Ghost Town Boom Towns
With the construction of the railroad, towns blossomed every few miles along the tracks, and each was confident that it would soon grow from a village to a prosperous city. On this date in 1946, it was much the same as a super highway was constructed for the Garrison Dam. Shacks and shanties were thrown up every few miles, and each location had ambitious names like Gateway, Dakota City or Silver City.
Newspapers, including the Sanish Sentinel, looked confidently upon the boom towns, saying: “Signs of the potential business boom are in evidence as the graders level the base of what will be the best highway in the state.” Stores and other businesses were building along the road in anticipation of the expected business boom.
Gateway stood at the intersection of this superhighway and Highway 83. Further down the road was Dakota City, which already had an unfinished gas station and a nightclub.
Silver City was the first of the boom towns. The founder and self-elected mayor, O.A. Bergeson, bragged about his town, saying: “This is a city, not a town.” He said 40 to 50 businesses were planned.
Right across from Silver City came the new town of Big Bend, with its slogan “Best Dam Town.” While some of the pop-up communities concentrated on nightclubs and rooming houses, Big Bend had already lined up a clothing store, a barber shop, a pool hall, a contracting office, a drug store, a confection and novelty shop, and of course a Jewelry Store so the well-paid dam construction workers could buy gifts for their girlfriends. The jewelry store was to be built of grain bins, much like many of the businesses and homes of the boom towns.
The largest new town was Riverdale. It was federally built to accommodate the new workers, and it has outlasted all the rest. Rather than recycled grain bins and old shanties on dirt streets, houses in Riverdale were built of beautiful red brick on curved, paved roads with a view of Lake Sakakawea. Of all the boom towns, only Riverdale has not become a ghost town.
Dakota Datebooy written by Tessa Sandstrom
“Super highway approach to dam site and Riverdale feel boom,” Sanish Sentinel. May 30, 1946: 6.