The Old West Charm of Appam, North Dakota

Appam, North Dakota

Appam, North Dakota is in Williams County, in the extreme northwestern part of the state, about 25 miles north of Williston. The terrain around Appam is a rugged grassland, quite dry, with chalky, alkaline soil, and gently rolling hills. We first visited this tiny unincorporated settlement in May of 2010, and found a place that is a shell of its former self.

Appam, North Dakota

North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick says Appam was founded in 1916 as a Great Northern Railroad town. The significance of the name “Appam,” is not known.

Since Appam is unincorporated, reliable population figures aren’t available, but there were a handful of occupied homes, and it looked like residents numbered a dozen or two. The oil boom was just ramping up to full steam at the time, and new residents would arrive in town not long after we shot these photos.

Appam, North Dakota

The former Appam State Bank still stands, and it is ripped right from the pages of a western novel, with its false front and peeling paint reminiscent of a place where old west outlaws would ride up on horseback for a daring daylight raid.

Appam, North Dakota

Although little remains of the original town, signs have been posted on the remaining buildings, identifying each of them by their former purpose.

Appam, North Dakota

The building shown here was a store and pool hall, at one time known as Holm’s, and it previously wore the name “Christopherson’s.”

Appam, North Dakota

Appam, North Dakota

Appam, North Dakota

Appam, North Dakota

Sidewalks still exist where prairie settlers once went about their daily business, in the days when the population of Appam was near 100, but today the grass and weeds invade with a persistence that will eventually win the battle.

Appam, North Dakota

The large white building down the street from the store/pool hall has a “Hendrickson Bros Hardware” sign affixed to the boarded-up front window. It was moved from another town called “Plumber” (perhaps spelled Plumer?) around 1920 when the railroad decided to change course (see comment from Gary Folkestad, below).

Appam, North Dakota

It looks like someone started to paint this place, but the ladder only reached just so high.

Appam, North Dakota

In a sign that Appam’s residents have not forgotten, someone has erected signs where many of Appam’s long gone structures once stood. Above, the site of the former Dance Hall. Below, all that remains of Jens Hillestad’s garage.

Appam, North Dakota

In 2015, Appam was the subject of some unwanted publicity when a resident was charged with storing stolen merchandise in Appam. According to the Billings Gazette, a man used a site in Appam to house “huge amounts” of stolen items. The man was caught when stolen power tools and ammunition from a heist in Crosby, North Dakota were found in his car during a traffic stop.

Appam, North Dakota

Above, the former site of the mercantile and post office, which was founded in 1917 with Mrs. Frances Pilgrim as the Postmaster. She held the position for forty years. Below, the absence of Bethany Lutheran Church has left this lot as a flat, empty spot on the prairie.

Appam, North Dakota

What do you know about Appam? Can you provide an update on how things have changed since we took these photos? Please leave a comment below.

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

23 Comments on “The Old West Charm of Appam, North Dakota

  1. wow – those signs are eerie. almost like grave markers. fantastic work! browsing your website is my new pastime!

    Erin from Hannover (probably technically a ghost town, too)

  2. We live in rural Nora township in west central Minnesota. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there was a Nora post office here named in honor of Norway, home of most of the immigrant farmers. One of the early families here was the Christophersons who went to northwestern North Dakota maybe about the turn of the last century (ca. 1900). They had a post office called Nora, North Dakota, on their farm that they named after their home area here, although some sources claim it could have been named after a pioneer lady.
    Several years ago an elderly couple from Washington state stopped here to find the homes of his ancestors. The fellow said he was born at Nora, North Dakota. He also said there had been buildings at Nora, but they were all moved to Appam. I see the Christopherson name on the old store at Appam and wonder if anyone has ever heard that it or any other building was moved to Appam from Nora, ND.

  3. back in the the dance hall was the great place to go I mill my kin from Appam no one stays together anymore John moved off to school works in electronics in NY

  4. When I was little I wold always drink too much pop and could not sleep and I would go outside and watch the stars Appam was my home for many years.

  5. I own the Hendrickson Hardware Store in Appam. It was moved from a town called Plumber..which was north of Alamo. Approx 1920. A string of towns were abandonded because the Railroad changed its route to a southern treck. I will inquire about Nora and other buildings.. With the “Oilboom” Appam is growing. 8/Men 2/Women 4/Children 6/Dogs 3/Cats Wild Animals and a new 8/Lots for camper Man Camp !!! But the antique parts of Appam will remain. if at all possible. Many pass through with fond memories of Appam. Now.. new people are making new memories. Of a unique area.

    • Is there actually still a hardware store in Appam, or is it an empty building that used to be the Hendrickson Hardware Store? There were Hendricksons in our area who also moved out to your area in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. Do you have any Hendrickson names on an abstract or deed? I found some more documents about the Nora post office telling when it was started and when it closed. It also seemed to move one mile south sometime during its existence. You’ll see some of the Christopherson names in the reply I sent yesterday.

    • I still have and use the lefse rolling pin from Willie Hendrickson.. He gave some of us girls, what he called, the damaged lefse rolling pins, he only sold the best… we were only 10/11 years old… We loved to go and visit with him, and sit in the barber chairs in that little room in the back!! Seems he always had a candy treat for us! He was the towns barber too! He never was married but was like a grandpa to the towns kids…

  6. My husband is staying in one of those “man camp” campers. I am currently here now and just took a walk around Appam with my 3 kids. It is a beautiful old town in my opinion, full of history. It is nice to see that even though the town has been “lost” it is not forgotten. Reminds me of my childhood when my father would take us to “ghost towns” around the country. Its like walking into the past. Thank you for sharing I will respect your town while Im here.

  7. I’m back again, a year after my first entry. It was fun to read what others have written about Appam, its current condition, and the oil boom. I’m still trying to find out more about the Nora, ND, post office that was near Appam and if any Christopherson descendants are still in the area. I have a page from a 1915 plat book of Divide County showing Smoky Butte township. The Nora post office was on Knute Christopherson’s farm in Section 14. His sister Lillian Jones owned land in the same section, and other Christopherson land was in Section 22 (B. L. Christopherson) and Section 23 (Margit Christopherson

  8. My grandfather helped place the signs in Appam back in the 1990’s before he and Grandma moved into Williston. I have fond memories of visiting the Appam grain elevator in the late 70’s, before it was torn down and the railroad tracks removed. Just east of Appam, you will find the old Bethany cemetery, the resting place of the Appam residents of the early 20th century. Tread lightly if you visit.

  9. I grew up in Appam. My parents were Lloyd and Myrtle Esterby. My name is Lorna. My brothers Kenny and Loren, live next door to each other in Appam. My sister, Karen, is married and has 2 boys. They live in Dickinson. Kenny has 2 boys and a girl. My neice and nephews are pretty much grown up now. I’m married and live with my husband and 2 boys in Longmont, CO. We usually get up to Appam every summer to visit for a few days, and then at Christmas every year. It’s refreshing for me to get “back home”.

    • My Grandparents were Ivan & Nettie Ulledal. Some of my cousins are the Blekens. I keep in touch with Emil all the time in Alamo. I live in Virginia and the last time I was up there was in 1987. We lived above Holmes Store in town until 1950, when we moved to California. It is one in the photos with several different views with the point at the top center of the roof. My parents were Ernie and Ina Swenson and we would travel to Appam every other year when I was growing up. My parents were friends with the Esterby’s. If you were going North on the dirt road out of Appam, they lived on the left side of the road, not far out of town. We would visit them everytime we went there. I can’t think of her first name, but his was Rueben. I’m guessing they were your Grandparents. If you are in the same age range as me, we may have played with each other, while visiting them. I am now 66 yrs. old. I have a lot of fond memories of our trips up there. Perhaps one of these days, we will make it back up that way, again.

  10. I also grew up there on a farm just north of Appam. Was in the same class as Lorna H. Now live in Tacoma Wa after joining Navy right out of high school.

  11. First of all, I have to say, I love this website. . . it is VERY well done, and i’ve spent hours on here, alongside Google earth . . . My husband has recently joined in on the oil boom in North Dakota, and we are considering moving there. . . We currently live about 16 hours from Williston where he is working, and we have an 8 year old daughter that misses her daddy when he’s gone. My stipulation to move there, is that it is a small town, and in the country, because i refuse to sell my horses, they are part of the family too! I’ve been on numerous maps and real estate sights, and honestly, this site will play a bigger part in my decision than any of the other sites I’ve visited. Although the stories and photos make me sad, it is great to see all of the people that have “re-found” their lives through them, and all the connections they have, even if they are decades old. We live on the Keweenaw Peninsula, in VERY Northern Michigan, and it is the norm, to drive 50 miles one direction, and see quite a few signs for a town that no longer exists. It was a very lively place during the copper boom a century ago, but that has come to pass, and it seems to be dwindling here too. I know with the oil boom North Dakota is “growing” to an extent, but i have no desire to live in a big town or a city. Where we live today, it is a 20 mile drive to the nearest Wal-Mart, which i don’t shop at, if i can’t get it here, from a mom and pop shop, i don’t really need it (at least that’s what i tell myself). There are many towns on this site where i would love to live, and who knows, maybe someday the population will be plus 3 . . .and two dogs. . .and four horses. . .and a donkey. . .

  12. Pingback: McGregor, ND - Ghosts of North Dakota

  13. I have an image of a 1920 Appam Mercantile Co. calendar plate. I’ve messaged you directly. Contact me if you would like the image.

  14. We moved to Appam when I was going into the 8th grade. They had just closed the school and we were all bussed to Alamo for school. Hendrickson Hardware was still open along with the store that was run by the Esterby’s, the bar on the corner, a post office, train depot and my dad ran the grain elevator. Love that little town lots of wonderful memories, oh and the Lutheran Church was still there.

  15. In 1966 I had a summer job going through all the towns in NW ND (Including Appam) looking at commercial and public buildings that might offer some degree of protection from fallout should need be. I don’t remember much from 50 years ago, but I’m sure there were some people there at the time! 🙂

  16. The bank and other structures had been repainted white when I visited in April 2016.

  17. According to the Alamo / Appam / Corinth golden jubilee book (see here: ), it was the Henrickson store, and which had been relocated from Plummer (I’m guessing these would be the correct spellings as many of the pioneer residents were likely still around when this was published in 1966).

    The Henrickson store installed a light plant to serve this store and the nearby Pilgrim’s General Store, and there apparently were no lights in the rest of Appam until what was then Montana-Dakota Power Co. came to town in 1927.

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