Legend of the Devils Lake Monster

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know “ghosts” is a metaphor that refers to the ghosts of our past, and most of the time, that manifests itself here in the form of photos of our vanishing places. Sometimes though, we run across a story so interesting, a piece of forgotten history or local lore so fascinating, that we feel compelled to write about it. This is one of those instances

Continue reading “Legend of the Devils Lake Monster”

The Flooding of Grahams Island

Captain Duncan Graham was a Scotsman who came to North Dakota after getting started as a fur trader for Hudson’s Bay Company. Graham believed there was profit to be made in the trading business, and he founded a trading post on the island that now bears his name. Though the date is in dispute, Graham is believed to have inhabited the island around 1810 to 1817; far earlier than the flood of homesteaders to come six decades later. Continue reading “The Flooding of Grahams Island”

Devils Lake Rises

Most North Dakotans know what has been going on in Devils Lake over the last few decades.  A steady rise of water levels on the lake has inundated towns like Church’s Ferry and Minnewaukan, plus numerous farms, homes, and businesses.  Without a natural outlet, the lake has continued to rise and has been the subject of contentious political battles.  One of Terry’s best photos features a home which was overtaken by the ever-expanding shoreline of Devils Lake.

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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.

Bartlett, North Dakota

The Andreas Historical Atlas of Dakota (pre-statehood), published in 1884, describes Bartlett like this:

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.

Bartlett, North Dakota

A population of over one thousand in 1884 had become just 120 residents by 1910.

US Census Data for Bartlett
Total Population by Place

1910 – 120
1920 – 98
1930 – 67
1940 – 78
1950 – 51
1960 – 39
1970 – 19
1980 – Delisted

Bartlett, North Dakota

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.

Bartlett, North Dakota

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.

Bartlett, North Dakota

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.

Bartlett, North Dakota
Bartlett, North Dakota
Bartlett, North Dakota
Bartlett, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp

Bartlett… Almost Gone

Webster School

Webster is in Ramsey County, just north of Devils Lake. Someone has done a fantastic job of preserving the former Webster School. We couldn’t tell what it’s used for today, but someone told us it’s occasionally used as a hunting lodge, and it looks fantastic. We’ve taken the liberty of removing the power lines which ran through the foreground of this picture so you can appreciate the structure more fully.

Webster, North Dakota

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