This is Acton School in Acton Township, Walsh County.  David Schultz sent in these photos with the following comments:

Not sure if you would be interested in these pictures of the Acton School. First classes held 1883 Last term was 1956. My Mom attended this school and my Grand Mother taught at it. School was getting in pretty poor condition so it was torn down this Spring but I thought I better get few pictures  of it before I knew the day was coming when it would be gone.


Visitors over the years wrote their names on the blackboard.  A close examination of the full-size photos sent by David Schultz reveals a few of the following names and inscriptions: Robin Robert – 1981, Kieley kids came from California (with a date that’s illegible), and various other hard to read stuff.


Do you know anything about Acton Township school? Leave us a comment!

Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Acton School

Ardoch is a town of around 60 residents in Walsh County.  We visited Ardoch once before to photograph the quite impressive Mondry Elevator, a visit during which we spent quite a bit of time looking for a phone lost in the tall grass.  Since I was in the area again, I decided to stop in for a better look.

Ardoch City Hall

There are an unusually high number of trailer homes in Ardoch, both inhabited and abandoned.  Most of the historic structures are now gone, with only a few exceptions.  I was somewhat shocked to discover a teenager burning leaves in a driveway right in the middle of town.  It was a breezy day at the end of the driest summer in decades… seems pretty risky in a town without a fire department.


Photos by Troy, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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Ardoch, ND

Auburn is a very small town in Walsh County, north of Grafton.  There was an active harvest happening the day I visited, and most of the homes are still inhabited.  The population appears to be a dozen or two.

Due to a finicky camera, I was only able to capture the photos you see below on my Android.  The church is the most impressive structure on the townsite.  It looks like it’s been abandoned for some time, and it appears to be locked up tight.  There is also a grain elevator in Auburn that looks to be largely out of service, but certain parts of it are still being utilized.

Janis (Anderson) Friedrichs sent in a PDF of a newspaper story about Auburn which you can see here.

Photos by Troy, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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Auburn, ND

Fordville just happened to be on our route as we explored a few towns in Walsh and Ramsey counties.  It is not a ghost town or a near-ghost town… more like Pleasantville.  According to the 2000 Census, Fordville had 266 residents, shrinking to 212 in 2010.

The most prominent landmark was the Ford Theater, a beautiful brick building that’s been carefully tended, but in need of help with the roof.

The owner kindly posted a flyer which reads as follows:


Est. 1948 by
Hub (Hulbert) and Richard Casement

Construction by: Martin Hustad, Peter and John Peterson.

Brickwork by Arnie Steen

First movie shown: “Little Mr. Jim” on March 19th, 1948.
Starring Butch Jenkins, James Craig, and Francis Clifford

Theatre was closed in the early 1960’s
Purchased by Donald and Jean Omdahl on Dec. 8th, 1970
Used for community plays and gospel services in the 1980’s
Purchased by DeLon Freije
from Don Omdahl on June 18th, 2010
Don went home to Jean on August 31st, 2010

Future plans: Restore theatre, display train collection for public display and offer tours of the theatre.
Popcorn sales on Thursday evenings through the summer
Any help with roof repairs would be much appreciated.

There were a few structures that looked ‘semi-vacant’– in that gray area between seldom used and used every day.  No real abandoned structures however.  So we just took a few shots that looked nice.

The clock struck noon while we were visiting and the air raid siren on top of this tower sounded.

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

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Passing Through Fordville

We stopped in Ardoch primarily to photograph the elevator which Terry had been wanting to shoot for some time.  We drove into town past the city hall and a little yapper dog promptly ran right in front of Terry’s car and stopped.  He just stood there staring at us.  So Terry started to back up, and a second dog joined the first in circling around his car.  We were kinda stuck, not able to go forward or backward very quickly for fear of running over these two little dogs.  And the whole time it’s happening, the woman who owns the two dogs is sitting in a lawn chair, watching.  She had a look of befuddlement on her face–like, how did this happen, these two geniuses are trapped in the street by my chihuahuas?

Inevitably, Terry was able to break free from the insane chihuahuas, and we proceeded to the elevator.  Terry took some shots while I did a social media update, and he got some good ones.

Terry walked the full perimeter of the elevator in waist high grass, snapping photos all along, and then returned to where I had parked the car across the highway.  I was grabbing a bottle of water out of the car when I looked over and saw Terry kinda patting himself down, looking for a phone that was no longer there.  He had just finished walking through waist high grass for like, thirty minutes straight.

I asked him, “Is your ringer on?  Will your phone make noise if I call it?”  He nodded.

Terry walked back across the highway and I took out my phone and began calling his repeatedly while he listened for it to ring.  He was walking through the grass, and I was watching him from across the highway.  I would dial his phone, his voicemail would pick up after 15 seconds, and I would have to hang up and call back.  And he’s still just over there on the other side of the highway, waving his hands along the tips of the tall grass and prairie flowers like he’s the lost phone mystic or something, about to sense the electromagnetic energy of a lost Sprint slider phone.

Then all of a sudden, he squatted down in a wrestler’s stance and rotated right to left like a radar dish, listening.  I looked down at my phone.  The voicemail picked up and I had to hang up and redial.  I called back and looked across the highway at Terry — he was still crouching in the grass.  The call connected and I saw Terry leap into the grass — he found it near the garage door pictured second photo down.  It’s a shame there wasn’t a reality TV crew around to capture it the way I saw it.

I went back to Ardoch in 2012 and got a few photos of Ardoch without any problems from Taco Bell’s mascot tryout class.

A beautiful, nearly full-page photo of this elevator appears in our book, Ghosts of North Dakota: North Dakota’s ghost towns and abandoned places.

Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp

Mondry Elevator in Ardoch

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.

Conway, North Dakota

On September 7th, 1897, the New York Times published the following story:


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
Conway, North Dakota

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

Conway, North Dakota
Conway, North Dakota

Every vacant lot we saw, we wondered whether it was the site of the former jail mentioned in the New York Times article.

Conway, North Dakota
Conway, North Dakota
Conway, North Dakota
Conway, North Dakota

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.

Conway, North Dakota

Terry walked into this belt of trees and discovered the park.

Conway, North Dakota

It is sometimes… unsettling, to be in a playground where there are no children to play.

Conway, North Dakota

Conway, North Dakota
Conway, North Dakota
Conway, North Dakota
Conway, North Dakota

Conway, North Dakota

Conway, North Dakota

All of the furniture is falling into the basement. Note the spiderweb in the doorway.

Conway, North Dakota
Conway, North Dakota

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

Jailbreak in Conway

In the course of his travels, Terry stumbled upon the Stardust 17 Drive-In on the west side of Grafton.  The Stardust held 300 cars and hosted movie showings for decades. According to one online account, the Stardust 17’s screen blew down in a windstorm in October of 1991.  There were some initial discussions about getting the drive-in going again, but cost put the brakes on a recovery.  When we visited in 2011, the theater had been idle for years.

When we visited in 2011, we found the place a shadow of its former self.  All of the window speakers were gone.  The concession stand’s roof was caving in, and the ticket booth had deteriorated significantly.

Stardust 17

The marquee out front is from the Strand Twin Theater in Grafton.

Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota

The Lake Park Drive-In in Williston, which was the last operating Drive-In in the state, is now closed, leaving North Dakota with no more operating drive-ins.

Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota
Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota

Update: we’re told the remains of the screen were taken down a couple years ago. The Stardust 17 is no more.

Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota

A couple years later, we visited another vacant drive-in theater, the Pineview Drive-In in Nebraska.

Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota

I’m old enough the remember the waning days of the drive-in era, and although there are next generation drive-in theater operators making a go of it lately, the magic of the drive-in is not likely to be recaptured. It would be great to live it all again… to smell the hot dogs and popcorn on the breeze of a hot summer night, swatting mosquitoes and playing on the playground so Mom and Dad could smooch in the car…

Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota
Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota

Read more about the Stardust 17 and other Drive-In movie theaters here.

Stardust 17 Drive-In, Grafton, North Dakota

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

The Abandoned Stardust 17 Drive-In