A Lonely Outpost: Hanks, North Dakota

Hanks, North Dakota, in Williams County, about 33 miles northwest of Williston, is a lonely outpost on the prairie, just one resident away from being a ghost town.

Hanks was the subject of some national media in 2008 when National Geographic published The Emptied Prairie (available at the link only with a subscription) by Charles Bowden, a polarizing piece roundly denounced by many North Dakotans in letters to editors, in the Dickinson Press for example, or the Bismarck Tribune.

In the article, Bowden characterized a number of North Dakota communities, including Hanks, truthfully with respect to their shrinking populations, but in terms that many found depressing or disparaging.

Continue reading “A Lonely Outpost: Hanks, North Dakota”

Clif Nelson contributed these photos of Hanks, North Dakota, a near-ghost town in Williams County — population one. Clif’s comments:

“It was never much of a town, but they had coal mines north of town and grain elevatorsin the early 1900’s.  My Grandfather Anton Nelson who farmed about 7 miles northwest of Hanks would haul a load of grain in and haul coal home from the mines just north of the town of Hanks.  They had a bank at one time, and a store plus I’ m sure other businesses.  The school became a museum of which I have pictures included… My Uncles farmed the old Nelson homestead so we used to visit a lot out there from the late 40’s and on.  My children and family used to frequent the Museum when we would visit the Uncles in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  It was quite a museum and how long it has been closed now I have no idea.”

More of Clif’s comments are included as captions below.

It’s interesting to note the presence of the former Bonetraill school and the Zahl depot in Hanks.  It’s quite common for structures to be moved from a vanishing town to another location, many times for use as a museum or other historically-oriented destination.  In this case the structures have been moved from one withering location to another.

Hanks was featured in the National Geographic article “The Emptied Prairie” in 2008.  You can also check out John Piepkorn’s gallery of Hanks photos from 2010 here.

Back side of the old chicken hatchery

Back side of the Zahl depot…Zahl was about 5 miles east of Hanks on the Railroad line and the highway

Front of the old Zahl depot

Former bank building in Hanks, later had a gas pump in front of it, so it maybe was a store and or gas station in later life.

Old Pioneer Trails Museum. Was the school at one time.

Bonetraill township one room grade school. Township was north of Hanks.

Photos by Clif Nelson. Original content copyright ©2016 Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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Another Look at Hanks