- Associated Press - Monday, June 15, 2015

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Two Fargo radio personalities who for the past decade have been documenting ghost towns and abandoned places in North Dakota say the most popular photos on their website have been those of old churches.

So Terry Hinnenkamp and Troy Larson decided to make their fourth coffee table book about churches in the Dakotas and elsewhere, some of which are still standing after more than 150 years. There’s a church in Deisem, in southeastern North Dakota, which the two photographers expected to crumble 10 years ago.

“It’s that church that every year we see it, it is not going to last much longer. And every year it continues to hold on and amaze you,” Hinnenkamp said. “It kind of makes you feel there’s a special power to these churches that lets them hold on as long as they do.”

Hinnenkamp and Larson met in the radio business and became ghost town biographers through a failed promotion to document nights spent in haunted houses. They’ve sold three “Ghost of North Dakota” books and have made enough money to move on to the next project and once in a while stay in a hotel rather than a tent.

“We would love to make a bunch of money, but history still is our main focus,” Hinnenkamp said. “Getting a lot of pictures of these places before they’re gone is basically our No. 1 goal.”

“Churches of the High Plains” is a 120-page hardcover book that features buildings and cemeteries from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Manitoba. Although the first three books feature a handful of churches, the duo decided to dedicate an entire book to them because traffic on ghostsofnorthdakota.com picks up every time they post a church.

“The church is that iconic structure,” Hinnenkamp said. “When you see it, no matter what, there’s a church in there that is going to remind you of your past.”

Larson said his favorite photos are from the Brown Earth Church and Cemetery in Grant County, South Dakota, a log cabin that was built by Native Americans in 1877 and still has the old pump organ. The organ doesn’t work, but the church bell does.

“It’s so remote. Just this peaceful spot on the prairie,” Larson said.

In addition to the Deisem church, Hinnenkamp is partial to the massive St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Lefor, partly because regulars on the website still marvel about the congregation’s cookbook.

“All these years later that cookbook is still being utilized by people and remembered,’ Hinnenkamp said.

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