Mandan News

Prairie Ghosts

W D Sim building
By Dustin White
Mandan News, editor

The town of Sims began as a small coal mining city in 1883. Within a few years, the population is said to have boomed to over 1,000 residents. However, the expansion was short lived. By 1910, according to the census, the population was just 86.

At it’s height, Sims had a small brick factory, which had provided the material for many of the local homes. Local talk holds that the bricks created in this factory were not of a very high quality though.

Today, the Sims town site is abandoned. Only three structures remain standing: an old brick house that has fallen into disrepair, as well as a church and its parsonage.

The old brick house is named the “Gray House.” It had been built in 1890 by Andrew Anderson. By 1910, Tom Gray and his family moved into the house, where they resided until 1930. Following Gray’s occupation of the house, it served as a residence for school teachers.

The Scandinavian Lutheran Church was build in 1884, and still holds worship every other sunday for around 50 members of the congregation. It has been reported that this church is the oldest Lutheran church west of the Missouri River. The church parsonage has been restored and today is the home of the Sims Historical Society Museum.

Over the years, it has been rumored that the church is haunted by a ghost known as the “Gray Lady Ghost.” Between 1916 and 1918, Bertha, the wife of the Rev. L. D. Dordal and church organist, passed away after having struggled with a lingering illness. She was 26 at the time.

Shortly after Bertha died, Dordal remarried, and began serving a church in Larimore. When Dordal and his new wife left, the legend goes that Bertha stayed. Those who claim to have encountered her though agree that she is a friendly presence. However, in 1938, the church contacted district officials in order to ask them to investigate the supposed supernatural happenings.
(Photo by Dustin White)