Saturday, February 2, 2019

Flashback: The Williston Refinery East Of Williston -- February 2, 2019


I think the best thing about "the original post" is the  human interest aspect.

I never met Hugh Routh. I wish I had. I would have enjoyed listening to his stories. Paraphrasing Stephen Hawking, "we all stand on the shoulders of great men and women." But here is another individual who came to remote, cold, desolate northwestern North Dakota and stayed for 33 years, even after retiring, did not want to leave his "home." Of the names mentioned in his obituary, I recognize a lot of the names but do not recall any personal anecdotes.

I did meet Bill Shemorry. I knew him as well as I knew anyone of his generation when I was in high school. He would not remember me, and he never had time for me. That's probably fortunate; had he taken me under his wing, I would probably be a photo-journalist struggling in some remote region of the world. But he was way too busy to mentor me. Wow, he was everywhere. Every Williston High School sports event; every Virgil Syverson "Band Day"; every political event; every civic event; every significant oil story, and even some not so significantly. One of his most famous oil rig photographs was on the cover of the Williston telephone directory some years ago. I had a copy of that directory for years; don't know if it's still in storage or not. I'm sure the photo is available in his collection. I always admired Bill Shemorry (from a distance). Willistonites are incredibly fortunate he captured the early history of Williston. It's almost as if he knew that Williston was destined for fame and notoriety. As I'm rambling...I have to look him up in my books on the history of North Dakota ... something tells me I will find more than a few mentions of his name.

The Original Post 

Just for the fun of it, let's see if we can find anything on the Flying J Refinery, Williston, ND.

Fact sheet.
  • 42 acres
  • built in the early 1950s
  • refining activities have been shut down since 1984
  • commercial product storage activities ceased in 1986
  • in 2004, Flying J initiated landfarming; risk-based concentrations were established for contaminated soils; served as cleanup goals; after two seasons of landfarming, all concentrations were between or below the RBCs. Based on those results, in-situ landfarming had met its cleanup goal and is considered complete
Shemorry photograph, this would be from the north, looking to the south, toward the river:

My hunch is that the "Muddy River boys" explored the Missouri River marsh seen in the photograph above.

I was given a soft cover copy of this book as a gift -- from a reader of the blog. A huge "thank you." Given to me some years ago. It looks like it may be out of print but available electronically.

Hugh Routh:


  1. Bruce, I just downloaded "the Muddy River Boys". I grew up working cattle/farming along the Little Muddy as it ran diagonal across our pasture N.E of Twin Lakes School. It circled north of Grampas' homestead 7 Miles North. Many summers spent wandering the dry spots searching for Anything interesting to a 9-16 yr old boy. I Ice skated the wider,smoother parts of the creek protected from wind. We caught Pike trapped in the ponds from the spring thaw, swam at "Victors Creek" (Anderson); the local watering hole for summer gatherings. We baled hay along certain edges during the hard times. I will no doubt find myself being drawn back to beautiful memories of a wonderful childhood and upbringing. Dennis Johnson

    1. I was on the north side of Williston and did not get out to the creeks/rivers as much as I wish. But I'm making up for it now -- taking the granddaughters to all the creeks/rivers I can find.

      I think you will enjoy seeing many, many names you will recognize in the book.