The Western Intrigue of Gascoyne, North Dakota
Gascoyne is in Bowman County along Highway 12 in southwestern North Dakota, about 15 minutes east of Bowman. It was founded in 1907 as a Milwaukee Road railroad townsite, originally known as Fischbein, named after an early settler.
The former school is the most prominent abandoned structure in Gascoyne. It rests on top of a hill on the west edge of town, right alongside Highway 12.
Update: a visitor to our Facebook page tells us this school was demolished in late 2016.
These photos were taken in 2007. When we returned in 2015, the passage of eight years was apparent. The portico over the steps was sagging a little more, and the school was a little more weathered.
Like most pioneer railroad towns in North Dakota, Gascoyne started losing population during the farm depression and drought of the 20s and 30s, hastened by mechanized farming and the rise of the automobile.
US Census Data for Gascoyne
Total Population by Place
1920 – 60
1930 – 97
1940 – 48
1950 – 76
1960 – 50
1970 – 34
1980 – 23
1990 – 22
2000 – 23
2010 – 16
A site visitor once told us a story of attending this school as a child by riding a horse to school, which he tied-up in a stable nearby, and the story keeps with the western intrigue of the towns in this part of the continent. The region around the junction of the North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana borders is very sparsely populated. It was settled by hardy souls who came to farm the land only to discover that the land was unsuitable in the drought-stricken conditions of the day. Many of them departed for greener pastures and left behind empty monuments to the old west, relics of our westward expansion.
Above: The door into the basement of the school. When we returned in 2015, we poked our cameras through the windows to get a look inside.
Empty storefronts still stand along Main Street in Gascoyne. In the photo above, the building on the right is the former Erickson store. Below: a view from the back.
On the other side of the road and just across the tracks from the stores on Main Street stand the remains of the Gascoyne Lumber Company. In our subsequent visit in 2015, we found the back half of the building (on the right) had collapsed.
If you’re driving Highway 12 in southwestern North Dakota and you enjoy photographing abandoned places, be prepared for some prime photo opportunities.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media