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
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
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. …
In Plymouth County, about twenty miles north of Sioux City, stands Ruble, Iowa, a tiny dot on the map near Broken Kettle Creek.
Ruble was founded in 1900, and was never really more than a roadside pit stop, with the store serving weary travelers and regional residents under the leadership of H.C. Marbach. The small one-room country school served area students in the early days until a larger school was built on a different site. …
This is Mondak, Montana, a true ghost town in Roosevelt County straddling the Montana/North Dakota border, two and a half miles west of Buford, North Dakota, and ten miles north of Fairview, Montana. It was a smoky day in July 2014 when we took these pics on a trip that had already taken us to Trotters, North Dakota and Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel the day before. It was our first visit to Mondak, and we found three structures remained standing, including the former Mondak jail. We revisited Mondak in 2017, too, when skies weren’t quite so hazy. …
Not quite six miles south of Interstate 90 in the undulating green hills of Pennington County lies Owanka, South Dakota, a near ghost town with a story of bad luck and bad deeds that led to its present depopulated state. According to a number of sources, the present population of Owanka is two, although there are two more residents who ranch on the outskirts of town, effectively doubling the population. …
We visited Capa in July of 2015, near the end of a four day trip to explore some abandoned places in North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. So many times, when visiting vacant, out-of-the-way places on the high plains, we find a regular, criss-cross grid of gravel roads, intersecting every mile or two, and we can easily drive right up to our desired places, but that was not the case in Capa. …
There were once over two hundred people in Carlyle, Montana, but today it is a ghost town, just a green, largely treeless spot on the prairie, just inside the Montana/North Dakota border. We were on a trip that had included stops at Adelaide Country School in North Dakota and Devils Tower, too, when we decided to run over to Carlyle and see what we could see. The remains of the business district (visible in the background, behind the elevators) are secured on fenced and posted property, and are a shadow of the small town that once stood here. …
The sun doesn’t set in Silver City. It pulls a curtain across the mountains as it moves.
At 6,000 feet, the ghost town sits in a bowl surrounded by 8,000 ft. mountains. The darkness settles on the western face first, then drifts across the valley floor, as though it didn’t want the day to end. Moving like a miner at the end of his shift underground, the shadow makes its way up the eastern face before merging in secrecy with the night.
The stars announce their presence in bursts of constellations and galaxies that can’t be seen by city dwellers. The town that thrived before Idaho became a state doesn’t have light pollution.
Silver City is one of the few mining towns that didn’t explode in flames or evaporate into 21st-century consumerism. Visiting Silver City is going back into history only to find history isn’t decades old, but rather still around us every moment.
I was in western Idaho shooting a couple gigs for some clients when one asked me if I wanted to see a real, genuine, old-fashioned ghost town. I couldn’t help but think, what other kind of ghost town is there if it’s not “…genuine” and “old-fashioned.”
Jumping into their beat-up jeep with the olive paint held together by brown rust spots, we moved along the road watching the animals fight for space with passing tumbleweeds. Leaving the modern world behind us, we turned left and didn’t stop until we landed in the past, 25 miles later and a 125 years ago.
Silver City once had over 20,000 people living inside its sprawling lots and acreage. Over 1000 mines honeycombed the peaks while eight saloons kept the miners thirst away and three brothels kept them happy. A general store was the entry for nourishment and provisions. Even a hospital existed.
Today, there are still 75 structures left. Built between the 1860s and early 1900s, today they stand vacant and solitary as though waiting for flickers of former residents to come back home.
When Silver City was relishing its zenith, the metropolis had a baker ‘s dozen of streets, seventy-five businesses, three-hundred homes and a population of about 2,500.
Some of the country’s major stage lines operated in the area and in 1874, Silver City had the first telegraph and daily newspaper in the territory. Telephones were in use by 1880 and the town was “electrified” in the 1890s.
If you look carefully, you can discover four distinct burial areas despite nature’s voracious struggle to reclaim them.
Being a child of the 50s and 60s, I felt as I might see Gene Autry tie up his horse at the old hotel that hasn’t changed in 100 years and maybe Tom Mix coming out of the tavern after killing his thirst — with a sarsaparilla of course. No beer or whiskey for my childhood champions.
The streets were sandy. Just as they should be in the shades of recall. The saloon doors rocked solemnly in the stiff evening gust and the church on the hilltop, Boothill, was the only building that made the evolution from cowboy movie into the 21st century.
Silver City lies 70 miles southwest of Boise in the Owyhee Mountains. Take Highway 78 out of Murphy and turn on Highway 95 near Sheaville, at the Silver City turnoff. The town is only accessible by car from about Memorial Day until the end of October. The rest of the year, a snowmobile is needed.
Jerry Nelson is an American freelance-photojournalist. He turns his pen and camera on social justice issues globally. When he’s not traveling, he lives in Buenos Aires with his Argentina wife, Ale, and their cat Tommy. Contact Jerry today at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter (@Journey_America)
All content copyright Jerry Nelson, Journey America, and Sonic Tremor Media.
Bodie, California might be the most photographed ghost town in the world. Tourists and photographers by the thousands visit this former mining community in Mono County every year, eager to see the former city of twelve-thousand empty, in a state of “suspended decay.”
These images were captured by photographer Ronald Partridge for the National Park Service as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey. Mr. Partridge’s photos illuminate a perfect moment in time, July, 1962, as California designated Bodie a State Historic Park.
Over the decades, Bodie has become a symbol of westward expansion, boom and bust economics, and the enduring fascination with the American roadside — no sleight to mom and apple pie, but put Googie architecture, Route 66 and Bodie, California on the list of things that are authentically America.
Gold was first discovered in Bodie in 1839, and according to the HABS report filed in 1962:
“…a quartz vein was discovered in August, 1859; but, though many efforts were made to exploit the area, it was not until 1874 that the great potential wealth of the district became promising, Bodie reached its pinnacle by 1879-80 when the population was estimated at 10 to 12-thousand, and when the production from the mines on Bodie Bluff was at its peak.”
“During all of the productive years the mines contributed 95 to 100 million in gold and silver bullion; and “highgrading” was carried on so openly that it was the magnet for the worst of the underworld who made “The Bad Man From Bodie” notorious.”
Notes on Bodie’s condition in 1962 were also included in the report.
“In its present state, the town of Bodie presents an abandoned and desolate aspect to the lone tourist with no moving thing in view unless it is a blade of grass, for there is not a living soul, excepting another tourist, or even a growing tree in the town or on the surrounding hills.”
“Bodie is situated in a semi-arid country at an elevation of 8300 feet where only a scrubby sage brush can endure the rigors of the weather. It is located 12 miles over a dirt mountain road east of U. S. Highway 395 near the Nevada border about 10 miles due north of Mono Lake.”
“An abundance of very good water is available from springs. At one time there were twelve breweries operating in Bodie for this reason.”
“The houses and buildings have a uniformity due to the common denominator of the same mouldings, siding and trim which appears to have been produced by a single mill. Also the raw sun-burned and unpainted pine of which the buildings are, for the most part, constructed adds to uniformity in color which blends with the red and brown earth. Variety is achieved by variation in plan and form of buildings and three or four brick buildings that still are standing, which becomes evident only upon closer observation.”
Visiting Bodie today requires ten miles of paved rural highway, and three more miles on a gravel road. I’ve also heard it’s cash only, and the nearest ATM is about 20 miles away.
This is exceptionally dry country and fire is always a concern. Bodie was devastated by fire three times — in 1892, 1932, and 1946.
Read more about Bodie State Historic Park at DesertUSA.
There’s little more haunting than a pioneer cemetery.
The photos on this page have been cropped, cleaned, and enhanced, and are copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Cardin, Oklahoma is a toxic twin to Picher, rendered uninhabitable by mining industry abuse. In a piece by Sheila Stogsdill in the Tulsa World, November 17, 2010, (the link is no longer active) the population of Cardin is listed as zero.
MJ said these photos “are from Cardin, the next town, which is basically right next to Picher, and is also part of the Tar Creek Superfund site. It also seemed totally abandoned.”
The Highway Tabernacle once served the hungry and welcomed weary travelers with the promise of peace. Today, traffic passes but doesn’t stop, and the local residents who once worshipped here are gone.
Looks like they just stepped out for some groceries.
Photos by MJ Masilko
Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
This is Arena, North Dakota, a true ghost town, as photographed by our friend Maya Greywolf.
You can see a lot more from Maya’s explorations at her website: Imayagination
Photos by Maya Greywolf
Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
This is Hillhead, in Marshall County, about 18 miles northeast of Britton, South Dakota. I’ve seen references to Hillhead, South Dakota online in which it’s listed as a ghost town, and technically it is since the remaining original buildings have been abandoned, but there are inhabited dwellings in the immediate vicinity of the old town site. …
I set out for White Rock, South Dakota on the suggestion of a visitor with the intention to shoot what remains, a shoot of some significance for me since it is my first foray into shooting the abandoned in South Dakota.
Ten years ago, my fellow photographer Terry Hinnenkamp suffered a catastrophic car break down on the way to check out White Rock in a little white car he drove at the time, and I couldn’t help but think I might be tempting fate by returning in a little white car myself. …
German Artist Uwe Bucher captured this incredible 360 View of Goldfield, Arizona, an incredible ghost town near Lost Dutchman State Park in Pinal County. He’s graciously allowed embedding, so check it out.
360 View by Uwe Bucher
Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC