The Old West Charm of 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.
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.
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.
Although little remains of the original town, signs have been posted on the remaining buildings, identifying each of them by their former purpose.
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.”
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.
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).
It looks like someone started to paint this place, but the ladder only reached just so high.
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.
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.
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.
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