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The Why and How of Cathay, North Dakota

The Why and How of Cathay, North Dakota

Near the center of the state, in Wells County, about fifteen miles northwest of Carrington, Cathay stands as a great example of a shrinking North Dakota railroad community in the heart of farming country. It was founded in 1892 and the first post office went up the following year, to serve the Soo Line railroad. At one time, there were 255 residents here, but in the 2000 Census, the number was 56. Ten years later, the 2010 tally was 43.

Some might argue it was after the closing of the school when things started to look a little bleak in Cathay. Some might say, “No, it was the post office,” and still others would insist there was some other tipping point, but in reality the railroad was responsible for the fate of many small towns like this, and as went the railroad, so went the town.

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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.
Saved from the Deluge: Independence Congregational Church

Saved from the Deluge: Independence Congregational Church

On several occasions we’ve made an effort to document the abandonment of civilizations along the Missouri River in 1953 due to a coming flood created by the Garrison Dam project — the story of Sanish, North Dakota, the construction of Four Bears Bridge, a visit to an Elbowoods Church, and a lost highway to the bottom of a lake, for example — and the story of Independence is another of those.

Independence, North Dakota stood along the west bank of the Missouri River. Douglas A. Wick’s “North Dakota Place Names” says it was founded in 1885 by Wolf Chief of the Gros Ventres, and named “Independence” to signify independence from the other tribes at Fort Berthold.

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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.
Boom and Bust in Corinth, North Dakota

Boom and Bust in Corinth, North Dakota

Corinth is a near-ghost town in Williams County, about thirty-four miles northeast of Williston. Although one of the residents has taken over a portion of the town, Corinth is still fairly intact with lots of original buildings in time-worn condition.

Corinth was founded in 1916 and reportedly had a peak population of 108 around 1920, and although that figure began to dwindle almost immediately, the Post Office stayed open until 1969. Corinth was an unincorporated town and as a result, there are no reliable census figures to be found.

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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 James River Church on a Hill

Lonely James River Church on a Hill

We’ve passed this place a dozen times in our travels. It usually happens something like this… we’re on a tight schedule, wanting to get to all of the places we’ve planned to shoot before the sun sets, or the weather turns bad, so we pass on by, promising to hit it next time. Then, we usually get ten minutes down the road, and we start regretting the choice not to stop. So, this time we decided to stop and photograph this lonely James River Church on a hill overlooking Highway 200, about 16 miles east of Carrington, or 30 miles west of Cooperstown.

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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.
Hurricane Lake Church Approaches the End

Hurricane Lake Church Approaches the End

At one time, there was a “town” near Hurricane Lake, in the northeast corner of Pierce County, about 7 miles northeast of York, North Dakota. It was a “town” because it had a post office, but in reality it never had a sizable population. Hurricane Lake was founded early in relation to many of the towns we visit — in the 1880s — and was a stage coach stop, never having had the benefit of a railroad line to boost development. There was a hotel at the north end of Hurricane Lake to serve travelers on the stage line, but the post office shut down in 1905 and today there is nothing left of the original Hurricane Lake. At present, the area is home to the Hurricane Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and this crumbling church and still-used cemetery are the only man-made signs of the settlers who once lived in the vicinity of Hurricane Lake. 

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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.
Norway Lutheran Church Overlooks Perseverance

Norway Lutheran Church Overlooks Perseverance

We visited this beautiful place, Norway Lutheran Church, in April of 2017. It’s in McHenry County, about 15 miles southwest of Towner, North Dakota, and it is perched on the hill above the Souris River Valley. The Souris, known to locals as the “Mouse River”, has flooded many times, particularly in 1969 and 2011 (a 1976 flood was serious, but not as severe as ’69 or ’11), and 6 years later, the legacy of the 2011 flood can still be seen everywhere. Just down the way from this church, a gravel road still stands blocked-off, partly underwater. Dead wood lies along the river bank in heaps, piled there by land owners after thousands of trees, live and dead, were uprooted and sent drifting downriver in the deluge. In places, there are the remains of flooded buildings, but in many more, new constructions, nicely landscaped and brightly painted. From a safe spot well above the flood plain, and in the tradition of the hardy settlers who came here more than a century earlier, Norway Lutheran Church overlooks perseverance. 

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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.
Bethel Lutheran Awaits Just One More Potluck

Bethel Lutheran Awaits Just One More Potluck

The cornerstone for this church along County Road 5 reads “Bethel Hauges Norsk E.V. Luth. Kirke, 1915”. Put more plainly, that’s Bethel Hauges Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church. The building is located in northern Wells County, about 10 miles east of Harvey, and although the cemetery is still active, the building stands abandoned and boarded-up. In the place where the Lord’s word could once be heard on Sunday mornings by 80 or 100 parishioners at a time, Bethel Lutheran awaits just one more potluck.

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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.
Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Grassy Butte, ND is in a very sparsely populated area of western North Dakota, in southern McKenzie County. It does not appear in any of the census records back as far as 1960, but it reportedly harbored 100 citizens at one time. Monica Hardy contributed these photos in 2010 with the following comments:

The building that looks like a church in the background of the post office/museum pictures are of a private home. Someone renovated the home. There were other bldgs in the town that had been renovated into private homes. This town is very close to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park… no hotels located in this town at present.

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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 Quiet of Forbes, North Dakota

The Quiet of Forbes, North Dakota

Forbes, North Dakota is in Dickey County, about thirty miles southeast of Ashley, right on the South Dakota border. On nearly every trip, we go out looking forward to seeing a certain town, but on the way home, we realize another town was better or more fun.  In this adventure in June of 2011, Forbes was that town — the pleasant surprise.

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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.
Lonetree’s Ghost Cathedral

Lonetree’s Ghost Cathedral

Australian adventurer and photographer Gavin Parker sent us these photos of Lonetree, North Dakota, a place that just barely came to be.

A settlement known as Lone Tree (two words) came into being in 1888 in the area that would become Ward County, Foxholm Township, in 1888, when this was still the Dakota Territory. A post office was to be founded that same year, but with Lone Tree’s fledgling status, officials thought better of it and canceled the plans. In 1890, a new post office was established, but it only lasted 18 months before it was closed and the few residents of Lone Tree had to travel by horse and wagon to Minot, 15 miles southeast, to pick up their mail. As the population grew in Des Lacs, a Great Northern Railroad stop only four miles down the track, mail service for Lone Tree was established there.

Lonetree, North Dakota

In 1902, enough settlers had arrived in Lone Tree that a third post office was established (with the name spelled as Lonetree, no space) and it would serve the town until closure in 1957. According to North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick,  the peak population of Lonetree was 75 residents in 1920.

Lonetree, North Dakota

According to a post made by an anonymous visitor in a ghost town forum, there were five remaining residents in Lonetree as of 2010. This ghost cathedral is one of the few historic structures remaining in town.

Lonetree, North Dakota

Do you know more about Lonetree, or this old church? Please leave a comment below.

Lonetree, North Dakota

Inside the main floor church sanctuary.

Lonetree, North Dakota

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Lonetree, North Dakota

Lonetree, North Dakota

A look in the basement of the church.

Lonetree, North Dakota

Lonetree, North Dakota

There are one or two more derelict places in Lone Tree.

Lonetree, North Dakota

Photos by Gavin Parker, 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.
Ruso: Smallest Incorporated Town in North Dakota

Ruso: Smallest Incorporated Town in North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota is in McLean County and had a reported population of 4 in the 2010 Census. A claim from an unknown source that we’ve seen around the web says Ruso is the smallest incorporated town in North Dakota. Several unincorporated towns are even smaller, like Hanks (pop. 1), and Merricourt, and ghost towns with zero residents.

Ruso, North Dakota
Ruso, North Dakota. Image/Google Earth

Kelsey Rusch visited Ruso in 2010 and contributed these photos with the following comments:

Right off highway 41, south of Velva, you will find Ruso. Though it has ten or so abandoned buildings, there appear to be three residences as well, making it inhabited, but probably for not too much longer.

It is located just south east of the borders of McLean, Ward, and McHenry counties in a very beautiful yet desolate part of the state.

According to the North Dakota Place Names book, “The post office was established on December 1, 1906 with Edwin J Burgess as pm. The village incorporated in 1909 and by 1910 reported a population of 141, with a doctor, newpaper, and many other luxuries often missing in new townsites.” The Place Names book (first published 1988), claims the zip code was 58778 and was still open at the time. However, a sign outside what I assume was the post office suggests that it closed in 1981.

Ruso, North Dakota

As far as the name “Ruso,” the Place Names book says the name either is a Russian word meaning “south of us,” or, as others say, it was coined from the words SOuth RUssia, which was the homeland of many of the area settlers.

Ruso, North Dakota

The town is in a very peaceful location. The sole road passes one residence right next to the highway before leading to several abandoned ones. The post office, now a home, sits in the middle of town, next to a collapsed building and across from an empty and overgrown field. From what I can gather a section of the field used to be a baseball diamond. If only the kids who used to play there saw it today.

Further down the road sits what was once a pretty nice sized school but now is used as a residence. Around the corner and down the road sits what was once a beautiful church. Two outhouses sit to the east of the church, and to the west a flax field is planted almost all the way up to the doors of the church, which faces west. The grounds surrounding the church, unfortunately, are a mess. There is a junked bus sitting outside, as well as two or three junked pickups. Numerous other things are scattered around and it is obvious the few remaining residents do not take care of the church any more.

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

There were a few other abandoned buildings hidden in the trees surrounding the city but they were either posted or too overgrown to get to. If anyone has any other information about Ruso, especially about history or as to why there is a large bus that says “Huntley Project Red Devils” parked outside of the church, I’d definitely love to hear more about this place. It was very calm and serene and is in a beautiful location in the state.

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Ruso, North Dakota

Photos by Kelsey Rusch, 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.
Abandoned Wabek, North Dakota Saloon

Abandoned Wabek, North Dakota Saloon

This is Wabek, North Dakota, in Mountrail County, about 35 miles southwest of Minot. Wabek was founded in 1914 and we visited and captured these photos 100 years later, in 2014.

Wabek, North Dakota

According to North Dakota Place Names by Doug Wick, Wabek even had a radio station once, broadcasting with the call letters WABK. Wabek’s all-time high population was 46 in the 1930 Census, but today there appears to be only one occupied property on the town site.

Wabek, North Dakota

This saloon was the last remaining business in Wabek for a long time… one lonely watering-hole splashed with white block letters on its facade, tall enough to be seen by anyone passing on the lightly-traveled highway a half mile to the north.

Wabek, North Dakota

Even after this saloon closed as an official place of business, it was still used for special events. As recently as 2003, “The Wabek Bar” hosted a bachelorette auction, a Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament, and a street dance.

Wabek, North Dakota

This place is in no condition to host anything these days. It seems structurally sketchy and there’s a huge hornets nest growing on the ceiling inside. Unfortunately, this saloon looks beyond saving unless someone decides to take heroic action right away.

Wabek, North Dakota

Wabek actually had a Post Office for almost fifty years, from 1917 to 1966.

Wabek, North Dakota

Below: a look inside the red building shown above.

Wabek, North Dakota

Wabek, North Dakota

This house is on the northwest corner of the town site.

Wabek, North Dakota

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Wabek, North Dakota

Just to the north of the house, this old pump (above) and the retaining wall below. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me what I was looking at, and I still don’t know.

Wabek, North Dakota

Wabek, North Dakota

Further to the south is this impressive Wabek School, which appears to be two fairly standard one-room school houses joined in the center for a twin classroom model.

Wabek, North Dakota

Across the road from the school is this church, which , at the time we visited, had been repurposed as a dwelling and was the only building on the original town site that was occupied.

Wabek, 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.
Driscoll Church… Like They Just Left Yesterday

Driscoll Church… Like They Just Left Yesterday

It’s always amazing when you run across a place like this rural Driscoll Church… like they just left yesterday.

We were on our way to visit Arena, North Dakota in September, 2016, when we drove right past this place and decided to stop for a visit.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Zion Lutheran Church is in Burleigh County, Harriet-Lein Township, and is described as “rural Driscoll.” In reality, it is about ten miles north of Driscoll, or eleven miles southeast of Wing, North Dakota.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

When we arrived, it wasn’t easy to tell from the outside whether Zion Lutheran was still an active church or not. It looked like it. It is weather-tight with a steel roof, good paint, and intact windows. The grounds were well-maintained too. Perhaps a congregation still assembled regularly?

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

A quick search revealed Zion Lutheran has it’s own Facebook page. Although Zion Lutheran no longer has services every Sunday, special events are still happening here, and planning is underway for a 100th Anniversary celebration next year. Below: The cornerstone planted in 1917.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Above: The sacristy is just inside the door.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Above: Some information for anyone who wants to make a monetary donation to preserve Zion Lutheran Church. Below: Even though they held a service here in July of 2016, nobody touched the keys apparently, because they’re still covered in cobwebs.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

The sanctuary exists in a state of beautiful suspended animation, awaiting the next wedding or funeral.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

The piano also made it through the service with some of the cobwebs on the lamp still intact. We would have never guessed while we were there that it had been so recently used.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

In the sacristy.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

In the basement of Zion Lutheran, the kitchen where generations of people attended pot luck lunches.

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Driscoll Zion Lutheran Church

Above: The Lein family name substitutes for the numbers on the clock. Below: An abandoned farmhouse stands in the distance, a remnant of an increasingly rare agrarian lifestyle. The end of that living condition, brought about by mechanized farming, the end of the railroad era, and an aging population not replaced by a younger generation, leads to places like this… rural churches standing lonely on the prairie, used less and less frequently, until all who have a personal connection to the place have moved on, to another place or another plane.

Driscoll Zion 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.
How Much Longer for Ghost Town Arena?

How Much Longer for Ghost Town Arena?

We first visited Arena, North Dakota, a ghost town in Burleigh County, about 35 miles northeast of Bismarck, in 2004, and we’ve been keeping our eyes on it ever since, with the assistance of some kindred spirit adventurers who check-in from time to time to let us know what’s happening.

Arena, North Dakota

We’ve been told the tiny one-room school shown above was originally somewhere else, and that it was moved to this location. A different building, Arena Public School, was torn down in the 90s, but we got some photos of it thanks to Dale Fisher.

Arena, North Dakota

Above: Looking northwest on Arena’s only remaining street. There is more here than can be seen in the photo. In the overgrowth on the far left, the home below slowly succumbs to nature. When we first visited in 2004, this place was not nearly so subject to nature’s encroachment.

Arena, North Dakota

One of the reasons we chose to revisit Arena is because someone had tipped us off that, just beyond the home shown above, something new had appeared in this prairie ghost town–the home shown below.

Arena, North Dakota

Someone has recently moved this home into Arena, where it now sits on cinder blocks and wood cribbing. Whether the owner intends to live in this location, or is just storing this home here, we don’t know. After being a ghost town for over three decades, could Arena be on the verge of becoming an inhabited place again?

Arena, North Dakota

We’ve been told this little yellow house was the last inhabited structure in Arena, and that a gentleman named Mike Forth was the last resident. The house had apparently been uninhabited for some time before he moved in and lived here for a short time in the 1980s.

Arena, North Dakota

Arena, North Dakota

The interior of the yellow house looks much the same as it did when we visited 12 years earlier.

Arena, North Dakota

The former St. John’s Lutheran Church is the most prominent structure in Arena, and one of our favorites. We featured it on the cover of our book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 3, and several friends have periodically updated us on the condition of this place over the years. When we first visited, one wall of the cinderblock foundation had collapsed. Today, things are much worse.

Arena, North Dakota

Both sides of the cinderblock foundation have now completely collapsed. It if weren’t for the row of columns supporting the center beam, this church would have imploded already into a heap of lumber. How long St. John’s can remain standing this way is still in question.

Arena, North Dakota

From a distance, it’s clear that gravity is beginning to take a toll on this old prairie church. How many more winters of heavy snowfall can it withstand?

Arena, North Dakota

Arena, North Dakota

Arena, North Dakota

Arena, North Dakota

Around back, the block chimney has collapsed like a stack of legos into the back yard.

Arena, North Dakota

Arena, North Dakota

We made a point to pause for a moment, to take a photo and one long look at St. John’s before we left, in case it’s no longer standing the next time we visit.

Arena, North Dakota

Distracted by the “Oh Wow” factor of the church, we never paid much attention to the grain elevators on our previous visits, but they are an attraction themselves.

Arena, North Dakota

It’s hard to imagine the days when train tracks split this landscape and locomotives rumbled through. You can see the remains of the railbed on satellite imagery, but on the ground, the elevator is the only clue that the railroad once served Arena.

Arena, North Dakota

With one school gone, and a church about to collapse, but a new home suddenly onsite, we’re unsure about the future of this place. How much longer for ghost town Arena?

Arena, 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.
Neuburg Congregational Church: Back from the Brink

Neuburg Congregational Church: Back from the Brink

In 2014, we paid a visit to Neuburg Congregational Church, in Hettinger County, after we ran across a newspaper article which billed Neuburg Congregational as the most remote church in North Dakota–nearly 25 miles from the nearest town. We found the place on the brink of dereliction, with weeds growing up around the foundation, the paint thoroughly peeled, and pigeons making a home in the steeple. You can check out our original post to see how it looked at the time.

Neuburg Congregational Church

Sometime after our visit, someone decided to bring Neuburg Congregational Church back from the brink. The rapidly deteriorating roof was replaced with steel roofing, fresh paint was applied, and the grounds were tidied up. Even the sign out front was repainted. Our friend Tim Riley from Lost Places on the Prairie got these photos of the much improved Neuburg Congregational in 2016.

Neuburg Congregational Church

Neuburg was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, and was featured in our book, Churches of the High Plains, in 2015.

Neuburg Congregational Church

Above, 2016, below, 2014.

Neuburg Congregational Church

Neuburg was so deeply rooted in the German heritage of area residents that, until 1957, all services were held in the German language.

Neuburg Congregational Church

Photos by Tim Riley, 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.
The Magic City, Fall 1940

The Magic City, Fall 1940

For those of us who are history buffs, the 1930s and 40s are a golden age of documentary photography. Government photographers from the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information traveled the country, photographing American cities big and small. They left behind a photographic treasure trove of places that no longer exist. It was photos like those, largely the work of Arthur Rothstein, that allowed us to do our book on North Dakota’s largest city, Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found, and another of those government photographers, John Vachon, captured these photos of Minot in October of 1940.

I find these photos interesting for the look back at the WWII era, in a season when the air had gone brisk and the leaves had presumably turned brilliant shades of yellow and red, about to become a carpet for residents of the Magic City.

Minot, Fall, 1940

Cars and trucks were everywhere in 1940, but these old horsedrawn wagons were still used to shuttle around cans of milk. This shipment was just waiting at the depot to head off to its next destination.

Minot, Fall, 1940

Unidentified football players on what appears to be Main Street, walking north. I could be wrong but their helmets appear to be plastic, which would have been a new development at the time. Riddell introduced plastic helmets in 1939, and the old leather helmets disappeared from use by the 1950s. Update: site visitor Brad says the player on the right, #44, is his dad Archie Peterson (see comments below).

Minot, Fall, 1940

The former Great Northern Hotel wasn’t exactly a swanky joint in 1940. I am not sure the location of this place, but it doesn’t look like the kind of place that would still be standing in a town the size of Minot.

Minot, Fall, 1940

Minot, Fall, 1940

This photo was simply labeled, “Chimneysweeper. Minot, ND.”

Minot, Fall, 1940

Upon closer inspection, chimney sweep looks like a dangeorous job. Standing on that wood ladder 3 1/2 stories above the ground doesn’t seem like a place I would be eager to be.

Minot, Fall, 1940

I zoomed in on this section of the photo because I was interested in the signs. Partially obscured by the column on the left is the word “Rooms,” indicating this was a rooming house, and the building in the background has an automotive use with the words “Body Dept.” painted on the white facade. It wasn’t until I saw the address “304” on the column at left that I realized I knew this place.

It is the former home of Martin Jacobson at 304 S. Main Street. In 1945, just five years after these photos were taken, it would be purchased by a funeral director transplant from the Twin Cities, Ben (B.J.) Thomas, and it became the Thomas Family Funeral Home.

I remember this place from my childhood in Minot, primarily as the place next door to the old Empire Theater. If you came out of a Saturday matinee and sat down on the grass to wait for your mom and dad to pick you up, someone would come out and ask you to get off the grass. Us darn kids.

Minot, Fall, 1940

In the image above, you can see the home changed substantially over the years in its life as a funeral home. The cupola and flagpole on the northwest side are gone. A room which once occupied the space between the columns is also gone, and several windows have been closed off, including the third story window over the front entrance. Image/Google Earth

Minot, Fall, 1940

This photo was labeled “Lutheran Church. Minot, ND.” I was unfamiliar with which church this is, so please leave a comment if you know.

Minot, Fall, 1940

Church was the social media of the day, and this photo is a good example. Everybody in their Sunday best, catching up with people they hadn’t seen all week.

Minot, Fall, 1940

See also: Minot Central High School

Photos by John Vachon, original content © 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.
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.

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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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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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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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sunday Morning on the Prairie at Norway Lutheran Church

Sunday Morning on the Prairie at Norway Lutheran Church

Norway Lutheran Church is in Nelson County, forty-three miles southeast of Devils Lake, not far from the valley where the Sheyenne River carves its way through the North Dakota landscape. Terry and I were on an adventure to photograph old steel automobile bridges, but as always, we were scanning the countryside for other abandoned things and roadside curiosities to shoot. As we traveled down a gravel road, Terry spotted a weathered steeple sticking up above the treeline, and we made a short detour to this place.

Norway Lutheran Church

Norway Lutheran Church looks as though it has not been used in quite some time, but someone has taken the care to secure it from the elements by covering the former windows, and even took the time to paint them with faux-window frames for aesthetic purposes. Quite nice. The green shingles are peeling in places, though, and this church will need some TLC in the foreseeable future.

Norway Lutheran Church

It reached almost 60 degrees on this day in the second week of November. We couldn’t resist the urge to take advantage of the good weather.

Norway Lutheran Church

Norway Lutheran Church

Norway Lutheran Church

The cemetery is still well-cared for and regularly used. We saw some internments that were as recent as 2014. Quanbeck, a name that survives today with local landowners, was one of the more prominent family names in the cemetery. The cemetery is also listed at Find A Grave.

Norway Lutheran Church

If you enjoy prairie churches like these, please check out our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains. It makes a perfect gift, and every order helps us offset the cost of documenting these vanishing places.

Norway Lutheran Church

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2015 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.
Langberg’s Church That Became a School

Langberg’s Church That Became a School

This place is the Langberg country school, in Bowman County, just down the road from Nebo and Adelaide Schools, and only four miles from the border with South Dakota.

Langberg Township School

We’re told this place was originally a church and later became a school, and someone told us it was actually a residence for a time as well. If someone can fill in the details of that transition, we’d love to hear it in the comments below.  Today, it stands with its door open, waiting for someone to come along and rescue it from the sad fate that awaits all abandoned structures on the prairie.

Langberg Township School

Langberg Township School

This part of the state is very sparsely populated and antelope run wild on the prairie.

Langberg Township School

Langberg Township School

The ladder leads up to the loft in the bell tower.

Langberg Township School

Langberg Township School

Langberg Township School

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2015 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.
Revisiting Tiny Haley, North Dakota

Revisiting Tiny Haley, North Dakota

We revisited Haley, North Dakota in July of 2015, eight years after our first visit in 2007. We had mentioned to a convenience store clerk that we were out photographing ghost towns and abandoned buildings, and she said, “You guys need to go to Haley.” We weren’t far away, so we stopped in for a visit and some photos, and discovered Haley had a population of two, going on three.

Haley, North Dakota

When we returned to Haley in 2015, we found it to be a little less “town,” and a little more farm. We had hoped to speak with the residents again, but we were visiting on a weekday this time, and they may have been busy at work because nobody seemed to be around. There were quite a few vehicles around, though, and it had a much more lived-in atmosphere than we remember in 2007.

Haley, North Dakota

Haley is in southeast Bowman County, just over a mile from the South Dakota border.

Haley, North Dakota

Haley, North Dakota

Haley, North Dakota

The drive through Haley is a blink and you’ll miss it kind of thing.

Haley, North Dakota

Haley, North Dakota

Haley, North Dakota

The one-room school in Haley looks a little more weathered than the last time we were there.

Haley, North Dakota

The Haley Lutheran Church is part of the Scranton Lutheran Parish. It was originally organized as a congregation in nearby Pennville, South Dakota, then moved to Haley, on December 4th, 1946. If you love prairie churches, please check out our book, Churches of the High Plains.

Haley, North Dakota

The sign in front of the church reads “St John’s Lutheran Church, Haley, ND. 8:00 AM Sunday Worship. Pastor Mary Peterson.

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.
Dodging Thunderstorms in Heil

Dodging Thunderstorms in Heil

Our journey to Heil, North Dakota, in Grant County, about fifty miles southwest of Mandan, took place on an evening when the forecast said there was a chance of scattered thunderstorms in the area. We got more than we bargained for and ended up driving through a pounding thunderstorm with rain coming down in torrents. By the time we got to Heil, however, the storm had moved through and we were able to get a few shots of Heil for the first time since our initial visit in 2007.

Heil, North Dakota

I had forgotten what a nice little town Heil is. Aside from these few vacant properties, Heil is a very nicely kept town where the property owners take pride in their appearance.

Heil, North Dakota

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

Heil, North Dakota

Heil wasn’t officially founded until 1911, considerably later than many of the towns we’ve photographed. According to North Dakota: Every Town on the Map and More by Vernell and Louise Johnson, an early settler named William Lawther opened a post office on his farm in 1910 and named the settlement Lawther. A real estate developer and storekeeper named William Heil acquired the land one year later and renamed the town, Heil.

Heil, North Dakota

Someone painted the school since our last visit.

Heil, North Dakota

Heil, North Dakota

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

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