wildrose, Hamlet, and Appam.

McGregor, North Dakota

McGregor, North Dakota

McGregor, North Dakota

McGregor, North Dakota

McGregor, North Dakota

McGregor, North Dakota

McGregor, North Dakota

The ruins of something long gone.

McGregor, North Dakota

McGregor, North Dakota

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
The Town That Never Was: Rival, North Dakota

The Town That Never Was: Rival, North Dakota

Rival, ND is a town that never was. It was established with the intent of being a “rival” to nearby Lignite, hence the name. However, no development of significance ever took place. Rival’s post office opened in 1907 and closed only two years later in 1909. Wylora Christianson contributed this photo with the following comments:

All that is left of Rival is the elevator which is to be torn down soon, so went and got a picture of it.

Rival, North Dakota

It looks like this elevator was built entirely of wood (like this elevator in Roseville), and at some point in the past, the top was replaced with a more modern, galvanized metal roof. That roof likely extended the life of this place by a couple decades.

Rival, North Dakota

As of August, 2013, this elevator was still standing. If anyone has an update on whether this elevator has now been torn down, please leave a comment.

Photo by Wylora Christianson. Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Officially, this church is now known as Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church. It once served Elbowoods, North Dakota, a town now-submerged under Lake Sakakawea, as part of the Fort Berthold Indian Mission which dates back to the 1870s.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

The church was organized in 1899 and this building was erected in Elbowoods in 1926.  It was relocated in 1953 to a spot on high ground, nearly eight miles north-northeast of Elbowoods, to escape the rising waters of Lake Sakakawea behind the newly constructed Garrison Dam.  It is just off ND 1804, about fourteen miles west of Roseglen, and it is one of a number of structures which were relocated from Elbowoods.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

The state historical society has a photo of five young girls standing on the steps of this church in the twenties to forties era here.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

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

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Charles Hall, an Englishman with a thirst for spreading the gospel, set out for so-called Indian country in 1874. He married his first wife, Emma Calhoun, who died a few years later, then remarried Susan Webb, the namesake of this church. The late Reverend Harold Case wrote a book called “100 years at Fort Berthold” in 1977 which tells the story of Elbowoods. Charles Hall died in 1940.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Looking out on the cemetery from the bell tower.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

It’s an understandably sensitive subject when you’re talking about people’s remains, but the appearance of this cemetery suggests some of the deceased who died prior to 1953 were originally interred elsewhere, then relocated to this place, presumably to escape the coming flood. I haven’t spent enough time at the library to know the full-story, so please leave a comment below if you know more.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

This monument dedicated to the Hall family stands in the center of the cemetery.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

It reads: Emma Calhoun Hall. Born 1850 — Died 1881. She was the first to give her life as a missionary for Christ among the Mandan, Gros Ventre and Arichara Indians.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

We visited this place to pay our respects to those who came before us, and to shine a spotlight on a place that had a prominent part in the settlement of our state, but is forgotten or altogether unknown by most. Unfortunately, our visit was seen by a few as an unwelcome intrusion by outsiders, and we’re told a fence has been erected around this church in the time since, and visitors are not welcome.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

The marker simply reads “Bell Porcupine”

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

This marker was so weathered, I could only make out the word “died,” and the “Porcupine” name on the headstone.

Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church

This marker reads: Austin White Duck. Born Mar. 1st, 1903. Died December 24th, 1909.

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
The Legends of Tagus, North Dakota

The Legends of Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus was founded in 1900, on a rolling spot on the prairie, forty miles west of Minot, just off Highway 2. A railroad settlement town, it reached a peak population of 140 in 1940. It was originally named Wallace, but was later renamed Tagus to avoid confusion with the town of Wallace, Idaho. The origin of the name “Tagus” is still in dispute.

It is now primarily abandoned with a handful of residents and numerous vacant structures.

tagus15

The Minot Daily News ran a story about GND several days before our actual trip to Tagus. You can imagine our surprise when we were met by two of the residents of Tagus who had been keeping an eye out for us. They had quite a story to tell.

As it turns out, Tagus has weathered way more than it’s fair share of vandalism and mean-spirited behavior. For years, vandals from the nearby areas have used Tagus as a party place. One of Tagus’ residents told us a story about one Halloween night in the 1980’s, when 300 kids showed up in this tiny town for an all-out Halloween trashing session. The Mountrail County Sherriff had been tipped however and put a stop to it.

Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus, North Dakota

It’s not often we run across an old country home with a turret.

Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus, North Dakota

That tree is huge!

Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus, North Dakota

In 2001, vandals again did their damage when they were found to be responsible for a fire which destroyed Tagus’ only remaining church. The spot is now marked with a stone marker. Although there are reports the fire was electrical, the resident we spoke to was adamant the fire was caused by vandals.

Tagus, North Dakota

As you’ll see from some of the comments on this post, Tagus has been the subject of some very strange and persistent rumors and urban legends over the years, to a greater degree than any other town we’ve encountered. There are outlandish tales of Satanic activity, hellhounds, ghosts and ghoulish activity in Tagus. Anyone who has grown up in northwest North Dakota has likely heard them. At any rate, if you decide to visit Tagus, please be respectful of the town. They’ve already sacrificed far too much.

Tagus, North Dakota

Who knows what this structure used to be? Please leave a comment.

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Vanishing Bremen, North Dakota

Vanishing Bremen, North Dakota

Bremen is a small, unincorporated town near Fessenden in Wells County.  This central part of the state is very sparsely populated and dotted with abandoned places like the Remains of Munster School and Hamberg.  These photos were taken in 2008, and we hope to revisit the area sometime soon for an update.

Bremen, North Dakota

Bremen supposedly had a population of 200 at one time, but it hasn’t had nearly that many for a very long time. Most of Bremen’s residents (there aren’t many) live in a cluster of residences a short distance to the southeast, leaving the street shown here a rather lonesome place.

Bremen, North Dakota

Bremen, North Dakota

Do you know what this building used to be? Please leave a comment.

Bremen, North Dakota

Bremen, North Dakota

The former Bremen Bank is the most striking derelict structure in Bremen. The amazing stone architecture is a thing to behold, but also perhaps a liability considering moving the building for the sake of preservation would be very difficult and expensive. The roof is totally porous already. Unless someone takes heroic measures to save this structure where it sits, it will eventually fall victim to time.

Bremen, North Dakota

Bremen, North Dakota

Bremen, North Dakota

Bremen, North Dakota

A peek inside the building from the rear, looking toward the front.

Bremen, North Dakota

Bremen, North Dakota

Bremen, North Dakota

There’s something storybook about this winding drive, leading to a decidedly non-storybook abandoned home.

Bremen, North Dakota

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
8 More Lost North Dakota Places

8 More Lost North Dakota Places

Unfortunately, we have to do a post like this from time to time. As the years pass, many of the places we’ve photographed also pass… into history. Whether it be the wrecking ball, weathering, or disaster, many of the places we’ve photographed since 2003 are now gone. We documented some of the losses in 10 Lost North Dakota Places and 10 More Lost North Dakota Places, now, unfortunately, here are 8 More Lost North Dakota Places.

Maza School

Maza School

A visitor recently commented to tell us the Maza School apparently burned sometime in 2015 or 2016. As one of the few remaining structures from Maza, the end of this school effectively spells the end for Maza.

Bluegrass Store and Gas Station

Bluegrass, North Dakota

Bluegrass, North Dakota, is a true ghost town, population zero, in Morton County, about thirty-five miles northwest of Mandan. Bluegrass is a former rural community that had a population of 20 in the 1920 Census, a relatively small peak population, but not surprising considering the railroad never came to Bluegrass. Sadly, this former store and gas station burned down in 2014.

Northgate Port of Entry

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate is a fascinating near-ghost town right on the Canadian border, about 70 miles northwest of Minot. It was originally founded one mile to the north, but moved one mile south to its present site. While the original town site retained the name North Gate (with a space) this town was renamed North Gate South, and then re-dubbed Northgate (without the space) when the post office was established in 1914. This building was once the Port of Entry Station, but was abandoned when a new Port was built. A person commented on our Facebook page to say the building has since been demolished.

Much of Leith, North Dakota

leith-store

Leith‘s troubles have been highly publicized, so we don’t have to say much except that numerous vacant structures were demolished after a white supremacist bought up the property in an attempt to take over the town. This creamery is one of the buildings which no longer stands in Leith.

Lost Bridge

Lost Bridge on the Little MIssouri River

Lost Bridge was so named because in 1930 when it was originally constructed over the Little Missouri River, about 23 miles north of Killdeer, there were no quality roads leading to the site, and the bridge was seldom used. Paved roads came in the sixties, but Lost Bridge was demolished in 1994 and replaced with a modern highway bridge.

Brantford Public School

Brantford, North Dakota

Brantford Public School still stands in this Eddy County ghost town, but not for long.  One of the classrooms has collapsed and cracks can be seen throughout the exterior walls. Soon, Brantford Public School will be no more.

Minot Church

minot-church2

This church, known as Augustana Lutheran Church (and other names over the years) would have been a fantastic place for a business. It stood in a high traffic location, at the foot of Broadway, across from Sammy’s Pizza in Minot. Sadly, after years of dereliction, mold, and a close call in the 2011 flood, the church was demolished.

Most of Bucyrus

bucyrus1

Bucyrus, North Dakota was struck by a wind-driven grassfire in 2010 and many of the abandoned structures in town, as well as a number of family homes, were destroyed. This home, on the west side of town, was one of the casualties. Thankfully, nobody lost their life in the fire, but Bucyrus will never be the same.

Antler Bank

antler1

After being driven out of Leith, the same white supremacist allegedly tried to buy vacant properties in Antler, North Dakota. The city bought up a number of properties to prevent the takeover, and this former bank building was one of them. In early 2016, it was demolished.

Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
How to Find Places No Longer on the Map

How to Find Places No Longer on the Map

In our quest to find lonely, out-of-the-way places to photograph, we often get recommendations from people, and many times, the coordinates of those places are just a search away. However, we’ll occasionally run across the name of a place, and when we enter the name into mapping software, the search turns up zero results. Here’s one way to find places no longer on the map.

Banks, North Dakota

Banks, North Dakota is shown above on a Rand McNally railroad map from 1942, not far from the banks of the Missouri River, and not far from Seneschal, North Dakota, another pioneer settlement that would end up underwater after the construction of the Garrison Dam. Banks, however, was on high ground, and the location should still be dry. However, it no longer appears on modern maps, and a search in Google Maps returns nothing for the location. Let’s use GNIS to pinpoint the location.

gnis-screencap

The United States Geological Survey maintains a database (admittedly in a somewhat dated web presentation) of most named geographic locations. If it ever had a Federally-recognized name, it is likely in this database, known as the GNIS, or Geographic Names Information System.  Visit the site, and click on “Domestic Names,” as shown above, then click “Search.”

gnis-screencap2

On the next page, type the name of the place you’re looking for in the field labeled “Feature Name,” and select the state from the dropdown menu. Here, I’ve typed “Banks” and selected “North Dakota” from the dropdown. When you’re ready to search, click “Send Query.”

gnis-screencap3

On the next page, we get three results. Watford City was originally known as Banks, so it appears in the search shown above. However, we want to see the location of the other “town” of Banks, so we click the one designated as Banks, “Populated Place.”

gnis-screencap4

At the bottom of the “Banks, Populated Place” page, take note of the geographic coordinates, highlighted in blue in the image above. That’s what we’re looking for. With your cursor, highlight the lat/long coordinates. We want to plug these in to our favorite mapping software.

gnis-screencap5

I like to use Google Earth. In the upper left corner search field, paste in the coordinates from the GNIS page and click “Search.” Voila. The location of Banks, North Dakota.

banks-map

In this case, it appears there’s no remnant of a town. Further research would reveal Banks was only a rural post office, located on a farm, but if we wanted to check it out, we would have the coordinates.

Using GNIS is just one way to find old places no longer on the map, and we’ll cover a few others in a future post. Do you have any tips or tricks for finding lost places? Please share in the comments.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Lonely and Abandoned Wolf Butte Church

Lonely and Abandoned Wolf Butte Church

The Wolf Butte Lutheran Church is in a remote part of Adams County, North Dakota, about 45 miles south of Dickinson. It was once part of a Lutheran Parish that also included another abandoned church we’ve photographed, the North Grand Lutheran Church, south of Bucyrus. Regular services ended at the Wolf Butte location in 1988.

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church

The Wolf Butte church was unusual for its finish. The exterior appeared to be stucco, or some other kind of applied finish over a wood frame, with cedar shakes covering the upper portion. The bell had been removed from the steeple.

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church

The cornerstone had been removed from the church. I mentioned it to Terry, and after we left, we spent some time discussing where it might have gone. It wasn’t until we got home and examined our photos that we realized it had been placed in the memorial that stood outside the fence of the cemetery, and neither of us had noticed it. I’m not sure why it was removed, but if I had to guess, I would say it’s because the cemetery might remain long after the church has crumbled? If someone knows for sure, please leave a comment.

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church

The church was locked up tight and nobody was around to get permission to go inside, so we settled for photos through the windows.

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church and Cemetery

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church and Cemetery

The headstone for Oscar Roe was replaced sometime recently with a marker made of sheet metal with cutout letters. It was quite unique, and I was impressed that someone had taken the effort and expense to give Mr. Roe, who was born nearly one hundred sixty years ago, a new, original marker.

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church and Cemetery

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church and Cemetery

Terry photographed a small marker of a precious Harvey family baby, Clyde, who didn’t make it to his first birthday.

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church and Cemetery

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church and Cemetery

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church and Cemetery

If you enjoy prairie churches, both active and abandoned, please check out our book, Churches of the High Plains, or ask for it at your favorite local book store or gift shop.

Wolf Butte Lutheran Church

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
6 More North Dakota Sites You’ll Love

6 More North Dakota Sites You’ll Love

We got an email request from someone not too long ago to do another “More North Dakota Sites You’ll Love” post (the original is here), so we’ve gathered up another handful of North Dakota-related sites you should check out.

Border Marker Project — We just discovered this one ourselves and it is really cool. The description of the Border Marker Project from their “About” page: In 1891 and 1892 the North and South Dakota state line was surveyed and marked with quartzite state line markers. Originally there were 720 of these marker placed every 1/2 mile from the Minnesota state line to the Montana border. Now less than half remain and are badly in need of restoration. It is the intent of our project to restore as many of the existing leaning markers as possible. In a few cases misplaced markers will be returned to their original location where possible. [facebook]

FMlostandfound.com — The website for FM Lost and Found is a look at the visual landscape of Fargo and Moorhead, yesterday and today, through classic postcards and vintage photographs, juxtaposed in many cases with current photographs taken from the same spot.  There are plenty of ways to waste an hour on this website if Fargo and Moorhead interest you, and much more in the book. [website]

North Dakota Badlands Horse — North Dakota Badlands Horse is a non-profit dedicated to the well-being of the wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. “North Dakota Badlands Horse (NDBH) is a nonprofit made up of people from around the country and the world who are passionate about these magnificent North Dakota wild horses. We were able to save all but 8 of the 77 horses sold in 2009 and all 103 of them sold in 2015. Now that NDBH has a Partnership agreement with TRNP we are able to help capture horses using low stress herding on foot. A few excess young horses selected by park staff are removed and adopted out to pre-approved homes so that they will be able to be trained and cared for the rest of their lives.” [website] [facebook]

Travel North Dakota — The official state portal for North Dakota travel. You’ve likely seen the advertising campaign commercials starring Minot-native and Hollywood actor Josh Duhamel, and the website is loaded with ideas for fun North Dakota travel excursions, plus accommodations and more. [website] [Facebook]

Preservation North Dakota — If you’ve been a GND fan for any length of time, you know we support Preservation North Dakota and the good work they do to assist in the restoration and preservation of North Dakota’s historic places. Their website has been redesigned since we last checked-in, so check it out. [website] [Facebook]

The Minot Voice — The Minot Voice is a frequently updated feed of North Dakota stories and sites. The Minot Voice is sometimes politics- heavy, but the site encompasses everything North Dakota-related, and you’ll occasionally see Ghosts of North Dakota articles pop-up on the Minot Voice, too. [website] [facebook]

Do you know of an interesting North Dakota-related site or community? Let us know about it in the comments.

Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Niagara, North Dakota: Former Home of a Serial Killer

Niagara, North Dakota: Former Home of a Serial Killer

Niagara, North Dakota is just off US Highway 2, not quite forty miles west of Grand Forks. It was founded in 1882 by settlers from Niagara County, New York. According to the 2010 Census, Niagara has 53 residents.

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota is the former home of a serial killer, a man named Eugene Butler, a recluse who lived on the edge of town. Butler was committed to the State Asylum in Jamestown in 1904, and he died there in 1911. Four years after he died, an excavation at Butler’s home uncovered a hidden trap door leading to a crawlspace. Inside, authorities found the remains of six people. All had been bludgeoned to death with blows to the back of the head.

Niagara, North Dakota

Since Butler was already dead, he never saw the inside of a prison for his crimes. There weren’t any local people reported missing, so there are many theories about who the victims were–transient farmhands for instance. Their identities remain a mystery today.

An update on the mystery came from WDAY-TV in Fargo in February, 2016. Case files have been lost over the years, and an effort to perform DNA testing on the victims’ remains depends on the authorities ability to acquire bones stolen by looters in the aftermath of the discovery.

Niagara, North Dakota

The Butler murders are a chapter of Niagara’s history that many have forgotten. Today, Niagara has a nice historical complex in their town square but there is understandably no mention of Eugene Butler’s crimes.  Butler’s home was demolished and a workshop (not shown) stands on the site today.

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota

Just as we pulled into town, the wind started to really blow and a light drizzle began… so we didn’t spend quite as much time photographing Niagara as we would have liked. We’ll definitely go back sometime when the weather is better.

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota

There was once an impressive building on the corner of the intersection shown above.  It would have stood where the nose of the pickup is sticking out from behind the fire garage.

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Passing Through Merricourt

Passing Through Merricourt

Merricourt is a very remote town in Dickey County, about fifty miles south of Jamestown. There are fewer than a handful of residents in Merricourt — just one family remains in this near-ghost town. We didn’t intend to visit Merricourt when we went on an adventure in October of 2014, but some last minute route changes took us right through town, so we stopped to snap a few shots, nine years after our first visit.

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
An Abandoned Port of Entry in Northgate, North Dakota

An Abandoned Port of Entry in Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate is a fascinating near-ghost town right on the Canadian border, about 70 miles northwest of Minot. It was originally founded one mile to the north, but moved one mile south to its present site. While the original town site retained the name North Gate (with a space) this town was renamed North Gate South, and then re-dubbed Northgate (without the space) when the post office was established in 1914.

Northgate, North Dakota

Above: The former Northgate Port of Entry building. The road to the east of Northgate is the highway which formerly functioned as the port of entry, but it is now closed and well-posted by US Customs and Immigration. The new border crossing is about a half mile west.

Not wanting to attract the attention of US Customs and Immigration by driving toward the border on a farm road, we took a long walk down the road to get pictures of the former Port of Entry building. We got within twenty feet of the Canadian border.

Northgate, North Dakota

As mentioned by a site visitor in the comments section below, the building in the background of the photo above is the former Canadian Port of Entry building, on the Canadian side of the international border. The road to the right of the building shown above was gated when the former border crossing was closed.

We visited another former border crossing in Noyes, Minnesota.

Northgate, North Dakota

Update: we’ve been told this building has now been demolished. The old Port of Entry is now gone.

Northgate, North Dakota

This is the view from inside the Port of Entry building.  The town outside is the original North Gate.

Northgate, North Dakota

The town in the background of the above photo is North Gate, on the site of the original town platted in 1910.  It is now in Canada.  It’s unclear how may people live there. We did not see any activity. We’ve been told the Canadian government was planning to demolish what’s left of North Gate, if they haven’t already.

Northgate, North Dakota

To get quite specific, in the photo above, the asphalt road in the foreground is US territory.   The grassy ditch just beyond the road (where the railroad crossbuck is planted, just on the other side of a barely visible barb-wire fence) is the US-Canadian border.  The dirt road and homes at the rear are in Canada.

Northgate, North Dakota

A couple years later, we visited another impressive abandoned border crossing in Noyes, Minnesota.

Northgate, North Dakota

Terry ventured onto the road to take this photo, but we escaped without any customs and immigration entanglements.

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

These elevators are along the now closed highway which originally crossed the border.

Northgate, North Dakota

There were a lot of places built in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century that were affected by changing policies at the international border. One of them, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Caribou, Minnesota, was featured in our book, Churches of the High Plains.

Northgate, North Dakota

We met a not-so-tactful Northgate resident who first asked if we were lost, and then informed us they didn’t like strangers poking around in their town. All in all, an eventful visit.

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Abandoned: Freda, North Dakota

Abandoned: Freda, North Dakota

Freda, North Dakota is a true ghost town in Grant County about 35 miles southwest of Bismarck.  Freda started out as a Milwaukee Railroad town, and once had a population  of 50 plus its own bank.

Freda, North Dakota

Freda, North Dakota

Freda, North Dakota

Today it is totally abandoned with the remains of its depot crumbling in the elements. There is one other structure next to the depot, and the ruins of several other buildings on the town site. The depot originally stood about a half mile to the south, but was relocated here. There was also a grain elevator here at one time, but it was moved to Raleigh.

Freda, North Dakota

Freda, North Dakota

We spoke to an area resident who didn’t even know Freda still existed. If you don’t know what to look for, you’ll probably drive right past it. One interesting footnote: according to North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick, a meteorite fell in Freda in 1919 and is now displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

Freda, North Dakota

Above: Inside the depot.

Freda, North Dakota

The building above looks like it may have been a store or perhaps a post office at one time.  Update: user Ken Laches tells us it was a post office (see comments.) Below: a look inside tells us harsh weathering has been going on for decades, and it looks like someone has scavenged some rusty tin from the back wall.

Freda, North Dakota

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Freda, North Dakota

The foundation of the former church, on the east end of Freda.

Freda, North Dakota

Freda, North Dakota

This abandoned farm stands just about a mile or two north of Freda.

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
A Lonesome View on Barton Street

A Lonesome View on Barton Street

Originally called Denney, this unincorporated community was founded along the Great Northern Railroad in 1887.  The name was changed to Barton in 1893. Barton is in Pierce County, about twelve miles northwest of Rugby.  In the 2010 Census, it was listed as having 20 residents.

Barton, North Dakota

We chose to visit Barton after a vocal visitor to our Facebook page suggested it on more than one occasion.  It turned out to be a great suggestion — Barton has abandoned buildings on both sides of its former main street–Barton Street.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Update: We’re told the Barton Sportsman’s Club was torn down in Summer of 2013.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

There was once a school in Barton, and the town had over two hundred residents at one time.  If someone can tell us what building these steps once led to, we’d love to hear it in the comments.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

This old home reminded us of Little House on the Prairie.  You can almost imagine weathering a blizzard in this little place, with a fire in the wood stove and a kettle of hot soup to keep you warm.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

We’ve heard from one resident of Barton who seems to have a problem with the use of the word “abandoned” in describing some of the buildings, preferring to describe the structures as being “in disrepair” instead. In our opinion, it’s splitting hairs.

Merriam-Webster Definition of Abandoned: left without needed protection or care

Abandoned is not intended to mean unowned. If a building is no longer used for the purpose it was originally intended, if its windows are boarded up, if its gutters have fallen and the roof has caved in, if it has weeds and grass growing up around it, or if its been vandalized and never repaired, then it’s not a big stretch to call it abandoned, whether things are stored in it, and whether someone owns it or not.  It also doesn’t mean people are welcome to walk right in, or take things.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

This would be a great place to spend a peaceful moment waiting for a bus, if there were any buses running in Barton.  As it is, it looks as though someone had a bonfire here.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

The owner of the outhouse had a good sense of humor.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

At the time of our visit, this old shop was on its last leg.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

This photo of Barton Lutheran Church was featured in our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains.

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton, North Dakota

Barton has a very impressive city park which hosts (or hosted) Haakenson family reunions every year for a time.

Barton, North Dakota

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
11 North Dakota Attractions You Can Visit for Free

11 North Dakota Attractions You Can Visit for Free

One of the things we’ve always loved about photographing North Dakota’s abandoned places and roadside attractions is that it feels like an alternative form of tourism–that is to say, most of these places are interesting and fun to visit, but there are generally no crowds and no admission fees.  However, when you have the kids in the car, or Grandma and Grandpa tagging along on a day trip, sometimes you need something a little more family friendly, with fewer rusty nails to step on (and cheap is always good). So, gas up the family truckster. Here are eleven North Dakota attractions you can visit for free.

Fort Abercrombie

Fort Abercrombie

The original Fort Abercrombie was constructed in 1858, and it was the first military settlement in what would become North Dakota.  Fort Abercrombie is 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.  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.

Gingras Trading Post

gingras-trading-post

Gingras Trading Post is northeast of Walhalla about four miles from the Canadian border. The trading post was established in 1801 as a center of commerce on a sometimes hostile frontier.  According to the State Historical Society: The buildings at Gingras State Historic Site are the oldest standing structures in North Dakota. They have been restored to their original appearance by the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Cartwright Tunnel and Fairview Lift Bridge

Cartwright Tunnel

Cartwright Tunnel and Fairview Lift Bridge, in McKenzie County, just a short drive southwest of Williston, is a two-for-one attraction–a lift bridge on the Yellowstone River (which was only raised one time), and North Dakota’s only railroad tunnel.  Both have now been converted to tourist attractions, and are free to explore.  Bonus: on a hot summer day, the Cartwright Tunnel features natural air-conditioning in a pitch black and blissfully cool tunnel.

Dakota Thunder and Frontier Village

frontier-village1

Dakota Thunder, in Jamestown, is billed as the World’s Largest Buffalo. It’s a concrete statue of a North American Bison which stands at the east end of Frontier Village, a replica frontier town with actual buildings from places around the state.  It’s free to get in, and for a few extra bucks, you can visit the National Buffalo Museum which is also on-site.

Standing Rock Hill Historic Site

standing-rock1

Standing Rock Hill Historic Site, not to be confused with Standing Rock Reservation much further to the west, is a scenic and sacred site south of Kathryn and west of Enderlin, in Ransom County.  Standing Rock Hill Historic Site consists of four Native American burial mounds, the largest of which is marked with the small standing rock shown here.  Getting to the site requires a fairly steep uphill drive on a minimally maintained road, and the trip should only be taken by the adventurous if the weather is bad.

White Butte

White Butte

White Butte is the highest point in North Dakota, in Slope County, near Amidon, and of the fifty state high points, one of only seven on private land. It’s a fairly strenuous thirty-minute hike to the summit. The property owners are known to be friendly to the climbing community as long as you’re respectful and pick up after yourself. The last time we visited, there was a porta-potty at the base, but there are no other services of any kind, and no admission fee.

Northern Pacific High Line Bridge #64

High Line Bridge

High Line Bridge is the longest railroad bridge in the state, and like the Gassman-Coulee Trestle in Minot and the Sheyenne River Bridge near Karnak, we chose to photograph it and feature it here due to the railroads’ pivotal role in settling North Dakota. High Line Bridge is in Valley City, there’s a park at the base of the bridge, and plenty of restaurants and accommodations in town. No admission fee.

Painted Canyon

Painted Canyon

Painted Canyon Visitor Center is right off the north side of Interstate 94, a few miles east of Medora.  If you’re entering the Badlands from the east, this is your first chance to get a look at them from a scenic overlook, and it is amazing.  While it costs a few bucks to get into Theodore Roosevelt National Park a few miles west, the Painted Canyon Overlook is free.

Jensen Cabin at Wadeson Park

jensen-cabin1

Jensen Cabin, in Barnes County, was built in 1878 by Norwegian immigrant Carl Bjerke Jensen, made from hand-hewn oak.  The cabin and the land were donated to the State Historical Society by the Wadeson family in 1957.  This cabin was in pretty bad shape until it was restored in 1981.  It’s a beautiful drive to get here if you drive the Sheyenne River Valley Scenic Byway from Valley City, and the placid and soothing Wadeson Park Spillway is right across the road.  It’s a nice history lesson, and it’s free.

Gassman Coulee Trestle

Gassman Coulee Trestle

Gassman Coulee Trestle is one of three very large railroad trestles we’ve photographed, the others being the High Line in Valley City and Sheyenne River Bridge near Karnak. Gassman Coulee Trestle, just west of Minot, is an attraction in the roughest sense–you can drive under it, photograph it, or just stand in awe of it, but there’s no visitor center or anything like that. It’s just a great place to be outside with your camera on a hot summer night.  There was once a ski resort under this trestle, and the former ski lodge is still there, but now it’s a private residence.

The site of Old Sanish

Sanish, ND

Old Sanish lies beneath the waves of Lake Sakakawea most of the time, but sometimes, if the water is really low, you can see the remains of Old Sanish.  With the water at normal levels, the ruins are submerged, but you can still visit Crow Flies High Butte, see the monument to Old Sanish which features photos of the town, and get a fantastic panorama view of Lake Sakakawea and Four Bears Bridge.

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Raleigh, North Dakota, Population 9

Raleigh, North Dakota, Population 9

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 township.

Raleigh, North Dakota

We visited Raleigh at the suggestion of Karla, the owner of the Dogtooth, Raleigh’s only watering hole, and we’re glad we did. There are plenty of good places to photograph, plus they had cold drinks and hot cheeseburgers, as promised. Just make sure you bring cash, no credit cards at the Dogtooth.  Update: a site visitor reports the Dogtooth has closed. See comments.

Raleigh, North Dakota

There were black and white photos on the wall of The Dogtooth from some day long ago — some men were pictured around the Freda Grain Elevator, just before they moved it (in the standing position) to Raleigh. We spoke with Karla at length, and she told us the Raleigh school now stands in Flasher.

Raleigh rests in the bottom of a natural bowl, and we were surprised to find we couldn’t get phone service anywhere.

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh was featured in our hardcover coffee table book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 2.

Raleigh, North Dakota

We’re told the owner of this now-closed store passed away nearly three years ago.

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

Raleigh, North Dakota

This looks like the remains of the former Raleigh School

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Nanson: A North Dakota Ghost Town

Nanson: A North Dakota Ghost Town

As we set out to photograph ghost towns in early May of 2012, we had Nanson in mind as our ultimate destination.  We’ve known about Nanson for quite some time but somehow we just never managed to make it there — it was time.

After driving all day through an array of locations, we reached US Highway 2 and drove into Rugby for some lunch — huge double cheeseburgers at the Cornerstone Cafe (now closed). After lunch, we departed for Nanson.

As we headed north of Highway 2 we were struck by the wide open space and the brilliant blue sky.  The green rolling hills brought to mind the opening sequence of ‘Little House on the Prairie.’  The trees got more sparse, and farmsteads flashed by less frequently. Sometimes it gets quiet in the car on drives like this. Conversation slows, and one of us turns down the radio in an almost involuntary reflex — unconscious appreciation for some rare silence in an increasingly noisy age. As we traveled further into the countryside, traffic diminished and Terry reminded me we’d entered waving country — when a rare truck passed, the driver lifted one hand and waved

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
The Shadow of Lunds Valley, North Dakota

The Shadow of Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley is a beautiful near-ghost town nestled in a valley in Mountrail County, about fifty-four miles northeast of Williston.  It is one of those towns where we showed up a little too late, because there aren’t many of the original buildings still standing.  It is a mere shadow of its former self.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley was considered a rural post office and the population of the town never exceeded 100.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Terry’s photo of this elevator is featured on the cover of our first book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 1, and the affordable, softcover Special Edition, too.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

This is the remains of the former Lunds Valley school, destroyed by fire. Wylora Christianson sent a photo of the school before it burned.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Sidewalks remain, long after the buildings are gone.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

We’ve seen references online where the name of this place is sometimes spelled as one word, Lundsvalley.

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

Lunds Valley, North Dakota

See also: Lunds Valley School before it burned

See also: More Lunds Valley

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
13 People and 3 Churches in Kief, North Dakota

13 People and 3 Churches in Kief, North Dakota

Kief is a near-ghost town in McHenry county, and is home to the first Russian Baptist Church ever established in the United States. Although only listed as having a population of 13 in the 2010 census, the amount of activity we saw on our visit to Kief seemed to suggest a larger population, perhaps twenty?  Kief has a bar which was open for business on the day we visited. Update: we’ve been told the bar has since closed.

Kief, North Dakota

Kief has a total of three churches still standing, but only one appeared to be still in use.

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

US Census Data for Kief
Total Population by Place

1960 – 97
1970 – 46
1980 – 36
2000 – 12
2010 – 13

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Many of the abandoned homes in Kief were in quite good condition, and Minot, the closest sizable city, is only forty-five minutes down the road. We thought Kief would be the perfect place to buy a hobby home for a reasonable price.

Kief, North Dakota

From the era when a guy came out to your car and pumped your gas, washed the windows, and checked the oil.  Let’s bring that back, can we?

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief is also home to one of North Dakota’s longest running cold cases.  Donna Jean Michalenko disappeared from Kief on November 2nd, 1968. Michalenko disappeared after a night of drinking with a male companion, who claimed he dropped her off at her ex-husband’s house. She was never seen again.

The investigation into Michaelenko’s disappearance was hampered by the fact that she wasn’t reported missing for six weeks after she disappeared.  If you have information regarding the disappearance of Donna, please call the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office (the county where Donna lived) at 701-537-5633 or the McLean County Sheriff’s office (where she allegedly disappeared) at 701-462-8103.

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief First Baptist Church’s claim to fame.

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

Kief, North Dakota

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.