20 True Ghost Towns: Population Zero
Defining what exactly constitutes a “ghost town” can sometimes be tricky. In our years of exploring North Dakota’s abandoned places, we’ve often encountered former towns where the townsite itself is empty, but there’s a farm about half a mile down the road. Sometimes a former town like Sims, North Dakota has an active church, but nobody actually lives on the town site. And still other times, we will hear objections from people who feel as though we’ve misrepresented their town, or somehow labeled it a ghost town because it appears on this website, in which case we clarify that this site is about ghost towns and abandoned places, like the former First National Bank and Barber Auditorium in Marmarth, North Dakota, a town with a population numbering more than a hundred.
Here we’ve assembled our most strictly defined list of ghost towns in North Dakota, places where there are zero residents, and in some cases, zero remains. It’s life after people, North Dakota style.
Griffin, North Dakota
Griffin, North Dakota is a true ghost town in Bowman County, about halfway between Bowman and Rhame. It was once home to some of the largest stockyards in southwest North Dakota, and it was also a stop on one of America’s first cross-country highways–a route from Massachusetts to Seattle, marked in places by three foot stone markers painted yellow, known as the Yellowstone Trail.
Sherbrooke, North Dakota
Nobody lives in Sherbooke, North Dakota anymore, and only two homes remain standing on the town site, but there is a well-tended cemetery in the area and farms just down the road.
Bluegrass, North Dakota
Bluegrass, North Dakota, a true ghost town, population zero, in Morton County, about thirty-five miles northwest of Mandan. The railroad never came to Bluegrass, and the peak population was only twenty. Today it is a true ghost town. The former service station shown here has since burned.
Josephine, North Dakota
Where there was once a mercantile store and residents numbering a dozen or two, there are only two remaining grain elevators in the town that was once Josephine, North Dakota.
Trotters, North Dakota
Trotters, North Dakota is a ghost town just outside the official boundary of the Little Missouri National Grasslands — a boundary visible only on maps. The church is still sometimes used for weddings and special events. Nobody lives here anymore.
Temple, North Dakota
Temple is a rapidly disappearing ghost town in the oil patch and we have several user contributed galleries from Nicole Simpson and Mark Johnson, featuring the church shown above and the school which no longer stands on the town site.
Freda, North Dakota
A train depot and the crumbling remains of Freda, North Dakota lie in the tall grass, nestled among the rolling green hills of Missouri River country. It’s a short drive southwest of Mandan to this true ghost town in Grant County.
Lincoln Valley, North Dakota
Lincoln Valley is one of our all-time favorite ghost towns. It’s been vacant since Joe Leintz moved out in the 1970s, and we’ve been back for a visit on several occasions. The former bar and ice cream parlor stills stands on the site, as well as several abandoned homes.
Arena, North Dakota
St. John’s Lutheran Church is the most prominent landmark in this former town. Two homes plus a small country school building that was moved into town from somewhere else are still standing in Arena.
Sims, North Dakota
Possibly the most beautiful ghost town we’ve ever been to, Sims is home to a still-active church, an abandoned home, and a cemetery on top of the hill. There are several other abandoned structures nearby, and a few inhabited farms just down the road. This photo was featured on the dustjacket of our second book.
Straubville, North Dakota
Straubville is a crumbling ruin of a ghost town, with just a handful of structures still standing and several that have collapsed.
Hesper, North Dakota
As it frequently happens, Hesper, North Dakota became a ghost town when the last resident passed away just a few years ago.
Deisem, North Dakota
This former Seventh Day Adventist Church is all that remains of Deisem, North Dakota, a rural settlement where the ruins of a general store and post office still rest in tall grass.
Nanson, North Dakota
Nanson, North Dakota might be the most remote ghost town we’ve ever visited. There are no telephone poles or power lines in the area, no residents, and four abandoned homes plus some miscellaneous outbuildings onsite.
Eastedge, North Dakota
Only the ruins of a railroad loading dock and two abandoned homes remain on the site of Eastedge. This town comes with some spooky lore provided by visitors to the site, including a claim that the last resident committed suicide, and that a gentleman was electrocuted by power lines while moving the white house which is now going through a slow motion collapse.
Stady, North Dakota
Mariah Masilko took these photographs of Stady, North Dakota, a town which we’re told has since been razed. Stady is no more.
Omemee, North Dakota
Omemee, North Dakota once had 650 residents, but has now virtually disappeared and will soon pass into history as only a memory. Mark Johnson contributed the photo above of a place referred to as the “Superintendent’s house” and when we visited in 2017, we found it was only a pile of bricks.
Thelen, North Dakota
Thelen is in Golden Valley County, southeast of Beach. It had a post office for one year, and boomed to a population of 20. Dave Thorson sent in these photos of Thelen which is today, a ghost town.
Charbonneau, North Dakota
Aylmer, North Dakota
Although there is an inhabited farm about a quarter mile down the road, there are only these few structures remaining from the town that was once Aylmer, North Dakota.
Do you know of a true, North Dakota ghost town we haven’t photographed yet? Please leave a comment.
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