Dust Bowl North Dakota

Russell Lee was a trained chemical engineer who passed on a career in the field in favor of art. He is best known for the incredible number of photographs he took during the Dust Bowl for the Farm Security Administration.  Mr. Lee spent a good portion of 1937 in North Dakota photographing families, farms and cities, too.

The photos below are just a small sampling of Mr. Lee’s work.  He left a vast collection of photos of American culture in the 30s and 40s, and we were lucky to have his camera trained on us for a time. His captions accompany the photos.

Russell Lee, Highway Number 2, North Dakota

Abandoned garage on Highway Number 2. Western North Dakota. 1937

Russell Lee, Williston After Dust Storm

After a dust storm. Williston, North Dakota. 1937

Russell Lee, Sod Post Office

Sod post office. Grassy Butte, North Dakota. 1937

Russell Lee, Sodhouse

Sod house. McKenzie County, North Dakota. 1937

Russell Lee, Sodhouse

Corner of sodhouse. Williams County, North Dakota. 1937

Photos by Russell Lee, Farm Security Administration, in 1937

Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC


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5 thoughts on “Dust Bowl North Dakota

  1. The sod post office in Grassy Butte is still there. It’s now a museum. I’ve been there. Fascinating.

    If you go to the sod post office in Grassy Butte, note the surroundings as compared to this photo. The photo shows a prairie landscape devoid of trees. Today, the post office is in the middle of a thick growth of a number of large trees. Finding shade there isn’t a problem.


  2. Been there too. Post office was closed but stopped in the store across the street. Nice lady there called the museum director who lived just down the street and was most happy that I had shown some interest and came right down and opened it up for my perusal. Loved every minute of it.


  3. Hi!

    I was hoping you could help me. I live in Max, and about 4 or 5 miles to our north on Highway 83, there’s an old town hall building on the west side. It’s call Rosedale or something similar.

    My father told me that he heard that this was originally a schoolhouse, and that the teacher and 12 children sheltered there through the “Children’s Blizzard” that hit the U.S. plains states on January 12, 1888. He said he heard that the very small community of Rosedale, was eventually abandoned, and the town hall is all that’s left.

    Also, south of us about 5 or 6 miles, not too far from the Garrison turnoff on Highway 83 on the east side, there’s an abandoned farm. Several buildings are still standing, but the house’s roof is caved in.

    My father told me that he read in the Garrison newspaper, “McLean County Independent”, that the farm was originally a homestead claim that was filed in 1877. No one seems to know who owns the land now.

    If you know anything about either of these, could you please let me know? I’m really interested in finding more information about them.


    Sue Kennell


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