As Dore’s only residents, they lived in a ghost town on the desolate northern Plains. But now the Finsaases have neighbors - lots of them. The all-but-forgotten former farming village has been reborn as a hub of oil activity, and it may not be the last abandoned settlement to be resurrected from the dust.
“We knew it was inevitable,” Mrs. Finsaas said of the oil boom that has enveloped the region. “We’re making the best of it, but it doesn’t mean we like it.”
Like many farm-dependent communities throughout the nation, Dore fell victim to changing agricultural practices and a harsh rural economy. By the early 1960s, the town on the state’s far western edge, near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, was largely vacant.
One of the final blows came in the mid-1970s, when Dore lost its ZIP code. About all that remains of the old town is an empty grain elevator standing tall over the prairie - a lonely memorial to earlier times.
These days, a century after its founding, the area is abuzz with development. Oil rigs drill in the distance, and mile-long tanker trains are topped off with crude here before heading to markets on the East, West and Gulf coasts. Dozens of campers and trailers have popped up on the nearby prairie, and hundreds more improvised dwellings are expected to take shape to house oil workers.
Dore’s economic and population turnaround began in 2008, when Houston-based Musket Corp. purchased land at the old town site for its oil-loading facility, which uses railroad tracks that once moved grain and sugar beets to market.
“Logistically, that’s where the rail configuration was that we needed,” Musket spokeswoman Kyla Turner said.
The operation will employ about 45 people, nearly equal to Dore’s population in its heyday.
At its zenith in the 1930s, Dore never had more than 50 or so residents, Mrs. Finsaas said. But the town boasted a general store, a school, a dance hall, bars, restaurants - even a hat-making shop.
“It was quite a going concern at one time,” said Romana Raffaell, who grew up near Dore and worked at a store there in the late 1950s. She now lives in Sydney, Mont., about 20 miles south of Dore.
“It wasn’t long after that the town died,” she said. “And what’s happening now is not exactly a rebirth - all you find there is a bunch of oil tankers and a lot of people of every size, shape and color. There is nothing recognizable about Dore because Dore doesn’t exist anymore.”
North Dakota, which had decades of declining population, was the only state that lost residents in 2003, according to the Census Bureau. But since 2006, it has surpassed a half-dozen other states to become the nation’s No. 3 oil producer. State officials estimate that North Dakota will surpass Alaska and will trail only Texas within a year.
The state’s population is at record levels, and its unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation. The turnaround is attributed to the oil boom.
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