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Nanson: A North Dakota Ghost Town

Nanson: A North Dakota Ghost Town

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

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

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

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

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Griffin is a true ghost town in Bowman County, along Highway 12, about halfway between Bowman and Rhame, North Dakota. Although there are some working farms and ranches in the area, there’s barely a town any more, and no apparent residents in the actual townsite.

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

A maximum population of 67 was reported in 1930, but the post office closed that same year and the town quickly vanished. This old schoolhouse is the most prominent remaining structure from Griffin.

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Above: a look inside the old schoolhouse.

Griffin was once the home to some of the biggest stock yards in southwest North Dakota, and reportedly had a store and lumber yard.  It was also a stop on one of America’s first cross-country highways–a route from Massachusetts to Seattle, marked in places by three foot stone markers painted yellow, known as the Yellowstone Trail.

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Griffin is just one of many true ghost towns we’ve visited in North Dakota, where the buildings still stand but the people are gone. See a list of true ghost towns, population zero.

Ghost Town Griffin, North Dakota

Griffin was a Milwaukee Road railroad town, and known as Atkinson until February 10, 1908, when the name was changed to Grifiin to honor H.T. Griffin, the Assistant General Passenger Agent for the railroad. What do you know about Griffin, North Dakota? Please leave a comment below.

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

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
20 True Ghost Towns: Population Zero

20 True Ghost Towns: Population Zero

Defining what exactly constitutes a “ghost town” can sometimes be tricky.  In our years of exploring North Dakota’s abandoned places, we’ve often encountered former towns where the townsite itself is empty, but there’s a farm about half a mile down the road.  Sometimes a former town like Sims, North Dakota has an active church, but nobody actually lives on the town site.  And still other times, we will hear objections from people who feel as though we’ve misrepresented their town, or somehow labeled it a ghost town because it appears on this website, in which case we clarify that this site is about ghost towns and abandoned places, like the former First National Bank and Barber Auditorium in Marmarth, North Dakota, a town with a population over a hundred.

Here we’ve assembled our most strictly defined list of ghost towns in North Dakota, places where there are zero residents, and in some cases, zero remains.  It’s life after people, North Dakota style.

Griffin, North Dakota

Griffin, North Dakota

Griffin, North Dakota is a true ghost town in Bowman County, about halfway between Bowman and Rhame. It was once home to some of the largest stockyards in southwest North Dakota, and it was also a stop on one of America’s first cross-country highways–a route from Massachusetts to Seattle, marked in places by three foot stone markers painted yellow, known as the Yellowstone Trail.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Nobody lives in Sherbooke, North Dakota anymore, and only two homes remain standing on the town site, but there is a well-tended cemetery in the area and farms just down the road.

Bluegrass, North Dakota

Bluegrass, North Dakota

Bluegrass, North Dakota, a true ghost town, population zero, in Morton County, about thirty-five miles northwest of Mandan.  The railroad never came to Bluegrass, and the peak population was only twenty.  Today it is a true ghost town. The former service station shown here has since burned.

Josephine, North Dakota

Josephine, North Dakota

Where there was once a mercantile store and residents numbering a dozen or two, there are only two remaining grain elevators in the town that was once Josephine, North Dakota.

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters, North Dakota is a ghost town just outside the official boundary of the Little Missouri National Grasslands — a boundary visible only on maps. The church is still sometimes used for weddings and special events. Nobody lives here anymore.

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple is a rapidly disappearing ghost town in the oil patch and we have several user contributed galleries from Nicole Simpson and Mark Johnson, featuring the church shown above and the school which no longer stands on the town site.

Freda, North Dakota

Freda Depot

A train depot and the crumbling remains of Freda, North Dakota lie in the tall grass, nestled among the rolling green hills of Missouri River country. It’s a short drive southwest of Mandan to this true ghost town in Grant County.

Lincoln Valley, North Dakota

Lincoln Valley

Lincoln Valley is one of our all-time favorite ghost towns. It’s been vacant since Joe Leintz moved out in the 1970s, and we’ve been back for a visit on several occasions. The former bar and ice cream parlor stills stands on the site, as well as several abandoned homes.

Arena, North Dakota

Arena, North Dakota

St. John’s Lutheran Church is the most prominent landmark in this former town. Two homes plus a small country school building that was moved into town from somewhere else are still standing in Arena.

Sims, North Dakota

Sims, ND

Possibly the most beautiful ghost town we’ve ever been to, Sims is home to a still-active church, an abandoned home, and a cemetery on top of the hill. There are several other abandoned structures nearby, and a few inhabited farms just down the road.  This photo was featured on the dustjacket of our second book.

Straubville, North Dakota

Straubville, North Dakota

Straubville is a crumbling ruin of a ghost town, with just a handful of structures still standing and several that have collapsed.

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota

As it frequently happens, Hesper, North Dakota became a ghost town when the last resident passed away just a few years ago.

Deisem, North Dakota

Deisem, North Dakota

This former Seventh Day Adventist Church is all that remains of Deisem, North Dakota, a rural settlement where the ruins of a general store and post office still rest in tall grass.

Nanson, North Dakota

Nanson, North Dakota

Nanson, North Dakota might be the most remote ghost town we’ve ever visited. There are no telephone poles or power lines in the area, no residents, and four abandoned homes plus some miscellaneous outbuildings onsite.

Eastedge, North Dakota

Eastedge, North Dakota

Only the ruins of a railroad loading dock and two abandoned homes remain on the site of Eastedge. This town comes with some spooky lore provided by visitors to the site, including a claim that the last resident committed suicide, and that a gentleman was electrocuted by power lines while moving the white house which is now going through a slow motion collapse.

Stady, North Dakota

Stady, North Dakota

Mariah Masilko took these photographs of Stady, North Dakota, a town which we’re told has since been razed. Stady is no more.

Omemee, North Dakota

Omemee, North Dakota

Omemee, North Dakota once had 650 residents, but has now virtually disappeared and will soon pass into history as only a memory. Mark Johnson contributed the photo above of a place referred to as the “Superintendent’s house” and when we visited in 2017, we found it was only a pile of bricks.

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen is in Golden Valley County, southeast of Beach. It had a post office for one year, and boomed to a population of 20. Dave Thorson sent in these photos of Thelen which is today, a ghost town.

Charbonneau, North Dakota

Charbonneau, North Dakota

Charbonneau, North Dakota is a true ghost town in western North Dakota, about fifteen minutes west of Watford City. These photos were taken by John Piepkorn in 2010.

Aylmer, North Dakota

Aylmer, North Dakota

Although there is an inhabited farm about a quarter mile down the road, there are only these few structures remaining from the town that was once Aylmer, North Dakota.

If you enjoy posts like this, please check out our hardcover coffee table books in our online store, or pick them up in a store near you.

Do you know of a true, North Dakota ghost town we haven’t photographed yet?  Please leave a comment.

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Original Content © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media

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

Nebo School on Borrowed Time

In Bowman County, about eleven miles south of Rhame, North Dakota, this place remains, if only on borrowed time. Known simply as Nebo School, this little structure is the ruin of a North Dakota country school. There is very little information on the web about this particular school, so if you have a connection to this little school, please post a comment below and maybe we can remedy that.

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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.
Memories of Silver City Ghost Town

Memories of Silver City Ghost Town

Ghost towns come in all varieties, and their abandonment happens for a multitude of reasons. Common on the upper plains are railroad ghost towns, places that vanished when the automobile became the norm. There are natural disaster ghost towns, like Mose, ND, and industrial disaster ghost towns like Picher, OK.

Silver City, North Dakota is another variety of ghost town — a settlement abandoned at the completion of an infrastructure project which employed most of the residents. In this case, the project was the Garrison dam.

We’ve written before about the Four Bears Bridge construction, made necessary by the Garrison dam, and ghost towns like Sanish, inundated in the ensuing flood, but Mrs. Mary (Weyers) Anthony, born in Page, North Dakota, and now a resident of Orlando, wrote to remind us that we have been remiss in not mentioning the Garrison dam boom towns, which sprung up virtually overnight to house dam workers. Mrs. Anthony also included some newspaper clippings and personal photos which we are thrilled to share.

Sometimes in our haste to visit places where there are “things left to photograph,” we don’t give the proper attention to a place now-gone, except in the memories of the people who lived there.

Let’s start with the newspaper article. We’ve transcribed the text below. Click the image to see it full-size.

sunday-tribune

Minneapolis Sunday Tribune
Sunday April 7th, 1957

Memories of Boom Days Haunt N.D. Ghost Towns
by Frank Wright
Minneapolis Tribune Staff Writer

Riverdale, N.D. — The boom is over for the once-flush, free-wheeling boom towns that helped build giant Garrison dam.

Stores, taverns, hotels, labor union offices have been boarded up, houses vacated.

In some places, weeds grow in the streets where hard-working, hard-spending construction men used to dance through the night.
Some of the towns are on the verge of becoming ghost towns, abandoned to the dust and the wind that sweeps constantly across the rugged North Dakota hills overlooking the virtually completed dam.

mapA few score residents remain, most of them in Pick City on the western end of the dam, keeping their homes and yards in trim, hoping for better days. Many are preparing to pull out.

Dakota City, American City, Sitka, Silver City, Big Bend and Pick City sprouted overnight in 1945 and 1946 when the federal government started pushing the rolled-earth dam, one of the biggest in the world, across the river here.

Founded mainly by promoters and businessmen hoping to turn a quick dollar, the boom towns clustered on the bluffs around Riverdale, government-owned headquarters for the dam project.

At first, the towns lived well off well-paid construction workers.

Graineries converted into cabins rented for as much as $80 a month.

A fat, middle-aged woman known as Silver City Dorothy is said to have grossed 1 1/2 million dollars in her around-the-clock restaurant before she left town.

Some old timers say it wasn’t that much, but they agree she didn’t leave poor.

Isadore Kramer, owner of Sitka’s Quality Supermarket, claims he took in $900,000 over a three-year period during the lush days.

He is going out of business, however. He says he barely has broken even over the long run. His is the last boom town grocery store.

residentsMrs. Steve DeTienne, whose husband owns all of the 120 acres that comprise Big Bend, glanced around Steve’s bar the other day. A half dozen customers sat at the long bar.

“I can remember when this place was so packed people had to wait to get in,” she recalled.

Mrs. Lillian Tusto, who runs the bar, said it employed seven bartenders and four waitresses in 1953, the best year.

The dam workforce then numbered 2,700. Total population was more than 5,000, including Riverdale.

After that, the number dwindled steadily as the dam neared completion.

silver-city7Riverdale’s population leveled off at 1,500, most of them permanent government employees and their families.

Two weeks ago Riverdale’s weekly newspaper, the Missouri Basin Times, suspended publication. The reason: declining advertising and subscription revenue.

Mabel Stemwedel auctioned off her belongings Tuesday in the dusty unused dance hall and left.

DeTienne, 62, former Big Bend Mayor who now is Justice of the Peace, says he hasn’t tried a court case in three years.

The Post Office and Steve’s bar, which now employs three persons, are the only businesses left in Big Bend.

DeTienne, former carpenter at the dam, is counting on tourist trade and the possible coming of industry to improve things. He intends to stay.

But across the road, silver-haired 76-year-old O.A. Burgeson, credited with founding Silver City, is selling out.

He is trying to get rid of 17 two-room cabins, a four-room house and two empty stores. His price for the partly furnished cabins has dropped from $800 to $500 apiece with few takers.

Burgeson, a fast-talking, cigar-smoking former homesteader and one-time traveling salesman, arrived here in 1945 with a stake accumulated while working in the wartime shipyards.

He paid off $1000 of “Hoover depression” debts, plunged the rest into Silver City.

“I laid out the town with my own steel tape measure,” he said as he sat in his cluttered office. “It was the best town of the bunch. I knew how to do those things.”

Burgeson once rented out 29 cabins at $12 a week or $50 a month, take your pick. He expects to show a $9500 net profit for 12 years’ work, if he can sell all his buildings.

His last renter moved out in December. He lives alone in one of his cabins.

When Burgeson closes up shop in Silver City, he plans to head to another federal dam site in Arizona and build himself another town.


Mrs. Anthony sent along these photos from her personal collection. First, some early photos of Garrison dam construction.

dam1

silver-city8

Garrison Dam, 1947.

silver-city-cafe1

This is the Silver City Cafe, a Kodacolor print made in 1950. Mary Anthony says, “My folks and sister ran the Silver City Cafe.”

silver-city-cafe2

rental-cabins

The photo above has “Rental Cabins, Silver City, N.D.” written on the back.

gulransons1

Snow over the top of Gulbranson’s cabin at Silver City, ND

circus

Silver City Cafe Circus. June 25th, 1950. That’s an elephant in the foreground. Note the cabins in the background, originally occupied by dam workers.

dakota-city

This one says “Big Bend” on the front, but “Dakota City Bar. Dakota City, N.D.” on the back.

last-remains-62

The photo above was printed in 1962 and reads “All that’s left of Silver City.” On the back is written “I believe this is gone.”

panorama

This photo is a color panorama taken in 1946. On the back it says, “Silver City, N.D. It started out as a wheat field and ended almost the same as it started.”

Today, nothing remains of Silver City. We have plans to visit a few places and photograph some remnants of the Garrison dam project, and we’d be happy to post your photos if you have anything you’d like to share from North Dakota’s Garrison Dam boom towns. Contact us.



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

Return to Deisem

When we planned our trip in early October of 2014, we realized we would be in the area of Deisem and made plans for a return visit. Deisem’s former church, the lone remaining structure, was in such terrible shape last time we were there, we didn’t know whether it would even be standing when we returned.

Deisem, North Dakota

There it was, right along Highway 34, northwest of Edgeley, still standing but looking like more than two years had passed since our last visit.

Deisem, North Dakota

Once you get past the sadness for a place forgotten and left to wither in the elements, there becomes a certain magic to abandoned places like the church in Deisem; the last remaining structure from this tiny vanishing rural settlement. Angled rays of sunshine beam through the windows, and golden dust motes swirl in the light when your shoe scuffs a wood floor laid down by craftsmen nearly a century ago. The silence is deafening, and for a few more moments at least, the place still stands.

Deisem, North Dakota

The trains once came through Deisem, but the tracks were torn up long ago.  You can still see the telltale ridge of the railbed, running from southwest to northeast through this section of land.

Deisem, North Dakota

The building that was the Post Office and Store burned down on January 30th, 1943, and the loss spelled the end for the rural settlement that was once Deisem.

Deisem, North Dakota

Deisem, North Dakota

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

Deisem, North Dakota

You can definitely see how the floor on the left has sunk considerably since our last visit.

Deisem, 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.
Thelen in Repose

Thelen in Repose

Thelen is a true ghost town in Golden Valley County, about eight miles south of Beach. We previously posted a gallery of Thelen photos sent in by Dave Thorson, but this was our first time visiting in person.

Thelen, North Dakota

We discovered some of the things Dave photographed are now gone, leaving this complex of buildings near the elevator as the primary remnants of Thelen.

Thelen, North Dakota

We were hiking out to this elevator, and just when we were in thigh-deep grass, we got a little paranoid about rattlesnakes. We heard a few of ’em during our travels on this particular weekend.

Thelen, North Dakota

There’s more historical information on Thelen in the original post.

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota

Our visit to Thelen was notable for a strange calm that fell across the landscape as we arrived. It had been windy all weekend, but as we started to explore this place, the wind calmed and the sssshhhhhhh sound from the blowing prairie grasses quieted in a strange contradiction. Coupled with the strange, smoke-filled skies, I found myself looking through the viewfinder longer than I normally would, searching for something in this kind of shadowy, illusory atmosphere where shadows weren’t crisp and sunlight was veiled… and it was quiet.

The stillness was contagious. Even after we left, when we were in the car, Terry and I were kind of quiet for awhile. It’s clear, Thelen doesn’t have many more years as a place you can visit.

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota

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

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

Grasslands Ghost Town: Trotters, North Dakota

You’ll find Trotters nearly thirty miles north of Beach, North Dakota in Golden Valley County, just outside the official boundary of the Little Missouri National Grasslands — a boundary visible only on maps. On the ground it’s clear, this part of the prairie is nearly pristine. Trees are nearly as scarce as people, and prairie grasses with blooms of yellow and purple rule the landscape.

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters was settled in 1903 near the source of Smith Creek and Francis “Lee” Trotters became the first Postmaster one year later. In his book “North Dakota: Every Town on the Map and More,” Vernel Johnson says Lee had to carry the mail every day from Wibaux, Montana, twenty-five miles to the southwest, without pay for an entire year to get a Post Office assigned to Trotters.

Trotters, North Dakota

In 1959, Leonard Hall took over as Postmaster, becoming the final person to hold the position and the last resident of Trotters. The town site shown here has been empty for over a decade, but the church is still used by area residents. Someone once told us that Mr. Hall would leave the gas pump unlocked at night and locals who needed gas could fill up on the honor system.

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters, North Dakota

Hi, fill ‘er up and check the oil, please.

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters, North Dakota was featured in our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains.

Trotters, North Dakota

In his book, “North Dakota Place Names,” Doug Wick says Trotters is one of North Dakota’s most remote towns. In terms of highway driving, it certainly is. County Road 16 is a two lane blacktop and runs north-south through Trotters, and it’s virtually the only link to the rest of the state with no intersecting highways, railroads or rivers. Grassy Butte, a similarly remote town just thirty miles to the east, is more than ninety minutes away by car, requiring a trip around the rugged and beautiful valleys surrounding Beaver Creek and the Little Missouri River.

Trotters, North Dakota

Trotters, North Dakota

See also: Trotters, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp copyright © 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.
Ghost Town: Bluegrass, North Dakota

Ghost Town: Bluegrass, North Dakota

This is Bluegrass, North Dakota, 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. In his book “North Dakota Place Names,” Doug Wick says the last census figures in 1960 registered a population of 7.

Bluegrass, North Dakota

This building was once the gas station and general store in Bluegrass. For a long time, it was the quickest place for area residents to pick up some goods when they didn’t feel like going all the way to New Salem, ten miles to the southeast.

Bluegrass, North Dakota

Bluegrass, North Dakota

Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 3

Bluegrass, North Dakota

This house is really the primary residence on the Bluegrass townsite. The rest of Bluegrass’ reported population was loosely spread throughout the township, and there are likely area residents who still consider themselves residents of Bluegrass.

Bluegrass, North Dakota

Roads to the site are relatively narrow, loose gravel, and in the half hour we were there, we didn’t see a single vehicle pass.

Bluegrass, North Dakota

Visitors to our Facebook page have mentioned several family names as former residents of Bluegrass — Dachtler, Elwein, and Mindt, among others.

Bluegrass, North Dakota

Today, this part of the rural settlement that was once Bluegrass is totally abandoned, and it’s quite remote as well. The gas station/store burned down in 2014 leaving only the farmhouse and barn on-site. Our last update from Bluegrass came from a family member who told us the owner of the farmhouse was planning to donate it to the fire department, to be burned in a training exercise. Bluegrass will soon pass into history, if it hasn’t already.

Bluegrass, 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.
Underwater Ghost Towns of the North Dakota Missouri River

Underwater Ghost Towns of the North Dakota Missouri River

The construction of Garrison Dam flooded the Missouri River Valley and created Lake Sakakawea, something we’ve covered before in posts about Sanish and Four Bears Bridge.  We’ve photographed both a church and a home that once stood in Elbowoods — structures that were moved to higher ground to avoid the flood.

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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.
Sanish Rodeo and More

Sanish Rodeo and More

Sanish is no more.  It disappeared beneath the waves when the Garrison Dam created Lake Sakakawea and we’ve spent some time collecting photos of old Sanish when it still existed.  These photos were sent in by Don Hammer, scans he got from a friend’s scrap book years ago. These are mostly in the 1950 to ’53 era.

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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 Last of DeSart, North Dakota

The Last of DeSart, North Dakota

In 2004, a visitor to our website suggested a list of places we should investigate in the southwest corner of the state, a list I recall mostly from memory — DeSart, Pierce, Shollsmade, Hume, Ranger, Mound, Bessie. Back then, we had very little luck finding much on many of these places. Most of them were rural post offices where no development occurred, and another site visitor told us that nothing remained of DeSart, so we didn’t give it much more thought.

DeSart, North Dakota

Recently, Nate Reynolds posted these photos to our Facebook page and graciously gave us permission to post them here. About fifteen minutes northeast of Bowman, just off a remote and quiet country road, the last of DeSart, North Dakota — a shell of  home, and the DeSart cemetery.

DeSart, North Dakota

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DeSart, North Dakota

DeSart reportedly had 75 residents at its peak in 1920. Some of them no doubt rest in the DeSart Lutheran Cemetery shown below. By the 1970s, only 6 residents remained.

DeSart, North Dakota

Photos by Nate Reynolds
Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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

Abandoned: Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota, sometimes spelled Thelan, is a blip on the historical record of our state. It was established in 1916 and had a post office for just a year, from 1920 to 1921, with Troy E. Beach as the postmaster. Thelen’s peak population of 20 dropped to 4 by the 1930s. North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick says August Brockmeyer ran the blacksmith shop in Thelen for years.

Dave Thorson sent in these photos of the remains of Thelen, in Golden Valley County, about eight miles south of Beach.

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota

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Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota

Thelen, North Dakota

Photos by Dave Thorson
Original Content Copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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

The Ruins of Lincoln Valley, North Dakota

Lincoln Valley, North Dakota is in its last days.  The structures that remain standing are largely in tenuous shape, might stand another few decades at best, and they’re far outnumbered by places long gone.  Browsing through our Lincoln Valley archive, we realized we had a lot of photos we’d never posted before, particularly photos of the ruins of Lincoln Valley, North Dakota, population zero.

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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.
Omemee and the Batie Family

Omemee and the Batie Family

These photos were sent in by Cathy Zabel, a collection of things on Omemee, North Dakota, a true ghost town in Bottineau county. Omemee once had a population of 650 residents, and every kind of business one would expect from a prairie town of its size — a hotel, restaurant, grain elevators, opera house, even a newspaper — but today it has almost entirely vanished from the landscape, so we’re especially grateful for Cathy’s submission. It’s a chance to travel back in time and see Omemee as it was, a thriving North Dakota community from the turn-of-the-century. Cathy’s comments are included below.

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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.
When Omemee Was a Town

When Omemee Was a Town

We first learned about Omemee, North Dakota, a ghost town in Bottineau County, through contributors Mark Johnson and Tom Tolman, who contributed photos of Omemee as it looked around the turn of the millennium.  Those images were all we had ever seen of Omemee until quite recently.  Despite all the time we spend rummaging around at estate sales and antique stores in our free time,  postcards and photos of Omemee just didn’t seem to pop up very often.

So, Tim Brannon of Georgia caught our attention when he posted some photos of Omemee, North Dakota on our Facebook page.  He was kind enough to share these photos and comments.

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

Christmas in Sanish

These photos of Christmas in Sanish, North Dakota come from Staci Roe, who came upon them in a hospital rummage sale and saved them from the trash. They are from the estate of Marvin L Knapp and the photographer is unknown.  Photos of the construction of the footings for Four Bears Bridge were in the same collection.

These photos were taken almost seven decades ago

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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.
Return to Sherbrooke

Return to Sherbrooke

Sherbrooke, North Dakota is in Steele County and it is a true ghost town with no population.  Sherbrooke was the first totally abandoned town we ever visited back in 2003, at a time when we didn’t even have proper cameras — we just videotaped a walkthrough and then took screen capture photos.  A decade later, nature has continued unwaveringly to reclaim this place.

When we moved south of the main road through Sherbrooke, we realized we had not paid close enough attention to the ruins there when we visited a decade ago.  A large building once stood there, and today the field stone foundation remains with some intriguing artifacts within.  We’ll detail that in the captions below.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

This old Studebaker with suicide doors sits in a field.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

This is the former home of Arlene Carpenter and it was the last occupied home in Sherbrooke until it was abandoned sometime in the 1980s — EDIT: perhaps into the nineties (see comments below).

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

The front porch has collapsed.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Inside the garage

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

If you’ve looked at many of the galleries on this site, you know we occasionally give reminders on the real danger of walking around in abandoned townsites, and this is a prime example. This well is deep, and full of water — and it’s about a thirty foot drop before you hit the water. If you fell in this headfirst, you would drown before anybody could get you out.  Someone thoughtfully threw an old gate over the opening.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Someone broke a car window a long time ago.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke was once the county seat of Steele County before having it snatched away by business people who saw fit to move the seat somewhere more significant — Sherbrooke had neither a railroad or a navigable river.  Sherbrooke’s residents fought it all the way to the North Dakota Supreme Court, but eventually lost, and the county seat was moved to Finley (also home to an abandoned Air Force Station). However, the ruins of this building on the south side of the road seem to be something of some importance, a building representative of a place that was once an important seat of government in the 1880s and 90s.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

At first we wondered whether this may have been a courthouse.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

It appears it was field stone on the bottom with brick on top.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

This one charred timber told us a fire was responsible for the demise of this place.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Terry reminded me of the story of the Sherbrooke House Hotel which once stood in Sherbrooke, a place where President McKinley stayed in 1896 during a trip to visit North Dakota.  So when Terry spotted the bed frames shown above in the ruins of this building, we couldn’t help but wonder if this was the ruins of the Sherbrooke House Hotel.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

As we were walking around in these ruins, whoa, another open hole in the ground.  It looked like a sewer main that once served whatever structure was here.  One more hazard that could catch you off guard and cause you to break an ankle or tweak a knee.  If you choose this as a hobby, please be careful.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

This pink home is the only other structure still standing in Sherbooke, and it might be the most completely overrun home of any we’ve seen. Trees and weeds and vines have completely covered and infiltrated this place.  We had to do some pretty extensive ducking of dense brush to get close enough for photos.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Exploring this lot in Sherbrooke is a little like a nightmare where you’re in a forest and the branches continually reach out for you, tugging at your clothes, threatening to sweep you away in an instant. The silence and remote location juxtaposed with images like the playhouse above with decorative curtains hanging in the window combine to create an eerie feeling in Sherbrooke.  Terry and I both felt it.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

The floor inside the pink house is barely distinguishable from the ground outside.

Sherbrooke, North Dakota

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

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

Straubville, North Dakota: A True Ghost Town

We visited Straubville, North Dakota, a ghost town south of Jamestown, on a cloudy day in 2005 and found it totally abandoned. Unfortunately, we arrived a few years too late to capture the major remaining buildings when they were still standing.  We’ve been told that things have deteriorated since our last visit, so we’re hoping to go back to Straubville some time in the near future for an update.

We were recently digging through our archive and realized we had a good selection of photos from Straubville that we had never posted, so here they are for your enjoyment. 

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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.
Arena: Nine Years Later

Arena: Nine Years Later

We first visited Arena in May of 2004.  Nine years later, we returned to this rolling spot on the prairie in Burleigh County and found things much the same, if somewhat weathered.

St. John’s Lutheran church still stands, though the white paint has weathered considerably over the last nine years.  The cinderblock foundation on the east side of the church has continued to crumble, and will likely cause the church to topple into its own basement eventually.  The outhouse out back has also crumbled in the last nine years.

The yellow house last occupied by the grandparents of Marlon Leno (his account is in the comments section, here) is obviously visited by vandals and party-hounds from time to time — the devastated window frames tell the story.  The small white school house which was moved to the Arena town site from somewhere else still looks solid.

On the trip that led us to Arena on Memorial Weekend of 2013, we were plagued by terrible weather all morning.  Flat gray, overcast skies, fog and rain.  When we arrived in Arena, we expected more of the same.  But something incredible happened the moment we got close to the church — the sun peeked out and some blue sky started to show. We couldn’t help but smile and start snapping.

Arena, ND

Arena, ND

Arena, ND

Arena, ND

Arena, ND

Arena, ND

Arena, ND

Arena, ND
Arena, ND

Arena, ND

Arena, ND

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

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

Autumn in Ghost Town Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota is a town that had been on our radar for some time but we never had an opportunity to check it out.  In the summer of 2012, Philip Tron emailed to tell us Hesper had officially become a ghost town and submitted a few photos.  After seeing them, we made it a priority to stop in and snap some shots.

Hesper, North Dakota

On arrival in Hesper, we were struck by the silence.  It was indeed a true ghost town, population zero.  There were several homes in Hesper that were in such good condition, it was almost as if the occupants had just stepped out and we had just missed them. It’s not hard to imagine a suspense thriller set in a place like this, where the mystery is finding out what happened to all the people.

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper is located 35 miles west southwest of Devils Lake in Benson County, a beautiful region and prime hunting country.

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota

That’s gonna delay the mail.

Hesper, North Dakota

Very much like some of the other ghost towns we’ve photographed, Hesper had a handful of abandoned homes and structures, but several places were being used for storage by someone who doesn’t live on the town site.

Hesper, North Dakota

There’s nothing quite like visiting a true ghost town in the fall. The air is brisk, and the colors are vibrant, but the abandoned buildings lend an eerie ambience to the quiet, as if to remind us that the spooky season is approaching.

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper is featured in our book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 1, Special Edition.

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota



Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota

Hesper, North Dakota

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

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

Hesper, ND

Hesper, North Dakota is a true ghost town in Benson County, just west of Devils Lake — population zero.  Hesper is one of those towns that has been on our list for some time but we just never made it there due to time contraints.  We intend to make a visit soon.

Philip Tron emailed to tell us that Hesper is officially uninhabited as of summer 2011, and sent along these photos.  His captions are included below.

This house may have been built by my maternal grandfather. It was across the street from his blacksmith shop, and my parents lived there before I started school.

This house, near the center of the townsite was built by Elmer Swanson, who was the manager of the grain elevator. It served as the elevator manager’s housing until the elevator closed. It was occupied more recently by Alan Brandvold, a first cousin of mine, and last by a man named Gene Young. When I was in grade school, I was impressed by the fact the house had a Murphy bed.

This house was last occupied by my uncle Alfred Brandvold. He was a small gentle man who suffered his whole life from battle fatigue earned in the trenches of WW1. The vacant lot east of this house was the location of the town’s church.

The street side entry of this house was the post office. My aunt Mable Brandvold, my mother, and lastly my aunt Sophie (Brandvold) Todahl served as post mistresses.

Photos by Philip Tron. Original Content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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

All That Remains of Deisem

Since starting this website about North Dakota’s ghost towns and abandoned places in early 2004, suggestions about places to visit have been rolling in. One of the suggestions we’ve received on more than one occasion is a place called Deisem, North Dakota.

So in July of 2012, with fellow photographer and GND co-founder Terry Hinnenkamp, we set out for Deisem. Driving through LaMoure County just south of Jamestown, we turned onto what can only loosely be described as a “highway” — Highway 34, northwest of Edgeley. We discovered what was once a bright yellow line dividing two very narrow lanes is now barely visible, and gravel pokes through the asphalt in places. Traffic is nearly nonexistent.

Deisem, North Dakota

We arrived to discover this church is all that remains of Deisem, North Dakota. The location is remote. We were on site for about a half hour on a Saturday afternoon and we didn’t see a single car pass by.

This church was reportedly a Seventh Day Adventist church, and it is now in very tenuous condition. If it survives another heavy snowfall, we’ll be surprised. In hindsight, we were quite foolish to explore the inside at all, and we would strongly recommend you admire it from the outside if you should decide to visit. It could collapse at any moment.

Deisem, North Dakota

According to North Dakota Place Names by Douglas A. Wick, Deisem was founded in 1880. The Post Office was established in 1907, but was closed for good when the store it was housed in burned to the ground on January 30th, 1943. The end came officially in 1984 when the railroad pulled up stakes.

Deisem, North Dakota

According to reports by fans on our Facebook page, Deisem was quite a happening town back in the day, and was home to a well respected general store which is long gone. There are various foundations hidden in the tall grass on the former Deisem townsite though, remnants of a town now lost.

Deisem, North Dakota

The outhouse is gone, but the hole in the ground remains, and as is often the case in abandoned places, there are other hazards which remain hidden in the tall grass. It wouldn’t be hard to step in the wrong place and twist an ankle or a knee.

Deisem, North Dakota

Deisem, North Dakota

The remains of several crumbled foundations are nearby, near the rail line which pulled up stakes a long time ago.

Deisem, North Dakota

Deisem, North Dakota

The view from the pulpit.

Deisem, North Dakota

Deisem, North Dakota

Deisem, North Dakota

Deisem, North Dakota

Deisem, North Dakota

The stairway to the balcony.

Deisem, North Dakota

Deisem, North Dakota

Looking down from the balcony.

Deisem, North Dakota

Deisem, North Dakota

This church is far beyond saving and will soon collapse, if it hasn’t already.

Deisem, North Dakota

As we left Deisem, I took one last look in the mirror, all too aware that we may have photographed a place called Deisem for what may turn out to be the last time.

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

Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Arena in 1992

Arena in 1992

Arena was only the second true ghost town we ever visited, back in 2004.  At that time, the school had already been torn down and we were never able to locate some large photos of it, until now.

Thanks to these photos contributed by Dale Fisher, we can now see Arena as it looked in 1992.  There are a few interesting comparisons to be made with our photos from 2004:

In the photo above, we can see a small home which was not standing when we visited in 2004. The church still stands, as does the yellow house behind the two pine trees. But there was no trace of the little house in between. On the left side, the light brown structure (just above the car) was also gone by the time of our visit. And at the far left, partially cut off, is the little white building which we photographed and also still stands.

This was the Arena school — a place we really regret missing out on.  You can see the school looks remarkably better in this 1992 image as versus the image contributed by Stephen Berg in our Arena gallery… the windows are still intact in this image, and the structure just looks more stable.  Someone did a real number on this school in the twelve years between ’92 and ’04.

A question we’d still like to answer… what year did the last full-time resident move out of Arena?

Original Content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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

Return to Merricourt

Merricourt is located in south central North Dakota, Dickey County, about twenty minutes from the South Dakota border, and it is a place we’ve visited on a number of occasions. Each time we’ve visited Merricourt, we’ve found the former Soo Line Railroad town hovering near the end, with just one family (and at least one dog) still living in Merricourt. As is the case with so many vanishing towns on the prairie, there are no businesses in town, no industry, and no reason for new residents to settle in Merricourt in any significant number. It won’t be more than a generation or two before Merricourt is a true ghost 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.
Eastedge: Six Years Later

Eastedge: Six Years Later

On our way home from the south-central part of North Dakota, we stopped in Eastedge for a visit — six years to the month after our first trip there. As we mentioned after our first visit, Eastedge has a somewhat haunting history, and the weather was appropriately murky. Is it just a coincidence that when we returned, the weather was again spooky?

Eastedge, North Dakota

Eastedge, North Dakota

Eastedge was almost gone when we visited in 2005, and it’s one step closer today. The white house seems frozen in the middle of a slow motion collapse. Looks like a Dali.

Eastedge, North Dakota

The other house on the site still looks like it’s in pretty good shape. The farmer has blocked the road down into Eastedge with a pile of rocks, and the town site is now very overgrown with grass and weeds.

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

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

Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
Stady in 1915

Stady in 1915

Steve Ray contributed the following postcard of Stady. Steve writes:

It was mailed in June 1915 from Clara Leraas, who lived with her family a couple miles east of Stady, to her mother-in-law, Martha Leraas of Barrett, MN.

Stady, North Dakota, 1915

To see our main Stady Gallery with photos contributed my Mariah Masilko, click here.

Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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

Omemee: Now and Then

After visiting in 2004, contributor Mark Johnson made a followup visit to Omemee. We were able to match Mark’s photo of the Superintendent’s house with an old postcard. The picture says it all… there’s not much time for Omemee. Mark’s comments:

“Attached are a couple updated photos of the “superintendent’s house” in Omemee from last October… the house has seriously deteriorated further since I was there originally. The whole front of the house has collapsed.”

Omemee Then and Now

Photo by Mark Johnson, original content copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media

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

More of Temple, ND

These photos of Temple were contributed by Nichole Simpson. In Nichole’s photos of the school below, it appears the owner is preparing to move it. Not long after, the school was relocated and repurposed as an addition to a home. Contributor Mark Johnson also sent in a Temple gallery you can see here.

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Temple, North Dakota

Photos by Nichole Simpson. Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.
An Old West Hotel in Manfred, North Dakota

An Old West Hotel in Manfred, North Dakota

Manfred, North Dakota is in Wells County, about 30 miles south of Rugby, near the geographical center of North America. Manfred reportedly had 439 citizens in 1920, but that declined to 70 by 1960, and about a dozen when we took these photos in 2006. We actually hadn’t planned on stopping in Manfred, but we drove right by it on the way to Silva and Fillmore, and when we saw the hotel from the highway, we immediately decided to go to Manfred on the return trip. It was worth it.

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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.