Ghost Towns: Stearns County Towns that Disappeared from the Map — Our Top Five
Ghost Towns: Stearns County Towns that Disappeared from the Map — Our Top Five

So a few weeks back, we explored a smattering of supernatural legends from St. Cloud State University. This time around, I wanted to take a different approach to the concept of haunted spaces, and turn focus to a bunch of real "ghosts" we unknowingly encounter every day - the dissolved, forgotten towns of central Minnesota.

Many of us probably get the same old timey, western-style mental image when we hear the phrase “ghost town” – sepia-toned montages of overgrown, decrepit buildings with punched out floors and collapsed roofs, flanked by cacti and maybe a tumbleweed or two. I’m sure those Hollywood-style colonies are out there somewhere – but really, you won’t find them here in central Minnesota. As a matter of fact, most of the structures in the towns on this map were extinct before the turn of the century.

Like a good ghost story, the forgotten towns of central Minnesota are full of mystery. It took this reporter a few hours of digging around in the spectacularly organized archives of the Stearns History Museum to find the essential maps, facts, dates and photos to prove these places really existed. Now, while I’m crazy about history, research and heavy-duty air conditioning on 90-degree days, I was slightly discouraged when I realized that the vast majority of these towns have one thing in common – hardly ANY documentation exists to describe exactly where they were, what they looked like or who lived there. 

Another mystery I quickly uncovered - there's no good reason some of these towns flourished (if only for a while) and others failed almost immediately. These towns (pictured on the above map) were surveyed and settled by enterprising immigrants during the 1850s and 60s, itching to develop profitable commercial trade centers. Some were temporary outposts  - they drifted into disrepair and vanished. Others were platted, named and never saw so much as a single building. A handful served as the foundations for towns we know and live in today.  Take a close look at the map we've created.

The latter sums up the towns that made this list. May I present for your consideration - and in no particular order - 5 central Minnesota ghost towns that captured and haunted my imagination.