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Tag: Benson County

A Second Immanuel Lutheran Church

A Second Immanuel Lutheran Church

As we ventured toward Minot for a book signing event in 2014, we decided we would try to sneak in some shooting time at a few different locations along the drive, but this particular place was not a place we knew about beforehand — we just happened to drive right by it, on highway 30 in Albert Township, just north of Maddock, North Dakota and couldn’t pass up such a picturesque church. The best places are always the places we discover by accident.

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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. @NorthDakotaTroy

Legend of the Devils Lake Monster

Legend of the Devils Lake Monster

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know “ghosts” is a metaphor that refers to the ghosts of our past, and most of the time, that manifests itself here in the form of photos of our vanishing places. Sometimes though, we run across a story so interesting, a piece of forgotten history or local lore so fascinating, that we feel compelled to write about it. This is one of those instances

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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. @NorthDakotaTroy

That Time Our Vehicle Went to the Ghost Town in the Sky

That Time Our Vehicle Went to the Ghost Town in the Sky

On occasion we’ve been asked if we know how many miles we’ve driven in pursuit of North Dakota ghost towns and abandoned places, but we’ve never really had an answer because we didn’t really start keeping track of our mileage until a few years ago. We did, however, have a metric we used to keep track of how much driving we’ve done… the number of vehicles we’ve gone through. We’ve driven about ten different vehicles, and worn-out three of them on the backroads of North Dakota, and two of them actually gave up during a trip to shoot abandoned places.

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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. @NorthDakotaTroy

The Twin Towers of Josephine

The Twin Towers of Josephine

Once upon on a time there was a pioneer settlement named Genin at this spot in Benson County, about halfway between Maddock and Oberon, North Dakota. That settlment was later renamed Josephine, but it never really became a town. The highest population ever recorded was approximately 30, and some of those were folks who lived in the surrounding countryside. The truth is, Josephine was really just a glorified railroad siding along the Northern Pacific Railroad. The remains of the town are gone, and only two crumbling grain elevators remain.

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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. @NorthDakotaTroy

The Abandoned Skyline Skiway, Devils Lake

The Abandoned Skyline Skiway, Devils Lake

This is a former Nordic ski jump, in Benson County, about 10 miles south of Devils Lake, or three miles east of Fort Totten, at the ski resort once known as Skyline Skiway. According to the December 1982 issue of Ski Magazine, this ski jump opened in 1928 and closed in 1936. The ski hill continued to operate on and off into the early eighties, and was home to the Lake Region Ski Club. We visited in October of 2012 and captured these photos.

Update: A visitor to our Facebook page tells us most of this ski jump has blown down in a windstorm and there is very little left.

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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. @NorthDakotaTroy

Second Chances in Oberon

Second Chances in Oberon

Oberon, North Dakota is in Benson County, about ten miles southwest of Fort Totten. Two places we had been to previously, Josephine and Flora, North Dakota, are a short drive west.

Oberon, North Dakota

We happened to drive through Oberon when we were on our way to Minot in 2014 and we were surprised to see there were some good photo opportunities that we hadn’t known about. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time that day. So, our visit in the spring of 2015 was a second chance.

Oberon, North Dakota

In the 2010 Census, Oberon’s population was listed as 105; a pretty populated place compared to many of the small towns featured on this site. There was a photogenic combination of vacant places and creative reuse going on in Oberon, however, and we wanted to share a few places.

The Community Center on the corner of A Street and Main Avenue had neatly maintained grounds. Maybe it was a bank at one time? Perhaps someone can comment.

Oberon, North Dakota

Oberon, North Dakota

This town was first known as Antelope; a moniker authors Vernell and Louise Johnson say came from the settlement’s location at “the northwest end of the famous Antelope Valley, where antelope were plentiful.” The town was renamed Barker when the post office was established in 1885, but in 1886 Postmaster Vernon Matthews changed the name to Oberon, a reference to Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and the town was platted.

Oberon, North Dakota

Oberon, North DakotaThe Oberon School looked like it was still a fully-active, functional school, and we had no reason to photograph it, really, other than the fact that it’s a big, beautiful brick building, and that temptation is hard to resist.

Oberon, North Dakota

If the alternative is letting an old church wither in the elements until it caves in, we’re thrilled to see beautiful old sanctuaries like the one in Oberon get some creative reuse. We saw another church in 2014 in Wabek, North Dakota that someone had turned into a home, and someone appeared to be moving into an old Post Office in Sentinel Butte. It’s so cool to see old places, steeped in history and heritage, getting second chances.

Oberon, North Dakota

Do you have our hardcover, Ghosts of North Dakota coffee table books? Order them in our store.

Oberon, North Dakota

Another place we couldn’t resist shooting. Calvary Lutheran Church.

Oberon, North Dakota

Services are Sunday at 9:30.

Oberon, North Dakota

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

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

Solitude in Brinsmade, North Dakota

Solitude in Brinsmade, North Dakota

Brinsmade, North Dakota was platted in Benson County, just west of Devils Lake, on October 7th, 1889 as the Northern Pacific Railway expanded progessively west, carrying settlers and their families to their eventual homes on the plains. It officially became a city in 1904.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

According to the 2010 Census, Brinsmade is now home to 35 residents in 13 households.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

Brinsmade’s most prominent features today are the abandoned grain elevators.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

Brinsmade, North Dakota

Brinsmade is the central locale in Richard K. Hofstrand’s book, “With Affection, Marten,” a fictionalized account of his ancestor Marten Hofstrand’s immigration journey from Sweden to North Dakota. It is an exceptional glimpse at what it was like to be a settler in the early days of North Dakota.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

For those interested in more history of Brinsmade, there is an out-of-print book by Susan Rolle Foy, “Memories of Brinsmade, North Dakota,” published in 1976. I have not read it, but I’ve been told it’s full of interesting information.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

The remains of an unknown structure.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

According to “North Dakota: Every Town on the Map, and Moreby Vernell and Louise Johnson, Brinsmade was named for Reverend S. Brinsmade, congregational minister of Beloit, Wisconsin. The town site was located on the original homestead of John Erickson.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

The remains of a sidewalk where there are no longer any businesses or homes to visit.



Brinsmade, North Dakota

The school did not appear to have been used for classes in quite some time. Update: Site visitor Kevin Lunde reports the school was built in 1959 and only used for ten years as the last class was excused in 1969.

Brinsmade, North Dakota

You can support our efforts to photograph North Dakota’s lost and vanishing places by ordering our latest hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains. Makes a stellar gift!

Brinsmade, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright 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. @NorthDakotaTroy

Beaver Township School

Beaver Township School

This is the Beaver Township Country School/Township Hall, on Mud Lake in Benson County, about 23 miles southeast of Rugby, just a short drive south of York, North Dakota.

Beaver Township School

The location of this school, right on the water, is very beautiful, however, we battled 40 mile-per-hour wind gusts all day as we stopped at places like Jospehine and Immanuel Lutheran Church, and when we arrived here, it was positively frigid. Terry and I were both reminded what it must have been like to attend school in a little building like this in a howling snowstorm. Brrr.

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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. @NorthDakotaTroy

Two Minutes Until Winter

Two Minutes Until Winter

It was November 7th, 2014 and it was two minutes until winter in Josephine, North Dakota when we briefly braved forty mile per hour winds to get the photos you see here.

Josephine, North Dakota

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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. @NorthDakotaTroy

Fillmore’s Lost Legacy

Fillmore’s Lost Legacy

A half dozen structures or more have been lost to fires of questionable origin in Fillmore in recent years, a story which we addressed here.  As a result, we went back into our photo archive and chose to add to the site these photos, which we’ve never before posted. Most of what you see here is now gone.

 

Fillmore

This building is now gone.

Fillmore

Fillmore

The rail line which once ran past Fillmore went right through this cut in the ridgeline.

Fillmore

Fillmore

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Both of these buildings are now gone.

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

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

Return to Fillmore

Return to Fillmore

We first visited Fillmore in 2006 and we were completely blown away. Fillmore was one of the most impressive near-ghost towns we had ever been to. At the time, there just a couple of part-time residents, and more than a dozen abandoned structures including a bar, a store, a community hall/gymnasium, an auto shop, and numerous homes.

For some time, we had known the gymnasium had been listed for sale. In summer of 2012, we started hearing from people who said something had happened in Fillmore. A centennial celebration had taken place, and in the process of cleanup before the celebration, a number of structures had been burned. We heard rumors of lawsuits, and got emails from people who told us stories about angry property owners. In an effort to get a little clarity on it, I emailed and spoke with several people on both sides of the conflict over what happened in Fillmore, and this is what I was told:

  • Organizers of the centennial had concerns about the safety of attendees due to the large number of abandoned properties, and attempted to contact property owners about remedying the situation.
  • Property owners gave me varying accounts of whether they were contacted, and whether they were given enough time to comply with requests to secure their properties.
  • Prior to the celebration, a number of properties were cleaned out and valuables removed.
  • The bar, the store, the gymnasium, and the auto shop, all burned.  Numerous houses are all gone from the Fillmore town site since our last visit too.
  • Fire investigators determined the fires which took down the gymnasium and neighboring structures were intentionally set, but nobody can prove who did it.

These are conclusions I was able to draw based solely on conversations and correspondence with people involved.  And it brings several things to mind.  The importance of respecting property owners’ rights, for instance, regardless of whether the property owners are local residents.  On the flip-side, if a property owner lives in a distant location and purchases a property for a song with the intention of ‘doing something with it, someday,’ what responsibility do they have to visit their property regularly and maintain it? And how can these disputes be resolved respectfully?

In a state like North Dakota where properties in remote locations are frequently forfeited to the county for back taxes, then purchased by someone else for a dirt cheap price, these are not easy questions to answer.  But what we can say for sure is that Fillmore, North Dakota will never be the same.  We left with heavy hearts after seeing that fifty percent of the town is now gone.

Here’s a photo from 2006 on the sidewalk in front of the bar and store.

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

And here’s a photo we took in 2012 looking down the same sidewalk.  Both buildings gone.

Fillmore, North Dakota

Here’s a photo of the gymnasium/community center in 2006.

Fillmore, North Dakota

And here’s what remains today.  Just the front steps.

Fillmore, North Dakota

Here’s another view of the bar and store in 2006, note the position of the double pine trees behind the building.

Fillmore, North Dakota

Here’s a photo from 2012.  The double pine trees are still there, but both buildings are gone.

Fillmore, North Dakota

A Fillmore home in 2012.

Fillmore, North Dakota

Here’s the same home in 2006.

Fillmore, North Dakota

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

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

Fillmore, ND

Fillmore, ND

Fillmore, ND is in Benson County, about 20 miles SE of Rugby, the geographical center of North America. Fillmore reportedly had 150 citizens in 1920, but that declined to 74 by 1960 and today Fillmore is home to only two part-time residents.  When we arrived, we were surprised to find Fillmore was one fo the best North Dakota ghost towns we’d run across so far.

There is a defined Main Street in town with vacant buildings staring each other down from opposite sides of the street. There are many vacant homes too, not to mention two vacant churches.

The townsite pictured here is actually the second townsite to bear the name Fillmore. The original townsite several miles southeast is now wiped from the prairie.

Like most ghost towns in North Dakota, Fillmore was another casualty of the decline of the train and the rise of the automobile.

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Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota

Fillmore, North Dakota

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

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

See also: Fillmore’s Lost Legacy
See also: Return to Fillmore

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