The Smith Mine is near Bearcreek, Montana, in Carbon County, not far from Red Lodge, and it’s the site of the deadliest coal mine explosion and fire in Montana history. At 9:37 on a Saturday morning, February 27, 1943, there was an explosion of methane gas in the mine. 74 of 77 miners died, either from the blast itself, or from suffocation in the ensuing fire. One rescue worker succumbed days later as well, bringing the death toll to 75. …
In Klamath County, Oregon, southeast of Medford and just a joyride north of the California border, the United States constructed the Keno Air Force Station in response to a 1953 request from Air Defense Command for more radar coverage in the Pacific Northwest.
The 827th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron started here in 1957 and in 1958, the installation became known as Keno Air Force Station to serve a Ground Control Intercept mission — track incoming aircraft and guide interceptors. The first operational intercontinental ballistic missile launcher would be built in the Soviet Union in 1959, but this was still the time when we feared Soviet bombers flying over our cities and dropping nuclear weapons. …
Mondak, Montana was a place built for drinkin’. When the state of North Dakota became one of the first to enact prohibition, this tiny spot on the dry, chalky prairie, near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, but just over the border in still-wet Montana, began to boom. It was little more than twenty years later when Mondak’s last real business, the bank, closed in 1925. A combination of factors–changes to prohibition laws, fires, and at least one lynching–led to the demise of Mondak, and in one final insult, the ghost town fell victim to another fire that consumed most of the remaining structures in 1928. …
Monowi, Nebraska is a near-ghost town in Boyd County, Nebraska, about 75 miles northwest of Norfolk.
We first discovered Monowi when I ran across a story from 2011 about Monowi’s status as the smallest incorporated city in the nation with a population of only one. Reuters photographer Rick Wilking wrote a nice piece on that one resident, Elsie Eiler.
We were in Monowi quite early in the morning, so we did not feel comfortable knocking on anybody’s door, but we’re told the bar/cafe is open at 9am every day.
In the course of assembling our book, Churches of the High Plains, we wrote to Monowi’s sole citizen, Elsie Eiler, and she told us the last funeral service held in this church was for her father, Michael Peklapp, on March 7th, 1960.
A heavy rainstorm the night before we visited in August of 2014 softened the road to this church considerably and our car left with a couple inches of mud caked in the wheel-wells. Watch the video from our trip to Monowi.
Someone is storing old tires and beekeeping stuff in the church.
If you attempt to send correspondence addressed to Monowi, the computer will spit out an address for nearby Lynch, Nebraska. In a world of barcodes and auto-sorting, Monowi, Nebraska is an anomaly.
There are quite a number of old structures, former businesses and homes, in Monowi.
Terry wondered aloud after shooting a few places whether someone else may have moved in to Monowi recently, as there appeared to be a second occupied property (not shown), but we can’t be sure.
Above: one of Monowi’s grain elevators. There was another one, but it’s long gone.
Barring a miraculous boom of a type we can’t foresee, these are the last days of Monowi, Nebraska.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Where pupils once filed in with their lunch pails for a day’s learning, there is now a relic that leaves no doubt, school’s out in Readlyn, Saskatchewan. This old school is thoroughly fenced however, and the grounds are in use by the property owner, so I wasn’t able to get any closer. …
As I was planning a trip to photograph Saskatchewan places in July, 2016, I didn’t have plans to stop here until I found out about the former Aneroid Consolidated School. Like so many rural communities on the Great Plains of North America, Aneroid is shrinking. Young people are now going to school in nearby Ponteix, and the former consolidated school is abandoned. …
Parkbeg is about 50 kilometers west of Moose Jaw, right along an unusual stretch of the Trans Canada Highway where the two divided sides of the highway are so far apart in places that you can’t see one side from the other. I was a stranger in Parkbeg, Saskatchewan, so as I was photographing my first place, a local resident stopped her car for a quick chat. …
You won’t find Dog River, Saskatchewan on any map, because Dog River is a fictional place–the setting of comedian Brent Butt’s “Corner Gas,” a hit Canadian sitcom that ran from 2004 to 2009, and a crowdfunded movie of the same name. In reality, the remains of the set for Corner Gas is located in Rouleau, Saskatchewan, on Highway 39 between Weyburn and Moose Jaw. …
Admiral, Saskatchewan is located in Wise Creek Rural Municipality No. 77, about 195 kilometers southeast of Medicine Hat, Alberta. Until 2006, Admiral was an official village in southern Saskatchewan, but in August of that year it was reorganized into a hamlet (analogous to the dissolution of an incorporated town in the United States). It was the end result of more than eight decades of dwindling population for this quiet settlement on the prairie. As of 2006, Admiral had a reported population of 30. …
This abandoned Saskatchewan bridge, a concrete arch bridge, also sometimes referred to as a “bowstring arch” bridge, is in southwestern Saskatchewan, just over two kilometers west of Scotsguard. The bridge spans the former line of the Great Western Railway and Notukeu Creek and was once the primary crossing of this coulee for traffic traveling along Highway 13. …
Founded in 1909, Neidpath is in southern Saskatchewan, about 40 kilometers southeast of Swift Current, or 190 kilometers north of Saco, Montana. The Canadian National Railway arrived in 1924, and today, Neidpath is a relic of that simpler time when the railway was a primary means of transportation for people and goods. …
Nestled among the mountains in Mineral County, about 130 miles southwest of Colorado Springs, lies Creede, a mountain town originally founded on the silver boom. The end of the boom led to a rapid decline for this picturesque little burgh in the San Juan Mountains, but a wartime need for metals in World War II led to a brief revival in Creede, Colorado.
The first silver discovery in this area was at the Alpha mine in 1869, and Creede started to grow in the 1870s. Precious minerals were discovered in Willow Creek Canyon in 1889, and over the next two years the population of Creede boomed from 600 residents to more than 10,000. Robert Ford, the man who killed Jesse James, took up residence in Creede during the boom years, and he met his end there when Ed O’Kelley shot him dead on June 8th, 1892.
In 1893, Creede was put to sleep by the silver panic, also known as the Denver Depression of 1893. Miners and their families left in droves, and Creede teetered on ghost town status. Zinc and lead mines provided enough for the remaining residents to scratch out a living, and the local economy even got a slight bump during World War II when metals were at a premium.
It was during that time, in 1942, that renowned photographer Andreas Feininger captured these photos of Creede for the Office of Wartime Information.
Several of Mr. Feininger’s exposures were color transparencies, giving us a rare look at 1942 Creede in full-color. Below, some zoom views.
Above: A birds-eye view of Creede in 1942.
A look at the mining operation in Creede.
More mining photos from Creede, 1942.
The alcohol signs are abundant in the shot above–signs for Love’s Liquors, Phillips Liquor, Weaver’s Beer Parlor, and Walter’s Beer are all present.
Some slice of life photos from Creede.
Eventually, even the WWII mining activity would fade in Creede, as the demand for metals for the war effort ended. The last mine closed in 1985.
Today, Creede survives as a tourist town with a population of 290 residents. In 2015, YouTuber Hunter Pontious captured flyover drone footage of Creede, Colorado in 4K resolution. Watch his amazing video below.
Photos by Andreas Feininger. Drone footage by Hunter Pontious.
Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
Tombstone, Arizona is forever embedded in American Old West lore for its status as an outpost for scoundrels and heroes, and as the site of the infamous 1881 gunfight at the OK Corral (the actual gunfight happened near the OK Corral, not in it, but we’ll leave that subject for others to cover in-depth) in which the Earp brothers gunned down Tom and Frank McLaury (McLowrey) and Billy Clanton.
Before the gunfight, however, Tombstone was a town like many others in the southwest–a mining town that boomed with the discovery of silver, and withered as the boom went bust.
At one time, Tombstone reportedly had more than 10,000 residents, but in 1881 a series of unfortunate events started the ball rolling on the decline of Tombstone. In March, the Sulphuret Silver Mine struck water, which began to seep into the mine. On June 22nd, a fire destroyed the eastern half of the business district, 66 businesses in total. The following year, a second mine struck water, seriously complicating mining efforts, and another more serious fire devastated Tombstone, destroying nearly the entire business district. The city lacked the water to properly fight the fire, so, in keeping with the philosophy of the day, buildings in the path of the fire were demolished with dynamite to deny fuel for the fire.
Rebuilding commenced immediately, but in 1886, another fire impacted the silver mining industry, and by 1890, the US Census reported the population of Tombstone at 1,900. Ten years later it had fallen to 700. People were leaving in droves.
Tombstone received another blow in 1931 when it was stripped of its status as county seat and the county offices moved to Bisbee. Just a few years later, these photos were taken by photographers on behalf of the United States Farm Security Administration and the Historic American Buildings Survey.
These photos, taken between 1937 and 1940, represent a unique moment in time for Tombstone–after the pioneer-era silver boom but before the air-conditioned car culture that would bring tourists en masse.
The Crystal Palace Saloon had a tumultuous history due to the Tombstone fires, and later, prohibition. It was sold in 1963 to a buyer with an interest in restoring it to its former glory, and it underwent a restoration that left it looking very different.
The bank, on the corner of 3rd and Allen, is an adobe brick structure covered in stucco, with wood trim and floors.
The posters taped in the window advertise a circus in nearby Douglas, Arizona. “Al. G. Barnes and Sells-Floto Circus, Douglas, Afternoon and Night, Tuesday, November 9.”
The Bird Cage was opened as a Variety Theatre and Saloon in 1881, and escaped the fire of 1882. At the height of Tombstone’s popularity, the bar in the front portion of the theatre was open 24-hours. The theatre was lit by natural gas, and the gas fixtures were still in place at the time of these photos. The Bird Cage was closed for a time after the boom, but reopened to the public in 1929. According to Miguel Slack, who collected the data for the Historic American Buildings Survey, this place was a museum and cafe at the time these photos were taken in 1937.
The sign on the right says “Oldest Theatre in the Southwest.”
Tombstone’s Episcopal Church, made of adobe brick, looking west from Third & Safford Streets.
Above: Tombstone City Hall
The Cochise County Courthouse was built in 1882. It became a hotel for a time, and also stood vacant for a few years after the county seat moved to Bisbee, but today it is a museum.
The spiral fire escape of the former Cochise County Courthouse.
The former Tombstone Fire Department was described by the photographer as “abandoned” at the time of these photos.
In 1961, Tombstone received a designation as a National Historic Landmark District, but in 2004, the National Park Service declared the designation threatened due to “inappropriate” alterations. Some of the infractions included putting “historic” dates on new buildings, failing to distinguish new construction from historic structures, and more. Although these judgments have been controversial, many of Tombstone’s historic buildings have been appropriately restored with due respect to heritage.
The sleepy days depicted in these photographs would not last. With the coming of the highway system and air-conditioned cars, people would flock to Tombstone. Today, there are a number of festivals in Tombstone, including Wyatt Earp Days, Salute to the Buffalo Soldier Days, and Helldorado Days, and more than 450,000 tourists visit this tiny town of 1,400 every year.
Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone is the best known of a number of cemeteries dubbed “Boothill” in the southwest, so-named for the gunfighters and outlaws who so commonly died with their boots on.
A panorama of Tombstone taken in 1909 by the West Coast Art Company. Click to enlarge.
Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
Ridgeville, Manitoba is a shrinking community in southern Manitoba, about ten miles northeast of Emerson, or sixty miles southeast of Winnipeg. The average visitor would never know it today, but about 9,000 years ago, Ridgeville was beachfront property. Glacial Lake Agassiz (one of the largest of all the glacial lakes and larger than all of the Great Lakes combined) created a successive series of beaches in the Ridgeville area as it drained. Today, the soil remains sandy, but Lake Agassiz is long gone. …
It took a year to gather the photos for this post, largely due to my own confusion about two churches named St. Michaels.
I stopped in Gardenton, a tiny town in southern Manitoba, just over the international border from Minnesota, because I had been photographing some places in Tolstoi, which is just a short distance away. I hadn’t done much pre-planning or research on Gardenton, but I was pleased to discover some abandoned places I could shoot. …
The divided highway which straddles this tiny country church is the only hint that a metropolitan area of more than 800,000 people lies just thirty minutes to the north. Otherwise, this serene spot on the prairie is a place out of time, a remote spot on the table-flat plains that were once the bottom of glacial Lake Agassiz. …