Christmas in Sanish

These photos of Christmas in Sanish, North Dakota come from Staci Roe, who came upon them in a hospital rummage sale and saved them from the trash. They are from the estate of Marvin L Knapp and the photographer is unknown.  Photos of the construction of the footings for Four Bears Bridge were in the same collection.

These photos were taken almost seven decades ago, which means all but the youngest of the people in these photos have passed on, but on the off-chance you recognize anyone in these photos, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Mighty rivers require mighty bridges and several impressive examples have spanned the North Dakota stretch of the Missouri River.  The river valley near the former town of Sanish has been home to several.  First, the Verendrye Bridge, a steel truss bridge completed in 1927, crossed the Missouri at Sanish.  In 1934, the first bridge to be known as Four Bears Bridge was built downstream near the town of Elbowoods.  They served North Dakota dependably through the thirties and forties. 

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Building Four Bears Bridge

Ten Lost North Dakota Places

It’s always a thrill to see enthusiastic residents get involved in saving historically and culturally significant places in their communities, but in North Dakota’s vanishing small towns, the losses frequently outnumber the wins by a significant margin. It’s something we’ve seen time and again in over ten years of photographing North Dakota.

What follows is our personal list, by no means exhaustive, of ten significant North Dakota places that have unfortunately lost their battle with time.

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The Pastoral Remains of Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee is a tiny unincorporated town in the far northeast corner of Mountrail county, about 40 miles northwest of Minot.  Our Savior’s Scandinavian Lutheran Church, a few miles west of Coulee, is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Unfortunately, we didn’t find out about it until after our visit.  We’ll get it next time.

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee is actually the second town to wear the name. There was another Coulee in Pembina County, which later became Hallson, and it is now a virtual ghost town.

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee, North Dakota

It looks like the last business in this building was Henry Schapp’s Liquor Store.

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee, North Dakota

We’re told the home shown above was once the parsonage of the Coulee Lutheran Parish.

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee, North Dakota

Above and below: The sad remains of a former church. We got to Coulee a few years too late.

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee, North Dakota

Coulee, North Dakota

Many homes like this are left abandoned when the last elderly resident passes on and there’s nobody around to move in. Others are left vacant when a family packs up and moves on for greener pastures. Which one happened here, we don’t know.

Coulee, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media

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Lostwood: Where Time Moves Slowly

What’s in a name? In a place like this, maybe everything. Our initial interest in Lostwood was aroused by the name… Lostwood. It brings to mind images of an old-fashioned, silent town, lost in a haunting copse of elms and knotty oaks; a place where time moves slowly and the residents wouldn’t have it any other way. With a name like Lostwood, we felt compelled to visit and see for ourselves what remains.

Lostwood, North Dakota

We arrived to find Lostwood a captivating remnant of a prairie settlement, if somewhat lacking in the elm and oak tree department. In truth it is a ghost town in the sense that very little remains here to show a population of 100 residents, Lostwood’s all-time high, reported in 1920. Only a well-kept church and a boarded up school appear to be original structures. On the other hand, there are several inhabited homes in the area, and those folks likely consider themselves residents of Lostwood.

Lostwood, North Dakota

Lostwood School was featured in our first book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 1.

Lostwood, North Dakota

This school is so evocative in real life. Just bending on one knee here to take a photograph, it’s easy to have a moment of nostalgia while imagining students coming and going, carrying lunch pails and dressed in the clothing of the era.

Lostwood, North Dakota

There are population figures for Lostwood township in the US Census, but none for Lostwood as a town. According to “North Dakota: Every Town on the Map and MORE,” by Vernell and Louise Johnson, Lostwood was first known as Chida, then renamed for the lake nearby, which had been named Lostwood Lake by settlers after a load of wood was lost there in a blizzard.

Lostwood, North Dakota

Douglas Wick’s North Dakota Place Names offers an alternate explanation for the name Lostwood. About 1900, a settler cut some wood and left it here to dry, but a nearby family used it to heat their home over the winter, and when the settler returned in the spring, he discovered the wood had been “lost”.

Lostwood, North Dakota

Lostwood is perhaps better known as a duck and waterfowl breeding area and migratory and nesting bird sanctuary. The surrounding Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge is partly made-up of the Lostwood Wilderness,  “a region well known for numerous lakes and mixed grass prairie”. Lostwood Wilderness “ensures that the finest duck and waterfowl breeding region in North America remains wild and unimproved”. It was created by an act of Congress in 1975.

Lostwood, North Dakota

Tim Steele sent some photos of Lostwood’s post office back in the day, and we’re trying to figure out what year the photo was taken. Can you help?

Lostwood, North Dakota

The church is quite nicely kept in Lostwood and we’re told it still holds services and hosts other events on occasion.

Lostwood, North Dakota

Lostwood, North Dakota

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

Belden, ND

Belden was founded by Finnish settlers in 1904. Like many ghost towns, the origins of it’s name are still in dispute. It is named either for W.L. Belden, US Indian Agent-at-Large at Fort Berthold, or for the Postmaster’s hometown in Indiana.

Although the locals denied it, Belden was once said to be a hotbed of communist activity. Couldn’t have been much of a hotbed however considering Belden’s population never really got above 25.

In the late 2000’s, the oil industry began booming in the area and some site visitors have reported new residents in abandoned towns like Belden.

 

Palermo, ND

Palermo is in Mountrail County, and quite populous compared to most towns you’ll see on this website, but there were a good number of abandoned structures that made for some great photo opportunities.

Palermo, ND
Palermo was founded in 1901 as a Great Northern Railroad town made up of primarily Norwegian settlers. It’s name was a tribute to the Italians who worked on the area railroads.

The school pictured here was built under the Works Progress (later ‘Projects’) Administration program and a site visitor reports it was used until the ’89-’90 school year.

Palermo, ND

The school is an impressive brick and stone building with art deco touches.

Palermo, ND

Palermo, ND

The small white building pictured here is the former Palermo Firehouse and Jail. There’s a story going around that Palermo welcomed transients and allowed them to use this structure as a place to bed down, but the town later changed their minds and ran off all the vagrants due to fear of vandalism.

Palermo, ND

US Census Data for Palermo
Total Population by Place

1960 – 188
1970 – 146
1980 – 97
2000 – 77
2010 — 74

Palermo, ND

One of Palermo’s notable former residents would be Miss North Dakota 2001, Michelle Guthmiller.

Palermo, ND

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Palermo, ND

Palermo, ND

Palermo, ND

Palermo, ND

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

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