It was November 7th, 2014 and it was two minutes until winter in Josephine, North Dakota when we briefly braved forty mile per hour winds to get the photos you see here.
I consulted Douglas Wick’s North Dakota Place Names book, which says Josephine, North Dakota was founded in 1901 on the site of an earlier pioneer settlement known as Genin. Josephine was named for Josephine Lindstrom Stickelberger, one of North Dakota’s first female physicians.
Nate Reynolds posted these photos to our Facebook page with the comments: Watrous, between Bentley and Mott, this is all that’s left. Watrous was a stop along the Milwaukee Road railroad line about 75 miles southwest of Bismarck, and had a population of 15 in 1920.
These photos were sent in by Cathy Zabel, a collection of things on Omemee, North Dakota, a true ghost town in Bottineau county. Omemee once had a population of 650 residents, and every kind of business one would expect from a prairie town of its size — a hotel, restaurant, grain elevators, opera house, even a newspaper — but today it has almost entirely vanished from the landscape, so we’re especially grateful for Cathy’s submission. It’s a chance to travel back in time and see Omemee as it was, a thriving North Dakota community from the turn-of-the-century. Cathy’s comments are included below. Continue reading “Omemee and the Batie Family”→
We first learned about Omemee, North Dakota, a ghost town in Bottineau County, through contributors Mark Johnson and Tom Tolman, who contributed photos of Omemee as it looked around the turn of the millennium. Those images were all we had ever seen of Omemee until quite recently. Despite all the time we spend rummaging around at estate sales and antique stores in our free time, postcards and photos of Omemee just didn’t seem to pop up very often.
Dresden is a small town in Cavalier County, home to the Cavalier County Museum at Dresden, about six miles northwest of Langdon. The museum is housed in the former Holy Trinity Church, an incredible field-stone structure erected in 1936.
Dresden is home to numerous historic structures in varying states of restoration, including the Dyer School which was moved to the site from Milton, the former Langdon Jail, and more. The crew at the Cavalier County Historical Society is doing quite a job up there. They have their own blog where you can learn a lot more about Dresden and the attractions.
Hopes for a boom spurred by the railroad were a longshot for many communities near the Canadian border. Many of the railroad lines just petered out without actually crossing into Canada.
There’s a collector out there who would pay good money for that truck.
Luxury accommodations in this 1896 jail cell from Langdon.
Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Knox is a rarity as near-ghost towns go — it is located right off a major highway — US 2, between Rugby and Devils Lake. According to the 2010 census, Knox is home to 25 residents, has 13 occupied households and 13 vacant households. Knox was founded in 1883 and reportedly had a peak population of 330 in 1910.
We drove into Knox and realized there are a lot of impressive vacant structures, not the least of which is the grain elevator. It was very quiet in Knox, with very little activity for a Saturday afternoon. A local resident told us the predominantly elderly population of Knox was temporarily relocated several winters ago due to heavy snowfall and the inability to find anyone who would clear snow from the town’s roads.
We ran into a gentleman who had an interesting story to tell while we were photographing Knox. He was a traveling gospel singer who had arrived in Knox three days earlier. He was a soft-spoken man with a noticeable southern drawl due to his Texas heritage, and he told us he didn’t have a home — he spent his days traveling the country in a minivan, stopping at little towns, bartering his gospel performances for food and lodging. He’d been traveling for eight years. Imagine the things he’s seen and the places he’s been.
The former Knox Post Office
A resident told us his stepson is in the process of dismantling this home.
There were a few homes like this one where it wasn’t totally clear whether anyone was still inhabiting them.
This flyer was hanging in the display case in front of the now abandoned Post Office.
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
Bartlett is about twenty miles east of Devils Lake and is about as close as you can get to ghost town without actually being totally abandoned… there is perhaps one occupied property, and we saw the remains of several crumbling homes. The former town site is quickly getting overrun by nature — the roads are shaded even on a bright day like this one. As we drove into town, untrimmed branches reached into the road to greet us, nearly touching the sides of the car.
This place, located near the east line of the county, on Section 25, Town 153, Range 61 was commenced in the fall of 1882, upon the completion of the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway to that point, and for a number of months had a wonderful growth and business, the population, at its maximum, reaching 1,000. there were 250 buildings in the place, and the people had high hopes that its boom would be a permanent one. But the laying out of Lakota, in Nelson County, four miles east of Bartlett, and the establishment of the county seat at the new town, resulted in the removal of the bulk of its business to Lakota and the city of Devils Lake. One hotel building was taken down and removed to West End, in Benson County, where it was metamorphosed into a number of cottages. There remains at Bartlett two hotels, several stores, and altogether some twenty five or thirty buildings.
A population of over one thousand in 1884 had become just 120 residents by 1910.
US Census Data for Bartlett Total Population by Place
The railroad tracks just outside of Bartlett were the site of a terrible railroad accident in April, 1907. The Great Northern Oriental Limited derailed just after 1am, rolled down an embankment, and caught fire when a gas tank exploded, an explosion so loud it was heard in Lakota, four miles away. Three died, including mail clerk Harry Jones who was killed instantly when the car he was riding in was telescoped by another, and an unknown Greek laborer who burned to death, trapped in the wreckage.
There were reports that the tracks had been tampered-with, a suspicion perhaps bolstered by a derailment that had happened less than a year prior, on the same stretch of track, just 100 yards away.
When you’re the only resident left in town, there’s nobody around to object when you rename N. 24th Street to Bartlett Rd. with a paint brush.
This part of the state in the Ramsey/Nelson/Grand Forks County area has a couple cool little places to visit, like Whitman, Mapes, and Niagara.