The end always comes. As we’ve documented here, here, and here, our historic places are frequently losing the battle with time and the elements. The places shown here, two churches, a school, an Air Force installation, and a Nordic ski jump, were all photographed in the last decade or so, and now — in the blink of an eye really — they are gone. This is why we shoot ’em… because too many of them share this fate. Here are five more lost North Dakota places. …
North Dakota’s longest State Highway is Highway 200, and it stretches over 400 miles from the Red River near Halstad, Minnesota to the Montana border at Fairview. As we’ve been exploring North Dakota’s vanishing places since 2003, it’s a highway we’ve found ourselves on again and again, and we’re due to show appreciation for a road that will take you to so many amazing places. Places where you can get out of the car and enjoy some visions of our past. …
Maybe you’ve noticed, the Ghosts of North Dakota Facebook page is missing. What happened, and when will it be back? Your guess is as good as mine, but if you’re interested in the story of what happened, please read on.
We started our Facebook page in 2009, and it was an immediate hit. People just like you flocked to it, and in the first year we had over 30,000 followers. By 2014, the count was more than 100,000, and just before the page disappeared, the tally of followers was nearly 120,000.
If you’ve followed Ghosts of North Dakota on Facebook for any length of time, you know we frequently liked to use that page to post updates while we drove the back roads of North Dakota in search of another cool place to photograph. You got to follow along. We sometimes encountered problems, however, when we would post a photo of an abandoned place, and for some reason, the post would go on one of our personal Facebook profiles instead of our Ghosts of North Dakota Facebook page. So, I appointed a third admin for our page, my wife, Rebecca. While we were on the road, Rebecca could fix any screw-ups for us, and she could respond to questions and comments, too. It worked great.
This past Monday, however, on the same day as the 2017 solar eclipse, we woke up to a surprise. We (the three admins, myself, Terry, and Rebecca) woke up to emails in our inbox informing us that we had been removed as admins of our own Facebook pages. Rebecca is a British royal history buff, and she discovered that her Facebook pages had been taken over and either deleted or unpublished, and our Ghosts of North Dakota page, too. Somehow, hackers had accessed her account, and using her admin privileges, had removed all of us as admins, and took over our pages.
It has now been three days, and despite more than a dozen messages to Facebook, a message to Mark Zuckerberg, and several hack reports, we have yet to get a single response from Facebook. I suppose it’s understandable since Facebook has two billion users and a woefully inadequate customer support workforce, but it’s frustrating nonetheless. As of now, we do not have a Facebook page, and our 119,000-plus followers are gone.
When will we get it back? Will we get it back at all? I wish I could say, but there’s been no response from Facebook, so I don’t know. The question that’s on my mind tonight is, do we really want/need it back?
Our Facebook page is what made Ghosts of North Dakota one of the most-visited North Dakota-oriented destinations on the web. The Facebook page is what made our first book possible, due to our ability to reach people just like you, who were passionate about North Dakota, and generously gave your hard-earned dollars to our Kickstarter campaign to fund the first book. And the profits from that first book turned into three more books. Facebook made it possible.
However, in 2014, things changed. Facebook implemented a new algorithm which made it nearly impossible for our updates to reach you unless we agreed to pay to promote our posts. People started to come around, asking “Why don’t I see your updates in my Facebook feed anymore?” And the answer was, “Because they want us to pay to reach you.” We spent thousands of dollars on Facebook ads to make sure that, when we came home with hundreds of photos, we could post them on our website and then make you aware of it by posting an update on Facebook. Despite all the dollars spent on ads and promotion, our reach kept dropping and dropping. At one time, I was able to employ myself as part of the Ghosts of North Dakota project, designing new books, researching new destinations, and planning new trips, but that all ended when Facebook laid their new algorithm on us. Our website traffic dropped by more than half, and the book sales revenue that we counted on to fund our trips and fund new books dropped by 75%. It’s something I wrote about previously (you can read it here) but never shared with the Ghosts of North Dakota audience because frankly, it’s embarrassing to admit that your business that was once on a rocket ride is failing because of something as silly as a social media algorithm. I had to stop paying myself and go back to work.
So, as of now, I am again working in my former field, and Terry and I have returned to treating the Ghosts of North Dakota project as a hobby instead of a job, which means fewer updates, fewer photos, and fewer books.
I tell you all this because I want you to understand where Ghosts of North Dakota is right now… at a crossroads. Without our Facebook page, there will surely not be a new Ghosts of North Dakota book any time soon, but even with the page, there was no guarantee, either. So, I guess we’re asking for your patience while we figure this out, and also your feedback on what you think we should do. Do we continue to wait for a response from Facebook that might never come? (We have read accounts by other Facebook page operators who never got their page back). Do we start a new Facebook page and try to rebuild a following that, taking into account Facebook’s algorithm and our lack of funds for ads, will take 10 years to rebuild? Do we say “to hell with it,” and just forget about Facebook altogether? Would you still follow Ghosts of North Dakota if we chose to use Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and our email updates to keep you updated?
Please let us know your thoughts in the comments. And it goes without saying, now more than ever, if you haven’t subscribed to email notifications, please do. We’ll only email you when we have new content to share.
UPDATE: The hackers recently put the Facebook page back online, changed the phone number, and listed themselves as a “Public Figure” from Amman, Jordan. A copyright infringement report has been filed with Facebook. We would recommend you refrain from interacting with the page until it is back in our control.
Update 2: Ghosts of North Dakota’s Facebook page is once again under our control. There will be a post coming in the future which details how we got it back.
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. …
When Lewis & Clark came to the area that is today North Dakota, they began to recruit men and women to join the Corps of Discovery. One of their new recruits was Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trapper who had been living among the Hidatsa. He had taken two Shoshone women as his wives–Otter Woman and Sakakawea (Sacagawea). Lewis and Clark saw an opportunity in hiring Charbonneau, since he could speak French and some Hidatsa, and his wives could speak Shoshone. Charbonneau was hired as a translator for the expedition, but was judged harshly by members of the Corps, and by historians in later days. Charbonneau was found to be timid in the water, and quick tempered with his wives. Although some came to appreciate Charbonneau’s cooking, in particular, a recipe for sausage made from bison meat, Meriwether Lewis said he was “a man of no particular merit.” …
At Ghosts of North Dakota, we occasionally like to check-in with artists and photographers (like Mariah Masilko and John Piepkorn) who’ve shown a passion for North Dakota and its vanishing, forgotten places and Jack Dura certainly qualifies. We caught up with Watford City journalist, photographer, and frequent explorer “Travelin’ Jack” between road trips to find out more about his background, his thirst for adventure, his favorite bird dog, and favorite places, from the Badlands to the North Dakota prairie.
Q: I first became aware of your work when you were still at NDSU in Fargo. Tell us about your background. Where are you from, where have you been, and what are you doing now? …
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. …
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. …
Charbonneau, North Dakota is in a very sparsely populated area of western North Dakota, in McKenzie County, about fifteen minutes west of Watford City. As far back as 1960, Charbonneau had already been de-listed from the Census, but according to North Dakota Place Names by Douglas A. Wick, Charbonneau was founded in 1913 and a peak population of 125 was reported in 1920. Charbonneau’s name was derived from nearby Charbonneau Creek, which was in turn named for the interpreter on the Lewis & Clark expedition, Toussaint Charbonneau. …
We’ve visited the ghost town of Lincoln Valley a number of times, and we’ve posted about why it became a ghost town ( a railroad that never arrived, primarily). We’ve heard stories and read newspaper articles about the glory days, and marveled at descriptions of a town that included churches, stores, a gas station, an implement… all the things you would expect in a small rural town. It was hard to imagine, though, considering we visited for the first time in 2004, long after Joe Leintz, the last resident, had gone, and after almost all of Lincoln Valley’s structures had disappeared. …
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. …
Lincoln Valley, North Dakota is in Sheridan County, about 8 miles NE of McClusky. Lincoln Valley was a primarily German/Russian settlement when it was founded in 1900 by George and Conrad C. Reiswig as Lincoln. In 1912 the name was changed to Lincoln Valley. There were hopes that the railroad would come through Lincoln Valley and spur a boom, but the tracks never came and Lincoln Valley slowly withered.
We first visited Lincoln Valley in 2004 and took these photos. Before we even made it into town, we ran into an intriguing home on the northeast edge of town. It was in the middle of a field with no driveway or outbuildings… just a lonely home, all alone and decaying. …
We visited Nanson, North Dakota, a true ghost town with zero residents in southern Rolette County, in 2012. We traveled through waving country to get there (when an occasional car or truck passed, the drivers frequently waved) and found a townsite rapidly disappearing. There were only four significant structures still standing in Nanson, and the Great Northern Railroad tracks that led to the founding of the town were long gone, too. On Easter weekend, 2017, we decided to make a return trip to Nanson on our way home from another ghost town, Omemee, North Dakota, and see if anything had changed. …
Omemee, North Dakota, a ghost town in Bottineau County, has been a source of intrigue since we first became aware of it in 2005. We were initially made aware of Omemee by a North Dakota resident who alerted us that someone was trying to sell lots in Omemee to out-of-state buyers under questionable circumstances, an effort which amounted to nothing in the end. Later, Fargo resident Mark Johnson sent us some photos of Omemee taken around 2010, and we also received some correspondence and photos from people who had family roots in Omemee, too, but we had never visited Omemee ourselves until Easter weekend, 2017. …
If you didn’t know better, it would be easy to look at these photos and assume this place was struck by a powerful prairie tornado. Grain bins are ripped open, the roof of the former bar has caved-in, and the building leans at a precarious angle. Pieces of several structures have blown down and lie decaying in the grass some distance away with their rusty nails pointed skyward, waiting for an unsuspecting explorer to test their tetanus shots with an errant step. Nobody would blame you for believing Dorothy and Toto just blew away minutes before, but the reality is, it’s been a slow-motion disaster in ghost town Aylmer, North Dakota. …
It occurred to me the other day that we’ve told the story about how Ghosts of North Dakota began in countless interviews over the years, but we’ve never posted it here, so for those who might be interested in how this project began, this is the tale.
In 2003, myself and Terry Hinnenkamp, my roadtrip friend and fellow adventurer, were working at the same Fargo Top 40 radio station, Y94. Halloween was coming up and we had this goofy idea that it would be neat to find an abandoned place and spend the night in it while recording our experiences for a program we would put together later, to air on Halloween — a kind of radio campfire story. …
Stady was founded in 1907 and was a stopping point on old highway 85. The peak population of 60 had dropped to 11 by 1940, after the highway moved. Stady is now a true ghost town — totally abandoned.
MJ Masilko contributed these photos with the following comments:
I’m sending you some pictures I took in May of 2006 of a ghost town called Stady. It’s in Divide County, 16 miles SSW of Fortuna. There didn’t seem to be any people living there, and we only saw 3 structures: a store, a house, and something else (maybe another store).
If we could magically travel back in time to photograph some North Dakota places, Lincoln Valley is one of the places we would choose to visit. We would go back to 1966, when Joe Leintz became the last resident of town. A church, store (really, an entire main street) and nine vacant residences still stood in Lincoln Valley at that time, and we would spend considerable time photographing it all. We would visit Joe and listen, enraptured, as he told stories of what it was like to be the only resident of town in the winter when a blizzard blew in, closing the roads and leaving Lincoln Valley cut off from the rest of Sheridan County. …
Gascoyne is in Bowman County along Highway 12 in southwestern North Dakota, about 15 minutes east of Bowman. It was founded in 1907 as a Milwaukee Road railroad townsite, originally known as Fischbein, named after an early settler.
The former school is the most prominent abandoned structure in Gascoyne. It rests on top of a hill on the west edge of town, right alongside Highway 12.
Sanish was a thriving North Dakota town until 1953, when residents began to evacuate to higher ground. The construction of Garrison Dam, a project to provide hydroelectric power and flood control, would turn the Missouri River Valley in this part of North Dakota into a large reservoir to be named Lake Sakakawea. Sanish succumbed to the rising waters soon after the Garrison Dam embankments were closed in April of 1953, and the townsite disappeared beneath the waves of Lake Sakakawea. …
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.
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.
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.
Do you know more about Lonetree, or this old church? Please leave a comment below.
Inside the main floor church sanctuary.
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A look in the basement of the church.
There are one or two more derelict places in Lone Tree.
Photos by Gavin Parker, original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
We recently received an interesting batch of photos from Paul Ensign regarding Berlin, North Dakota. It’s a place we first became aware of when Sabrina Hornung sent us some photos back in 2011, and which we visited for ourselves in 2012.
Paul’s Great Grandfather was Wilhelm G. Lentz, proprietor of the Berlin Blacksmith & Wagon Shop around 1912, and the photos Paul sent along from his collection are very interesting.
Beginning with the birds-eye view shown above, a photo from 1904 which was likely taken from the top of the grain elevator, we can identify three buildings which still stand in Berlin. We can see (1) the building known today as Legion Hall of Berlin, Post 206.
Below, the building in 2011.
Around the corner is the former Blacksmith Shop.
Above, the Blacksmith Shop sometime around 1912 to 1915. Below, the Blacksmith Shop in 2011. It’s numbered (2) in the birds-eye shot at the top of the page.
Above, another photo of the exterior of the Blacksmith Shop. Below, the interior of the Blacksmith Shop circa 1915. Paul says his Great Grandfather, Wilhelm Lentz “is center on in the photo with his children lined up to his left. My grandmother, Ella E Lentz Ensign is the youngest and farthest away from Wilhelm. She was born 22 Nov. 1910. My guess is that she is about 4 years old in this photo – maybe 5.”
Below, the shop looks like an abandoned relic.
Below, the derelict fire house in Berlin as it appeared in 2012. It’s numbered (3) in the birds-eye view at the top of the page.
Paul sent along one last photo, which he also believes was taken in Berlin, below. “My Grandmother (Ella E Lentz Ensign) is on the right in the pic – her older sister Ida is on the left.”
Unfortunately, most of the other buildings visible in the birds-eye view at the top of the page have been lost to the sands of time, including the depot. What do you know about Berlin, North Dakota? Please leave a comment below.
Photos courtesy Paul Ensign and Sabrina Hornung, original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
Hanks, North Dakota, in Williams County, about 33 miles northwest of Williston, is a lonely outpost on the prairie, just one resident away from being a ghost town.
Hanks was the subject of some national media in 2008 when National Geographic published The Emptied Prairie (available at the link only with a subscription) by Charles Bowden, a polarizing piece roundly denounced by many North Dakotans in letters to editors, in the Dickinson Press for example, or the Bismarck Tribune.
In the article, Bowden characterized a number of North Dakota communities, including Hanks, truthfully with respect to their shrinking populations, but in terms that many found depressing or disparaging. …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
The interior of the yellow house looks much the same as it did when we visited 12 years earlier.
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.
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.
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?
Around back, the block chimney has collapsed like a stack of legos into the back yard.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
Sims, North Dakota is a beautiful near-ghost town, founded in what was at the time a somewhat remote spot on the prairie of Dakota Territory, about 35 miles west of Mandan. The Northern Pacific arrived in 1879 and extra boxcars were set aside to be used as businesses and shelter until a proper town could be constructed. The original settlers were attracted to coal that was easily mined here, and several early names of the town were “Baby Mine” and “Bly’s Mine.” …
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. …
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.
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, 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 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‘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 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 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.
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
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.
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
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. Maybe it was an “unofficial” townsite, never incorporated, and there’s no record of it… Here’s one way to find places no longer on the map …
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. …