North Dakota is an interesting prospect for those searching for forgotten places. Ranking 47 out of 50 in terms of population density, the average incorporated municipality in North Dakota has less than 3,000 residents. Some towns with less than a dozen are still hanging on to their official city status. As a result, it can sometimes be hard to see what is a ghost town and what is not.
For North Dakota, being a ghost town might just mean a community is a shell of its former self. Regardless of their current relationship with reality, many of these communities were influential in making North Dakota what it is today, bringing together people from the world over to settle farms, mining towns, mill towns, and railroad towns. The heritage of German-Russians and other immigrants can be found in some villages while an old native site was once the home of Sacajawea. Each community has its own story.
The state is also home to one of the arguably most famous lost cities of all time: the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Over the years, other towns have followed suit, disappearing back into the wilds of North Carolina from which they first came. Despite the dangers and isolation, some made their homes in the hollows and hills of the mountains or on the barrier islands off the coast. Moonshine helped see some struggling towns through tough times while river transport and mills maintained others. Whether by design or accident, some communities found themselves flooded through the waters of new lakes, rivers and heavy rains. While remnants of these communities may be few and far between, their stories have helped make North Carolina the place it is today.
Its long history and diverse peoples have made the state of New York what it is today, but despite having one of the largest cities in the country, not all communities in this state turned into major metropolises. The idea for an ideal company town led to one of the biggest environmental disasters of the day. The needs of growing communities buried others under bodies of water. Industries ranging from mining to railroads to mineral spas built and then doomed once-prosperous communities. Early forts sometimes were the difference between survival and death for settlers in contested colonies. Despite no longer being on the map, many of these forgotten places helped create the New York we know today.
New Mexico sometimes seems like a place where there are more ghost towns than inhabited ones. Sometimes, New Mexico can seem like a place haunted by its past. Ancient native peoples once dominated the region in a prehistoric civilization that mysteriously disappeared. Freed slaves and buffalo soldiers tried to gain some measure of equality in the new west while others hoped to strike it rich in various mining towns. The coming of the railroad built and busted various communities as wild west outlaws sought to remake other settlements in their own images.
There is a lot more to the Garden State, and much of New Jersey’s unique history can be found in places that technically no longer exist here. Early mining and milling companies helped bring the first major industrial revolution to the country. Wealthy millionaires attempted to establish their own beach resort communities on the famed Jersey Shore. A mix of rumor and history fuel the mysterious tale of a missing Pine Barren community, and escaped slaves built a town of their own after fleeing across the Delaware River. Each one of these lost communities tells a story about how New Jersey was shaped into the state it is today.
Like many New England states, New Hampshire is a mix of highly populated urban centers and wild, rural landscapes. Those searching for lost cities in this state will find a mix of abandoned ruins located in far off wildernesses and former towns hiding in plain sight. A post-Revolutionary War land dispute led to the creation of a community claiming to be independent of both the U.S. and Britain. A former major mill site shows the fading legacy of the Industrial Revolution in the state. Old towns hide within the boundaries of modern cities and residents of a modern community seem to have all but forgotten their town was once located elsewhere before the building of a local dam.
Nevada has always attracted those wanting to get rich quick, whether that be from mining the ore found throughout the state, banking on the need for water in its dry climate or tricking others out of their hard earned cash. Many of the ghost towns and lost cities found ruined throughout the state are testaments to those who came here in the hopes of finding their fortunes, and, despite the ruins they left behind, occasionally succeeding. From native peoples to religious hopefuls to cowboys to day laborers to prospectors,profiteers, shysters, hucksters, charlatans and thieves, ghost towns set the stage for some of the Silver State’s most colorful characters.
As a result, many towns across the state may seem like ghost towns despite the fact they have thriving communities by Great Plains standards. However, there are towns that have disappeared back into the prairies and rolling hills. Forts along the frontier aided white settlers in westward expansion while native peoples attempted to regain their land. Early black homesteaders managed to eke out a community of their own on the prairies. French, German, and Bohemian settlers made their mark on early communities while industries like potash, silica mining, and the railroads created others. Mormons and Catholics searched for religious freedom west of the Missouri. All of these stories can be told through the ghost towns of Nebraska.
Much of what made Montana what it is today can be found in its forgotten places, in the abandoned communities that thrived and then died in this rough and tumble state. Old mining towns and stagecoach stops harken back to the days when going west was synonymous with getting rich - and occasionally dying trying. Cowboys, calamities and sinners converged on outposts each in the running for the title of the west’s wickedest city. Soldiers worked to both keep the peace at home and abroad at towns that became their camps. Bootleg booze and fresh water made communities that came out of and disappeared back into nothingness.
By tracking down the old and forgotten places of Missouri, we can learn much more about the history of the state that served as a crossroads between east and west. A once-thriving railroad town is now known as the location of a violent typhoid outbreak. An ingredient used to make Agent Orange leads to the evacuation of an entire community. Flood waters wash away prominent transportation hubs on the state’s major rivers while healing waters attract visitors from around the country to a former resort.
Dedicated to all things travel, places I have been and places I want to go.