The Western Intrigue of Gascoyne, North Dakota

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.

Gascoyne, North Dakota

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.

Gascoyne, North Dakota

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.

Gascoyne, North Dakota

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

Gascoyne, North Dakota

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.

Gascoyne, North Dakota
Gascoyne, North Dakota
Gascoyne, North Dakota

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.

Gascoyne, North Dakota

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.

Gascoyne, North Dakota
Gascoyne, North Dakota
Gascoyne, North Dakota
Gascoyne, North Dakota

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.

Gascoyne, North Dakota
Gascoyne, North Dakota

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

43 Comments on “The Western Intrigue of Gascoyne, North Dakota

  1. I visited this school last fall (Oct.) and luckily it seems to be in not too much worse of shape than it was in these pictures. My great-aunt taught here for a number of years (she also taught in Bentley..and other schools in the area). The last graduating class to come from this school was in 1940. After that the school became only a grade school (through 8th I believe) and HS moved to one of the other surrounding towns. It shut its doors for all students in the early 60’s.

  2. I visited this school as a child. I went the with my dad. His class was one of the last to attend this school. He was in grade school at the time. His class finished junior high and high school at Scranton Public school, which had just opened.

  3. I went to 4th grade at Gascoyne School – 1959-60. Mrs. McGee was our teacher. Mrs. Weeks was the cook and made the best Glorified Rice in the world! It was a fantastically fun year!

  4. What I find as interesting as the pictures if not more so, is the comments left by folks that were actually part of these communities. YOU are truely living history of these communities of a by gone era. I want to thank all of you for your comments and historical tidbits. I can only dream of what like might have been like to live and grow up in these towns. I recently bought some ND property in a small rural town of 90 people in hopes of contributing to its history in some fashion. If the old saying holds true that everything old is new again, I hope to see a resurgence in small town USA as technology allows folks to work from home and folks grow weary of being faceless victims of crime and greed of the major cities. May God forever bless North Dakota and all its rich prairie history!


    • Rick – I know this is late but I hope you see it and reply. How did you go about purchasing your little piece of ND because my dream is to do the same thing. I live and work in New York, upstate, not the city, but the hectic pace and the rude people make me want to find a little piece of land I can live the rest of my life on. If you can, email me at, thanks, Ed

  5. I spent alot of time here as a small child as my Grandparents, Frank and Evelyn Dacar lived here and raised their children here. I have re-visited it several time over the years to reflect on the fond memories I have, of the time spent here.

    • Lori, I bought an old milk can at a store in South Dakota with your fathers name on it,

  6. I also attended Gascoyne Grade School – grades 1-8 – there were 5 us who graduated from that school, and if I remember right, was the last graduating class. The school merged with the Sranton school, and the grades from both towns were divided into (I think) 1-4 to Scranton and 5-8 to Gascoyne. I don’t know how long they did that, but it wasn’t long before the school was closed entirely. It was sad, as it was the beginning of my education, and the small school was a great place to learn. My grandparents, Andrew and Annie Sorlien, lived down the hill, and I stayed with them sometimes in the winter when my dad thought a storm was coming – if it was a bad one, he would be unable to bring me the 5 miles from the farm. I also knew Frank and Evelyn Dacar well, and I played with their kids a lot. I went to Scranton High School, also an old building, and my class there was also the last graduating class from that shcool. The new and current school was being built, and the old one was torn down. When I go “home” to visit, it’s always a sad sight to see the old Gascoyne school just a shell. Also to see the old high school site a trailer park (as it was for many years). But time goes on, things change, and we lose touch with old friends and neighbors, which is the saddest thing of all.

    • i dont know if you remember me. i think i graduated from your class. i was the skinny little kid with buck teeth

  7. Two years before my elderly mother died, I took her back to Gascoyne where she grew up. As we walked through the old run-down school, tears flowed as she described where she sat in each classroom, where she hung her coat, where she stood in the window and daydreamed, etc. I made a video of her narrative — and it’s something I treasure to this day. When we walked through the Gascoyne cemetery, I was deeply moved to discover that many of the gravestones were “Olson” — my cousins, uncles, grandparents, etc. My grandfather Syver Olson ran the Olson service station in Gascoyne for many years, and was prominent in Gascoyne’s heyday. I never lived in Gascoyne, but when I go there it feels like an important part of my heritage.

    • Mr. Olson, I too have been to Gascoyne many times as my dad was raised in that area. I am related to many of the Olson’s in the Gascoyne cemetery also. My father was raised by his sister, Gunda Halvorson Olson. She was married to Archie Olson, son of Syver Olson. I have another aunt, Lillian Olson that was married to Jack Olson. My grandparents, Tallack & Anna Halvorson, along with my uncle Marvin are buried in the remote Mamre Cemetary outside of Reeder. Archie & Gunda Olson also raised his niece Shirley Beatrice Olson, who’s mother died in childbirth with her. Her name was Beatrice, she also had a son by the name of Claude Miller that was raised by Archie’s sister & her husband. Claude passed away last year. Oh how interesting to read you post & to know that we are distantly related through marriage. My father is near 90 & we took him back last summer & toured the area. We are bringing him back again this summer. He was excited when I told him about your post. I am sure he knew your family.

      • Dear Sonia, thank you so much for your reply to my comments! Archie and Gunda were my favorite aunt and uncle when I was growing up. My father and mother (Floyd and Irene Olson) were very close to them, so we used to spend time with them at least once each year. I am very well aware of the family history that you describe. In fact, I stayed in touch with Claude Miller until his death last year. Would love to meet you sometime and have more conversation. What a small world!

        • Steve, if you are on facebook, please look me up. Sonia Halvorson Misialek

          • Steve, my father and I were going through some pictures and came across a picture of several family members of mine & yours, with your Dad sitting in the drivers seat & my Dad thinks your mother may be in the pic too. My email is Would love to correspond more with you. Please write me, Sonia Halvorson Misialek

  8. I just stumbled across this website and decided to look up Gascoyne as I grew up not far from there. In fact, my oldest brother attended 1st and maybe 2nd grade there before ending up in Scranton. I have a dear friend, Cindy Wolf Wagner, who was raised in Gascoyne and whose parents, I believe, are still residents. Such wonderful, childhood memories of slumber parties and snooping around the old buildings. Many of the buildings that were there at that time are now gone, though I remember going to buy candy at a little store in one of the old brick buildings you have photos of (I think). I also believe it served as a post office, but I might be mistaken. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos of a time that feels not so long ago.

    Laurie Deutscher Tuite

    • Do you know if Cindy Wolf still lives in Gascoyne?
      I too played with her, and her sister Bonnie as a child. Hope to get an answer! Les Furo

  9. My Mother, Geraldine Flatz (Fischbein) grew up in Gascoyne. She and her sister, Deloris Amsden, attended this school. Somedays Geri wishes to move back. It is just a dream; living in Gascoyne isn’t possible for her now. I know she remembers steadfast friends and a loving community. I remember spending weekends there with my grandparents, Link and Eda, when I was just a little boy. Their house is still on the south side of town. Mostly I recall the steep stairway to the upstairs bedroom. Gascoyne is a great place.

  10. Isn’t “Fischbein” the original name of this town? The skies in the photos are amazing! Being unfamiliar with these sort of places, I hope this doesn’t sound ignorant, but….how do the few remaining residents earn livings, or even handle things like weather emergencies? I’d imagine it takes a real pioneering spirit (and backbone) to carry on daily life.

  11. I belive the folks who still live there are retired, and I know of a few who grew up there or moved there after retirement. There are no services there anymore, but Scranton is only apx 5 miles east of Scranton where there are grocery stores, gas stations, and of course, taverns! The town is served by the Scrantion Fire Dept, and medical services are available in Bowman and Hettinger, apx 30 miles to the east. That is not a great distance to drive anymore, as there are a lot of folks who lve in the country for the peace and quiet these days, and most are as far if not further from towns. Gascoyne has sort of become a residential area like that. When I go there I think I would like to live there as well – It is very peaceful and memorable for me!

  12. I also knew Geraldine and Deloris Fischbein, and their parents, Link and Eda. I believe one of the girls graduated in that last high school class with my mother, Florence (Hipple) Sorlien. Mom’s dad, John, had a barber shop (no longer there) on the corner north of Eides grocery store (the brick building with the pink wood around the windows). I can remember mom taking eggs and cream there, and could trade for a lot of groceries with that in those days. My parents (Alfred Sorlien) farmed apx 5 miles southeast of Gascoyne. After my grandparents, Andrew and Annie Sorlien, died, Mrs. Eide bought and lived in their house, which still stands and I believe is inhabited, directly south of the old school, on the south edge of town. It was actually only apx 2-3 blocks to walk to school. Sorry to be rambling, but it is nice to bring up old memories and I wanted to enter a little more info into this commentary about Gascoyne. It’s nice to know that others are also interesed and, unfortunately, there are not many descendents of the old town left.

  13. I, too, remember Gascoyne well. My dad was a rural mail carrier when I was little. His route was Haley, ND, to Gascoyne and back Mrs Eide was the postmater back then. There was a hardware store, gas station. lumber yard, taverns. bowling alley, and a town hall where there were a lot of dances. I remember the train with the mail sack being snatchred. Played with children in town while waiting for the mail to be ready for the trip back. Had playday at the Gascoyne school, too.

  14. My great-grandparents homesteaded to the north of Gascoyne. My grandparents lived on a farm to the south of town. After a few years on the farm, my parents moved into Gascoyne after buying the old Buckman house (the red one pictured). After a decade, they moved my great-grandparents’ house onto a new foundation and remodeled it. They still live there. My father attended grade school in Gascoyne. Not pictured is an inhabited house that was once the Lutheran Church. My parents have some old chairs that say “Ladies Aide” from that church. The Gascoyne Lumber Company building was once a John Deere agency owned by Nels and later Dale Buckman. That family also owned the lumber company, and a Standard Oil bulk station.

    I grew up in Gascoyne and have fond memories as well. I remember the old dance hall, the bar/bowling alley, brick bank building, and some houses now gone. You only grow up once, and I’m glad it was in Gascoyne. My father has given me several lessons about its history. Our family has several old photographs of Gascoyne.

  15. Some nostalgic whim prompted me to Google the town of Gascoyne. The comments & photos were a wonderful reward. My parents, Charlie & Lillie Donner rented a farm for a number of years just south of Gascoyne. I attended the school in about 1941 thru 1945. My brother & I commuted with a shetland pony & stabled “Cupie” in a barn near the schoolhouse. Link Fishbein (for whose family the town was originally named) operated a general store. Mr. Cady had an auto repair garage & his daughter, Phyllis, was a teacher of mine for several grades. The Buckmans, as others mentioned, operated the John Deere dealership & lumber yard. Dale Buckman lost his vision in one eye in a duck hunting accident. For a number of years the residents of Gascoyne took the liberty of disposing of their trash (it was called a dump ground) on the land my Dad rented. When World War II occurred, we had a treasure trove of scrap iron and my brother & I earned the first money we ever had selling the scrap. There was a public water well near the residence of the Mack family (Howard Albert Mack was a boyhood hero of mine) and it, of course, was pumped by hand. A number of us small boys earned tickets to a Circus which came to town by pumping water for elephants & other exotic critters.

    I certainly remember the dances & other activities which occurred at the “town hall”. A “watering hole” near the south end of Main Street was a source of gossip and, of course, release of tension. The Barber Shop near the Railroad Tracks probably had more accurate news than all the present-day national television networks combined. The mail sack catching device at the tracks is best left to your imagination for fear of reprisal.

    The railroad tracks west of town adjoined a pasture of ours. A couple of our cattle strayed onto the tracks and while no harm was done to the steam locomotive, the tragic loss of cattle in hard economic times was a huge set-back to our family.

    The memories I have of the school, the lifestyle, and the wonderful quality of the people reassure me that all of it combined shaped my life in an extraordinary way. If I ever thought we had a primitive life or one of hardship, I have since then altered my view.

    Our people today, with endless luxury & abundance & the entitlement attitude which goes with it are truly disadvantaged. They are living without gratitude for their blessings, and without the strength and comfort of a loving family or caring neighbors. They are denied the satisfaction of self-reliance and personal responsibility because they have never used or acquired it.

    I am, therefore, grateful beyond words for the way in which the little town of Gascoyne, out on the Dakota Prairie, helped me to become a man.

    Dalhart Donner, Texas

  16. I attended Gascoyne with my two brothers in 1956 – 1959. My father after serving in the Army, WWII in Germany, bought the section of land south of Gascoyne who sold the land to Don and JoAnn Peterson. I wanted to add some of my memories. Mrs Ide did own the grocery store and it did have a post office. I remember as you entered the store the post office was on the left and the store to the right and the candy shelf was to the right behind you. PV Nelson owned the Hardware store and lived in the back area of the store. He always had candy or ice cream for me. A wonderful Man. AT the town hall one night Minnie Pearl came and still remember her HOWDY on the stage and the price tag hanging from her hat. Before eating disorders were recognized A young girl Bonnie Buckman died from refusing to eat. That is still imprinted deep in my mind. My parents, Joe and Pat Oberfoell said people teased her about her weight and she quit eating. to me very tradgic! Leo and Burnie Gunther ran the train station and my mother and Burnie ran the cup scout group and we both also very active in the PTA. My parents do not ever remember the town being named after the fishbines ever, but that is not to say it was not so. I remember the school’s basement was a gym and you had to walk down stairs past a big boiler/heater that scared me to do so. WE attended the church in town, but because we were not the same religion we had to leave before they shared communion. My father directed the choir and my mother was a sunday school teacher and neither felt having to leave before communion was that bad, they never complained. I remember the wind storms, the streets so full of frogs you could not drive without running over them, I remember the stars at night, the hail storm and one day there was a white tornado we watched from out house that took out many head stones in the cemetery. I live in Oregon now, but have been back many times to north dakota and always stop in at Gascoyne and take pictures. My mother when she read all these comments she was so happy to hear about the people who lived there when she did and wants me to print this out for her. Who ever took the time to post this page thank you! I am related to all the Oberfoells in the nearby towns and am in contact with most of them still!

    • Are you related to Marva Lee?
      I was the grand daughter of Nels Buckman and would play with her every summer when we visited the grand parents. Les Struthers Furo

  17. My father Bryce Abbott was born in a covered wagon in Gascoyne in 1910. They were on their way from Wisconsin to Portland Oregon. My grandmother already had a 2 year old daughter. The women back then were tough.

  18. I have been trying to find information on some relatives that may be buried in or around Gascoyne. Their last name was Wolf. I hope to someday make it there to visit to find out more information about them.

  19. We lived in Gascoyne around 1947-1949, had wonderful memories of my brothers Darryle,Donald, Douglas growing up. We all went to the same school that is pictured, and remember Mr. McGee.., he was such a great teacher (that I remember). Everyone should grow up in a town like Gascoyne, it makes you appreciate your
    childhood. My son is taking me back to Gascoyne hopefully this year. I was trying to find the graves of my Father and my brother Darryle. We sure didn’t need anything but the outdoors then. I wish there were some pictures of the cemetery of all the headstones. Hopefully this year we can get our own pictures. We moved to Bowman for about a year then moved to California.

  20. I traveled through Gascoyne just yesterday. I have a fascination with the old and abandoned buildings I see in my travels and the school on the hill stood out as I came from the west. I stopped and took numerous photos. I was surprised to see the desks still inside the school through the windows. Would be cool to be able to get those desks before they are no longer able to be gotten…which I am not sure they can at this point as the building is definitely deteriorating. I see from your photos, it used to have a chimney, the chimney is no longer there. Great photos and love to have some chime in on the history and their memories! SO cool!

    • Are you related to Marva Lee?
      I was the grand daughter of Nels Buckman and would play with her every summer when we visited the grand parents. Les Struthers Furo

    • My grandfather was Nels Buckman. And it was a tragedy when we got the news about my cousin. I believe she was in love with a minister? She didn’t live long enough to marry.
      I knew the Dacar and the Wolf family and would play with them when we visited the grandparents.
      Mr Nelson who sold the candy was my great uncle. Gosh this site has brought back memories.

  21. Nels Buckman (and later, Dale Buckman) used to get my Dad’s quarter rented out. My Dad was Eric Gerdin. He built a number of buildings around there (the building in Reeder with 1908 in bold letters on the marquee for one, maybe the two remaining storefronts in Gascoyne) Don and JoAnn Peterson rented it for a lot of years. My brother and I still own the quarter about 4 miles south of Gascoyne (homesteaded in 1907).

    • My grandfather was Nels, my uncles Dale, Donald and my mom Elenor.
      Glad to hear about this.
      My mom
      Elenor Buckman
      Married Thomas Struthers

  22. I knew this day would come, for I have bad news. This spring, the school house was not at its spot on top of the hill. I believe it was torn down and done away with. At least you guys got pictures of the old girl before she was brought down.

  23. The lumberyard will soon be demolished for safety reasons, not sure when exactly.

    The Bowman courthouse has pictures of many of the old country schools gracing its walls; unfortunately there isn’t one of Gascoyne. If anyone has a picture of the school house in its prime they would more than appreciate it there.

  24. My name is Ryan Talbot, I live in Moab Utah. I recently made a trip to Minot to Visit my daughter. On our return trip, we stopped at a antique store in Hewlett-Hewlet Wy, and I purchased a beautiful milk can, with a brass tag, that says Frank Dacar, Gascoyne N.D. I would like to offer this can to a family member of Frank Dacar, as I know how much it would mean to me , if it was my family! I have no idea how to reach the family, hopefully someone will see this and help me out. Thanks in advanced.

  25. Hi Ryan,

    I believe Frank Dacar and his wife, Evelyn Dacar have both passed. I was able to find an obituary for their son, Robert Dacar, which listed his surviving siblings: Marva Peterson, Mandan, Karla Dacar, Bismarck, Marvin Dacar, Bismarck, and Daniel Dacar, Beulah. Hope you’re able to find them!

  26. Wondering if anyone on this site remembers Caleb Eldredge (son was Glen Eldredge, grandson Allen Eldredge) who built a soddy in Gascoyne, first decade or so at the beginning of the 1900’s. He’s my great-grandfather on my grandmother Blanche’s side.

  27. I have a photo of my grandfather, Eric Gerdin standing in front of the newly built “THE FIRST STATE BANK OF GASCOYNE” for which he was the building supervisor. It is a beautiful brick building. I suppose it no longer stands. Is there any way to share the photo on this site? My grandfather homesteaded in Gascoyne in 1907. My 93-year-old father, Dale, and his 96-year-old brother, Jim Gerdin still own the homestead land about 4 miles south of Gascoyne.

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