Storm Clouds in Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

Larson is a near-ghost town in Burke County, about 38 miles northwest of Kenmare, or sixty miles northeast of Williston. It was established in 1907 and had a peak population of 114 in 1920. Larson, and the nearby town of Columbus, were named for Columbus Larson, an early postmaster.  There’s a good-sized concentration of residents with Scandinavian heritage in the area.

Larson, North Dakota

US Census Data for Larson
Total Population by Place

1960 – 62
1970 – 35
1980 – 21
2000 – Does Not Appear
2010 – 12 (CDP)

Larson, North Dakota

We arrived in Larson at the same time a storm front was moving in which made for some dramatic skies as a backdrop. The former church was the first place that caught our eye. The kicked-in front door told us vandals had already been there.

Larson, North Dakota

Can’t you just imagine classic American automobiles coming and going at this old filling station on the corner of Division Avenue and 2nd Street?

Larson, North Dakota

Larson was quite sleepy for decades, went through something of a revitalization during the height of the oil boom, then slowed down again as oil prices dropped. We’re told it is still busier than it was before, though (see comments).

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

The people in this house had the best TV reception in town.

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

We didn’t know for sure, but this looked like the old Larson school. Can someone confirm?

Larson, North Dakota

We’ve been told Murphy’s Fine Food and Spirits was quite the hangout back in the day.

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

Larson, North Dakota

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

55 Comments on “Storm Clouds in Larson, North Dakota

  1. The pictures are awesome!! Love the history and seeing these buildings still standing untouched! Hope they stay that way?

  2. So enjoyed all of these photos. I grew up on a farm south of Larson so remember all of these places, along with a few others that are now gone or not pictured. There used to be a train depot where farmers brought their cream so the train could bring it to Crosby to the Creamery. Don’t know if the grain elevator is still there or the old hotel/store/post office turned home. Murphy’s was the Border Triangle Club for most of its existence-quite a good steakhouse in its day!! Thank you so much for all of these – has been great fun looking at all of these ghost towns!

      • I have a photo of my great grandfather, in about 1910, that I think is beside the Larson train depot. I’d love to see if someone could identify it for me. Thanks for any help.

        Kevin West
        Los Angeles, Cal.

    • Hi – I’m the former Julie Johnson. I grew up in Larson – knew your brothers – at least the older ones. The grain elevators burned down after I left home. My mom said the Hutterites came in and salvaged as much grain as they could
      after the fire.

  3. Oh mannn, for the good times at the Larson dances in the 40’s and early 50’s when I lived at Kincaid, 5 miles east of Larson. The foot stomping music, smoke filled room, beer hall adjoining, pretty girls, ( I could name many), I still remember alot of names, haha. Then to Lignite, and Portal, on same night, and gadzooks, would run into dad and mother at Portal, they were with friends. Had to dance with my mother , lol. Roller skating at Lignite, clamp-on skates, haha funnn

    Aaaaahh yes, the good ole years.

    Eugene Brumfield
    Kennewick, WA

    • Hello Eugene, my name is Troy Johnson, I’m looking for old pictures of kinkaid? I was wondering if you had any of the town? You may know my uncle Bruce Thompson, he stills lives near there. my email address is thanks

  4. The Border Triangle Club actually advertised on the television station out of Yorkton, SK. (Usually, only around Christmas). I worked at the station and remember accompanying one of our news videographers who was sent to that club to get a couple of shots for their quickie 10 second TV spots. We were in the Estevan area shooting a news story earlier that day, as I recall. As far as I know, those spots were only seen by viewers along the border thanks to the southern feed to our Carlyle, SK repeater tower. I think we actually had a quick beer at the club with the station’s sales person for that territory before beginning the long drive back to Yorkton. That would have been in the very early ’90’s. .

    • The PBR signs are probably owned by Shelley Nelson of Columbus, ND. That is where I would start anyway . . .

    • went to dances in 1957 lived in the columbus hotel worked for brinkerhoff drilling

  5. I lived right behind the gas station and went to the one room school house my first 6 grades also went to lots of dances at the bar.

  6. Tavernpark……I grew up on a farm near Crosby, Nd. After crossing the border,I recall seeing chimenys sticking out of the prairie. (They were on the east side of the road.) There were no buildings atached to or nearby. These trips were made in the early 1950’s….before the power station was built south of Estevan. A few miles noth of the chimeys, we would pass the old WW11 airport on the west side of the road.

    The question I have: did you ever see these chimenys? Where would one find more information about them?

    Thanks for your help.


    • Can’t help you there. I grew up in Manitoba and only lived in Saskatchewan from 1986 to 96. Had not heard of the chimneys before. Maybe the historical society in Estevan could help.

  7. My name is Delores (Holte) Thompson..I grew up in Larson and remember well when it was a booming little town. On Friday nights especially. A lot of my friends and family went to dances there. Lots of times friends would stay over at our house if they missed a ride home…Mom always said she would count the shoes by the door every Saturday morning to see how many guests she had sleeping over. Those were good clean memories to have. Personally I think it is a historical little town that should be rebuilt. It does appear to be a ghost town but there are people living there to this day. We spend our summers in the area.

    • You must know the Sandberg family. My uncle was Harold Sandberg. My grandma was myrtle her son Gary Ellinger is my father. We visit the farm every summer. My dad bought the farm when my uncle Harold died.

      • Yes, I remember the Sandberg farmstead. I seem to recall going to Ladies Aid with my Mom at Harold Sandbergs…….We lived just south of the So. St. Olaf church until I was 9 years old. My parents than bought a house in Larson and moved the family into town …my Mom still has her house in Larson………..We will be visiting South St. Olaf church this weekend to put flowers out for Memorial Day. We have a lot of history there………In fact our daughter was married at So. St. Olaf church back in 1997. We had quite a job getting it ready for a wedding, but it was beautiful.

      • Hi I am also a great nephew of Harold. My father is Dennis Sandberg. I learned to hunt, shoot, & ride motorcycles on that farm. Such a great place!

        • Hi Eric and Mary,
          I am Eric’s first cousin, Lisa Hickman (Hicks) and am a granddaughter of Ed and Aurora Sandberg (Noonan) and one of the twin daughters of Connie and Jiggs Hickman (Columbus). What a beautiful website..LOVE the pics! How are things going up there with the oil boom? We are wondering if the Sandberg farmstead is in good shape there someone watching it for the family? My dad’s health is such that he can’t travel up there but mom always reminisces about the farm and would love to see it one more time. Is south St Olaf still in good shape? Last time we were there it was being restored and looked pretty good!

          • The oil boom is pretty crazy in the Williston area and has impacted the entire region. With the drop in oil prices, there has been a slow down, but still busy.

            Yes, the Sandberg farmstead is in fairly good shape. I haven’t been inside the house in several years now, but the Burau families had a reunion quite a few years back and we were able to stay in Harold’s house – brought back wonderful memories as we were close neighbors and got to stay at Harold’s a couple times as kids. He was such a nice man, always so good to us kids, and he let us stay in the guest room of his home!!.

            South St Olaf is still beautiful – one of the Brodals got married there last summer so it was freshened up.

    • Hi, I knew a family named Johnson’s that lived in Larson. Ole and Myrtle Johnson. I dated there son Ron for a couple years. His mom played the organ at that little church. Do you know if they are still around the area? There was also 2 girls, Julie and GloriAnn. The last time I was there in the late 70’s the population was 24. Its kind of sad to see it getting so run down. I hope like someone else mentions, that the oil and rebuilding boom will keep Larson alive and thriving!!!

      • Yes, I knew the Johnson family. I believe Gloriann is in the Bismarck/Mandan area. Not sure about the rest of the siblings.

      • Hi Delores, Wow!! Thank you so much for your reply! I am happy to hear about GloriAnn. I have searched on Facebook for them but have not had any luck finding any of them. Do you know if Myrtle and Ole are still alive?….., just curious. I have some pictures of Ron and I standing in the little church and his mom (Myrtle) playing the organ and I have one of the school play ground with the play equipment still there. They would be from 1978-79. Have a great day!!!

        • Karen Norby – I remember you and your brothers well. Myrtle and Ole have both died. Ron also has died. Glori lives in Lincoln – about five miles from me in Bismarck. To get in touch with her you can contact me on Facebook – under Julie Fredericksen

          • Hi Julie!!! I am not Karen Norby. I am Karen Nguyen (Cooper) I was from Oregon and dated Ron. I did find you on FB several years ago and messaged you. But you never responded back. I did just look for you again but couldn’t find your name. Im sorry to hear about Ron. Be fun to reconnect: KarenCooperLarkinNguyen on FB. I have some photos of Larson that I took back in 1979.

  8. I remember hanging out at Murphys those days were so relaxing wating the fist super bowel. I wish I could go back to those days. Murphs was the place to be.

  9. darrell steffensen says: i was raised in columbus and crosby later, but on sundays we always went to larsen to visit our uncles and aunts (clarence and alpha tweet), gundersonsi i believe the 7 th picture is their house, i could be wrong, mom (irma tweet) who recently passed, was born and reared i believe about 4 miles southwest of larsen,grandpa and grandma tweet {theodore and anna tweet} raised a big family there, we also used to go there to pick potatoes for a farmer that was in the northwest corner of town, used to make about $ 2 to $ 2.50 for the day sometimes less and would go spend it all at hundsteads store in columbus on candie, of course candie was only about 2 cents to 5 cents a candie bar, great memories, everytime i come home i have to make one swing throughj larsen

    • Hi Darrell, this is Julie Johnson Fredericksen. We recently became friends on Facebook. Clarence, Alpha and Connie lived in house that looks like it is pink or peach in the photo. My family moved into that house in 1966 and lived there for a number of years. It was still white when we lived in it. The farmer you picked potatoes for was my dad. Actually he wasn’t a farmer but he went into the potato growing business with his brother, who was a farmer.

  10. my great grandparents are from this area. they were one of the founders of columbus. Mathias & Bertha Sandberg. they build the south saint olaf church. Something always pulls me back here. I love the atmosphere, the emptiness, the serene feeling I get every time I come. We stay at the original homestead every summer.

  11. Hi my name is Jami and I moved to Larson in 2011 sounds like this will not be a ghost town anylonger with the oil boom there is a man camp comming to town with four hundered rooms crazy not the place we thought we were moving too.

    • Oh wow, a man camp. What about the old post office and store, an old, old hotel. We lived there, in the back and upstairs, The Witty Store! I lived there after we moved from the farm to be closer to school, altho we went to school in Noonan, not Columbus. High school, thiat is. And yes, the Larson dances, what fun, but it wasn’t necessarly so mch frun to live next door, esp. about 3 in the morning, ha.

      • Darlene, The post office and store burned down not that long ago, along with our dad’s (Ole Johnson’s gas station). We were constant patrons of Clarence and Minnie’s store. What great memories.

  12. My husband and I had our wedding reception at Murphy`s in 1995. What a great place to dine, wonderful food, and great people.

  13. My name is Joann Suelzle Forry Bourget. I was raised in Crosby 1943 to 1957 when I graduated from Crosby High School. We drove to Larson every Sunday for several years to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod until my family and several others started a Church in Crosby. And the dances. What memories I have of them. I was not allowed to go to the public dances at Larson but managed to sneak off one Sat night or two during my senior year of high school. What an adventure that was for me, the young girl who had to be home by 11:00 p.m. and 99.9 percent of the time was, except for those couple of times I was brave enough to go to “the public dances” at Larson. It was so much fun. Walzes, two-step, jidder bug, polka. I also remember going to a dance in Portal, which is northesst of Larson, where we crossed over the border to Estevan, Canada for school picnics. Thanks You for the memories.

  14. I grew up 6 miles south and 1 mile west of Larson and my aunt & uncle (Gerdiius & Myron Watterud) owned and operated the bar/steakhouse(Border Triangle Club) there for many years in the late 60s through the 80s. My parents, along with MANY others from a wide area, danced there most weekends! It was a busy place back in those days. I also attended school there in first grade where my cousin and I were the only 2 first graders and our aunt, Loretta Marston, was the teacher. 8 grades in one room! The next year they consolidated the schools into Columbus. Our farm was just down the hill from the Harold Sandberg farm mentioned above and Gary Ellinger also bought our farmstead along with the Sandberg place. So many good memories – wonderful place to grow up!!

  15. I was born in Crosby lived my early years on my Grandfather’s homestead South of Noonan. I was living outside Columbus with my Grandparents Emma and Gust Auran in Sept. 1953, that year, for 1st grade, I attended the school in Larson where my Grandmother was the teacher. There were 3 of us in 1st grade and at least one student in each of the 8 grades. At Christmas time we 3 were shepherds in the Nativity play. I have a picture of the Nativity tableau and pictures of the school playground and out buildings in summer 1969, during my honeymoon trip to introduce my husband to relatives. I believe it had just closed, the buildings were in very good condition at that time. I remember walking to the house by the railroad station once a week after school for piano lessons. I spent my 2nd grade year in Noonan, and then we moved to Denver Colorado.

  16. I used to own the old hotel/store/post office turned home. didn’t see a photo of it though.

  17. It’s really sad to think that the ‘Mancamp” for the Bakken will be coming to this nice little town. It will probably be ravaged and tore down for a bunch of dope ridden people that follow that line of work.
    If I live there, I would move away quickly.were

  18. Hi. I am Arlene Johnson Bliss (nickname: Rusty) I grew up on a farm south of Noonan, ND. Those Friday night dances in Larson was our biggest and best entertainment!! How I miss those dances and would love to go to one again. Life was singing, playing or dancing to the most wonderful music ever!! Miss that, too!!

  19. Does anyone remember a John Thompson from Columbus that probably frequented Murphy’s (the Border Triangle Club) in the 1940s? He was my father, and a good looking guy, had a way with the ladies it seems and liked to have a good time. I didn’t know him well so I always like to hear things about him.

  20. My grandparents, Bertha and Mathius Sandberg, were homesteaders in the Larson area. They built a lovely big farmhouse south of Larson, and I spent many wonderful summers there with my cousins from Detroit. They and several of my aunts and uncles are buried at South Saint Olaf church. One of the most beautiful places in the world. My German grandparents, Edward and Emma Dahlke, lived at Kermit, ND,. and belonged to the Missouri Lutheran Church in Larson. My, grandfather used to ride his horse to services in the middle of winter. I was baptized in that church. I lived in Noonan, and most Friday nights my high school girlfriends and I would go to the dance in Larson. I can’t believe our parents allowed it, but it was just the thing to do.

  21. i grew up in the MDU camp 5 miles south of Columbus. My family went to church in Larson and I was confirmed there with Janice And Gary Bureau and Merdith Dalke in aprox. 1957. Also many memories of Larson. One of the most entrenched is the time my brother,Dennis and I rode our bikes to Larson to spend time with my friend Clayton Holte. He was just starting to learn to drive and was showing me how he could back his grandfathers big car up and in the process he bumped my brother knocking him to the ground and running over him. Very scary. Lucky no serious injury but did not fess up to mom about the bruses for many years. I never made the dances there but did enjoy the good steaks but out at the resturant where my mom was a cook for a short period of time

  22. My father, John moved to Larson in about 1907. Three of his eight children still live. In about 1993 I shot a long vcr video of Larson (with commentary) that I still enjoy. An exciting town in the 1930’s. I was under a large corn flakes box on main street when Pete Nord ran over me. The Saturday night dances were fun for boys to watch in the 1930’s. Much drinking and fighting. During prohibition the men would buy whiskey in Canada.

  23. I have been reading the comments left by all of the people that have some connection with Larson.
    If you attended the LCMS Church, in the late 60s – late 70s, you may remember my family. I am the youngest son of Lyle “David” & Audrey Aho. When my parents & my 2 older brothers moved to Crosby, in ’66, my dad transferred his membership to Larson. My mother was still Catholic at the time. I was born in ’67. Shortly after that she began the lessons to join the LCMS. We all attended St. Paul’s LCMS, there in Larson, even after we moved back to Stanley, in the spring of ’69. I remember that we always had to be up by 6:00 AM. My brothers never liked getting up that early, but I didn’t mind it. Although I don’t remember when I was real young, but my parents said that even when I was 2 or 3 I would get upset if we could not go to church for some reason. I remember, when I got older, that I always looked forward to going to church. The other thing that I remember, is that there were no other kids in the congregation. So we always had Sunday School, at home, Sunday evenings. Another Church event that I always enjoyed, was the Harvest Festival.

    From a very young age, I felt the calling of the ministry. Although things did not quite work out the way I had it planned. Finally, in 2006, I began my Ministry Studies with the Church of Living Water “COLW”, out of Delaware. In 2007, I completed the required courses for my Pastoral License. A Licensed Pastor, in ND, can do everything that an Ordained Minister can, except marry people and use the title Reverend. A Licensed Pastor can use the title Pastor or Brother. I prefer the latter. The Official Title is Licensed Minister Of God “LMOG”. My intentions were to become ordained and then begin a COLW Congregation, here in Stanley, as this was at the beginning of the oil boom. I was continuing my studies, when in 2008 I had to take a hiatus, due to some serious health conditions. In July 2009, I had my first stroke, I had almost completely recovered from that stroke when I had my next one, in 2012. Then I had another 2 in 2014. In addition to the strokes, I have been diagnosed with a couple other serious conditions that have left me wheelchair bound and often bedridden for several days at a time. Although, I was not able to finish my studies, up until 2015, I had been called on to do funerals and visit people in the hospital. I don’t know what God has planned for me. I take one day at a time. I don’t think that I would have taken the path that I did, had it not been for my upbringing and the weekly services & Sunday School, in my youth.

    The seed that was planted 40 years ago, at the church in Larson, finally sprouted and grew up to produce some buds. I look at it like winter wheat. It’s planted in the fall and it sprouts. Then it goes dormant for the winter. When the warmth of the spring sun comes, it comes forth and produces the fruit that had been waiting, under the blanket of snow, where it could not even be seen. My ministry is currently waiting for the time when it can finally come out of its dormancy and come to fruition.

    When my wife & I had to go to Crosby, back in 2007, I wanted to stop in Larson and see what was left.
    It was very disappointing to see the many buildings, that had been an important part of my childhood, so dilapidated. It’s kinda like coming across your first car, and seeing that it is all smashed up.

  24. We used to have demolition derbies on our bicycle on Main Street in Larson. Raid gardens. And go to Minnie Wittys store for a cold pop or ice cream bar. And go to the coal mine and walk down the Ho Chi Min trail to our favorite swimming hole back in the early 70’s. Before we moved from the farm south of Larson about 5 miles I’d get to ride in the grain truck in to the elevator and I could get some gum or candy. Very fond memories and the best people on the planet from the Larson/Columbus areas. To question of GloryAnn Johnson contact JoAnn Lundstad in Columbus or on FaceBook. She will know I think.

    • I am Gloriann’s sister. You can contact her or me. I am on Facebook. I am FB friends with your brother, Dale. I never new you guys moved into Larson. When would that have been?

  25. You asked If one picture you have is the school yes it is and I am sorry to see it in such disrepair. I mentioned earlier that I went there for 1st grade and my grandmother Emma Auran was my teacher. The picture I have was dated 1971 rather than 69 but the building was in good repair and the swing and out buildings were still there.

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