Passing Through Merricourt

Merricourt, North Dakota

Merricourt is a very remote town in Dickey County, about fifty miles south of Jamestown. There are fewer than a handful of residents in Merricourt — just one family remains in this near-ghost town. We didn’t intend to visit Merricourt when we went on an adventure in October of 2014, but some last minute route changes took us right through town, so we stopped to snap a few shots, nine years after our first visit.

Merricourt, North Dakota

Our first visit to Merricourt was in 2005, we visited again in 2011, and these photos were taken in 2014.

Merricourt, North Dakota

Judging by the number of emails we get about this place, Merricourt is one of the more popular places we’ve visited.

Merricourt, North Dakota

The former First State Bank of Merricourt was also a bar later in its life. When we first visited in 2005, the glass was still in the panes and the door on the hinges. By 2011, it appeared to have deteriorated considerably. Below: the bank as it appeared in 2014.

Merricourt, North Dakota

Merricourt, North Dakota

We’ve occasionally encountered a bank vault standing alone in a vacant lot, like the one in Silva, North Dakota, and it’s usually a dead giveaway that you’re standing where the bank once stood. In this case, you can see the vault in its original context, at the back of the building. The floor has sunken considerably since 2011, and the roof gets worse by the day. Absent heroic intervention, that vault will be the last thing standing one day.

Merricourt, North Dakota

Author Keith Norman contributed a story about a robbery in Merricourt.

Merricourt, North Dakota

Merricourt originally stood as a farm post office a few miles away, but was relocated here when the Soo Line railroad came through. The name “Merricourt” was an English name that the first postmaster found in a novel.

Merricourt, North Dakota

We’ve yet to see another brick elevator, but we’re told there’s one in Beach, ND.

Merricourt, North Dakota

Merricourt, North Dakota

Merricourt, North Dakota

We’ve enjoyed our visits to Merricourt immensely over the years. It’s very quiet and peaceful, and so picturesque.

Merricourt, North Dakota

Merricourt, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © Sonic Tremor Media

21 Comments on “Passing Through Merricourt

    • I think you are mistaken. If you take a look at the street view at these coordinates: 46.163205, -96.976642 you can see that the grain elevator at Mantador is not a brick one.

  1. All so interesting!! Thank you for sharing. I had never heard of brick elevators. Good idea, at least they can’t be torn down that easily.

    Try visiting Danzig, ND. Likely not on the map anymore. It is located in McIntosh Co. between Wishek and Ashley. and Southwest of Lehr. There are is at least one building– brick, was the bank, etc.

  2. We had a vault sitting alone in Cogswell for quite a while. The last use of the bank building was a café run by my uncle’s brother and his wife after they moved back from California. It was the only place that had a menu item called a ‘Mess’ which is ice cream with chocolate and a spoonful of malt powder (I still make them at home). We have a bunch of Gilmar records we got from there. My dad and my uncle’s brother went to work shingling in LA after high school and both got married out there.

  3. I’m wondering about something. You mention in this post and in others, that there are still a few people living in these near ghost towns. How are they doing that? Are they hooked in to municipal services somehow or is this a well and septic system deal? How about electricity and phone lines (which may be becoming irrelevant in the wireless age). I always wonder how they manage, and I always find it amazing (I assume) that the electric company continues to provide service to one family way out on the prairie. Or maybe I just don’t understand how all this works. If you are inclined, I would be interested in knowing. Thanks.

    • I think that they will continue providing service to the people in the town until it gets 100% abandoned then they will just cut it all off. I think in some other mostly abandoned towns too the few people that live there actually live somewhat off the grid.

    • I’d concur with Ty – the electric company would likely leave the distribution system (long since paid for) more or less intact until the last account is taken offline (Omemee had electricity until 2003 and part of the distribution system is still standing, but no longer in any condition to carry power), occasionally taking down transformers that become idle or removing sections that no longer have any load and are not likely to be used going forward.

      I’d seen a few poles in Merricourt via Google street view (including one that still had glass insulators in use and a big transformer that I knew by its shape it was made by Westinghouse) and made plans to stop by for a picture on one of my trips back to ND, only to find that the power company had JUST removed the transformer from that one pole!

  4. My uncle and aunt owned a grocery store in Merricourt for many years,, so of course my family would go and visit them. The Store had their home attached to it, so they lived right on the upper lever of their business.

    • Do you have anymore information on it such as pictures, or when it was demolished?

    • So did Wabek – appropriately enough, their call letters were WABK.

  5. Merricourt N.D. is my hometown. I was born near the Whitestone Battlefield. My grandparents lived west of the elevators just south of the railroad track, their last name was Giesler.

  6. My dad, Frank Zollar was Soo Line depot agent there in 1946 when my twin brother and I were born. We were born in a birthing house in Edgeley, north of Merricourt.

    • I thought it was Sioux? I’m not sure. I only have heard my dad talk about it.

        • The Soo line was a shortening of the original name of Sault Ste. Marie, Minneapolis, & St. Paul railroad.

  7. My grandfather, Luther King, was the last proprietor (around 1980’s I believe) of the bar (old bank) shown in your first picture, and I remember an old pool table and a fan that barely turned and, of course, the great long wooden bar with stools and a metal foot runner. All gone. In the winter he would light up a propane torch in the corner throwing a flame a good way across the room, preferably not where you were standing. Heated the place up real quickly.
    When business got busy in the later years, like when a dance was occurring across the street in the white community hall seen in above pictures, he would stand with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and mix in the other, you could order whatever you wanted, but what you got came out of those two bottles. You also were pretty much expected to do your own till work, pay and make your own change.
    One night someone robbed the place. Grandad lived nearby and as I recall he saw a car out front of the place. He drove over and the guy was still inside. What to do? He honked his horn, the guy came out, got in his car and sped off with grandad in hot pursuit. What he would have done if he had ever caught up with the guy wasn’t clear. No identification ever made as far as I know. At least none reported. The booze was kept in the vault, door usually open, I doubt much cash around.
    One improvement I can see; with the panes gone I expect the view out the windows is a lot clearer.

  8. Pingback: Ruso: Smallest Incorporated Town in North Dakota

  9. I am friends with the person who owns that grain elevator and the land on it. It is quite dangerous yet extremely breathtaking climbing all the way to the top. BTW please don’t attempt this as it is private property. Granted I am friends with the owner we get to visit, camp and have a good time. Once again that portion is private property. Ask for permission. He is a good person.


  10. The bank has sadly fallen in. All the structures have deteriorated rapidly in the last couple of years. I go through Merricourt almost weekly, it has lent its name to the latest wind farm that has gone up on the south side of Hwy 56, south of Kulm.

  11. I am so disappointed I just found this thread. My Grandparents immigrated to America in 1886. Christian Bertsch BD 1862 & Reginia Kraft Bertsch BD 1863 came to Merricourt in 1900. They were there for two years. They moved to Calgary in 1902. They had 6 kids with them: Mary; Gottlieb; Fredrick; Matilda; Jacob “Jack”; and Christian F. (Fred). Are there any records left of the town? I know at least one or more came back & lived in Kulm ND. They may have also come back to Merricourt. I hope to hear from some of you. Thank You so much.

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