Archaeologists are uncovering history in a Minnesota ghost town

Minnesota high school and college students explore the former Winnipeg Junction, near Hawley, Minnesota

Sam Ghost.jpg
A student sifts for artifacts from the former town of Winnipeg Junction.
Sam Goetzinger / WDAY News
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HAWLEY, Minn. — Winnipeg Junction used to be a prosperous town in Minnesota.
It is now a ghost town.
High school and college students from near and far are trying to find out the story of the town during an archaeological dig.

Winnipeg Junction was a thriving community just east of Hawley from 1900 to 1910. At one point, it was home to over 200 residents. The story of the town’s rise and eventual downfall was connected to a railroad controversy. It was a battle between railroads over land and a connection to Canada.

Amanda Butler, professor of anthropology at Minnesota State University-Moorhead, says they just decided to make their own connection to Canada, hence the name Winnipeg Junction. What they didn’t realize was the soil in the area was too wet to hold a rail line, forcing the railroad to whither away and the community with it.

Buddy Norman has been the landowner for the last 35 years. He has found history all over his lawn.

“I think the most important thing I’ve found is a 1903 Roosevelt commemorative coin that is in just really good shape, because Teddy came through here on the train. He stopped in Dale actually. So, I am sure they were campaigning,” he said.


This month, students at MSUM, along with high school students, are searching for the finer details to discover the drinking patterns in Clay County.

“Anything that can tell us anything. Like a hunk of glass is cool but if it doesn’t have words or any distinct patterns, you can’t really tell much from that. So finding stuff with designs or distinct rims are helpful to find,” said Eva Meerdink, an eighth-grade archaeologist from Illinois.

Butler says they hope they can answer some questions like, are there some consumption patterns that are the same, and if they were getting alcohol in the same place.

The crew will be out there for the next 21 days, hopefully answering the questions and uncovering the fascinating history of Winnipeg Junction.

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