Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Sentinel Butte, ND
Sentinel Butte, ND

We set out from Fargo to photograph some abandoned places shortly after six in the morning on this day, so it was early afternoon by the time we found ourselves all the way out in Sentinel Butte. We were getting hungry and we decided to shoot a few quick things before heading back to Beach, North Dakota for lunch.

Sentinel Butte is in Golden Valley County near the Montana border, just a few miles east of Beach, North Dakota, situated in a gorgeous green carpet of prairie grass, broken in places by ragged patches of badland and alkaline earth — a middle ground between inhabitable and inhospitable.  According to the 2010 Census, Sentinel Butte has 56 residents, down from 62 in 2000. They have their own website here.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

This school is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s also home to a time capsule buried in 1976, scheduled to be opened in 2076.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

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Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Thank you for your service.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota
Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

The grounds also make a great place to play horseshoes.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Someone is converting this old Post Office to a residence.

This trip took place in July of 2014, and we saw a lot of this on this trip — old buildings appropriated for housing due to the oil industry. We don’t know if that’s the case here, but we did see a lot of it in various places. Schools, churches, and old abandoned homes, now re-inhabited, and frequently with RVs or 18-wheelers parked in the yard. In this housing shortage, people are using all kinds of old structures as dwellings.

Sentinel Butte, North Dakota
Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

28 Comments on “Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

  1. Love the article, I grew up on a ranch north of Sentinel Butte. One correction, Sentinel Butte is located east of Beach.

      • So excited to see these photos. My grandfather J.A. Kirkpatrick was born her along with his many siblings. Can’t wait to try to visit this summer.

    • I am looking for information on a train wreck on the Northern Pacific Railroad, sometime in the late 1920s. This wreck was mentioned in a column my dad cut out of a Jamestown newspaper back then, but there is no date. The newspaper noted “Monday afternoon they (my dad & Grandad) drove to Sentinel Butte arriving at the main line of the Northern Pacific where the fruit train wreck occurred and about the same time”, and the sentence goes on. Do you know where I could obtain additional info about this train wreck and the rest of the article? Thank you

  2. Next time..stay with the local cafe and donuts Great photo’s

    Makes we want to do a road trip to ND

  3. My sister used to run the DQ in Beach and we were friends with the Arizona Troubadors band that played the Little Mo club in Medora every year the week before the fourth of July so I’ve been past and through Sentinal Butte many times. Drove old 10 more than interstate usually.

  4. Love to see your pictures and read the little stories of your travels through our great state of North Dakota. Sentinel Butte is a place I have heard about all my life, but have never been there! Thank You for your travels and pictures!

  5. I live between Sentinel Butte and Medora. My husband grew up here. If you had been in Sentinel Butte around noon on a Friday, you could have stopped at Olson’s service station there in town for lunch. Each Friday they have a community potluck there! Our post office was open til about two years ago.I am glad you finally made it to Sentinel Butte for Ghosts of North Dakota!

  6. You should have eaten at La Playa. My niece and Nephew operate it. It is excellent if I do say so myself. Stop by next time you are out west.

  7. I have a saddle made by the Sentinel Butte Saddle Company. It has a metal heart 7 on it. Has anyone heard of this company. Old saddle.


    • Yes we have l information about the Sentinel Butte Saddlery when it was in Sentinel Butte. We live here. We also own and have sold old Sentinel Butte saddles when I owned an antique shop. My husband is now a saddle maker in Sentinel Butte.

      • Hi Carol, this is Mitch Hauge in Seeley Lake Mt. I have a Sentinel Butte saddle for sale and I was wondering what it is worth. It is in excellent condition and am hoping that it is worth more than I paid for it.

        • Sorry I just saw this. We would have to see photos to know what it is worth. I am on Facebook and messenger if want to do that. Also Sentinel Butte saddles were not always built in Sentinel Butte. They had shops in other places…Belfield, Miles City.

    • That saddle would have been made in Sentinel Butte, ND. It was one of the many different businesses in town.

      • I have my grandfather’s Sentinel Butte Saddle. I love it. I wish I could add a picture.

  8. Thanks for sharing these photos. My Father was born on the family homestead in Sentinel Butte. (1912) It has been many years since I’ve been there, but it’s great to see these buildings still standing.

  9. Thank you for the picture Bob Nelson. I actually rode with it until about 7 years ago. It was found in an old barn about1995. Now hanging in the garage. Will still wonder about the metal heart 7?

    • Laurel, it is for decoration. Many saddles have round silver conchos on them as decor. You are just lucky enough to have a heart one

  10. My Mother was born there (at least that is were the Doc came from ) She went to HS there and I grew up on the homestead 20 miles straight south near Alpha ND…thanks

  11. My Grandparents Will & Cora Brown homesteaded North of Sentinel Butte. I remember living at the farm & growing up in Sentinel Butte. Sad to see the old brick schoolhouse torn down. I attended school there & many of us remember my Grandma cooking there. The smells of homemade bread coming from the kitchen in the basement made it hard to concentrate on our studies but Mary Wirtzfield kept us on tract. Thank you for the memories. 🙂

    • I remember going to school with you Debby in S.B. I remember Jo and Kyle also. We had a great childhood growing up there. I remember a lot of the old buildings that were in town but most are all gone now. Remember the winters?

  12. My grandparents were residents of Sentinel Butte in 1913, having just wed in Dickinson. According to the “Republican” newspaper account, M. Glen Nichols was in charge of the Geo. Heaton Lumber Co., and “Mr. and Mrs. Nichols have secured the living rooms in the rear of the Sentinel Butte Saddlery Co.’s building, where they will be at home to their friends after Feb. 10.” Mrs. Edythe Nichols was employed as a stenographer in the Interstate Bank, according to the 1913 article. Also residing in the town were Archibald and Hazel Vaughn. Hazel was Edythe’s sister, and Archie was a station agent for the railroad there. We have photographs of when they lived there. The Vaughn’s had 2 daughters born to them in Sentinel Butte, Genevieve and Phyliss. They all were from Albert Lea, MN originally.

    • I would love to see the photos you have. Louise Van Auken

  13. My dad was born and raised there. He lives back here in Wisconsin now, but still owns the house he grew up in back there. You talk to the old timers there, and everybody knew my grandma from Kennedy’s drug store

  14. I am a daughter of 3 generations who lived in Sentinel Butte. My great grandparents lived and is buried there and my grandparents and my mom was born there. It is wonderful to hear stories from there. My great grandparents are Henry and Mary Ann Lehman. My grand parents are Jake and Marie Hess, who owned the Sentinel Butte Review newspaper and we also have a saddle from the Saddlery. My mother is Dolores Hess and graduated from high school and she worked at the Kennedy Drug Store when she was in high school.

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