Before the Flood: Leaving Sanish, North Dakota

Sanish, North Dakota

We’ve posted several galleries dedicated to Sanish, North Dakota, the former Missouri River town that was dismantled timber and brick and dispersed to higher ground when the Garrison Dam was erected, flooding this part of the Missouri River Valley.  There’s a gallery dedicated to the construction of Four Bears Bridge, our visit to the crumbling remains during historic low water levels in 2005, a Christmas in Sanish gallery, and a look down the street in front of the school and church, but no two photos we’ve seen so far capture this time in our history as these two photos submitted by Don Hammer.

The first photo was taken in October, 1952.

Sanish, North Dakota

Make note of the landmarks.  The school in the background, upper left, and the little black building between (and partially obscured by) the elevators in the lower left. Next, take a look at the photo below, taken from almost the same spot on the bluff in December, 1953.  The abandonment of Sanish is nearly complete.

Sanish, North Dakota

The school is still there in the background, and the camera angle is shifted slightly to the left, so you can see the white church to the left of the school (it was just slightly out of frame in the upper photo), but both of the elevators near the black building in the center are gone, as is most of Sanish. Sanish and Four Bears Bridge were also featured in our book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 3.

Photos submitted by Don Hammer, one-time resident of Sanish.

Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media

38 Comments on “Before the Flood: Leaving Sanish, North Dakota

  1. In the late 60’s and early 70’s the Army Corps of Engineers rerouted the Hocking River ( a trib. of the Ohio River)
    around the campus of Ohio University in Athens. Each year it seemed it would flood and they got tired of having
    to redo the buckled gym floor. Great accomplishment and has been successful ever since.

    • Is almost unbelievable to see the changes in only a years’ time! Fantastic addition of photos to an already awesome web site. A big “Thank You” to Don Hammer for sharing these two photos.

      Lynn Mickelson

  2. very neat,I have some old pics of Garrison Dam while it is being built taken by my Uncle who was with the Army Corps of Engineers back then…any interest?

  3. Hi Troy,

    Great Pictures of the original Four Bears bridge construction! My Grandfather (Joseph Myhre) worked on that project and was credited with saving another construction workers life. As a kid, I remember a newspaper article in the New Town paper that said he dove into the Missouri river to rescue a worker that had fallen from the bridge. I am not sure of the details but I wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your pictures and stories of North Dakota before the oil boom and changes.

    Thanks Troy for all of your hard work!


    • A ‘ditto’ to Scott’s last comment! Thanks, Troy for all your work on this wonderful website!!!

      Lynn Mickelson

  4. Very interesting. And great photos. FYI: I’m originally from south of Turtle Lake (McLean county east and south of Old Sanish). Sanish wasn’t the only town in that area to be moved. In fact Turtle Lake was created from a “whole clothe” so to speak when the Great Northern Railroad cut off their tracks to Wanamaker (which was a few miles east of modern Turtle Lake). Apparently a prominent Wanamaker Citizen got into a hissing match with officials of GNR. That was in 1905.
    See (thanks to Vernon Keel, author of “The Murdered Family”)

  5. My Grandfather ran the drugstore in Sanish right up until the end. I think I have a box of photographs from that era, would anyone like to see them if I can find them and scan them?

    • My dad Raymond Sattergren grew up here. I would like see the photos.

    • Would love to see Sanish information ,my parents lived there when l was very young. But I do remember very little !!

  6. Scott:

    Was your grandfather’s name Bugge?

    I’d very much like to see any photos of old Sanish.

    Don Hammer

    • I have a photo of the Bugge and Hammer families (and some others) on a fishing/picnic on a creek west of Sanish – Shell Creek??_ I’ll try to find it. I’ve also seen a photo of the Sanish rodeo grounds with several round tipis set up that the Indians were staying in during the rodeo. But I can’t find a copy of it anywhere.

    • Scott:
      Did you find the box of old Sanish photos?
      I found the fishing trip/picnic photo and I can ID Mrs. Bugge but not her husband.

      Don Hammer

  7. Pingback: Sanish, ND - :

  8. In 1945 My parents lived in the Van Hook and Sanish area when I was born I believe both were combined to form New Town (Vanish) . we moved away when I was perhaps three, so I have no memory from that time. We returned sometime after all or most of the buildings were gone but no flooding had yet occurred. I remember the basements along the streets and the odd fact that there were many house and other types of keys left on the cement and ground. That was the day that I became interested in and collected keys from that time forward.

  9. My Mom grew up in Sanish and Van Hook – Maiden name was Aubol – had two sibs – Don and Orpha. Dad was Orvin and he had a general store, her Mom’s name was Ruth and was from the Devils lake area – name – Summers.

    • Cousins of my mother who was Ruth Aubol…. who graduated from Parshall HS in 1928 Her parents wer There were a lot of Aubols in the area including Van Hoof and some even in Minot.
      Her father was Julius (Andy)Andrew Aubol and she was an only child. n Mother’s name was Julia Marken Aubol.

      • Karen, I think that you had been in contact with my brother, Clare a few years ago. We lived in Sanish until all had to move out. I have to look back at some the family history, but I believe that Ruth and my dad, Marius, were cousins.

    • I lived in Sanish until we all had to leave and moved to New Town. My dad was Marius, a brother to Orvin. We knew all their children and visited with Joyce and Orpha when they were in Minot.

      • Hi Lorna –

        I remember my Mom talking about you on occasion – I am Joyce’s oldest son. Do you remember who did the Aubol family history, and where I could get a copy of it? That was probably 15-20 years ago I believe.

        My Mom and Dad (Chester (Al) Alvin Twedt never talked much about the early years – I remember visiting Lucille and Betty and Eddie, but I was very young and am pretty foggy about them, too. I think Lucille was one of Ruth’s sisters.

        I also remember Royce, Claire, and Marnie – we saw Claire in Bismarck at Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary – I think that was the last time – I believe Marnie and Millie were there also.

        Please email me at – that may be easier.

        Thanks for responding to these posts –


  10. My Mom grew up in Sanish and Van Hook – Maiden name was Aubol – had two sibs – Don and Orpha. Dad was Orvin and he had a general store, her Mom’s name was Ruth and was from the Devils lake area – name – Summers. Mom’s name was Joyce Aubol.

  11. Leonard “the Viking” Johnson was from Sanish. He was a sales rep for the Sons of Norway
    in Fargo when the lodge opened in 1975, after having spent years in the auto industry in Fargo.

  12. It was a small but a great town to grow up in. I will search some of the pictures that I have and will post them.

  13. I have an early picture of Sanish and also a picture of the first Four Bears Bridge Celebration. They belonged to my Mother. Would you be interested in getting them?

  14. does anyone know anything about or remember the Shoberg Hotel? I believe it was ran by Ollie and Amy Shoberg (they were sisters) and maybe their mother, Nellie, helped too.

    • I remember us kids going to the Bugge drug store and buying comic books. The ones without the covers were always cheap.

  15. Interesting site. I just visited the New Town area after several years of absence. Could not believe the changes. I grew up across the river from Old Sanish in Mckenzie county. Parents names were Marion and Louise Ruland. I left the area in 1956
    after college.

  16. Stayed there often with my grand parents… usually in trouble with Dennis Rhode and Roger Aubol.

  17. Troy,

    Your dedication to preserving and further documenting North Dakotas forgotten history is unmatched. Its so fascinating to follow along on your adventures to both historical, and (what most would consider to be) insignificant locations, until you bring them into the light and reveal the amazing stories that they conceal. Keep up with your curious and investigative spirit and you’ll always have followers like me to read your stories. Thank you!

  18. My Father Graduated from Sanish High School in 1936. When he died in 2006 I found a Sanish Crow High School year book from 1930 with all the classes of that year.

  19. Enjoyed reading all the comments and history. My mother, Dorothy Larson, born and raised in McKenzie County attended high school in Sanish graduating in 1935 I believe.. She worked for room and board at the Bugges home during the school term. The Sanish Rodeos were awesome! I graduated from NTHS in 1960.

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