Friday, September 30, 2011

Jamestown, ND to Deadwood, SD

We spent parts of 3 days hunting down history and Ghost Towns in North Dakota and decided we were ready for some real Old West atmosphere, so we have landed in Deadwood South Dakota for a couple of nights  and will travel the region around us before heading back toward home.

Old School in Cleveland, ND
Day 5 of our North Dakota adventure found us heading out of Jamestown west on I-94.  We made a quick stop in the ghost town of Cleveland, founded in 1882, for some shots of an old school building that caught our eye from the interstate.  It's been taken over by a construction company now, so at least the property is still in use. The town still has an active post office with a few residents.

Abandoned Church in Crystal Springs, ND
Next stop down I-94 was Crystal Springs.  Crystal Springs got its start in 1873 and a Post Office opened in 1884. It remained a thriving small town until it was cut off by I-94. Today, there are about 8 inhabited homes.

Arena, ND
Back on I-94 turning north on Highway 3 at Steel up to 36, then back west we came to Arena. This  is the kind of Ghost Town Kathy loves the most, completely abandoned, but with still enough buildings in tact that you can still imagine the life that once was.  Founded in 1906 and with a peak population of about 150, this town appears to have had some activity as recent as 15 years, however only a couple of homes, a church and grain elevator remain.  We spent some time there taking lots of pictures and enjoying a quick break before moving closer to the Missouri River again.

Fort Mandan
After hooking back up with Highway 83, we move north to Washburn for some key Lewis and Clark history.  Fort Mandan, located just outside of Washburn, was built by Lewis and Clark in 1804.  Named after the nearby friendly Native America Mandan tribe nearby, the fort was key to the Lewis and Clark expedition as it prepared to explore western regions of the unknown West. This is also where Lewis and Clark hooked up with Sacagawea, the Native American woman who would be indispensable to the expedition as a translator and guide.

You'll run into the interpretive center first, which includes some very interesting and historical exhibits about the region and the expedition, and then travel just a mile or so down to a recreation of the original fort. We found the stop to be worth the price of admission and the staff friendly and knowledgeable.   We were also lucky to even visit the Fort recreation, as it had only been open for two weeks after being closed due to flooding back in June.

Fort Clark Site
Heading down Highway 200 out of Washburn we also pay a quick visit to the site of Fort Clark, a trading post from 1830 to 1861. Although there are no buildings left today, it is an important archaeological site due to its well preserved records of trade and tragedy.  Unfortunately for the Mandan Indians who lived in the area, the Forts trade brought Small Pox in June of 1837, which would wipe out 90% of the Mandan tribe. After moving into the abandoned village, the Arikara tribe would suffer more epidemic, killing most of them as well.

Knife River India Village Wigwam
Still moving west we visit the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, a 1,759 acre national park that preserves the historic and archaeological remnants of the culture and agricultural lifestyle of the Northern Plains Indians. Here, can be seen a visitor center and museum, reconstruction of earth lodges, and a self-guided walking tours of three historic village sites that date back as far as 8,000 years.

Scenic views along Highway 85
Satisfied with our Lewis and Clark and Native American history, Kathy and I head back south to I-94 and push west, then south on 85 toward our hotel in Bowman.  This picturesque  highway is right next to the Little Missouri National Grassland area, providing some beautiful views of rolling hills, etc. On the way we pass by the highest point in North Dakota, White Butte at over 3500 feet, then  through quirky Amidon, which touts itself as the smallest county seat in the nation.

We were also lucky enough to run into some buffalo just outside of Bowman for one final picture opportunity before calling it a day. After settling into our great Mom and Pop, the Trails Motel,  Kathy and I prepare to wrap up North Dakota, visiting several Ghost Towns here in the Southwest part of the state, before heading back south.

You can see Day 5 in pictures via our Facebook Fan Page here!

Day 6 Bowman, ND to Deadwood, SD

Griffin School House
We headed out of Bowman west on Highway 12 to catch a few Ghost Towns our wonderful host at the Trails Motel told us about.  First on the list was Griffin.  This completely abandoned ghost town still sports a few buildings, including a school, that appears may not be there for too many more years.  A railroad town, it is said to have a rowdy history, including a few main street gun battles back in it's early days.  It's also just a couple miles south of the old Yellowstone Trail, which was one of the first roads in North Dakota.  The trail was created in 1912 by a group of businessmen in South Dakota who wanted a useful automobile route across America.

Rhame Watering Hole
From Griffin, we continue west on Highway 12 to Rhame, founded in 1908. This town still has an active population of around 169 people. It was originally called Petrel, but had to change it's name for the Post Office since Petrel was already taken.  Another Railroad town, it was incorporated as a village in 1913 and didn't become a North Dakota city until 1967 when the State Legislatures eliminated incorporation titles for villages and towns.

Mystic Theatre, Marmarth, ND
From Rhame we weathered massive road "re-construction" almost all the way to Marmarth.  Still can't say that towns name well, but it was great stop.  Situated beside the Little Missouri River, it was originally established on the East side of the river but had to move to the west side over a dispute over prices with the Rancher who owned the land. Named after Margaret Martha Fitch, granddaughter of Albert J. Earling, president of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad,  in 1911 it was the largest town in North Dakota on the Milwaukee Railroad, and the fifth largest west of the Missouri River. It's peak population of around 1,300 was reached around 1920, but it only has 136 residents left as of the 2010 census.

South of Marmarth on Camp Creek Road
From Marmarth we headed south on Camp Crook Road, then back East on a county road and back up to Rhame just to enjoy the scenery of the landscape.  Lot's of prairie and hills in these parts that we would get more of on our way to South Dakota, but for now we wanted to head back through Bowman and hit a few more Ghost Towns before leaving.

Gascoyne, ND
To the East of Bowman on Highway 12 we make a quick photo stop in Scranton.  Although it's not a ghost town, we do have a regular reader of Legends that is from there, so thought it would be nice to post a pic or two on our Facebook page.  Just down 12 from Scranton is Gascoyne.  This ghost town started in 1907 as Fischbein but changed its name in 1908. It was an active coal mining town as recent as 1997 when coal operations shut down. Efforts soon began to revive the mining operation and build a new power plant, but these plans were abandoned in 2008 due to environmental concerns. It too was on the Yellowstone Trail and today supports about 16 residents.

Haley, ND
From Gascoyne we leave the main highway and head south on Gascoyne Road then west on Haley Road to the ghost town of Haley. It was supposed to be named for William Galey, however postal officials misspelled it.  The town is just north of the South Dakota border and, as of the 2000 census, had about 23 residents, though according to Ghosts of North Dakota, it only has two residents now.

Vessey, SD School
Moving on south of Haley on roads less traveled, we run into an old school in the middle of a field on County Highway 859 and Vessey Road.  It was the Vessey School, and it's possible there was more evidence of Vessey somewhere close by, but Kathy and I wanted to push on South to Ludlow Road and get back west over to Highway 85.  In the meantime we ran into quirky Boot Hill, which was a fence lined with more boots. Cute picture opportunity anyway.

Bear Butte, SD
From Ludlow, SD we headed south on Highway 85 to 163 to Castle Rock, where we met up with 79 South toward Sturgis. Here we ran into some interesting history at Bear Butte, including a Historical Marker that pointed out the remnants of the Bismark Trial and told the story of a family killed there by Native Americans. Bear Butte was an important landmark for Plains Indian tribes for many years before European settlers invaded the region, with some artifacts found dating back 10,000 years.  To this day it is still sacred to many Native Americans who make pilgrimages and leave offerings there.

Fort Meade Post Office
From Bear Butte we move on toward Sturgis, and after a quick photo stop at the largest biker bar in the US, the Full Throttle Saloon, we head on down a mile or so to Fort Meade.  Established in 1878 to protect settlements in the northern Black Hills, the fort was a key to several stage and freight routes on the way to Deadwood. It's still active today and has a rich military history, including the 7th US Calvary, Buffalo Soldiers, and the 10th and 4th US Cavalries. Today it's a training site for the South Dakota National Guard, a Veterans Hospital, Army National Guard Officer Candidate School and home to Fort Meade National Cemetery.

Full Throttle Saloon
After a few more snapshots in Sturgis, we make our way on into Deadwood where we plan to spend a couple of nights and do more traveling around the region on Friday. Overall, our time in North Dakota ghost towns was great and we are just as excited about our journey toward home.

You can see Day 6 of our trip in Pictures via our Facebook Fan page here!

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