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.
This old Studebaker with suicide doors sits in a field.
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).
The front porch has collapsed.
Inside the garage
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.
Someone broke a car window a long time ago.
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.
At first we wondered whether this may have been a courthouse.
It appears it was field stone on the bottom with brick on top.
This one charred timber told us a fire was responsible for the demise of this place.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The floor inside the pink house is barely distinguishable from the ground outside.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
21 thoughts on “Return to Sherbrooke”
If i wanted to explore this town, do i need to contact anyone for permission?
Not that we’re aware of. There’s nobody around.
Wonderful photos, I sure appreciate you guys sharing all this.
Do you know what the structures are in the last photo? Thanks for the photos, I always enjoy looking at what you find…..
I’ve heard them referred to as ‘grottos’ and they would have had a religious statue in them… Mary, Jesus, etc…
My stepfather (the late T G Anderson) grew up as part of that community as did many of his cousins. We visited there in the 80’s for a funeral. There are still many of his relatives and family friends in the vicinity. I have copies of the memoirs by several members of the family (Anderson, Still and Barrett) some of who were prominent in the history the county and state. All give details of life there in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I to appreciate the photos, especially since at my age I probably won’t be able to visit there again.
Were there ever fights over property lines that you are aware of?
I love the pictures. They make me want to go out (camera in hand) and explore the abandoned farms here in NE Nebraska!
Dangerous indeed. As an urbexer, I am always cognizant of that fact.
Speaking of which, the Arlene Carpenter house may have been occupied into the 1990’s. When I visited Sherbrooke a handful of years ago, I actually went into that house. I found various materials dating to the early 1990’s, including a bumper sticker on one of the upstairs bedroom doors that read, “Minnesota Twins: 1991 World Champions”. Other items bearing dates from the early ’90s could be found elsewhere in the house, but I don’t remember seeing anything beyond, say, 1993.
Thanks for the info, Matt.
Who owns the land around Sherbrooke? Troy, by any chance are you related to Lester Larson? If so, I bought a couple of pieces of land from him back in the 90’s in Denhoff. I still have it! Wish I’d bought more! Enjoyed your visit to Sherbrooke!!
So interesting…there are a number of people who lived in Sherbrooke and some still around the area. I lived in the house that is falling down when I was seven years old. Before Carpenters, the house owned by Bugbees and earlier by Ericksons. Nice area with cottonwood trees, lilac bushes and most families had flower and vegetable gardens. Our Bugbee relatives have get together and we have our own histories of the area as probably many others do who used to live there.
This is my families land and old home. The Husos which was my mothers mother. I had a lot of memories here when I was little.. along with my grandpas house that is now torn down back toward what was called Pickert, ND.
I should mention its the first house (brown one) My aunt and mother know bout bout it all and the neighbor that lived next to my families.
William John Anderson whose family farmed about 4 miles outside of Sherbrooke in writing of those days included
the following passage
“Four miles west of our farm was the little village of Sherbrooke, the county seat, named by one of the original
settlers, D. P. Baldwin, who had come from Sherbrooke, Quebec, and had established a general store. Besides
the county court house were several homes occupied by the officials, a hotel, post office, livery stable and, strange to say, a local newspaper which in its small way gave the community news and the proceeds of the county
By the time we came back to the farm around 1890 the Baldwin General Store had gone out of business
and the empty building had reverted to the county for taxes. Father arranged to rent this building and reopen
it as a general store and pharmacy.”
The writings by members of the family tells of the blizzards, epidemics and other hardships of those days and
also of the good times.
I lived in Sherbrooke during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s before moving to Finley, ND which is10 miles to the northwest. The old red house in the first pictures belonged to my grandparents. My grandfather was the Mayor of Sherbrooke. I recognize all the above photos and know a lot of the history. I spent much of my youth 1950 thru 1970 visiting friends and relatives in Sherbrooke. If you are ever in the area, I would be glad to take you on a tour of the town and share it’s history. I have city maps and pictures of the town when it was still the county seat. Most all of my family are buried in the Sherbrooke Cemetery so I currently maintain many of the grave sites. I visit the old town many times each summer.
Hi Don–I would love to take you up on your offer of a tour of Sherbrooke. My grandmother was Edna Oxton (b1903). and her sister Jenny was, I think married to one of the Devlin’s from this area. My sister knows more of the details and she and I hope to come up to Steele County one day soon.
My dad, Robert Erickson, was born in the red house in 1911 when his father was County Treasurer and Sherbrooke was still County Seat.I also lived in the house in the early to mid 1940’s with my parents and older brother My dad was a country schoolteacher at the time and taught at the (2) room schoolhouse in Sherbrooke.I attended school there for 1st and part of 2nd grade with my dad as my teacher He then became County Superintendent of Schools and we moved to Finley. the stone foundation may be from the Tom Devlin home which stood on the south side of the road. Later Lizzie Devlin built (or had built) the pink house and lived there. She also built the grotto and it had a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in it, but I don’t know what became of that.
My relatives on both paternal and maternal sides were closely related to the Sherbrooke community. My Great Grandaparents moved there in 1907. Lizzie Devlin was my Great Uncle James’s second wife and they lived in Sherbrooke for as long as I can remeber. Linda Bergenheier is correct, the grotto was placed there by the James Devlin family. MyGrandfather was Tom Devlin who had lived there when first coming to N.Dak. but soon had moved to a farm soulth of Finley.
My Great Grandfather on my maternal side was Olaus Williams who had been one of the original county comissioners in Sherbrooke and his daughter, Cora,, was the treasurer prior to Robert Erickson. I remember her speaking of Robert.
Hi, my maiden name was Bugbee. My Grandfather was Leslie Lee Bugbee from Sherbrooke, ND. His parents were Loring and Bessie (Loomis) Bugbee, from here. Loring Bugbee was the first drayman and Mail stagecoach operator in Sherbrooke. He was in horse sales trade and a farmer. Loring “Load” Bugbee’s mother was Abigail Bugbee, his brother Jesse and his sister was Abbie Carpenter ( husband Nate).
If anybody knows anything more about any of these people or their lives, I’d love to know. Any facts or stories, etc.
I hope to go there someday also!
Thanks for all who share!
I recently went and visited this area and was wondering if anyone who grew up there or had family that did, if you were aware of any “fighting” over property lines back in the day?