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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. @NorthDakotaTroy

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. @NorthDakotaTroy

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

We set out from Fargo to photograph some abandoned places shortly after six in the morning on this day, so it was early afternoon by the time we found ourselves all the way out in Sentinel Butte. We were getting hungry and we decided to shoot a few quick things before heading back to Beach, North Dakota for lunch.Sentinel Butte, ND

Sentinel Butte is in Golden Valley County near the Montana border, just a few miles east of Beach, North Dakota, situated in a gorgeous green carpet of prairie grass, broken in places by ragged patches of badland and alkaline earth — a middle ground between inhabitable and inhospitable.  According to the 2010 Census, Sentinel Butte has 56 residents, down from 62 in 2000. They have their own website here.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

This school is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s also home to a time capsule buried in 1976, scheduled to be opened in 2076.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

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Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Thank you for your service.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota
Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

The grounds also make a great place to play horseshoes.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Someone is converting this old Post Office to a residence.

This trip took place in July of 2014, and we saw a lot of this on this trip — old buildings appropriated for housing due to the oil industry. We don’t know if that’s the case here, but we did see a lot of it in various places. Schools, churches, and old abandoned homes, now re-inhabited, and frequently with RVs or 18-wheelers parked in the yard. In this housing shortage, people are using all kinds of old structures as dwellings.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

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

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

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. @NorthDakotaTroy