Griffin, North Dakota Ghost Town

Atkinson School District school in Griffin, North Dakota about 1915

Atkinson School District school in Griffin, North Dakota about 1915

Located in Bowman County, Griffin is situated about seven miles west of Bowman and six miles east of Rhame, North Dakota on Highway 12. Griffin is a true ghost town with not a single resident.

Legends‘ reader Mark Griffin tells us that according to North Dakota Place Names, the post office and Milwaukee Road railroad station was named Atkinson until February 10, 1908, when the name was changed to Griffin in honor of Henry T. Griffin, the Assistant General Passenger Agent for the railroad. According to the December 27, 1900 edition of The New York Times, “Henry T. Griffin has assumed the duties of Assistant General Passenger Agent of the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul Railway Company.”

Collapsed building in Griffin, North Dakota

Collapsed building in Griffin, North Dakota by Kathy Alexander.

Situated north of the railroad tracks that parallel to the highway, this one-time community was more of a business venture than a town and never had many residents. What it did have were some of the biggest stockyards in the county, along with several grain elevators, a depot and a couple of section houses for the railroad workers. In 1911, the North Dakota Magazine reported that Griffin had a general store, lumber yard, elevators, and was growing fast. It may have also had, at one time, a gas station.

It was also home to a school for area children. In the late 19th century, school reformers urged rural school districts to reorganize one-room school districts into consolidated schools with more than one classroom. Bowman County was one of the few in North Dakota to give this idea a serious trial, constructing four impressive rural consolidated schools during the early 1920s, including the one in Griffin, which was called the Atkinson School. Unfortunately, the population loss from the countryside in succeeding years doomed these consolidated rural schools just as surely as it did the one-room schools.

Atkinson school in Griffin, North Dakota.

Abandoned school in Griffin, North Dakota.

Today, Griffin is home to only the quickly deteriorating old school building, a boxcar, a barn, and a few other deteriorating buildings. According to local lore, because of the stockyards, the town was often frequented by cowboys, and allegedly a few gunfights took place within the community. About two miles north of the town ran the old Yellow Stone Trail, the first transcontinental automobile highway through the upper tier states. Established in 1912, the old highway ran from Plymouth, Massachusetts, through Yellowstone National Park, and on to Seattle, Washington. This old road was marked in some areas with three-foot-tall stones painted yellow.

©Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated December 2020.

An old barn or workshop in Griffin, North Dakota, by Kathy Alexander.

An old barn or workshop in Griffin, North Dakota, by Kathy Alexander.

Also See:

Forts of North Dakota

Ghost Towns Across America

North Dakota Ghost Town Gallery

North Dakota Ghost Towns

North Dakota Main Page