Historic Landmarks in North Dakota Draw Attention

I was surprised when I found out the other day what attracts readers. It wasn’t what I expected. Things changed since the bizarre pandemic year of 2020 boosted a different set of stories into the top ten. When I reviewed the popularity of subjects on the website, I found that old, historic landmarks in North Dakota’s Badlands draw the most attention.  These include a flooded monument, railcar, abandoned wild west town, and a flooded Badlands town.

historic landmark rail car

Imagine standing on the deck of this rail car, traveling 40-mph across America to Yellowstone.


#1 See How It Rots

Parked along Highway 2, west of Minot sits an abandoned rail car. Once an elegant tour coach, it ended up rotting in the prairie.  Originally, it was a high-end touring car which transported visitors across the mid-section of the U.S. from Chicago to Yellowstone Park.  From such a glamorous role it became a rotted shell of itself outside of Minot, near Blaisdell.

Readers from across the U.S. responded to the story of elegance gone to vandalism.


#2 The Four Bears Monument under Water

It seems that the history of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation grabs readers’ attention. 

And so when I told the story of finding a 1925 statue of Four Bears that once marked the original Four Bears Bridge –  readers grabbed the story with interest. It was the second most popular story in 2021.  It’s such an interesting topic, we will be pursuing more of the story in 2022.


#3 The Town with a Split Personality

Monday sat on the border of North Dakota and Montana . The Missouri River was to the south of the frontier town, the Snowden Bridge to the southwest.

Mondak sat on the border of North Dakota and Montana. The Missouri River was to the south of the frontier town, the Snowden Bridge to the southwest.

The ruins of Mondak sit where it stood when it was a bustling shipping town.  But it was booze that gave the town its character. 

The town sat on the Montana-North Dakota border. Montana allowed drinking but North Dakota did not.  So, half the bars on the state line were divided – drinking on one side, but not the other.

The remnants of the town are on private property across the road from Four Union Trading Post, downstream of a lift bridge that once was used by both cars and trains. That’s where a gruesome murder and lynching took place 100 years ago.


#4 The Big Busy Little Town that was Flooded

Flood waters begin to creep up on Elbowoods in this 1953 photo from the North Dakota Historical Society.

Elbowoods is always a popular topic. We’ve written about our efforts to get as close as we could to the historic town, and readers like that. Elbowoods was our fourth most popular topic in 2021.  I had never heard of it until I moved to New Town. The MHA Museum Director, Marilyn Hudson, often told me stories from her home town of Elbowoods. It caught my interest enough to get as close as we could to the flooded town.

Before it was flooded in 1953, Elbowoods boasted a state basketball championship team, a medical clinic, schools and a bustling main street.   When the government took the river valley for a lake, Elbowoods became a casualty.

Sadly, one of the last major relics of the town, the Susan Web Memorial Church Building was torched by an arsonist a few years ago.  Now Elbowoods has passed into the land of myths and legends.  Still, we like to revisit the history and so do readers.


What was Next Most Popular?

I hinted at it here, but the second most popular subject to attract readers is mystery, murder and mayhem.  I’ll tell you about that in our next post.

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