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Donnelly School and an Abandoned Church

Donnelly School and an Abandoned Church

Donnelly is in Stevens County, Minnesota, about 10 minutes northwest of Morris, and home to about 241 people as of the 2010 census. It was founded in December 1871, and was originally known as “Douglas”, but was renamed Donnelly in honor of Minnesota Congressman Ignatius Donnelly. Congressman Donnelly is perhaps better known for his book Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, a work which maintains Plato’s writings on Atlantis are factual. The book became the basis for many of the Atlantis legends of popular lore.

We went to Donnelly in 2012 with the intention of getting some shots of the very impressive former public school.

We’re told the owner of the school has (or had) a woodworking shop in the back of the school for a time.

The front of this school is completely overgrown.  Troy had to navigate through the bushes to get onto the front steps and take this photo.

For a town with as many people as Donnelly, we were surprised to find it still had quite a few derelict places to photograph, including this service station which looked like a place out of time.

This church had a notice of forfeiture posted on the door due to back taxes.  The notice had an expiration date of May, 2012 for the owners, a couple from Doylestown, Ohio, to pay more than $5,500 in back taxes, or forfeit the property to Stevens County. We have yet to hear how the situation turned out. Please post a comment below if you know.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Two Abandoned Schools in Beardsley, Minnesota

Two Abandoned Schools in Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley is in Big Stone County, in the “elbow” of Minnesota, where Lake Traverse, Big Stone Lake, and the Little Minnesota River carve into what would otherwise be South Dakota’s territory.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley had a population of 200-plus residents in the 2010 Census. Beardsley’s schools were consolidated with Graceville and Clinton, Minnesota long ago. In the photo above, the former High School is in the foreground, and behind it on the left, Beardsley’s other abandoned school, which now appears to be owned by a private party.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

The corner of Windom Avenue and Forest Street.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

If there’s any question how long this school has been left exposed to the elements, note the broken door in the lower left. We found a picture of this school online, taken in 2009, in which the door was in the same condition. Below, a look inside the doorway.

Beardsley, Minnesota

We did not see a single “No Trespassing” sign on this old school, but we did not have permission to enter, and we didn’t know who the owner was, so we stayed out. We would love to photograph the interior one day, before it’s too late.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

This school was built in 1908. For historical context, that same year, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were reportedly killed in Bolivia, Henry Ford produced the first Model-T, and Thomas Selfridge became the first person to die in a plane crash. He was a passenger on a flight piloted by Orville Wright.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley’s other school was built in 1954, and only a year later, Beardsley’s public schools became the subject of some controversy with the Catholic Church. In his book, “Rooting Out Religion: Church-State Controversies in Minnesota Public Schools Since 1950,” author Bruce Dierenfield details a 1955 controversy in which the Pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Harvey Egan, wrote a letter objecting to baccalaureate services held in connection with graduation and holiday ceremonies on the grounds that the prayers may violate Catholic beliefs. “Upon receiving the letter, the school board canceled commencement and considered dropping its Christmas celebration. The board chairman, C. A. Hundeby, called for ‘a strictly academic year all year with no Christmas programs either.'”

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

The roof on this school was somewhat unique, and something we hadn’t seen before. It was sloped toward the center.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Do you know more about Beardsley, Minnesota and its schools? Please leave a comment.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media



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Effie’s Logging Legacy

Effie’s Logging Legacy

I stopped in Effie on a whim when I happened to drive by the boarded-up public school on my way home from Togo. Effie is a quiet little town in Itasca County with a population around 130 according to the 2010 Census. In 2000, however, the Census only listed about 91 residents. If anyone knows the reason for the influx of residents between 2000 and 2010, I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Effie, like most of the settlements in this part of Northern Minnesota, is a community that exists largely due to the logging industry. According to Mimi Barzen at the Minnesota DNR, “By 1875 logging was big business, due to the abundance of trees, expanding rail system, and network of waterways extending all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

These photos were taken by FSA Photographer Russell Lee in 1937 at a logging camp on the outskirts of Effie.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Loading logs onto a railroad car.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Blowing the horn for dinner.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Effie, Minnesota School

Many Minnesota logging communities were left behind when the white pine logging industry moved on to the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s, and empty schools, like this one in Effie, or the one in Togo, are remnants of the exodus.  Effie clings to life, however, with outdoor recreation in warm and cold weather–hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling for instance–and they have a well-regarded rodeo, the North Star Stampede, held annually, rain or shine, in the last week of July.

Effie, Minnesota School

Effie, Minnesota School

Effie, Minnesota School

Effie, Minnesota School

Black & White photos by Russell Lee, 1937. Color photos by Troy Larson, Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media



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Abandoned Art Deco School in Norcross, Minnesota

Abandoned Art Deco School in Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross is a small town in Grant county, a short drive southeast of Breckenridge, directly west of Alexandria. The sign on the outskirts of Norcross proclaims a population in the sixties.  We decided to visit Norcross after seeing a photo of the beautiful art deco public school building.

Norcross, Minnesota

We spoke to a Norcross resident who told us this school is owned by a couple from Arizona who intended to fix it up, but haven’t been seen in about two years.

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

We spoke to a local man named Jerry who told us the home above was his mom’s house, and he suspected it might have been a store at one time as well. I thought it had a certain depot-type appearance too.

Norcross, Minnesota

This post office is still in use. Very picturesque.

Norcross, Minnesota

Jerry showed us some historic photos of Norcross, including this one which shows the same post office on the far left.

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

This was the office for a lumberyard which no longer exists. Just to the left of this building there was once a large community center which is now gone too.

Norcross, Minnesota

If you build it……….. they will go?

Norcross, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

Abandoned School in Williams, Minnesota

Abandoned School in Williams, Minnesota

Williams is in Lake of the Woods county in northern Minnesota.  According to the 2010 Census, Williams has 191 residents.

On October 7th, 1910, Williams was decimated by the Baudette Fire–a wildfire that scorched over 300,000 acres and nearly a dozen communities in both the United States and Canada.  Varied sources report the death toll between 29 and 42.  Thousands were left homeless and The American Red Cross and The National Guard assisted in the recovery effort.

Today, Williams is a quiet little community with plentiful resort traffic.  Emma Katka contributed these photos of the Williams abandoned school, which was also used as the Williams Community Center for a time.

Photos by Emma Katka
Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

Pioneer Remains in Strand Township

Pioneer Remains in Strand Township

In Strand Township, Norman County, not far from Gary, Minnesota and about twelve miles west of Mahnomen stand the remains of a pioneer community. I ran across this church and school by accident as I was returning from a trip to northeast Minnesota to photograph some spots in the forest, including Togo.

strand township church

This was Immanuel Lutheran Church, possibly built as early as 1910. If anyone knows the history of this church, please leave a comment. I poked my camera through a window to get a photo of the inside, disturbing the pigeons in the process. You can see them in flight near the ceiling.

strand township church

strand township church

We featured dozens of country churches like this in our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains, available now.

strand township church

strand township church

Just three miles west, this abandoned one room school stands crumbling at the intersection of Highways 200 and 32. This school predates the church by roughly thirty years, dating to the 1880s. This school and the church down the road are just a few miles from Gary, Minnesota, and not far from a few other places we’ve photographed, like Sundal and Lockhart, Minnesota.

strand township school

strand township school

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media

Togo: Where the Pavement Ends and the North Begins

Togo: Where the Pavement Ends and the North Begins

Togo, Minnesota is a remote outpost in Itasca County, about thirty five miles northwest of Hibbing. Located in George Washington State Forest, a wilderness covering more than three hundred thousand acres, Togo is an outdoor paradise in warm and cold weather. This part of Minnesota is characterized by numerous marshes and bogs, punctuated with tamarack and black spruce trees, thousands of which are dead in the wet, low-lying areas. The result is acres of bare tree trunks, devoid of foliage — just stalks pointing to the sky like a scene from a post-apocalyptic disaster movie. In truth, it’s just a stage, a momentary snapshot in the natural renewal of the forest.

Togo’s motto is “Where the Pavement Ends and the North Begins,” and it’s a motto that couldn’t be more exact. There are a number of campgrounds in the area for anyone who wants to sleep under the stars among the pine, spruce, fir, and birch trees, and Togo is one of few places where there might be even more recreation in the winter. Snowmobiles are as common as automobiles in the cold months, and Togo is something of a mushing mecca where you can get sled dog training.

Togo, Minnesota

Togo had a post office, founded in 1905, and the town was reportedly named for Admiral Togo by Miles Nelson, the first Postmaster. An unsourced history of Togo states the original post office (not shown) is now a residence.

Togo, Minnesota

The building shown here is the former Togo Public School which reportedly became a residence after the students were gone, although it did not appear to be occupied when these photos were taken.

Togo, Minnesota

There are a few inhabited homes and some buildings in Togo which are obviously still in use, but the only business appears to be Junction Bar & Grill, where they have a Fourth of July parade, and they keep track of the hottest and coldest days of the year on a blackboard. At the time of this writing, the coldest day of 2015 was -35 on January 5th, and the warmest was a July day when the mercury reached 95.

Togo, Minnesota

Since 1955, the Minnesota Department of Corrections has operated a juvenile correctional facility near Togo known as Thistledew Camp, which focuses on wilderness training. There is also a boot camp for women in the Minnesota penal system.

If you’re looking for a scenic drive, a pure forest experience without truck stops or convenience stores or rest areas, the drive west from Togo to Effie, Minnesota on State Highway 1 is a trip you will never forget.

Togo, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media



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Mehurin Township Hall

Mehurin Township Hall

This old township hall stands alone beside a gravel road in Lac Qui Parle County, just a few miles east of the border with South Dakota.  I found it particularly beautiful, on top of a hill, with purple blooms in the prairie grasses.

Mehurin Township Hall

Mehurin Township Hall

Mehurin Township Hall

Mehurin Township Hall

Mehurin Township Hall

Mehurin Township Hall

Mehurin Township Hall

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota is located in Kittson County, in the far northwestern corner of the state, not far from another town we’ve visited — Noyes.  It is just across the Red River from Pembina, North Dakota.  A visitor on our Facebook page has kept after us to visit St. Vincent and we’re happy to say we finally got around to it.

St. Vincent reportedly had a population of almost 120 in 2000, but dropped to just over 60 by 2010.  That’s a big population loss in just a single decade.

St. Vincent is quite spread out, and it was apparent within minutes of our arrival that a lot of structures from St. Vincent’s heyday are already gone.   St. Vincent is one of the better documented small towns in the state, with a website dedicated to it here, and some of the fires and other natural disasters that have taken a toll on St. Vincent are documented there.

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota

The St. Vincent school.

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota

These steps seemed to be in an odd place out in the front yard.

St. Vincent, Minnesota

Is it a depot made into somebody’s house? Or is it somebody’s house made to look like a depot?

St. Vincent, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC


Return to Comstock

Return to Comstock

On our way back to Moorhead in July of 2012, we stopped in Comstock to photograph the former Comstock Public School.  We had visited this place once before in 2011, and we found the school much the same as it was then, except someone had put up a fence all the way around the perimeter.

Comstock, Minnesota

Somewhere inside Comstock Public School, a radio perpetually plays.

Comstock, Minnesota

Comstock Public School was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 17th, 1980.

Comstock, Minnesota

Comstock, Minnesota

Apparently, the irony of spray painting moral messages on the side of a building was lost on at least one vandal.

Comstock, Minnesota

Comstock, Minnesota

Comstock, Minnesota

When Terry approached the school, the pigeons got alarmed and flocked overhead.

Comstock, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2012 Sonic Tremor Media



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