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Ghost Town USA’s

Guide to the Ghost Towns of

MINNESOTA

“The Land of 10,000 Lakes”

 

 

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Western & Eastern Treasures

Ghost Town USA Column Index for Minnesota.

Minnesota has been explored, prospected and farmed for nearly 400 years. Beginning in the early 1600s, the first Europeans to visit were the French. They ran across and befriended the Native American Dakota and Ojibway tribes. Trading furs with the French benefited the tribes at first by introducing new tools and new and faster ways of doing things. Items such as steel axes, and guns made life easier. The French also brought alcohol, which eventually created devastation. The Indians hunted and trapped more than before, to get their new "technologies", which soon overtook traditional activities which were relegated to "when we get the time". Christian missionaries came to "convert" the Indians, and it didn't take long for the traditions and lifestyles to fall by the wayside.

 

After the American Revolution, the Minnesota area became an American territory, while Canada fell under British domain. To hold this region the Americans built Fort Snelling near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. It was not only a military center, but also the center of exploration and settlement. Soon agriculture, milling, and lumbering grew brought in more people, and Minnesota was organized as a territory in 1849. Nine years later Minnesota became the 32nd state.

 

Life in early Minnesota was not easy. Unfriendly locals, long distances to towns and forts, dry summers, brutally cold winters, and other plagues visited the settlers. Then in 1884, iron ore was discovered near Lake Superior, and mining became an important industry. At one time underground iron mines stretched across three mountain ranges in northern Minnesota, but by 1900 the Mesabi Iron Range and its famed high-grade taconite ore became the range of choice. It was in the Mesabi that open pit mining was introduced. Taconite is a hard rock that is about 65% iron. Taconite mining has faded, but it is still an important industry.

Whether the ghost towns in Minnesota are fur trading posts, military forts, logging camps, river towns, agricultural communities, or mining towns, this state has its share of ghost towns. Minnesota is seldom written up in ghost town literature, but there are hundreds of locations in the state ready to be discovered by patient ghost town chasers.

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: 

Where photos are indicated thusly (PHOTO!), please use your browser’s “BACK” button to return to this page.  More photos will be added over time.

 

THE GHOSTS

 

AURORA

St. Louis Co.

The ORIGINAL SITE of this town of 2000 was located a mile north of the present town, at the site of the Meadow Mine. Nothing remains at the original class A site of this ghost iron-mining town except memories.  Present-day Aurora is a busy little city of some 2000 citizens and over 80 businesses.  Our entry is for the original site of the town.

BLACK AURIE RANCH

unknown

According to family legend, when my Great Grandfather Friedrich BrattmÜller arrived in the USA, he took a train from New York City and went to work at the Black Aurie Ranch (c1881-1883), which was somewhere in the southern part of Minnesota. From there he saved enough money to relocate to northwestern Iowa where he established a farm in Palo Alto County.  That farm is still in the family.  So far, I have been unable to locate the Black Aurie Ranch.  ANYONE KNOW OF IT?  If so please contact me.  Thanks   GBS.

BOVEY

Itasca Co.

This class E iron mining town had a 1990 population of 662 so it is not a true ghost although it has faded a lot from its boom period in the early 1900s when it was a busy iron town.  In 1940, it still had 1355 folks. Two of its major mines were the Canisteo and Danube mines.

CALUMET

Itasca Co.

A class D, early 1900s iron mining town, is located seven miles west of Nashwauk. It had 946 people in 1940 and only 382 in 1990.

CRAMER

Lake Co.

I was looking at your list of ghost towns in Minnesota and thought you might like to know about another one. Cramer is a ghost town in Lake County, not too far from Finland. All I know about Cramer is that it was a satellite community to Finland when Finnish settlers began occupying the area in 1895. The Finns tried to farm in the area, but the land and weather made it tough going. There are still people that have Cramer as an address, but the old group of buildings (one looks like an old blacksmith shop) still stand. 

Contributed by Eric Sorenson (Dec 26, 2004)

CUSOON

St. Louis Co.

This former lumber camp is on US 53, three miles north of Orr, and 52 miles southeast of International Falls, in the northwest part of the county. Not shown on present maps.

DALE

Chisago Co.

Located in Fish Lake Township, Used to have a creamery and general store from what I understand, as well as a school house, it appears about one mile away from where the Dale site was. There is Dale Free Church now on the property where once was Fish Lake Baptist church est. 1873.

Contributed by “Steump”, Sep 11, 2005

DALSTORP

Chisago Co.

Located in Fish Lake Township, the site of Dalstorp is approximately 1.5 miles west of the Dale site.  It had at least one church which was moved at one time.  A cemetery remains.

Contributed by “Steump”, Sep 11, 2005

FAIRLAND

Koochiching Co

Fairland is located in North-Central Minnesota near the Big Bog and the Black River.  The nearest towns are Birchdale, Loman, Big Falls and Washkish.  It was active around 1900 – 1920.  An early settler was Simon O. Hafdahl.  It is currently accessible via the Black River Road and logging roads from Loman and Birchdale.

Contributed by “rgawtry” (Jun 12, 2004)

FORESTVILLE

Fillmore Co.

This class C/F restored logging town is south of SH 16, six miles west of Preston. It is now a state historic park, and costumed guides take visitors through the restored community showing what life was like in a typical 1800’s logging town. Forestville was active between 1855 and 1868, and had about 200 residents, a company store, school and workers’ cabins. It faded after the railroad bypassed the town.

FORT RIDGELY

Nicollet/Renville Co.

A class C/Frestored military post and state historic park on the Minnesota River, off SH 4, seven miles south of Fairfax, and northwest of New Ulm. The fort was established in 1853 and served as a “police station” to keep peace between the Eastern Dakota (or Sioux) and the new settlers that flooded into the area. On Aug. 20, 1862, 400 Dakota warriors attacked the fort, but the 180 defenders held out until reinforcements arrived. The post closed around 1867.

FORT SNELLING

 

(AKA Fort St. Anthony)

Hennepin Co.

This class C/F, restored military post and state historic park is located on a bluff overlooking the south side of the Mississippi River, just west of the confluence with the St Peters River, and adjoining the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. It was established in 1825 as one link in a chain of Indian agencies and forts between the Great Lakes and the Missouri River. Between 1861 and 1865 the fort was a training center for thousands of new troops, and after the Civil War ended, Fort Snelling watched over the upper great plains. New construction began in 1880 to replace many of the old buildings. It was active during WWII, and after that war ended, was closed. It has been a National Historic Landmark since 1960, and has been restored.

FRANKFORD

Mower Co.

In northeast part of the county. Frankford was the original county seat, but since the townsfolk didn’t build a courthouse, Austin commissioners stole the “tin box” containing the county records. They were caught and arrested. Then in 1857 an election officially gave Austin the county seat, and Frankford died.

FRONTENAC

Goodhue Co.

This old town is actually two locations. Old Frontenac, founded in 1839 sits alongside the Mississippi River, and is an old class D rivertown.  It is a quiet community of tree-lined, unpaved streets and colorful, Civil War-era wood-frame homes that is a designated Historic District. No commercial buildings remain. New Frontenac, also called Frontenac Station, spreads its faded business district along the east side of US 61/63.

For recently departed ghost towns, visit our ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST page.  This is mentioned as the old hotel in town was partially demolished in 1998.

This is one of the towns featured in my newest book, GHOST TOWNS: Yesterday & TodayTM.

GRAND PORTAGE

Cook Co.

On the far northeastern tip of the state, this class C/F (restored) –trading post is a National Monument. It is the remains of an 18th Century North-West Company fur trading post established in 1731 by LaVerendrye.  Its main years of operation were from 1784-1803.

GRASSTON

Kanabec Co.

Grasston is located a couple miles north of the county line and west of SH 107.  A number of foundation outlines and interesting buildings still stand in this class D faded town of 119 folks (1990 pop).

It was our Ghost Town of the Month for September 2002.

This is one of the towns featured in my newest book, GHOST TOWNS: Yesterday & TodayTM.

HENNEPIN

Hennepin Co.

Hennepin was located on the north bank of the Minnesota River southeast of Flying Cloud Airport, Eden Prairie in Hennepin Co.  As far as I can tell, it was an optimistic site established around 1840(?), hoping that water traffic on the Minnesota River would be significant. As far as I know, the town was abandoned because the river is very inconstant in navigability; since Chaska further upriver was better-situated for river traffic; and  the railroad ended up going further north, through central Eden Prairie leaving Hennepin a dead end.  The site is a steep hillside slope, with at least 4-5 evident building ‘flats’ where the ground was cut/built up to provide a level place for a foundation. There are a couple of evident building pads, but no ruins nor any extant construction – the site really can only be inferred from ground contours. 

 

According to Minnesota Historical Society info Hennepin was “a short-lived village platted in 1852 on a portion of John H. McKenzie’s claim in sections 34 and 35, Eden Prairie, on the Minnesota River, was during several years a shipping point for grain. It was modeled after townsites in the East and was registered in Ramsey County in June 1853 and in Hennepin County, May 17, 1854. It had a store, a gristmill, a sawmill, a blacksmith ship, several homes, and a warehouse by the ferry. It failed to develop because of enterprises elsewhere in the township, and no traces remain.”

Contributed by Steve Lieb (Oct 22, 2004)

HENRIETTE

Pine Co.

This is one of the towns featured in my newest book, GHOST TOWNS: Yesterday & TodayTM.

IRON JUNCTION

 

(AKA Ryan Junction)

St. Louis Co.

This class D iron mining/railroad town is about 15 miles southwest of Virginia. Around 1893 this rail junction had 365 people, and sprouted many businesses, including four hotels and 13 saloons. The main street faced the railroad tracks, and the town boomed. In 1895 the proposed yards for the Duluth, Mesabi & Northern Railroad was set up in nearby Proctor, and Iron Junction rapidly faded. It still supplied many outlying logging camps and mining towns, so it never totally died. In 1990 there were still 133 folks in town.

KINNEY

St. Louis Co.

This class D iron mining town began in 1902, had 462 people in 1940, and 1200 people at its peak. It’s located north of the highway at a point six miles west of Mountain Iron. In 1990, 257 folks remained.

LEONIDAS

 

(AKA – West Evelith)

St. Louis Co.

This old iron company-mining camp was located just southwest of Evelith.  It began in 1909, and the first 34 company-supplied homes were quickly occupied, as was the boarding house. As the mines increased production, additions were made to the original camp. Most of the buildings were residences, but the company also provided a tennis court, skating rink and a school. Some of the businesses included grocery stores, general store, post office and a village hall. The old town has since faded, but in 1990 still had 70 people.

LOTHROP

 

(AKA –

Lathrop)

Cass Co.

An 1890s logging camp near Ten Mile Lake northwest of Hackensack, which is on SH 371, south of Bemidji. In the last half of the 1800s, this booming logging and railroad town was the end of the track for the lumbering companies. At its peak, the town consisted of 2000 people, two bakers, two barbers, a butcher, drug store, three grocery stores, two hotels, three or four restaurants, and a couple saloons. It was a typical hell-raising, end-of-tracks town. In 1896, the railroad was extended deeper into the woods, and Lothrop began to fade as trade shifted to a new “end-of-the-track”. In 1904, the depot building was moved to nearby Hackensack, and that town began to boom at Lothrop’s expense.

MANGANESE

Crow Wing Co.

It is located northeast of Trommald, on SH 84. This was once a thriving mining town. Many of its residents worked in the Milford mine (mine collapsed in Feb 1924, a result of improper planning, and blasting into Foley’s pond - resulting in a flood) I remember some of the “old timers” talking about both the town, and the mine.  They were a superstitious lot, but they were convinced both the town and the mine were real ghost towns. All that remains are a few barely visible crumbling foundations, and scraps of sidewalk. The town is located on State land, at 46.5274634N and -94.0097067W.

Contributed by G. Christensen (May 25, 2005)

MERRITT

St. Louis Co.

Another 1890s iron mining town. This one was a mile east of Biwabik, and on Embarrass Lake, between the Hale and Biwabik Mines.

NORTHWEST COMPANY FUR POST

Pine Co.

This restored North West Company Fur Post is complete with period-costumed guides. The state historic park has been reconstructed on its original 1804 site. It is located just west of Pine City.

OWATONNA P.O.W. CAMP

Steele Co.

This is a class B-WW II German POW camp located on the north edge of town, just off I-35. This prisoner of war camp was started in April 1944. At any one time there were between 50 and 273 prisoners. They worked in nearby farm fields or at the Owatonna Canning Co. plant, and lived in tents and clapboard barracks. In 1986, the mess hall was still standing and the site was still marked by numerous foundations.

PELAN

Kittson Co.

Pelan is located in the far northwest corner of the state, and like so many other towns of its era, was doomed when the railroad didn't go through it.  It was founded in 1887 as a center for homesteaders, but 20 years later was forgotten when the railroad passed several miles away, and the citizens relocated to the iron ribbon.  PHOTO!

PONSFORD

Becker Co.

Ponsford had a grocery etc & was on the main highway until Highway 34 was moved to the south. Nearby Pine Point (quarter mile) is taking over as "the Town".

Contributed by Gerry Schram (May 18, 2006)

 

In 1990, the census listed 150 people (GBS)

RAINY LAKE CITY

St. Louis Co.

Here's one for you researchers out there. This class A gold mining camp was on the mainland shore of Rainy Lake, south of Island View and Black Bay. Gold was discovered here in 1893 and was mined for a few years. The ore was not rich so mining operations closed down.

READ’S LANDING

Wabasha Co.

This class D location began life as a Dakota trading post occupied by Augustin Rocque. In 1847 the old trading post was purchased by Charles Read, who developed it into a trading center. It is located along US 61, along the west shore of the Mississippi River near the confluence with the Chippewa River. Today the town has a mile-long line of homes and several old brick buildings, filled with history. The town museum is in an old 1870-era schoolhouse west of the highway. Today the population is around 200, down from its peak around 1870, when 27 hotels and 21 saloons graced the landscape of the town.

RICHWOOD

Becker Co.

Richwood on CR 21 north of Detroit Lakes had a mill & other things. Still has an old operating store. There is an abandoned church (non denominational). A guess of 60 residents.  Wahla a new fast foods place too.

Contributed by Gerry Schram (May 18, 2006)

 

In 1990, the census listed 70 people (GBS)

SACRAMENTO

Olmstead Co.

A class A, placer gold mining camp northwest of Rochester, and near Oronoco, where US 52 crosses two branches of the Zumbro River. Between the bridges a marker records the gold rush of 1857, when prospectors made this a busy tent camp.

SPLIT ROCK LIGHTHOUSE

Lake Co.

Now a state historic site, this isolated lighthouse is located 48 miles north of Duluth on the west shore of Lake Superior. Remains of the small community that huddled at the top of the cliffs include the restored homes of the keeper and others, the lighthouse, and other supporting buildings It was built in 1910, and has been restored to its glory period of the 1920s.

SPRING LAKE

Chisago Co.

Located in Fish Lake Township, Spring Lake is located approximately four miles to the south of Stark, or what is left of it.

Contributed by “Steump”, Sep 11, 2005

STARK

Chisago Co.

Located in Fish Lake Township, Stark is still in existence. with some houses, Fish Lake Lutheran Church, the old school house which now contains a bar and restaurant, and another bar restaurant. The general store/ post office is closed.

Contributed by “Steump”, Sep 11, 2005

 

Stark still had 60 folks in 1990. (GBS)

SWIFT

Roseau Co.

This class D-lumber/railroad town is on SH 11, five miles southeast of Warroad, just south of the west end of Lake of the Woods. With a 1980 population of only 30, this tiny town is flirting with ghost-hood. There were a number of commercial buildings here at one time, including a hotel.  Not much remains.

VOSS

Becker Co.

Voss in Walwoth & Atlanta townships north of Lake Park. It had a CZJB lodge, fraternal organization for Czechs & creamery probably more. All that is left is a grove.

Contributed by Gerry Schram (May 18, 2006)

WASIOJA

Dodge Co.

This sleepy, class D agricultural town snoozes along CR 16, six miles northwest of Mantorville. Only about 50% of its buildings are occupied. Notable structures include: the 2-story, wood and stone school building and the single story, clapboard Wasioja town hall, built in 1858 as the First Baptist Church. The squat stone building in the southwest corner of town was built in 1855 as a law office for Colonel George. It later served as a bank and town meeting center. In April 1861, the building was converted into a Civil War recruiting station. It is the last remaining recruiting station in Minnesota. After the War it served variously as a jail, office, storehouse, and private residence. In the 1960s, it was purchased by the Dodge County Historical Society, and in 1987 restoration began.  It was finished in July 1988.

WESTBURY

Becker Co.

Westbury on Highway 59 north of Detroit Lakes. It still has a few people living there, no old buildings. At one time had livestock pens for loading on the train, machinery dealer etc.  

Contributed by Gerry Schram (May 18, 2006)

 

In 1990, the census listed 20 people (GBS)

 

MORE INFORMATION

 

Historians estimate that there may be as many as 50,000 ghost towns scattered across the United States of America.

Gary B. Speck Publications is in process of publishing unique state, regional, and county guides called

The Ghost Town Guru's Guide to the Ghost Towns of “STATE”

These original guides are designed for anybody interested in ghost towns. Whether you are a casual tourist looking for a new and different place to visit, or a hard-core ghost town researcher, these guides will be just right for you. With over 30 years of research behind them, they will be a welcome addition to any ghost towner's library.

Thank you, and we'll see you out on the Ghost Town Trail!

 

For more information on the ghost towns of MINNESOTA, contact us at

Ghost Town USA.

 

E-mailers, PLEASE NOTE:

Due to the tremendous amount of viruses, worms and “spam,” out there, I no longer open or respond to e-mails with unsolicited attachments, OR messages on the subject lines with “Hey”, “Hi”, “Need help”, “Help Please”, “???”, or blank subject lines, etc.  If you do send E-mail asking for information, or sharing information, PLEASE indicate the appropriate location AND state name, or other topic on the “subject” line.

THANK YOU!  :o)

IMPORTANT

 

These listings and historical vignettes of ghost towns, near-ghost towns and other historical sites in MINNESOTA above are for informational purposes only, and should NOT be construed to grant permission to trespass, metal detect, relic or treasure hunt at any of the listed sites.

 

If the reader of this guide is a metal detector user and plans to use this guide to locate sites for metal detecting or relic hunting, it is the READER'S responsibility to obtain written permission from the legal property owners. Please be advised, that any state or nationally owned sites will probably be off-limits to metal detector use. Also be aware of any federal, state or local laws restricting the same.

When you are exploring the ghost towns of MINNESOTA, please abide by the

Ghost Towner's Code of Ethics.

 

 

 

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FIRST POSTED:  June 1999

LAST UPDATED: August 07, 2010

 

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