Church and Sunflowers in Concrete, North Dakota

Sometimes when we’re out on the road, we’ll run across a place and snap a few photos with the intention of getting the photos posted on the site, but then real life intervenes and by the time we get around to posting the photos, we’ve lost track of where we took them (we use GPS these days to avoid that problem). These photos are a perfect example. Terry shot these in 2006 but they got lost in the shuffle and it was only recently that we remembered they were taken in Concrete, North Dakota.

Concrete is in Pembina County, about fifteen miles southwest of Cavalier and has just a handful of residents.  It’s named for the cement plant which once operated here and it was a loading station for the Great Northern Railroad.

Concrete, North Dakota

Dusk, the last ray of sun on the cross.

Concrete, North Dakota
Concrete, North Dakota

Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

4 thoughts on “Church and Sunflowers in Concrete, North Dakota

  1. Concrete is in Pembina County, the county border is about a half a mile away. There are also some remains left of the old mine just southwest of town. It also as a air force base 1.5 to 2 miles away originally called the Concrete Air Force Base before it changed to the Cavalier Air Force Base. The area also has two important dams within a mile of town that help save Cavalier and Renwick dam from flooding this past year.


  2. Concrete’s official birth was July 21, 1908, when the Northern Dakota Townsite Company held a public auction to sell lots in the new town that was located just a few miles from the Pembina Portland Cement Company works in Cavalier County. The day dawned cold, wet and blustery which was a bad omen for the town–that, combined with lots most people felt were too high priced, produced few sales. The Pembina Portland Cement Company had been founded in 1899 to produce a portland cement (portland is a type of cement, not a brand name–although the word “portland” is used in many brand names). The cement clays in the nearby hills were “discovered” in 1891 by Earle J. Babcock, the State Geologist and UND faculty member. He, along with his brother Otto Babcock and UND President Webster Merrifield organized the company to manufacture cement. Early test results showed promise of a high quality cement and with investment money provided by Merrifield’s college roommate, J. Montgomery Sears and his own wife’s money (Merrifield had married the widow of George Bull, the developer of Cream of Wheat), a plant was constructed on the Tongue River site in 1899. By early spring of 1900, the company was in trouble, being unable to find enough of the proper raw ingredients to make a good quality cement. Elizabeth Bull-Merrifield’s son, Daniel Bull and his brother-in-law, Thomas D Campbell (Campbell married one of the Bull sisters), both graduated from UND and the plant site was “sold” to them. The plant’s production capacity was increased despite production difficulties and both Bull & Campbell promoted the building of a private railroad from Edinburg, ND to the cement mine site — a distance of some 21 miles, running through Gardar, Mountain and the new townsite of Concrete. Named the Northern Dakota Railway, its construction was completed in the fall of 1908, with stock being sold to farmers along the route with the promise of great riches from revenue generated by hauling finished cement along with their farm produce. It was not to be — the cement plant, now renamed the Northern Cement & Plaster Company, folded in mid-year 1909, leaving the railroad to struggle along on it own. The railroads main source of income was a contract to haul the U.S. mail, a contract that was lost when they were unable to keep their locomotive running on a regular basis. A motorized jitney proved just as troublesome; train service was reduced to three times per week and towards the end, just in the fall when there was farm produce to haul. The Northern Dakota made its last run in November of 1919 and after a court battle and a decision by the ND Railroad Commission that it could not force the railroad to remain in business if it was not profitable to operate, the line was dismantled in 1922. The town of Concrete (townsite officials had originally wanted to name it for Elizabeth Bull-Merrifield, but as a company director, Elizabeth insisted it be named for the product of the mine) was left to struggle on its own. The E. J. Lander Company (the townsite promoter) built a bank in Concrete but it folded in 1928 after its charter ran out and was not renewed. Over the years, fires destroyed what little there had been of the community and today nothing of the original town stands with the exception of the church and a few houses in the “residential” section.


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