Another Look at Hanks

Clif Nelson contributed these photos of Hanks, North Dakota, a near-ghost town in Williams County — population one. Clif’s comments:

“It was never much of a town, but they had coal mines north of town and grain elevatorsin the early 1900’s.  My Grandfather Anton Nelson who farmed about 7 miles northwest of Hanks would haul a load of grain in and haul coal home from the mines just north of the town of Hanks.  They had a bank at one time, and a store plus I’ m sure other businesses.  The school became a museum of which I have pictures included… My Uncles farmed the old Nelson homestead so we used to visit a lot out there from the late 40’s and on.  My children and family used to frequent the Museum when we would visit the Uncles in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  It was quite a museum and how long it has been closed now I have no idea.”

More of Clif’s comments are included as captions below.

It’s interesting to note the presence of the former Bonetraill school and the Zahl depot in Hanks.  It’s quite common for structures to be moved from a vanishing town to another location, many times for use as a museum or other historically-oriented destination.  In this case the structures have been moved from one withering location to another.

Hanks was featured in the National Geographic article “The Emptied Prairie” in 2008.  You can also check out John Piepkorn’s gallery of Hanks photos from 2010 here.

Back side of the old chicken hatchery

Back side of the Zahl depot…Zahl was about 5 miles east of Hanks on the Railroad line and the highway

Front of the old Zahl depot

Former bank building in Hanks, later had a gas pump in front of it, so it maybe was a store and or gas station in later life.

Old Pioneer Trails Museum. Was the school at one time.

Bonetraill township one room grade school. Township was north of Hanks.

Photos by Clif Nelson. Original content copyright ©2016 Sonic Tremor Media LLC

// //

14 thoughts on “Another Look at Hanks

  1. I’ve been told my great grandparents, Samuel & Julia Rabbe, were among the first homesteaders in Bonetraill Township south of Hanks. I remember the tales of hardship my grandfather Joel used to tell me about attempting to make a living there. – working the coal mines, raising chickens, hauling water, ect. My family eventually moved south to Williston not long after my grandfather Sam died on the back of a buckwagon en route to the hospital suffering from appendicitis.


  2. The gas pump belonged to the gas station that formerly stood next to the bank building and now has been demolished. There is still a hole in the ground where the building once stood. The school closed around 1970 and the museum is still open in summer months from 1-5 pm on Sundays. It is well worth the visit.


      1. Are you sure the museum t is still open on Sundays again….my brother Randy and I were by there last August and it appeared to have been closed for sometime then…I posted numerous pics of this town and the museum on this site…one is here


  3. My grandfather, Herman A. Schultz, originally of Green Lake, WI, was the original pioneer homesteader in Hanks, ND, in about 1902. We still own the land and the farm buildings are in the first picture in your series. My Grandmother, Helvine Ausland Schultz, was the first teacher in the school in your pictures. My father, Frederick HC Schultz, graduated from Hanks High School in 1938, with 5 other seniors, in this school in which grades 1-12 were taught. In a way, I owe my existence to this school. In 1919, during the post World War I influenza epidemic, everyone in Hanks caught flu except my grandfather and grandmother. The sick people were moved into the school and taken care of by them, they noticed each other, and were married soon after. From these humble origins my father went on to become a university physics department chairman. He lived 92 years and passed away last week. Late in life, his distinguished academic and scienfitic career notwithstanding, his fondest memories were of life on the farm in Hanks, and World War II Navy Service. His ashes will be interred in the Hanks Cemetery, also in your pictures. I would be most interested in hearing from anyone with Williams County, and especially, Hanks roots.


  4. Michael, I remember your grandparents well, along with your aunt and uncle, Ed and Pauline. They were all wonderful hard working people. I grew up just south of your grandpa’s place and east of the school. I attended the school for 8 years from 1947 to 1955. My mother (Avis Hagge Kohlman) graduated from High School there in 1935 or 36. I remember her talking about your dad. The museum will be open on Sunday afternoons in the summer months thru 2016. That is the 100th anniversary of the city of Grenora, 6 miles to the west. The Hanks community was a great place to grow up, and I still visit there several times a year.


    1. Hi, Roger! We lived in Minot 1961-63, and when either you or your brother graduated from Minot State, your family stayed with us. I believe my Aunt Grace Schultz Pharris and her husband were there, too. As I kid I loved visiting Hanks & the farm. My dad & I went there in the ’90s & drove all around the farm. He passed away in 2014. Mike Schultz


      1. Michael, that was my brother Dennis. I remember visiting the Pharris farm in Idaho when we were kids. Roger


  5. Enjoyed your article on Hanks and the Bonetraill School that was moved there to preserve it. The school actually was located several milees southwest of Hanks
    I remember being in the Hanks school at a school carnival function in the late 60’s. My parents donated a 2-seated sleigh/cutter to the museum there. We used to have a horse that would pull it around the farm when I was a kid.
    My father, Theodore Rustad and a few of his siblings attended that school and our farm was less than a mile away.
    The school sat on one of the highest points around Bonetraill at these coordinates:
    48.445305 Latitude 103.884819 Longitude
    Lots of large, glacier-scraped rocks can be seen here and there and most that have worked their way up are located in the area rock piles.


  6. My siblings and I will most likely be in the area next summer for the Centennial in Grenora in July…..I would hope that the Hanks museum would be open then….In the 70’s my children,wife Brenda and I would visit the museum everytime we came up to visit Uncles Arne,Ralph and Hans Nelson…….One of the stalwart gentlemen who worked the museum on Sundays at that time was my Dad’s first cousin ,Ernest Schenstad…He taught my children how to make rope and carve carigana trees…..They are long gone.


  7. I attended, for 7 years, Bonetraill School #2, located then about 15 miles south of Grenora. The building was moved to Hanks in the ’60’s. All 8 children in our family attended this school.
    Long time ago, now.
    Wally Rustad, Leesburg, Virginia (home is still NW North Dakota)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s