North Dakota Ghost Town – The Gray Lady of Sims

Sims, North Dakota.

If you are traveling southern North Dakota’s I-94, consider hopping on the Old Red Old 10 Scenic Byway for a trip through North Dakota’s history. The route runs between Mandan and Dickinson following the remaining sections of Old U.S. Highway 10.

Along the byway, near the town of Almont, a small sign at an intersection points toward the abandoned village of Sims. Founded in 1883, the town’s 1,000 or so residents worked for a company that opened a coal mine nearby. Sims then was a coal town, where residents working for the mining company called home.

Old Red Old 10-11

The census of 1910 told the story of the mining town that disappeared leaving only 86 residents. According to Wikipedia here, the population fluctuated around that number, but by 1947, residents passed on or drifted away and the post office closed.

Old Red Old 10-8

As we wandered around the town, I noticed a bridge. Regular readers know I am attracted to the stories of old bridges. It turned out that this one is a bridge to nowhere. There’s not even a creek running underneath it. There are no approaches, and it’s just sitting there, evidently awaiting a future time when it can again feel the feet of passing pedestrians. It’s too small to carry cars.

Old Red Old 10-10

In 1884, the Lutheran congregation built a church and parsonage. The church has been restored and services are held every other week. The story of the Gray Lady started in the 1930s. According to legend, her spirit can be found even to this day.

Sims Parsonage-1

The small building next to the church is the parsonage. It is there that the spirit of the Gray Lady calls home. The oldest reference I found on the Internet to the legend is from May 15, 1988, in a story from the archives of the Bismarck Tribune here. According to one former resident, the pastor’s wife became ill and passed away in the parsonage. Even after the pastor moved on, the Gray Lady decided to stay and in the process drove out at least two other ministers who attempted to live in the parsonage.

In the 1930s, the residents even wrote to the bishop about the strange happenings, the church organ mysteriously playing, the windows on the second floor of the parsonage opening and closing by themselves. To this day, it is believed the Gray Lady still wanders through the church and, except for every-other-Sunday services, has the entire town to herself.

Old Red Old 10-9

Feel free to click on any of the images above to visit the gallery of images I captured that afternoon at Sims, North Dakota. I leave you with another view of the one abandoned residence still standing captured from the main road that travels through Sims.

John Steiner

20 comments

  1. Wonderful history lesson and images John. I loved the pictures and appreciate the research that went into your post. We have a ghost town in eastern California called Bodie. It’s a special place for photographers, but no ghosts that anyone has lived to tell about! 😁

  2. Sounds like the Grey Lady has a bit of a sense of humor, or maybe just particular about who she allows into her “space” . The photos are stunning, the history, fun. This could be presented as a book for people visiting the area. Very nice. Donna

  3. There’s something appealing about ghost towns or any other places that have been deserted for a long time, which is an irony since the very reason their former residents left was probably because they no longer found anything appealing about the place. I really like that opening shot, as well as the story about the abandoned bridge and the actual ghost.

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