Forbes, North Dakota is in Dickey County, about thirty miles southeast of Ashley, right on the South Dakota border. On nearly every trip, we go out looking forward to seeing a certain town, but on the way home, we realize another town was better or more fun. In this adventure in June of 2011, Forbes was that town — the pleasant surprise.
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.
Originally called Denney, this unincorporated community was founded along the Great Northern Railroad in 1887. The name was changed to Barton in 1893. Barton is in Pierce County, about twelve miles northwest of Rugby. In the 2010 Census, it was listed as having 20 residents.Continue reading “A Lonesome View on Barton Street”
Raleigh is a secluded little town in Grant County, just a short drive southwest of Mandan. The population is nine, and there are exactly two businesses in operation. The grain elevator does a brisk business, and the local tavern is called The Dogtooth — named after the hills which cut a ragged swath through the township.
These are a few more photos from our archive on Lefor, North Dakota, a place we visited in 2007. Lefor is still home to a small population, and the main landmark is the very impressive St. Elizabeth Catholic Church shown below. Lefor is also the home of one of the best known cook books in North Dakota.Continue reading “More Views of Lefor”
These photos have been in our archive since we visited Hettinger County in 2007 and we are posting them here for the first time. The church shown below has since partially collapsed.
Bentley was founded by Arthur A. Bentley who, after moving from Eden Valley, Minnesota, started a photography business in Fargo in the 1890s. In 1907 he moved to Hettinger County and founded the town of Bentley. Someone has started a Bentley webpage where you can read more, and see the condition of the church now… see it here. See the rest of our Bentley galleries here.
There were vehicles parked in front of this old school and we were unable to get a good shot.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
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
This is the former King School, just a few miles south of Valley City along the Sheyenne River Valley Scenic Byway. This building was erected in 1930, but it was preceded by another structure, also known as the King School, which was erected in the 1880’s on a different site.
The plaque on location reads, in part:
When the last students walked out of the King School in 1967, their departure marked the end of an era–the closure of the last operating one room schoolhouse in Barnes County. Once, over 100 of these tiny institutions dotted the prairie, serving every township in the county.
Today, most of the school buildings are gone, and few people remain who can remember life in a frontier school.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, Copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Pingree is a small town in Stutsman County, northwest of Jamestown. According to the 2010 Census, Pingree is home to 60 residents. Pingree was founded in 1881 and reached a peak population of 268 residents in 1920.
We didn’t have plans to visit Pingree, but we saw a few photo opportunities from the highway and decided to stop. On the day we visited, several local residents were busy towing cars from the townsite. There is a sizable auto repair/salvage operation in Pingree.
This church is beautifully well-kept and still in use.
The former Pingree depot and gazebo.
Relics of Pingree’s railroad heritage are prominently displayed in town.
Inside the caboose.
The former Pingree Jail — two cells.
Photos by Troy and Rat, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Conway is a near-ghost town in Walsh County, southwest of Grafton. Conway’s peak population was reported in the 1900 census as 216. Today the population is 23.
On September 7th, 1897, the New York Times published the following story:
KILLED TRYING TO ESCAPE
Tramps Imprisoned in Conway Set Fire to Jail
Fargo, ND. Sept 6th — The city marshal and a posse, after a hard fight, captured three tramps who had robbed several stores at Conway, a small town in western Walsh county, and lodged them in the city jail.
At an early hour Sunday morning the jail was discovered to be on fire, and before the flames could be extinguished, one of the vagrants was cremated and the other two have since died from frightful burns. It is supposed the men tried to burn a whole [sic] through which they could escape and the blaze got beyond their control.New York Times, Sep. 7, 1897
US Census Data for Conway
Total Population by Place
1900 – 216
1910 – 184
1920 – 148
1930 – 100
1940 – 120
1950 – 107
1960 – 67
1970 – 57
1980 – 33
1990 – 24
2000 – 23
2010 – 23
Every vacant lot we saw, we wondered whether it was the site of the former jail mentioned in the New York Times article.
Conway Memorial Park was dedicated to the soldier shown below, Lt. Frank L. Vorachek. We were able to determine that he was a veteran of the Army Air Corps ca. 1916-17, and that he later graduated from the UND School of Law. If anyone else knows more about Lt. Voracheck, we’d like to hear from you.
Sadly, the park doesn’t seem to get much use anymore.
Terry walked into this belt of trees and discovered the park.
It is sometimes… unsettling, to be in a playground where there are no children to play.
All of the furniture is falling into the basement. Note the spiderweb in the doorway.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC