We recommend all visitors follow the CDC’s guidelines when visiting our sites.

SHSND Home > Archives > Archives Holdings > Archives & Manuscripts > Family/Local History > 11123
To schedule an appointment, please contact us at 701.328.2091 or archives@nd.gov.

OCLC WorldCat Logo

SHSND Photobook - Digitized images from State Archives

Digital Horizons

2019-2021 Blue Book Cover

Federal Depository Library Program

Chronicling America

Manuscripts by Subject - Family / Local History - #11123

Title: Ken C. Brovald        

Dates: 1987-2008

Collection Number: 11123

Quantity: 1 foot
Abstract: Papers consist of biographical information about Ken Brovald and his father Arthur Melvin Brovald, notes, photographs and captions for Brovald's book "Silent Towns on the Prairie," captions and photos for a book that never materialized on the 1930s depression in ND, railroad slides and photographs with descriptions, short stores by Brovald, news clippings and articles, copies of railway maps, and photographs of towns in North Dakota.

Provenance: The collection was donated by Ken Brovald’s widow, Arlene, on March 29, 2012. The collection was processed, and this inventory was created by Rose Klein and Emily E. Schultz. Twelve additional slides were donated by Arlene Brovald on August 9, 2012.

Property Rights: The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to this collection.

Copyrights: Copyrights to materials in this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs.  Researcher should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94‑553, Title 17 U.S. Code and an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirements is needed.                                                                  

This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.   

Citation: Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.

Transfer: One booklet, “Palermo, ND, Centennial June 29-July 1, 2001” was transferred to the State Archives’ Publications in March 2012.


From Brovald’s funeral program

Kenneth C. Brovald was born January 15, 1929 in rural New Effington, SD. He moved to a farm near Palermo, ND when he was two years old. Twelve of his happiest childhood years were spent on that farm. When he was 14 years old he moved to Rosholt, SD where he graduated from High School.

He attended Telegraph school in Minneapolis, MN and went to work for the Chicago Northwestern Railroad as a Telegrapher and Station Agent in 1949. He married Arlene Osborn on February 19, 1950 and worked for 10 years in MN, SD, NE, and IA at various CNW RR Stations. He went on to work for the Cottonbelt Railroad in Los Angeles in RR sales, the Association of American Railroads in Salt Lake City, UT, and Seattle, WA, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad in Seattle, WA. During this period he attended night school and correspondence courses and received a Bachelor of Laws degree from LaSalle Extension University. In 1975, he came to AK as Transportation Coordinator for Fluor Engineers, to transport materials to AK for the building of the Trans Alaska pipeline. When the pipeline was finished he worked for BP/Sohio in transportation until 1981. Ken then owned and operated the Alaska Treasure Shop on 4th Avenue from 1982 to 1990 when he retired and devoted his time to his writing. He authored Alaska’s Wilderness Rails and numerous magazine articles on AK Railroad and other U.S. Railroads. He also authored Silent Towns on the Prairie, a book on ND’s disappearing towns and farms.

His family says, “Ken loved railroads, trains, books, travel (especially by train) and his family. He was full of life and wit with a sense of humor. He was fun to be with. He was an incredible fountain of knowledge concerning railroading. He had a very independent and feisty nature and made many life-long friends.”

Ken, 71, died of heart and kidney failure on January 23, 2000 at Providence Hospital, Anchorage, AK.

Ken was a member of Jewel Lake Parish and the Military Society of Model Railroad Engineers. He is survived by his wife Arlene, of nearly 50 years and sons, Russell K. Brovald of Santa Clara, CA; Scott Brovald and wife Cindy, and granddaughters Nichole and Leah Brovald of Mukilteo, WA; brothers, Curtis Brovald of New Effington, SD and Jim Brovald of Hawaiian Gardens, CA; sisters Delores Quaal of Henderson, NF; and Arvilla Ostby of Hulett, WY; and step-brothers and sisters. He was preceded in death by his parents, Nettie and Arthur Brovald, stepfather, Frank Navaratil and brother Dennis Brovald.


Box 1:
1 Kenneth C. Brovald obituary, photocopies of photographs, funeral program, 2000
2 Arthur Melvin Brovald obituary and notes from funeral program, copy of photograph
3 Short stories by Brovald: “Little Known Railroad Facts” and others, 1994-1999 (11123-306)
4 Notes taken on trips to ND for Silent Towns on the Prairie, 1995-1996
5 ND railway maps (copies)
6 News clippings and articles, 1987-2008
7 Photos and captions for Silent Towns on the Prairie (11123-116 – 11123-170)
8 Photos and captions for Silent Towns on the Prairie (11123-171 – 11123-218)
9 Photos and captions for a 1930s depression book that never materialized (11123-219 – 11123-239)
10 Railroad slides and photos with descriptions, 1987-1991 (11123-240 – 11123-314,
also 11123-80, 11123-99 and 11123-103)

Box 2: Photographs 11123-01 – 11123-60 (see descriptions of photographs below)

Box 3: Photographs 11123-61 – 11123-115

Photograph descriptions by photograph number
11123-01              Palermo, ND from the south, 1987. Palermo – a quiet town – a two block main
street. When a train stopped neither the locomotive or the caboose were in the city limits. A town with no scenic views, the population never reached 150. As The depression deepened, one by one, the businesses failed and Palermo joined the ranks of a dying town. A few abandoned buildings and exposed foundations tell the casual visitor little about life in a small town. Concrete foundations bleaching in the hot sun and cold winters, did little to remind one of the many buildings which had once dotted the North Dakota Prairie, most dating back to the days of the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba of 1887.
This photograph (1987) shows the remains of Palermo, No. Dak. A lot of things have gone wrong in Palermo, since its incorporation in 1905. A large grain elevator remains in town, as well as a post office, a bar and school house. Other businesses, (grocery store, gasoline station, garage, etc.) have long disappeared. Palermo, like Blaisdell, Tagus, Lone Tree, along the GN’s high line, are in the “final throes” of the “slow death” that claims 122 North Dakota communities, now classified as ghosts towns. A grain elevator contrasts sharply with the barren hills.
11123-02              View of Palermo, ND taken from the south, the Brovald house is the white barn-like structure on lower right
11123-03              Palermo, ND from south, 1987
11123-04              “A sign post marks the spot where the depot used to be. All vestiges of commercial business has disappeared, except the lone grain elevator. The passing track has been removed, the speed board tells the trains not to slow down. There is little action at the elevator. To the BNSF, Palermo does not exist.
From the first day in 1827, when the first commercial railroad puffed into life in Baltimore the location of the tracks, the sidings (which usually resulted into a settlement), the station, shaped the landscape and the destiny of America.” (#41 chapter 12)
11123-05              Train at Palermo, ND railroad crossing, ca. 1987
11123-06-07        Palermo, ND, 1987
11123-08-09        Amtrak going through Palermo, ND, 1987
11123-10              Amtrak, westbound, 10 a.m. 10/7/1987 in Palermo, ND
11123-11              “The fire station/jail is the most imposing building remaining in Palermo. During the depression years the town fathers allowed transients and wanderers to stay here overnight or longer. Later they thought differently, fearful that the disgruntled and disillusioned travelers may set fire or ravage the place, in retaliation against the system. They were locked out, forcing them to move on, taking the next freight train out, which was not always easy, since most freight trains did not stop. There were three types of wanderers, hobos who will work, tramps who could work, and bums who wouldn’t work. In 1995, when this photo was taken, the fire station is still standing tall and proud, the wanderers are long gone.” (#36 chapter 12)
11123-12              Fire station, Palermo, ND
11123-13              School, Palermo, ND
11123-14              “A relatively modern school is abandoned in Palermo. Built with federal money during the Works Progress Administration, later changed to Works Projects Administration (WPA), during the Roosevelt Administrations’ ‘New Deal’ program in the 30s. The school served the community until the mid 70s. The WPA built mostly brick and mortar structures, as this school house. Some 110,000 public buildings were constructed during the ten year period of 1932 to 1942.” (#32 chapter 12)
11123-15              Farmers co-op elevator in Palermo, ND, 10/7/1987
11123-16              Grain elevator, Palermo, ND, 1987. The elevator was the highest point in town, from which we could see more of nothing. A lift shaft operated to the top, where we could see the town below and across the endless prairie. The 30,000 bushel elevator and the annex were of sufficient capacity to handle the farms wheat production.
11123-17              Palermo, ND, 1987
11123-18              Palermo, ND elevator, 1987
11123-19-20        Faith Lutheran Church, Palermo, ND, 1987
11123-21              “In the Scandinavian communities, the church has always been an integral part of their life. They came from strong Christian beliefs. This church in Palermo is a well established Lutheran congregation. The author’s father is buried in the cemetery behind this church. The great depression and drought garroted the life out of Palermo, but this well maintained Lutheran church, built in the 1920s, survives and is a testament to the faith of the pioneers that built it and those who support it today.” (#40 chapter 12)
11123-22              “Once upon a time, this building was a one-room country school, the Redmond District, some ten miles north of Palermo, ND. A team of horses and wagon, or sleigh were at the ready, to evacuate the 12 to 14 children during a snow blizzard, a tornado, or heavy rains. It was used a few times during the depression. The school was closed when a new school was built, using WPA depression era labor. It is now a storage shed on a nearby farm.”
Palermo – Rerouting of the highway isolated the community and it has shriveled to a population of less than 90, at the time this photo was taken in 1991. The BN maintains its heavy duty main line through the sleepy settlement. Logic would seem to dictate that there is no good reason for Palermo, N.D. to exist – but it does anyway.   
Redmond school – a one room county school house was unique. It had a buffalo wallow in the play ground. Today the school has disappeared and it is on the same path as the once mighty buffalo – extinction.  
11123-23-24        Boarded up store (café, bar, hotel), Palermo, ND, 1987
11123-25              Unidentified building, Palermo, ND        
11123-26-27        Filling station, Palermo, ND, 1987
11123-28-29        Café at Palermo, ND, 1987
11123-30-33        Farm where Ken grew up as a boy, Palermo, ND, 1997
11123-34              Rock pile on Brovald farm near Palermo, ND, 1987
11123-35              “Returning to the place of my childhood, I found no one home, only phantoms of the past, only misty memories. This is all that remains of the Brovald farm in Palermo, ND after 50 years. The buffalo grass has won. Photo taken 10/7/1987 by Ken C. Brovald.” 
Not much bigger than a present day trailer house. It housed ten people, sometimes 12 for more than 12 years. Five buildings surrounded the small house during the depression. In 1987, this is all that remains of the farm. In the passage of time, only the hills remain, the winds continue to round off the sharp edges of the hills, and the clouds march ever eastward, changing their shape every minute, encouraged by the ceaseless wind; they are just “empties goin’ east.”
11123-36              “A relic of the past. The weathered wood and rotting structure of an abandoned farm house. It is hard to imagine that as many as 10 people, sometimes 12, lived in this house during the depression years.” (#43 chapter 12)
11123-37              Farm where Ken was raised near Palermo, ND, 1987
11123-38              Windmill on farm where Ken lived when he was a boy, Palermo, ND, 1997
11123-39              House where Ken grew up near Palermo, ND, 1997
11123-40              “A young girl a Miss Johnson sketched this and I gave it to Harvey and Hazel Johnson north of Palermo. Harvey lived there when he was a small boy so it now hangs in their kitchen and I took this picture of it. It was done with a lead pencil. This is the same farm home where Ken Brovald lived in his growing up years. I believe it still stands in a field owned by Andy Johnson.”
11123-41              Ambrose, ND, 7/1997
11123-42              Grain elevator, Ambrose, ND, 7/1997
11123-43              Abandoned building, Ambrose, ND, 7/1997
11123-44              Post office, Ambrose, ND, 7/1997
11123-45              Street in Ambrose, ND, 7/1997
11123-46              Abandoned gas station, Ambrose, ND, 7/1997
11123-47              Abandoned Catholic Church, Ambrose, ND, 7/1997
11123-48              Appam, ND, 7/1997
11123-49              Abandoned house, Appam, ND, 7/1997
11123-50              Appam, ND, 7/1997
11123-51              Windmill, Appam, ND, 7/1997
11123-52              Appam, ND, 7/1997
11123-53              “The barn is out of service. The old warrior has succumbed to many years of heavy snow packs. It cannot even reset on its rotting timbers. It sits in the rich Red River Valley near Ardock [Ardoch].” (#110B chapter 21)
11123-54              Main Street, Battleview, ND, 6/1995
11123-55              Blaisdell, ND railroad tracks
11123-56-57        Badlands of ND, 7/1997
11123-58              Fort Buford, ND, 7/1997
11123-59-60        Lost Bridge in Badlands, ND, on Highway 22, 1987. North Dakota’s “lost bridge” was a mystery to most. The bridge in southwestern North Dakota, spans the Little Missouri River at the bottom of one of the deepest canyons in the ruggedly beautiful badlands on North Dakota’s north/south Highway No. 22. Built in 1930, but the road was not connected to it until 1945.
11123-61              “Buxton was one of our surprises, a viable elevator loading a covered hopper and a box car. An operating elevator helps to keep a small town from dying. Budd Reeve, a prolific writer, obtained the town site from the railroad in exchange for the land used for the old Union Depot in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He named the town for his friend, Minneapolis Treasurer, Thomas J. Buxton.” (#101 chapter 17)
11123-62              “Cartwright elevator had to close sitting midway between Watford City, ND and Fairview, Mont. where giant grain terminals are located. It was too close to each one. Now it does nothing.”
11123-63              Railroad tracks and grain elevator, Coulee, ND, 1995
11123-64              “Vestiges of another era in Cummings. Before this town went into its hibernation in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, its population of a hundred had carved a colorful niche in the state’s history. It is an idyllic setting in the Red River Valley, where the pace is slow and nobody keeps tabs on the population figures. The heart has gone out of the town, after the businesses closed. It never reached the level of prosperity it had hoped for and slowly and gently it faded away.
After the town’s heyday, this building went ‘belly up’ as did several others. Was it the school or was it something else? Many people experienced some of their most important memories in these buildings. It seems a shame, that buildings were abandoned, torn down or destroyed, when they could continue to be of some use. This building was built to last, you can’t get construction like this anymore. Floating on a different ocean of grass, it is slowly sinking. No real boom occurred in Cummings, the population stabilized, then slipped to below ghost town status. The population figures are no longer listed on road maps nor on road signs, even though two major highways and the BNSF Railroad serve the community.” (#119 chapter 23)
11123-65              “Erie sits in a region of prime farming land. Two good highways and a railroad should have guaranteed a successful town, but it didn’t. The early settlers believed that the free homestead lands would bring the dawn of a prosperous new era. As the farming pattern changed, the town followed the familiar pattern to oblivion. The population has fallen to below ghost town status, most of the buildings have been abandoned, like this house, and a deserted church on main street.” (#54 chapter 12)
11123-66              “Egeland is not a ghost town, although there are pockets of ghostly areas in the settlement. The former SOO LINE depot has been removed from the right-of-way, restored to its original condition and is now a museum.” (#80 chapter 12)
11123-67              Railroad station, Egeland, 1997
11123-68              City limit sign, Great Bend, ND
11123-69-70        Grain elevators, railroad tracks and trains, La Mars, ND, 7/1997
11123-71              Abandoned house, Lone Tree, ND, 1995
11123-72              “Someone must have had a good sense of humor when they named this place, Lostwood. The prairie is almost devoid of trees. Once a large farming community of 300 or more people. The town consisted of a hotel, cafes, a bar or two, a post office, a grain elevator and other businesses to serve the fledgling community. About all that marks the spot is a sign post on the railroad, the side track has been removed, a well kept Lutheran church on the hill and a deserted school. No trace could be found where other buildings were located, all have disappeared. The windswept remains of the old town was conceived and died in less than three decades, in the early part of the century. The town pulsated from the farm economy before going into eternal sleep.
Lundsvalley, a few miles west of Lostwood was promoted by the Great Northern, but the railroad station was about the only development. The town (?) has disappeared from road maps and railroad timetables, the site is vacant. The highway and railroad cuts through the prairie hills but neither recognize the place.
11123-73-75        Abandoned house, church, and abandoned buildings, Lostwood, ND
11123-76-77        Sign and railroad tracks, Lariat Bar food and beverages, Merricourt, ND, 1997
11123-78              “Ye’ old bank building in Merricourt. It has closed and you now have to fight your way in around the trees.” (#126 back cover)
11123-79-80        Bridge across river at New Town, ND, 1987
11123-81              “Here and there a ruined house or barn sits under flaking coats of paint, its roof buckling, like a sway back of an old pack horse. The far off horizon peeks through empty doors and window frames like a ghost world. This sway back was found in Mooreton.” (#82 chapter 14)
11123-82              Post Office, Mylo, ND
11123-83              “A large community hall in which many functions were held in the days past, in Mylo, stands empty and deserted. The old depot is gone, a SOO LINE freight train (now Canadian Pacific) rumbles through town each day, it does not stop. Mylo peaked at 140 in the 1920s dropped to 32 in 1980, by 1990, it was dead.” (#79 chapter 12)
11123-84              “In its glory days, Niobe was a busy place. Trains were dispatched from this junction to Crosby, to the west and to the North Gate on the Canadian border. The depot stands in testimony to an earlier era, when passenger trains stopped here, taking people to other train connections and on to civilization. At this writing, Niobe is little more than a hamlet, with only a sign post, a siding and one grain elevator. Once the depot was a busy place, it had an engine house where engines were prepared to work the branch lines and the yard sorter out the cars. All that activity is gone. A small unusual church, now vacant, is a symbol of its heyday. From a peak population of 250 in the 20s and a rapid decline in the 30s, and virtually disappeared by 1995. The depot is a worthy site and worth the stop. A maintenance-of-way crew uses the depot as a mini storage warehouse.” (#104 chapter 17)
11123-85              Welcome sign, Nekoma, ND, 6/1995
11123-86              Entrance to the Nekoma Safeguard Complex (North Dakota pyramid), 6/1995
11123-87              Niobe, ND railroad station
11123-88              Farm, Noonan, ND (#27 Chapter 12)
11123-89              “Overly is typical of the small grain gathering towns of the north country. They seemingly remain frozen in time of an earlier era of black and white movies. Only the bright red and white SOO LINE locomotives keep us in the present. The welcome sign says population 32, down from more than 300 in 1970, but today only 10 call it home. Come back in the few years and see if the sign still stands and how many people will greet you. The quest today seems hard to equate with the towns’ lively past.” (#84 chapter 15)
11123-90              “The church closed down, then converted into a repair garage, and it failed. Despite its years of emptiness, the building stands tall, but eventually it will fall down, the debris removed and the grasses will grow back. A ghost appears as a double image, as a white shadow. The church has literally given up the ghost.” (#85 Chapter 15)
11123-91              “Pillsbury is held in place by the BNSF tracks and is kept alive by the elevator, and is the most imposing structure. It is located midway on the Fargo/Minot Surrey cut off line. From a past population of 260 in 1930, it has declined to 46 by 1995. Lucky are those who still have a rail line.” (#60 chapter 12)
11123-92              Abandoned home west of Page, ND
11123-93              “There is another sound, a plaintiff refrain echoing in the hills as relentless time and weather and even people close the gap. In time the farms were fewer and the people moved elsewhere. Around 1960 and 1970 most residents had abandoned their homes and moved. The house with nobody in it. A house that longed for a family within its walls. The residents fled this building, saying the ghosts chased them away. The white clad spirits were reported to be near and making unearthly noises. It was just the wind. We hurry by the old building as fast as we could so the ‘ghosts’ don’t catch us.  If I had some money and my debts were paid/I’d fix the house and sit in the shade./ The house had a sheltered life,/ Putting its wooden arms around man and wife./It echoes the cheer of a baby’s laugh./ No records were kept, not even a photograph./The spirit of a ghost of a man named Ben/Shares the moment with a boy named Ken.
11123-94              Railroad station, Powers Lake, ND
11123-95              Abandoned bank building, restored to a home, Rogers, ND, 7/1997
11123-96              Abandoned school, Rogers, ND, 7/1997
11123-97              Helper Engine, Sully Springs, ND, 1997
11123-98              Railroad tracks and sign, Sully Springs, ND, 1997
11123-99              Railroad station and tracks, Stanley, ND, 1987
11123-100            Scandinavian American bank, Stanley, ND, 1987
11123-101            Grain mills and elevators, railroad tracks, Stanley, ND, 1987
11123-102            Highway #2 underpass at Stanley, ND, 1987
11123-103            Mountrail County Court House, 1987
11123-104            “An abandoned farm near Stanley. A few cattle graze among the buildings, but no one is around to care for them.”
11123-105            Monument erected by the people of Slope County in memory of their World War II dead killed in action
11123-106            Catholic school, St. Anthony, ND, 7/1997
11123-107            Grain bins and railroad tracks, Sutton, ND
11123-108            Abandoned house and grain elevators and bins in background, Zahl, ND, 7/1997
11123-109            “The eyes of former guests of this hotel in Hixon is watching you. Inside the buildings the vandalizing public has made its inroads. Today the arched windows gap vacantly, giving mute evidence of once plush trappings. The hotel is now decaying in gaunt emptiness. The community dates to 1909, to the building of the railroad and the establishment of a station. The floors squeak and you can hear the coyotes howl, but the hotel is not haunted. There are no rooms available at this time, no one has stayed here for a long time. The deteriorating buildings identify the mechanisms that made the decline possible, almost inevitable.” (#120 chapter 23)
11123-110            “Crops, but no young minds grow in this abandoned school yard in Cummings. Mother Nature’s grass is foreclosing on the property” (#11 chapter 6)
11123-111            “Little school on the prairie. At one time there were hundreds of one-room schools on the ND prairie. Better roads, school buses, and consolidations closed them. The dying country school is evident in this scene. Its once white clapboard, now graying, under the relentless wind, sun and weather will not stand many more winters. Eventually the building will be gone, lighting may strike the tinder dry bell tower, a tornado may sweep it away, or may be torn down for its salvage. For now it just waits and waits.”
11123-112            Grain elevator, unidentified location
11123-113            “Water is scares on the prairie. A windmill is essential. One early settler said he had to haul water seven miles, and when asked why didn’t he dig a well, replied that ‘the distance is the same in either direction.’”
11123-114            Post card, composite of images in New Effington, SD, published by Jarl Merc. Co. (residence scene and Norwegian Lutheran Church, Main Street, Hospital, and Depot and elevators)
11123-115            NP Depot, Jamestown, ND, 10/1929
11123-116            Cartwright elevator (“front cover second choice” 4909 chapter 12)
11123-117-118 “Sully Springs Primitive State Park. Rising 600 feet above the floor, the badlands were bad for stage and wagon routes, they chose to go around them to the south. General Alfred Sully found water here in 1864, while chasing the Sioux to the Little Missouri basin, to what is now Medora, a few miles west. The town has disappeared, only a sign post on the railroad marks the spot. The grass has reclaimed its own. Sully’s presence can be felt, the cry of the Sioux can be heard, if you listen to the wind” (#25 and 26 Chapter ten)
11123-119            “Truly a haunted house. Cobwebs are in every room, floors uneven and creaky, winds moan through the broken windows, doors hang loose, hinges need oil. The porch leans in a crazy fashion. It is not on the Hilton Hotel recommended list of good places to stay. You can’t see the ghosts but you can feel them, the disembodied spirits, imagined or real, wandering around the rooms and haunting living things.” (title page)
11123-120            “Sterling, east of Bismarck on the BNSF (ex Northern Pacific) main line is but a shell of its former self. First called Sixteenth Siding, to mark its location west from Fargo. Then changed to Bellville, (the high school is still called Bellville), then to Sterling, named after Sterling, Illinois. The train runs through, Sterling runs down.” (#6 chapter 4)
11123-121            Sterling main street. Not much to do or see, most everyone left town some time ago. (#7 chapter 4)
11123-122            “Welcome to Spiritwood, population 30 and not growing. The town has lost its spirit as well as most of its people and business. A post office, garage and a bar remain. Main street shows little activity.” (#5 chapter 4)
11123-123            “Merricourt is growing downward from a population of three. This is main street, there are no tourist facilities, no tour buses stop here. No one is stopping or shopping in the store, it has closed permanently. The Lariat Bar has roped their last customer, their sales are “off,” by 100 percent.” (#4 chapter 4)
11123-124            Unusual architecture in Merricourt. The community hall is occasionally used as a family entertainment center and other social affairs. (#3 chapter 4)
11123-125            A relic of the past in Millarton, and one of the few buildings still standing. There are no functioning establishments in town. (#2 chapter 4)
11123-126            Millarton located off a short gravel road, on a short gravel road. “Is this a town,?” we asked. “This is Millarton”, answered resident John Brower. Main street in Millarton has an abandoned house or two, and a population of three. Mr. Brower is retired, likes to fish and is proud of his golf course smooth lawn. He proudly pointed to a vacant lot, where, he said, Norma Delores Egstrom, later to achieve fame as singer Peggy Lee, grew up. Her father, Marvin Egstrom was the last station agent for the Midland Continental Railroad here. The railroad quit in 1970, the town died too. (#1 chapter 4)
11123-127            As the hopes, dreams and fortunes plummeted in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the farms were abandoned and left ruins like this on the prairie. These are the slums of today. The fantasy upon which the farm was built believed in the desire for an ideal “little farm” in the natural landscape, someplace removed, unique, serene, and rural. The farms suffered equally with the towns. (#10 chapter 6)
Ghostly Mists of the Past./ There are haunted houses, I suppose,/ That holds the spirits, and I propose,/ A coat of paint and shingle repair,/ Grasses trimmed by people who care,/ A group of men with brush and hoe,/ And a few people to make it grow,/ House did what it was suppose to do./ Now lonely, lacking a person or two,/ It needs a dozen panes of glass,/ And someone to weed and mow the grass.
11123-128            Home, home on the range, where seldom is heard an encouraging word, where the house is silent all day. A walk inside these old buildings, stepping over newspapers on the floor, in this old house and farm west of Page, seemingly awaits to be lived in again. The door is unlocked, trusting you will close it after visualizing the era it once served. It is a reminder of the way things used to be. The combination of low prices, hard times and the pressing need for others to expand forced many farmers to give up their farmsteads and move away. Scenes like this are increasingly evident. (#9 chapter 6)
11123-129            The lighting was not right for this photo of the Masonic Hall in Ambrose, but, then few things have been right for Ambrose in many years. Masons, nor anyone else has met in this hall in ages, the fraternity brothers meet elsewhere. (#72 chapter 12)
11123-130            LaMars, population one, lies close to the South Dakota/Minnesota border, the last place name in the southeastern North Dakota. This is corn and soybean country, grown in the rich Bois de Sioux River Valley (head waters of the Red River). A SOO LINE train, (now Canadian Pacific) collects a few grain cars on the Fairmount and Veblen branch (F&V) in mid July 1995. The SOO’s track parallels the region’s population in many ways. The small settlement could not survive without the tracks. Both the railroad and the people are hard working, devoted to their labors and dependable. This 1995 scene tells a story, repeated many times over the rail lines of the state. A derailment, near this elevator, a short time ago, closed the line. Local farmers gathered with caterpillar tractors, semi-trailers and heavy equipment, helped to put the cars back on track. Neighbor helping neighbor. The SOO is just one of the folks. (#13 chapter 7)
11123-131            Main street, LaMars, all of it. One house, one elevator, one man, one dog, and one mail box identifies it as a community. (?) It is not shown on road maps, and was found by following the SOO Line railroad timetable. It lies south of Hankinson, and just about touches the South Dakota border. (#12 chapter 7)
11123-132            The Court House in Amidon is the most impressive building in town. It is the nerve center for 900 people in the county, and 1286 square miles of cattle grazing lands. (#16 chapter 8)
11123-133            There was a deep felt need for this church in Amidon at one time. Country churches dot the country side, lofty spires rising above the prairie. As many as 300 country churches are still active, many have closed, as has this Catholic church in Amidon. (#15 chapter 8)
11123-134            Amidon, population 24, of which 21 work at the Slope County Court house. Business district of the town consists of a church, a bar/gasoline/convenience store and a few houses. This scene in 1997 shows the “busy” main street. (#14 chapter 8)
11123-135            Burt is airy, scary, dusty and deserted, and returning to grass. Rolled baled hay line main street. Spawned as a Northern Pacific trading center in 1910, only a handful of people have ever called this settlement home or probably ever will. Only a few determined inhabitants were shuffling around, like lost souls, when the last census was taken. Strangely absent are any stories of the role the NP played in the history of the region. (#16 chapter 9)
11123-136            The post office in St. Anthony. The state is dotted with 484 post offices, like this, some with a full time postmaster, others open half days, using a contract employee. The front porch of this house serves as a mail distribution point for the local ranchers, and is open only in the morning. (#23 chapter 9)
11123-137            St. Anthony survives under the heavy influences of the Roman Catholic Church and school. (#22 chapter 9)
11123-138            St. Anthony once had a railroad, a 30 miles Northern Pacific branch from Mandan. The railroad lasted 20 years, no business was generated and no hope of any. The main street supports a few businesses and 30 people. It is difficult to understand why the public would destroy their life line to the world, a line connecting one community with another. There are no historical markers, only a strict “no hunting” sign along a farmer’s boundary line. (#21 chapter 9)
11123-139            For a time Carson was a cattle and grain gathering point on the Northern Pacific’s Mott line, but that activity ceased. The world essentially passed by the settlement and is now a community nestled in the last of “used to be.” Blind ambition and expansionists plans led to the downfall of these communities. The completion of rail lines only ten/twenty miles apart that essentially competed with each other for limited business was a costly war and the making of a financial disaster. When the war ended, there were 150 or more “graveyards”. No one was around to save them from total annihilation. They lost the battle before they even got into the game. (#20 chapter 9)
11123-140            South of Mandan, along the Flasher Cut off line, as it parallels state highways No. 6 and 21 and then west to Mott, the right of way can still be seen although much of it has been overgrown with grass or ploughed under by nearby farmers. The Mott line ran straight west from the Missouri River, then stopped when the farm land ended and the grasses began, or when the construction money ran out. Passengers could ride this line until the 1950s and freight service into the 1980s. To the demolition minded NP, later the BN, there was nothing to preserve. There are no monuments or road side markers to mark the spots as those to locate the early stage routes. The owners, the BN, gave up on the branch line and walked away. The rails were lifted, sold for scrap to make automobiles or razor blades.
Remnants of an agriculture based economy in the tiny Burt. We were appalled at the number of abandoned grain elevators, there were dozens, if not hundreds, scattered along the abandoned rail lines. Every ghost town had one or more. The twin elevators at Burt are like giant tombstones standing in a graveyard or ghost towns. (#19 chapter 9)
11123-141            Repair business is slow in this garage in Burt. The mechanics have taken a long, long lunch break. (#18 chapter 9)
11123-142            A reminder of more prosperous times in Burt. No commercial businesses are open here, this was the general store. The old building dates to settlement days and remains standing. Remains of other business establishments are hard to locate here. (#17 A chapter 9)
Where Lives the Spirit/ An old store on the road to decay,/ Ghosts a plenty are around to play./ We’d fix it up like it used to be,/ Then give it to people for free,/ And make it into a business once more,/ Now it is lonely, empty and sore.
11123-143            The steep hills on each side of the Little Missouri River basin was a helper grade in the days of steam locomotion, and the conversion to diesel electric engines did not change the need for helpers. As long as there are trains making the journey from Medora to Fryburg, as they have for 124 years, since the railroad was built, there will be helpers. This is what defines the railroad in the badlands. Chosen by the builders as a causeway for commerce, through the badlands rather than around them, helpers will continue to be used well into the next century.
On July 9, 1997, a 4000 horsepower state-of-the-art brute provided the muscle to push an eastbound train up the steep grade. The BNSF continues to match the grade with giant locomotives, and the fight for the summit is about equal. This power house is on the siding of Fryburg, waiting for track authority to return to Medora, 13 miles west. The badlands humbled man, machine and beast. (#24 chapter 10)
11123-144            An overview of Palermo. The great depression marked the beginning of the end for most small towns. The continued decline in the number of people and the growing number of abandoned buildings made Palermo a ghost town, with no active businesses, no school and only a handful of people. Settled by people of Norwegian ancestry, they were the kind of people needed to live on the isolated plains. It is a place of cold, snow, wind and hot weather and nearly devoid of trees. (#39 chapter 12)
11123-145            A few buildings remain of another ranch site near Palermo. Cattle raising is not the main economic mainstay of the area, it is now wheat. A few cattle graze amount the buildings, but no one was around to care for them. (#38 chapter 12)
11123-146            A ranch house, north of Palermo, is all that remains of the vast cattle empire. It looks and waits for the ranch to be resurrected and will climb out of its coma. No one was home at the time of this visit in 1992. This photo reflects the desolation and isolation of the broad prairie in North Dakota. (#37 chapter 12)
11123-147            This building in Palermo is for rent or sale, as are many others. Palermo appears to be sucked into a vortex leading downhill to a state of oblivion. This town is following the pattern of a cow’s tail, growing downward. (#35 chapter 12)
11123-148            One of the better houses in Palermo, most of the others are abandoned. The barn like structure fits well with the farm décor. It was built soon after the turn of the century, when Palermo was founded in 1901. The town was named to honor the capital of Sicily and the many Italians working on the railroad. This house has withstood nearly 100 years of winters and looks like it could stand another century of service. (#34 chapter 12)
11123-149            Water is scarce on the prairie. A windmill is essential. One early settler said he had to haul water seven miles, and when asked why he didn’t dig a well, replied that, “the distance is about the same in either direction.” This windmill stands like a soldier guarding the frontier, its wooden paddles locked permanently against the wind, has not pumped water for more than five decades, since electric power came to the prairie in the 40s. This ancient relic was found on an abandoned farm near Palermo.
“This well is almost 400 feet deep, the water came up cold and fresh. No contaminated or polluted water came from this well,” said a nearby farmer. “It drew about 100 gallons an hour. It took a steady wind, of which North Dakota has plenty, to pull a thousand pounds of sucker rod and 400 feet of water to the surface,” she said. A governor controlled the speed of the ten foot wheel to a speed of 35 to 40 revolutions per minute.
The need for water is still there, the cattle who drink it are still there. Now an electric pump does the work. The cold water served two purposes, to cool the milk and cream, then into the main livestock tank. (#33 chapter 12)
11123-150            The long closed bar and hotel in Palermo. It has not served a beer drinking patron nor has any one stayed in the four rooms for many years. It closed more than a half century ago and now just sits and waits for time and weather to claim it. (#31 chapter 12)
11123-151            The Peavey Elevator in Baldwin has closed. It was too small and too close to Bismarck and other larger grain silos to compete in the grain gathering business. The town died with the closing and only a handful of people now call this burg home. The ghost town lies 28 miles north of Bismarck. (#30 chapter 12)
11123-152            Proof that the trains do not come through here anymore. This elevator, between Crosby and Columbus, on the wheat fields, was on a branch of the SOO LINE. The track was abandoned as was the elevator. Small 30,000 bushel elevators once dominated the landscape but could not compete with the 300,000 bushel giants. This small elevator is typical of those found off the railroad and off the highway. The row of rotting ties and weeds growing high on the drive way is the only remaining indication that a railroad came through here. The railroad took back its tracks, the elevator closed, and it took the nearby town to oblivion with it. Few regions had a network of rail lines as North Dakota. The proliferation led to redundancy, duplication of service, which led to abandonment. The lonely elevator has seen its last harvest. (#29 chapter 12)
11123-153            A bird’s eye view of Columbus, it is a dying town. The elevator closed, the tracks were removed, and lost half its population. Its future is in doubt.
Ignore for a moment, the appearance and spread of the rural communities, the highway congestion, the speed of an airplane – North Dakota’s cities, towns, villages and hamlets are the creation of the railroad age. (#28 chapter 12)
11123-154            A relic of the past near Columbus, and a reminder of more prosperous days. It has that tired look, and only ghosts are lodged in this house. Nature is relentless reclaimed, always taking back what is hers. Man only borrows t for a while. Blue stem grass has made inroads on the lawn and driveway. (#27 chapter 12)
11123-155            No two elevators are exactly alike. In some cases, the elevators were built in pieces, as “add ons” to serve a particular need. A lot of things have gone wrong in Battleview in its later years. The community lies in an open grass field, next to the BNSF Stanley/Grenora branch, exposed to the elements. This town is part of a line of “ghosts” where the abandoned buildings are waiting to be reclaimed by Mother Nature. (#81 chapter 12)
11123-156            Business district of Zahl. Early settlers sensed a song in the wind going through town, like a high note of hope. (#78 chapter 12)
11123-157            Once a family lived here in Zahl, they trimmed the hedge and mowed the grass. (#77 chapter 12)
11123-158            Main street Appam. Social activities are scarce, except to feel the wind blow, watch the grass grow, walk the tracks, count the ties and swat flies. (#75 chapter 12)
11123-159            Historical markers show where people worshiped in Appam, and where stores were located, where people lived, and where children went to school. (#76 chapter 12)
11123-160            An oversized mail box is the Appam post office. Four names were on the door. The building in the rear appears to be the city offices, note on the street light above the door. (#74 chapter 12)
11123-161            No one was home at the time of our visit, but they left the door open. (#73 chapter 12)
11123-162            This building appears as three stores. All have closed, shoppers shop in other towns. Ambrose’s brush with notoriety came in 1908, when horse thief, George Zeglin, alias Bloody Knife, in a drunken rage, terrorized the town and shot the towns’ editor. The residents took up arms and fifty bullets ended his crime career. Did the fatal bullets come from the roof of this building? (#71 chapter 12)
11123-163            Every day is “gasless day” in Ambrose. If I could tell this story in words, I would not have to carry a camera around with me. (#70 chapter 12)
11123-164            The community hall in Ambrose has seen its last dance. With only 10 people in town, dancing partners are hard to find. (#69 chapter 12)
11123-165            Ambrose could easily have been named Rip Van Winkle, it has been sleeping for many years. Most of what remains of the main business district is on the west side of the gravel road. (#68 chapter 12)
11123-166            No more will children attend this school in Appam, but the spirit of the children lives here. It is old, dark and lonely. (#67 chapter 12)
11123-167            This aging warrior in Greene is a look alike to those in other communities. There were no operating businesses in this town on this date. (#64 chapter 12)
11123-168            It was a mistake to build the village of Greene. It was a SOO LINE townsite but soon faded when other villages were built nearby. The false front store is about used up. This one says “Sorry we are closed.” The two remaining buildings on main street are a weather beaten store and a ramshackle house. Rain and weather makes the gray light on false fronts look like skeletons. Many of these ghost towns have little or no population, but a few old buildings remain, from an earlier period and today they serve nothing. The rivalry between the closely spaced towns, broke the back of many small towns from which they could not recover. The speed in which the demise came caught even the most loyal citizen off guard. (#63 chapter 12)
11123-169            Grano probably had a depot at one time, but in 1995 all that could be found was a railroad siding and a few steel grain bins. Building for building, Grano is one of prairie’s best ghost towns. Old wooden buildings slowly weathering away, belies the fact that this community once boasted five elevators, a bustling business district and a newspaper, the Grano Tribune, a weekly, from 1905 to 1918. Bleak and desolate are the words to describe this scene. Ruins of the old store with windows that gap into nothingness, and somewhere in the rolling hills of the Coteau Valley are the wheat fields which spawned the place. It is a shadow of its former self, snuggled in the quiet recesses of the Coteau du Prairie hills. The country side is representative of the scenery found through northwestern North Dakota. The land has literally remained unchanged from its settlement days, at the turn of the century, when horses and ranches reigned. (#62 chapter 12)
11123-170            Grano was to be a place of importance. It was selected by the SOO LINE to be the grain gathering point in the fertile Des Lacs River Valley. Grano waited for the people to come, and they waited, but it did not grow. This is the heart of the business district, but now only ghosts are lodged the buildings. You can walk down the deserted streets without fear of being recognized or seen and no one cares. No one came for their mail, not a phone booth in sight, no street signs, no street lights, no traffic signals and no curfew laws. In 1995, only two people were here, they run the bar. (#61 chapter 12)
11123-171            No more will this church greet worshipers, it has been dethroned and de-steepled. The church in Gardner, has seen better days and waits for those days to return. As unobtrusive as a church bell or as final as a funeral notice, the passing away of much of rural America begins with a going-out-of business sale. The early church bells rang to call in the congregations, sound the fire alarm, summons children to school, announce funerals and listed election returns. The bell is silent now, it was finally removed, its duty to the community is over.
Did Rev. Boston Smith start this church with his Chapel car missionary?  - Maybe, or was it Catholic Francis Clement Kelly – again, maybe. (#59 chapter 12)
11123-172            West of Page, this house awaits the destruction forces of time and weather. Houses like this had lots of places to explore. Old magazines on the floor, newspapers scattered on the rotting floor. An example of how the relentless teeth of nature, with small and large bites, gnaw endlessly at the abandoned works of man. (#52 chapter 12)
11123-173            Although it is a recognized place for the grain people, there are no permanent people here.  Russell has found its place in the grain gathering business. A silo (mailing tube) elevator dominates the scene. It is located on the SOO Line’s wheat line, across the northern border of the state. The tall elevator makes the small elevators look like salt shakers. The dreams of the promoters were not fulfilled in Russell. The facts are sometimes hard on dreams. Any chance of growth was retarded by the physical limitations of the environment and by the presence of its neighbor, and lost all population and businesses to Newberg, only two miles north. (#53 chapter 12)
11123-174            Weary eerie Erie! No service is available in this garage. A few buildings are around, but most are not used. Little is known about Erie, founded in 1882, it lived a quiet life and died quietly in the 1980s and 90s. It was a dream of the pioneers that did not come true. (#55 chapter 12)
11123-175            No money in the State bank of Erie, a few miles northwest of Fargo. Settlers came to Erie to take their chances in Dakota land. They came, they tried, they lost. Today, a few structures settle down to a routine of debilitation and vegetate.  (#56 chapter 12)
11123-176            A “hidden house” in Sutton. This house is typical of the many deserted houses in this town. The interior is now filled with “trees from heaven.” A faded gas pump stands on a deserted corner, a faded price is stuck at 19.9 cents a gallon. Sitting astride the Fargo/Minot (Surrey cut off) main line of the BNSF. The town has lost its importance. It has had a past but not much of a future. The post office is probably the busiest place on this hot June 1995 day. But the grain elevator is its chief economic resource. (#57 chapter 12)
11123-177            The main drag of Sutton, a gasoline station and the post office are the only businesses left, save the grain elevator. They are the most precious of the remaining institutions, all others have disappeared. The postmaster retired in August 1995, the post office was closed, and the town loses another citizen and another vital function. (#58 chapter 12)
11123-178            The Peavey elevator in Lonetree no longer loads grain on track side, the loading spout is tucked closely to the side. This village, west of Minot, was named for a single tree. The community is on the main line of the present day BNSF, but even the mighty railroad could not save the town. (#51 chapter 12)
11123-179            Not much remains of Lonetree. No one lived here. No road sign or railroad sign post to mark the spot. No one cared enough to identify the place. We were chasing a yolk yellow sunset, it was about 9:30 pm, June 13, 1995, too late to “tour” the town or the countryside. It is an old town in a new era. (#50 chapter 12)
11123-180            Tagus is worth a stop, not only for the abandoned buildings, but to view the relics of a more prosperous past. The railroad line created a line of settlements which became stepping stones from community to community.
Towns which at one time were rivals, were suddenly redundant. Nowhere was this more evident than in the “beads on a string” along the rail lines. The towns lasted about three decades. (#49 chapter 12)
11123-181            A ghost town! A settlement abandoned by its inhabitants, a national catastrophe. Tagus, incorporated  in 1908, reached its peak of 140 in 1940, declined to 14 by 1970, the last business closed in 1978. Tagus was dead. The town lies dead and dying west of Minot. Most of the trees have died as have the people. The town is a bonanza of crumbling decaying weird foundations. There is no hope for this ghost town. The weathered buildings stand naked. Time and weather have destroyed them. They had served their purpose and are now banned from the active scene. No one was around to tell us why the town died. It is hard to imagine that someone once lived here. A family maybe, someone’s grandparents, people who mowed the grass and washed the windows. Like a decomposing corpse, they smell of rotting wood, windows are broken or boarded up; walls are stripped and seeping moisture.  Some still have a roof and floors; the wind enters without knocking through a gaping hole where a door used to be. The roof is tattered, inside doors cannot be opened or closed. (#48 chapter 12)
11123-182            Gasoline, groceries and cold beer were once dispensed from this store on U.S. Highway No. 2 at Blaisdell. No one has stopped or shopped here for years. On the highway, it is an abandoned building, on the railroad it is a sign post. (#47 chapter 12)
11123-183            The water tower in Blaisdell, a rarity in a ghost town. (#46 chapter 12)
11123-184            Sons of Norway meeting hall in Blaisdell still features Lutefisk and Lefse dinners to a sea of Norwegians, while dancing to “chin music” (fiddle) and pumping out “ompah” polkas, on the accordion and base violin. There is no evidence that Lawrence Welk ever played in this town, but many talented local musicians entertained the Norwegians for decades. (#45 chapter 12)
11123-185            The long closed mercantile store in Palermo.  Remains of other businesses are difficult to locate. At one time this store had many things for sale, but today there are no buyers. Things are not rosy for this building or for this town. (#42 chapter 12)
11123-186            A building recycling project  is under way on this Mooreton barn. Mooreton is trying to halt the slide into oblivion. It has a better reason to survive. It is the site of the last remaining “bonanza farms.”  The Bagg bonanza farm started in the 1870s and were common in North Dakota, promoted by the expanding Northern Pacific. Eventually the Bagg farm grew to 27,000 acres and another 32,000 acres in Steele County. Upon the death of the owner, Mr. Downey, in 1913, the farm became the property of Frederick Austin Baggs. Subsequent sales of land reduced the farm to average size, but the original buildings remain. (#83 chapter 14)
11123-187            The Overly café specialized in home cooking, but no one has eaten a meal here in a long time.  The ten people who live here, like it here, because it has no future and they don’t worry about development. Today’s logic would seem to dictate that there is little reason for the town to exist. Worn out by long hours and declining business, the owners threw in the towel.  (#88 chapter 15)
11123-188            For awhile Overly was a railroad center, train crews changed here. It was a terminal, it boasted of a two stall engine house, a turn table, coal and water facilities and a number of related structures. The hotel has fallen down, the cafes have closed, the depot is gone and the church no longer greets worshipers.  Daily trains are now but a memory, but a rich and multi faceted history remains. (#87 chapter 15)
11123-189            Clustered grain bins star like light houses at the end of main street, in Overly. With the wheat shipments, the town seemed to be well on its way to a prosperous future. The sun and the passage of time, have taken their toll on main street. No traffic on the single lane gravel street, no business is conducted and little remains of this prairie town. This photo bears out that the end is near, soon it will pass into the pages of history and will be forgotten. (#86 chapter 15)
11123-190            The farm house follows the trend of Antler. It sits and waits for total destruction by weather, lightning strikes, a tornado or vandals. The end is inevitable.  (#94 chapter 16)
11123-191            A Mr. Hugh’s ran this Farmers Union gasoline station in Antler and lived in the house behind it. It was not forced out of business by competition, it was because of lack of customers. The tracks, the railroad station, the stores are gone with little in their place, except potholed streets and non-descript buildings.  (#93 chapter 16)
11123-192            Antler.  Mr. William Wegner operated a jewelry store and Albert Ladux ran a hardware store, (building is now used as a community hall) and meat was sold in the building on far left. (#92 chapter 16)
11123-193            Antler townsite unusual. It is designed in what has been described as a “wagon wheel” pattern featuring a prominent building at the hub, with tree lined spoke-like streets spreading outwards. This hub building, at one time, housed the post office, the customs office, the city police, the mayor’s office, and the like, and apartments upstairs. A few main street buildings are of historical note, most notably the impressive building in the center of the village.  (#91 chapter 16)
11123-194            Rebecca Lodge, a meeting place for Masons and Odd Fellows in Antler. The fire station still protects the town and nearby farms. Despite the legacy of Bud Kissner and the past presence of the railway in the town, very little survives to commemorate the formative period in the town’s history.  (#90 chapter 16)
11123-195            Not much left to be proud of in Antler. The town is slipping away into the wheat fields.  (#89 chapter 16)
11123-196            The photo of the wooden elevator at Noonan was taken June 13, 1991. Like soldiers guarding the border, wooded elevators dot the landscape. This small wooden elevator was killed by the large grain giants – concrete silos (mailing tube), the railroad covered hopper and unit grain trains. Wooden solders are alike in their uniformity. Small elevators line the road beds of the rail lines, like soldiers at attention. (#109 chapter 17)
11123-197            Larson, a pigmy of a place of 21 people of less. Odds are that the town will not survive, losing out to more convenient towns nearby. A handful of people still live here, and generally do not roam far from the home on the range. (#108 chapter 17)
11123-198            Known as the “biggest little town” in North Dakota, the attractive school house on the edge of Coteau (French for hills) is empty for the summer. Will the children be back come fall? Many towns have given up their status as a village, to save on property taxes. Doing away with the “city” status, they qualify for agriculture tax exemption, a lower rate. (#106 chapter 17)
11123-199            Nature has reclaimed most of its domain in the blue stem gamma grass prairie, although a small elevator dominates this scene in Niobe. (#105 chapter 17)
11123-200            Before Niobe went into desertion in the 1960s and 70s, and 80s, its population of several hundred had carved a colorful niche in the states’ history. The population grew, but it lost out to other nearby towns and the change in the railroads’ operations. It is an idyllic setting, where the pace is slow and nobody keeps tab on the population figures. (#103 chapter 17)
11123-201            Probably the most imposing sight along Highway No. 200 is the James River Landmark Lutheran church and cemetery, west of Carrington. Occasionally a pioneer is laid to rest in the well maintained cemetery. The lofty spire of the church can be seen for miles. Folks for miles around pooled their resources and labor to build this church, which seats more people than there are in the surrounding countryside. (#102 chapter 17)
11123-202            Picturesque Buxton. Main Street is laid out opposite the railroad tracks like most of the prairie townsites. The bank represented stability through its solid physical facility. Buxton is a mute reminder of the flourishing heady era when this town was in its glory with a top population of 410. The BNSF tracks run through the heart of town, but the heartbeat is not strong. (#100 chapter 17)
11123-203            Tiny Taft. It just sits and sits and sits on an unmarked county road, and on the Fargo/Grand Forks line of the BNSF. In many “ghosts” the only business is a grain elevator and only a handful of people ever called this place home, or probably ever will. (#99 chapter 17)
11123-204            Main street in Kelso, a few buildings, a few stores, a few people, a few grain bins nestled to the tracks, and a church is all that remains. (#98 chapter 17)
11123-205            There is not much to tell about Kelso. The tracks streak through town reaching for more important destination. Note that the elevator has closed and the side loading track removed. Kelso could not be a grain gathering center, even if it wanted to. (#97 chapter 17)
11123-206            A number of people have left Voss for greener pastures, and left a ghost. The place is losing its grip on life and is not shown on road maps. Farmers represent a way of life that is becoming a way of death – a dying ghost.
Located on two unmarked county/township roads, Voss, north and west of Grand Forks, the town is on the Fargo/Grand Forks line of the BNSF, there are few residents to see or hear the traffic. The spot has disappeared from road maps. (#96 chapter 17)
11123-207            Nekoma’s fate was based on the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM). The cold war missile base was a subterranean cash cow. Built in the 1970s, it was to house about 3000 military people. A huge housing infrastructure was built; Nekoma was in the big league. A week after the base was completed, the Salt II treaty made the base obsolete, the entire complex was closed. For Nekoma, it was instant death; an instant ghost town. It was sustained by the cold war and it died in peace. (#110 chapter 21)
11123-208            Unit grain train cars remain together from origin to destination and return in a continuous conveyor belt like cycle that is simple, efficient and fast. You wonder why no one invented it a century ago. Elevators who could not nor would not convert to multi-car loading, went out of business. On both sides of the elevator, tight against the right-of-way, are beautiful verdant blankets of grain plants, which when harvested, will yield a golden flood of wheat, to be loaded in unit trains such as this, and moved to market to feed a hungry world. Wheat and the elevators are the symbol of the economy of the state. The demand for grain cars is high on this June, 1995 date, cleaning out the old crop and making ready for the new crop, only two weeks away. This string of 50 cars is at the North Central Farm Coop in Bisbee, which is the largest revenue producer on the SOO LINE’s wheat line. Farmers are the biggest user of rail service in the state. (#117 chapter 22)
11123-209            The depot in Kenmare is no longer in use. It is a reminder of how things used to be. It stands in testimony to an earlier era when passenger trains stopped here, taking people and goods to connections and other destinations. Approximately 400 railroad stations were built in the state in a 40-year-period, 1880 to 1920. Most are gone now and only a handful remains and have found use for other purposes, (maintenance sheds) or used by Amtrak in the larger communities.      (#118 chapter 22)
THE DEPOT WITH NOBODY IN IT./ When I walk by the railroad track,/ I know the trains are not coming back./ I’ve passed the depot a hundred times or more,/ then looking back, I know what I’m looking for./ I look inside for a ghost or two,/ of the people who had work to do./ It hurts me to see windows and doors falling apart,/ it’s an old friend with a broken heart.
11123-210            Cooperation created this unit grain train. Each car on the train carries 3500 bushels of grain, versus 1500 in a 40-ft. box car. The 40-ft. box car was hurting the farmers, something had to be done. The answer was the covered hopper and the unit grain train. This train, and others like it, created large silo elevators, replacing the one-car-at-a-time shipper. It reduced the freight rates, allowing the farmers to compete in the world markets, against other grain growing nations, like Australia, Argentina, Europe, Canada and others.
“We don’t want to lose the spirit of competition,” said one elevator operator. “Yet we want to capitalize on cooperation and the newer grain handling methods, that is the only way we are going to survive.” (#116 chapter 22)
11123-211            The Red River Valley & Western Railroad (RRV&W), a regional carrier based in Wahpeton, serves a number of small communities in the southeast corner. The 667 miles RRVW ranks as the seventh largest of the 545 regionals and short lines operating in the U.S. The RRVW preserved essential rail service after the giant lines gave up marginal lines, reversing a decade of downsizing. The little line has doubled its traffic volume and has helped 12 industries to locate on the line. (#115 chapter 22)
11123-212            Baldwin does not contribute much revenue for this Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western (DMV&W) train; there is not much business in a sign post. This railroad is one of two regional rail carriers in the stat. The train rolls southbound, towards Bismarck, in the summer of 1995. (#114 chapter 22)
11123-213            Agriculture continues to dominate the economy; the settlements have provided an identification for all residents in the state, much like this farming community. Farmers are the biggest users of rail service in the state. The state’s 30,000 plus farmers produces an estimated 400 million bushels of wheat (second in the nation) and an equal amount of corn, soybeans, oats, barley, rye, sugar beets and potatoes. Truly the bread basket of the nation, indeed the world. A Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western train passed Wilton, in June 1994, with a long string of North Dakota “gold” en route to outside markets. (#113 chapter 22)
11123-214            We have super highways and super railroads. This high speed rail line streaks across the Red River Valley landscape and stretches to infinity. Over 5,388 miles of rail lines were built in the state and most if it was straight. Jim Hill applied the rule of geometry to his Great Northern, that the shortest line between two points was a straight line. (#112 chapter 22)
11123-215            Diesel and heating oil are expensive, and rural electric rates can ruin a bank account quickly. Owner Vern Lindquist of LaVerne links two wind charges to the existing electric system. The dual electric system will reduce diesel fuel consumption and may serve as a prototype for future projects to harness the wind.         (#111 chapter 22)
11123-216            This building is for rent or sale in Palermo. Any offer accepted! It once housed a grocery store. (#125 back cover)
11123-217            A tattered house in Ambrose. Not much action here. (#127 back cover)
11123-218            A relic of the past in Palermo. (#128 back cover)
11123-219            Perhaps no photo in this book better portrays the vastness and emptiness of the prairie. Yet it was on this prairie that Jim Hill dreamt the dreams that turned a struggling railroad into a transcontinental system.
Hundreds of thousands of rural Americas gave up and moved away during the Depression. Frustrated by farming troubles, they left houses, schools, even entire towns abandoned to the winds. The dying prairie is evident in the abandoned windmills, standing its eternal watch against the relentless winds and endless prairie, where weeds grow untended. On Oct. 8, 1987, the windmill on the Brovald farm in Palermo, No. Dak. stands alone and has withstood 55 winters since it was erected in 1932. Ken C. Brovald Photo No. 3858.  3524 Alamose Dr., Anchorage, AK. 99502
Windmills on the prairie stand on the horizon like sentinels on a battlefield of the past.
11123-220            The daily routine on the farm was numbingly predictable. Get up early, milk the cows, do the chores, cool the cream, rush it to town before train time.
In this scene, father has just returned from town and will carry the purchases in before putting the car away.
With fathers return, we had a feeble hope that he bought bright news, that he brought something unusual from town, but nothing ever happened in our house, everything was normal, regulated, in order, our routine was unshakable.
For years, the clockwork comings and goings, the monotonous litanies of home, church, school, preceded undisturbed, then our parents tuned in a broadcast on the radio describing the attack on Poland and the bombing of London, sounds of masses marching, the bombs exploding, the shoutings erupted from the radio.
In this 1940 spring scene, the farm house stands against the harsh winds. A wind charger is seen on the granary building, which furnished 32 volt current to the house. Clothes are on the line, the ‘oh oh’ house (usually said when used in the cold-cold winter). The trusty Model A Ford, (it started in any weather, its 21” wheels plowed through snow and mud). The winter supply of hay had not been used, but the hay rack is ready to do its duty. Ten people survived the hard times in this house.   
11123-221            The lone Lutheran Church in Palermo stood sentinel. It could be seen for miles. It was the center of social life. There was a heartfelt need for a church – and a cemetery. Art Brovald, father of the author of this book, was laid to his final resting place in this cemetery. Photo:  Author’s collection.
11123-222            The hard stock Scandinavians were independent, resourceful, hard working people. In this photo, Art Brovald repairs a horse drawn mower, about 1936. Photo: Author’s collection.
11123-223            This 1933 Chevrolet replaced a 1929 Model A Ford in 1940, after better crops permitted us to buy more material things. Seated on the running board, in the summer of 1940, are (1) Bob Nelson, a friend, (c) Lawrence Sparby, an uncle of the author, on Mother’s side; and Odin Dyrland, a friend. The three men were boarders on the farm for a good share of the time during the Depression, helping with the farm work, for their board and room. Hunting and trapping in winter months kept them in cigarette money. Photo: Author’s collection.
11123-224            This photo of the Brovald family was taken in 1943, after Art Brovald was killed. (l to r) Curtis (8), Delores (16), Arvilla (12), Dennis-with hat (19), Jim (6), Ken – Author (14), Nettie (39). We had dropped to the bottom of despair. No father – no farm – no money – we faced a dismal future, but tough times do not last, though people do. Photo: Author’s collection.
11123-225            A two-plow Case tractor helped end of the use of muscles to power the farm machinery. The complex and expensive machines revolutionized farming and vastly increased the acreage that one man could work efficiently. Photo: Author’s collection.
11123-226            Prairie blizzards blew up with startling rapidity, building one story high drifts on main street in Palermo in the 30s. These were called “school children” blizzards because they struck during school hours. Photo: Author’s collection.
11123-227            The one-room schools were anything but cozy, but they had one thing in common. All operated on the one-room, one teacher principal, several grades learning together under one roof. For those attending one-room schools, there are strong lingering memories. The entire student body of the Redman school is shown, about 1937. The author is in front, left, with tie.  Ken C. Brovald collection.
11123-228            Sammy, a stunted colt, was a favorite, but was an unpredictable character, given to moments of madness when he wanted to rid himself of an unwanted burden. In this photo, author Ken Brovald holds the pet. Photo: Author’s collection.
11123-229            The 40s was a good crop year as evidenced by the full heads on the wheat bundles.  Ken Brovald (r) shares the shocking duties with Gordon Quamle.  
11123-230            Harvesting the crops was a labor intensive task. Grain was handled seven times, but threshing was a festive occasion. The machinery was a smorgasbord of excitement. A steel wheel – two cylinder John Deere tractor provided the belt power. Only ten to 12 bushels of wheat was extracted from the soil. The farmers lost money, but was necessary to feed the animals. It was a labor of live. Photo: Author’s collection.
11123-231            Harvesting the crops was a labor intensive task, but despite the man killing tempo of the grain thresher separators unquenchable appetite, it was a festive time. The machine smorgasbord of belt and pulleys and excitement working into the late night hours, quitting was out of the question when we were getting so much done.  Photo: Author’s collection.
11123-232            The thresher machine blew straw to build a lean-to straw shelter, allowing a few animals to find shelter from the fierce winter winds. This straw barn was typical of the farm shelters. A neighbor, Ferdinand Anderson and son, Roy, helped build this structure in the 30s. Photo: Author’s collection.
11123-233            The New Deal program. Roosevelt’s New Deal program provided employment with the Workmen’s Productive Administration, WPA. Palermo received a new school, which helped feed the family during the hard winters and lean years. The modern school building was built in the late 30s and is still in use in the 80s. Photo: Author’s collection.
11123-234            A train could be heard in the distance, the far off sound increased to a rumble, reaching a crescendo of crashing sound of machinery as it passed. The ground vibrated under the ponderous weight. A westbound Great Northern freight train crosses Gasman Coulee Viaduct west of Minot in the 30s. One of the most spectacular structures on the main line, 1,792 feet long, 117 feet high, built in 1899. In about one hour the train will roar through Palermo, thrilling the young boys, who welcomed the messenger of hope. Photo: Courtesy – Pacific Fast Mail.
11123-235            Here, in Rugby, N.D. at 48 degrees 10 minutes west latitude, 100 degrees 10 minutes longitude – is the center of things if there ever was one. The center is designated officially by the U.S.  Geological Survey No. 817, and is the work of one Rugby man – William A. Patterson, a gas station proprietor, and with the help of his son, E. B. and the Boy Scouts, he erected a 21 foot fieldstone cairn in 1931, from which two flags fluttered, The Canadian Maple leaf and the U.S. Stars and Stripes. Located on the south edge of Rugby, at the junction of U.S. Highway No. 2 and State Highway No. 3. The monument is supposed to mark the geographic center of North America, but it isn’t. The actual spot is 14 miles southwest of Rugby, in the middle of a lake. June 19, 1991. Ken C. Brovald, Anchorage, AK 99502.
11123-236 - 11123-237            Lake Metigoshe – Turtle Mountains, No. Dak., Bottineau, ND. The Chippewa Indians gave the lake its full name over a century ago. It was named Met-i-go-she-sahhig-gun, which according to best translation, means “The clear water surrounded by oaks.” Lake Metigoshe is the largest of the lakes in the Turtle Mountains, and one of the largest permanent fresh water lakes in the state. The lake area covers approximately 1,520 acres in the U.S. and 60 acres in Manitoba. Its meandering shore line has been estimated at 70 miles in length. At high water level, the average depth is 17 feet with a maximum depth of 23 feet. In the summer of 1935, the lake had ebbed to its lowest point, and a blustery winter of 1935, with freezing cold and heavy snows, turned Lake Metigoshe into a solid chunk of ice. The water level was so low that the entire lake froze solid. Lake Metigoshe State Park was established under the authority of the 25th Legislative Assembly of North Dakota on Feb. 17, 1937, and approved by Governor William Langer. Photo by Ken C. Brovald, 3524 Alamosa Dr., Anchorage, AK. June 18, 1991.
11123-238            North Dakota has the International Peace Garden, the Badlands, and it boasts the world’s largest buffalo. A concrete statue, weighing 60 ton, and stands 26 feet high, at Jamestown.
11123-239            The slim ribbons of Highway No. 2 runs straight, ahead and behind, it runs like an arrow. The photo was taken east of Palermo. Photo: Author’s collection.
11123-240            A railroads life is no piece of cake, and winter is just around the corner which makes the job even tougher. Todd Gullickson readies himself for a jump on the front end of GP35 324 a Wilton, N.D.
Climbing up and climbing down, this ballet is performed millions of times by brakemen everywhere, over the U.S. Here on June 11, 1991, Todd Gullickson, a former coal miner from nearby Indian Head coal mine, is performing the time honored ritual, for the DMV&W at Wilton, N.D. He and engineer, Joe L. Kreuger, a former SOO LINE brakeman, with eight years of railroading, stopped at Wilton for lunch, then continued to Bismarck, only 27 miles south. Ken C. Brovald photo.
11123-241            A privately leased covered hopper, en route home to the Whitetail Grain Co., is on the train, along with a number of others.
11123-242            Darkness begins to settle at Flaxton, N.D. at 8:00pm, Thursday, June 13, 1991, as a crew prepares to go on duty to pilot an empty covered hopper grain train west on the DMV&Ws Montana Line. GP9 ex BN 1888, one of 96 built for the BN between 1954 and 1958, now serves the DMV&W. It’s 138 miles to Whitetail; it will take the crew two days. They usually run afoul of the 12 hour lay at Westby, MT, some 56 miles short of the end of the line.
11123-243            On July 1st, 1900, the Bismarck, Washburn & Great Falls Ry. ran its first coach through the thriving town of Baldwin, No. Dak. There were two dwellings and a general store on the townsite. The SOO LINE ran the line for 84 years. Ninety-one years later, on June 11, 1991, diesel locomotive No. 324 of the Dakota Missouri Valley & Western Ry. rolls 29 cars of North Dakota wheat south towards Bismarck.  Engineer Joe L. Krueger and Brakeman Todd Gullickson look in vain for someone to wave to, to witness the passage of his train. There is no one around, the elevator has closed, the general store is gone, and only a few houses remain. Baldwin is in a small service area, only 10 to 15 miles in any direction, and only 18 miles north of Bismarck, the small town could not compete. One thing hasn’t changed: SOO LINE trains did not stop at the abandoned town or to serve the abandoned Peavey elevator, and the DMV&W does not either. Slide and photo. Ken C. Brovald photo.
11123-244            The MILWAUKEE ROAD heritage is evident on this GP9 (unit number is placed high on the hood). Lettered for the Minnesota Valley RR, shown here in Wishek, N.D. on June 11, 1991. It is used as stand-by power on the DMV&W and awaits a call to action. Slide and photo.  Ken C. Brovald photo.
11123-245            Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western a GP 35, ex C&NW No. 837 assigned to the Bismarck/Washburn Line is photographed at Wilton, No. Dak. on June 11, 1991, on the south bound run. The train pulled 29 SOO LINE and MILW covered hoppers, loaded with North Dakota wheat destined for the mills in Minneapolis.   June 11, 1991. Ken C. Brovald photo. Slide and photo.
11123-246            Wishek, N.D. is 341 miles west of Minneapolis, as recorded by the Minneapolis & Pacific, predecessor of the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste Marie (SOO LINE) who built through here in 1902. The railroads came first, to the North Dakota prairies. The population of this region has never been great, but the great prairie developed into one of the nation’s great wheat growing regions. As the rails pushed westward, another string of towns flourished. The North Dakota prairie spreads out forever. June 10, 1991. Ken C. Brovald photo. The grain elevators at Wishek are capable of loading 25 car unit trains with wheat. It is a short haul for the DMV&W, only 77 miles to Oakes. Ken C. Brovald photo.
11123-247            On a hot June 11, 1991, at Wilton, N.D., engineer Joe L. Kreuger, former SOO LINE brakeman, with eight years experience, touches the throttle of GP35 324 as he pilots the trailing 29 cars of wheat towards Bismarck. He watches the ammeter, the speedometer (not to exceed 10 MPH) and the track. Home base is only 28 miles away. Ken C. Brovald photo.
11123-248            At the start of the 1980s, every freight train had a caboose, or it wasn’t a train. When railroads and the United Transportation Union quit fighting over the cabooses on a national scene, and made it a local issue, the caboose fell about as fast as clothes on the wedding night. Its replacement the ubiquitous “FRED” or “F….rear end device,” as railroaders everywhere describes the box that rides atop the rear coupler and assures the engineer that the brakes are operating at the rear of the train. This device is applied to the end of the Oakes/Wishek local at Oakes by J.P. Sperlo conductor, on Monday, June 10, 1991. Ken C. Brovald photo.
The pulsating red glow at the end of the train symbolizes the modern caboose. In reality it is nothing more than a flashing red light attached to the last car to denote the end of the train. In railroad parlance it is called a marker, and is required by federal law where a caboose is not used.
Fred, as it is known by railroad men – “forgetful Rear End Device” – is a poor substitute for the familiar red caboose of yesteryear. The warm stove and the fragrant smell of coal smoke drifting through the night air are now just pleasant memories, as are the best meals in the world, turned out on that stove along with the coffee so strong it could be used for varnish.
As “Fred” can neither read nor write, throwing a roll-by sign to the rear, that all is well with the train is useless. Unfortunately, Fred doesn’t know the ditch from the rail, and is just along for the ride.
11123-249            DMV&W GP 35 1417, (ex BN same number and still is original owners paint scheme), leads the Oakes/Wishek local with 50 or more covered hoppers for the elevators at Norway, Lehr and Wishek, on Monday, June 10, 1991. It is 77 miles from Oakes to Wishek, and most of the time the crew can make the run within the 12 allowed hours-of-duty time, but today, the laws will catch them at Lehr, N.D. just a few miles short of home. Local switching and slow track can eat up 12 hours in a hurry. Ken C. Brovald photo.
11123-250            DMV&W acquired nine locomotives from larger carriers and began painting them in a flashing black and red color scheme. Plans call for renumbering into a 320 series.
Here ex C&NW 856 (soon to be DMV&W 325) is in Oakes, N.D., but before It receives the cosmetic surgery it will assist 1417 and 426 on the local to Wishek.
11123-251            DMV&W headquarter office building in Bismarck, N.D. It was inherited from the SOO LINE at the time the regional line was formed. The structure is similar to a famous fast-food chain. Courtesy of DMV&W.
11123-252            Joe M. Majerus, Manager Transportation and Mechanical also manager of the railroad, sits in his office in Bismarck, reading a report on the status of his railroad. Joe worked for the SOO in Glenwood, MN, and Harvey, No. Dak. before joining the Minnesota Valley Railroad in Morton, MN, then to the DMV&W in September 1990.  Photo taken Tuesday, June 11, 1991.
11123-253            Slide - SOO LINE, Enderlin, ND
11123-254            Slide – SOO LINE, Wyndmere, ND
11123-255            Slide – SOO LINE, Wyndmere, ND
11123-256            Slide – SOO LINE, Wyndmere, ND
11123-257            Slide – SOO LINE, Wyndmere, ND
11123-258            Slide – RRV&W, Breckenridge, ND
11123-259            Slide – RRV&W, Breckenridge, ND
11123-260            Slide – Wahpeton, ND
11123-261            Slide – RRV&W, Breckenridge, ND
11123-262            Slide – Unit Grain train, Wahpeton, ND
11123-263            Slide – Unit Grain train, Wahpeton, ND
11123-264            Slide – Jay Hunger, RRV&W transportation specialist, Wahpeton ND RRV&W
11123-265            Slide – Unidentified
11123-266            Slide – Tom Thiel, Engineer, Charles Dupree, Transportation Specialist, Wahpeton RRV&W
11123-267            Slide – Unidentified
11123-268            Slide – Unidentified
11123-269            Slide – Miles Togerson, Operations Manager, RRV&W, Breckenridge, ND
11123-270            Slide – Tom G. Kotnour, President, RRV&W, Wahpeton, ND
11123-271            Slide – Tom G. Kotnour, President, RRV&W, Wahpeton, ND
11123-272            Slide – Tom G. Kotnour, President, RRV&W, Wahpeton, ND
11123-273 – 11123-291 Slides – Unidentified
11123-292            Slide – RRV&WCF7 #304 switches the Minn/Dak sugar plant in Wahpeton, ND
11123-293            Slide – RRV&WCF7 #304 handles a few cars from the Minn/Dak sugar plant in Wahpeton, ND
11123-294 – 11123-297 Slides – Unidentified
11123-298            Slide –RRV&WCF7 #304 waits its call to duty at the Breckenridge, MN yard
11123-299 – 11123-305 Slides – Unidentified
11123-306            Slide –BN Depot, Wahpeton, ND, July 1, 1979
11123-307            Slide –SOO LINE crossing sign,  LaMars, ND, July 1, 1979 
11123-308            Slide –Lost Bridge highway 22
11123-309            Slide –SOO LINE Fairmount Veblen Branch, LaMars, ND July 1, 1979
11123-310            Slide – Highway #2 underpass at Stanley, ND
11123-311            Slide – Badlands, ND
11123-312            Slide – SOO LINE, Wyndmere, ND
11123-313            Slide – Hankinson, ND, July 1, 1979
11123-314            Slide – Courthouse, Stanley, ND

612 East Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505
Get Directions

State Museum and Store: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F; Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
We are closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
State Archives: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F, except state holidays; 2nd Sat. of each month, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Appointments are recommended. To schedule an appointment, please contact us at 701.328.2091 or archives@nd.gov.
State Historical Society offices: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F, except state holidays.

Contact Us:
phone: 701.328.2666
email: history@nd.gov

Social Media:
See all social media accounts