Six Years Gone in Larson

Larson, North Dakota

We first visited Larson, a near-ghost town in Burke County about 85 miles northwest of Minot, on a stormy day in May of 2010. According to the Census that same year, Larson had a population of 12.

As I recently planned a trip to photograph some Saskatchewan places, I decided to stop in Larson before I crossed the border to check on things and see how much had changed in six years. We had been told there was more activity for a time due to the oil boom, and a man camp had been planned for the area too, so I was unsure what I would find when I arrived. Would Larson be bustling with new activity? Would Larson’s previously vacant properties be inhabited with new residents who had repurposed them as housing, as we’ve seen in so many other western North Dakota communities? I wanted to find out.

Larson, North Dakota

Larson is just off Highway 5 and you can see St. John’s Lutheran Church from the road. I pulled in to get a closer look and found it looked much worse for wear than it had been only six years earlier. The exterior arch over the main entry was completely gone, and someone took down the protective plywood over the windows. Below: the church as it appeared in 2010.

Larson, North Dakota

This church was featured in our book, Churches of the High Plains.

Larson, North Dakota

As I explored the places we’d visited six years earlier, it became quite clear that nature is taking back many of Larson’s vacant places. The old service station is considerably overgrown. Above, 2016, below, 2010.

Larson, North Dakota
Larson, North Dakota

The former service station doesn’t look like it has long to live.

Larson, North Dakota

The former bar is also in much worse shape than it was in 2010. All the signs have been torn down and weeds and brush have overtaken the building. See it as it appeared in 2010 here.

Larson, North Dakota
Larson, North Dakota

Above: Looking down the street toward the former bar in 2016. Below: the same scene in 2010.

Larson, North Dakota
Larson, North Dakota

There were still a number of abandoned houses in Larson to go with the inhabited homes of the few residents who remain. I didn’t see any increased activity from the oil field, or any sign of a man camp. Perhaps a local resident can help bring us up to speed on the happenings over the last six years in the comments below.

Larson, North Dakota
Larson, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © Sonic Tremor Media

19 Comments on “Six Years Gone in Larson

  1. i think the work you are doing on this site is just tremendous…I showed your work around our coffee clack here in mesa Arizona…your photography is great and time is very appreciated… thank you so very much…

  2. Looks like time is running out for Larson… like so many other small ND towns.

  3. awesome. when i was in high school i worked for the city of Larson almost every summer. I found a lot of neat and old things like buckles from shoes. however by the church it was freaky to mow around it. Just a different vibe. One day i found an old pair of childs shoes back when they were buckled. old old like early 1900 . dont know where they came from and how they got there. they were under a tree like someone put them there. I put them aside. They were gone the next day. It was different. Also heard kids playing but no kids around. Also felt like someone was watching me.It was always interesting.

    • That’s really a cool story about the shoes and the voices! I grew up on a farm near Columbus and actually had a similar experience on a farm near Larson! Love the area and miss the old days though!

  4. I played in the Waltz King Band and played many a Saturday nite dances in the dance hall connected to the bar. the time frame was 60’s and early 70’s

    • Are you related to Myron Schlag. Here him on the polka radio. My grandpa was in a polka band in the 70s. The Rhythm Kings out of Eureka SD. don’t know if you played that far south. He played in Wishek many a nights as well.

  5. I lived in Larson in the 50′ and 60’s. In the Bell Telehone house on the south edge of the grove of trees south of the church. Also, I think my granny and grandpa lived a couple winters in the Peterson house and in the Smith house, both shown in photos. Johnny Johnson had the gas station at that time. Good memories. Thank you.
    Linda Early Krupa

  6. Correction, it was Ole Johnson and he married a lady who had a daughter named Julie.

    • I knew the Johnson’s. I dated there son Ron. They had another son John. John died in a car accident. Ron has since passed away also. I visited Larson a couple times back in 79-80. I have some photo’s that I took when I visited in 1979. The church, where Myrtle Johnson is playing the organ and
      of the grade school. Yes there was a daughter Julie and Gloryann. I tried to contact Julie on FB but she never responded back. Ole ran the jail, gas station and was the mayor. I remember a restaurant where the Dance Hall is. It was a beautiful town surrounded by prairie. The wind was always blowing the endless fields. it was amazing to me having lived in Oregon all my life. I wish I could remember which house they lived in.

    • Johnny was Ole’s son. I lived across the street from the station in the mid 60’s

  7. Wow, amazing I got goosebumps reading about the shoes, kids and voices. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I grieve a little every time I read about one of these old towns. So much history gets lost as the towns are reclaimed into the earth. You guys are truly doing a wonderful job of preserving the history by showing what is left of these towns. I join the chorus of many others in saying, “Thank you so much!”

  9. I attended that church for 14 years and played around the grounds, the remains of a foundation next to the church and in the grove on the south side of the church. I never felt or saw anything strange.

  10. I attended that church for 14 years and played around the grounds, the remains of a foundation next to the church and in the grove on the south side of the church. I never felt or saw anything strange.

  11. I attended that church for 14 years and played around the grounds, the remains of a foundation next to the church and in the grove on the south side of the church. I never felt or saw anything strange.

    I am Julie, the stepdaughter of Ole Johnson.

  12. I would love the book for Larson, ND. If you would let me know how much and where I could send my credit card information or phone number, I would appreciate it!! Love your work!

  13. I travel the U S only by car, taking pictures in surviving and dead towns. I photoed Larson some years back. I resent strongly the forces which have uninahabited 1,000’s of towns across the U S. When we were half the population we better covered the country then than now. So much infrastructure is still left, which could be used by immigrants. It’s disturbing how unused places seem to voluntarily disintegrate and collapse, as if self-willed. Saying to us, if you don’t want me, I don’t want to be your relic. adieu. (I grew up in Grand Forks and didn’t know there was a Larson, N D, until 50 years after leaving.)

  14. I know Larson well. One of my best friends was John Johnson aka “John John.” His dad Ole Johnson once received a letter addressed to Ole Larson of Johnson, ND. My parents Jim and Deloris Hickman spent many a night dancing in the bar/cafe. Chester and Lilly Ringwall, my wife Laurie’s parents, danced many a square dance there.

Leave a Reply