Compendium of history and biography of Polk County, Minnesota

In compiling this compendium of history and biography and preparing it for publication its publishers have been engaged in a work of very unusual interest. The story told in these pages is substantially that of a rich and fertile region awakened by the commanding voice of mind from its wasteful sleep of ages to a condition of intensifying and expanding productiveness and the conversion of its vast resources, prior to that time unused, into serviceable forms for the benefit of mankind.

The various stages by which that region has advanced from a wilderness to a highly developed section of country, rich in all the elements of modern civilization basking in pastoral abundance, resounding with the din of fruitful industry, busy with the mighty volume of a multiform and far-reaching commerce and bright with the luster of high moral, mental, and spiritual life the home of an enterprising, progressive, and all-daring people, as they founded and have built it, are depicted in detail or clearly indicated in the following chapters. Such a theme is always and everywhere an inspiring one. But happily for the world, though unhappily for the historian, among us it is one fast fading from current experience and comment into the realm of the antiquarian. For in this land of ours civilized man has established his dominion over almost every region, and there is little of our once vast wilderness left to be conquered.

The book contains biographies of many of the progressive residents of Polk County, past and present, and some of men living elsewhere now who were once potent in the activities of this region those who laid the foundations of its greatness and those who have built and are building on the superstructure and is enriched with portraits of a number of them. It also gives a comprehensive survey of the numerous lines of productive energy which distinguish the people of the county at the present time and of those in which its residents have been engaged at all periods in the past since the settlement of the region began. And so far as past history and present conditions disclose them, the work indicates the trend of the county's activities and the goal which they aim to reach. In their arduous labor of preparing this volume the publishers and promoters of it have had most valuable and highly appreciated assistance from many sources. Their special thanks are due and are cordially tendered to Judge William Watts for his services as a reviewer and fountain of information; to Mr. Elias Steenerson for his complete and entertaining contribution descriptive of the early Norwegian settlements in the county; to Mr. W. E. McKenzie for his discriminating history of the press in this section; to Mr. N. P. Stone, Historian of the Old Settlers' Society, for information obtainable from no other person ; to Mr. Edmund M. Walsh for thrilling reminiscences of the early days at Crookston; to Mr. James M. Cathart for his equally valuable history of the city of Crookston; to Mr. Charles L. Conger for his graphic account of the rise and fall of Columbia County; to Professor N. A. Thorson for his able and suggestive history of the Polk County school system; to Mr. C. G. Selvig for his fine exposition of the Northwestern School of Agriculture and the Experiment Station operated in connection with it; to Mr. Thomas B. Walker, of Minneapolis, for his lucid and highly interesting presentation of the salient features of the lumering industry in this region; to Mr. James J. Hill and Mr. W. J. Murphy, of Minneapolis, for valuable, timely, and helpful encouragement in the work: to Mr. Warren Upham, secretary of the Minnesota Historical Society, for comprehensive and accurate information on the geography and geology of Polk County; to Mr. E. D. Childs, of North Yakima, Washington, for a chapter of sparkling reminiscences of the early days; to Rev. William Thiellion for his excellent article on Gentilly and his church there and the cheese factory conducted by its members under his supervision and started by his initiative; to Peter Allan Cumming for his article on the Marias Community, and to many other persons whose assistance is gratefully acknowledged but who are too numerous to be mentioned specially by name. Without the valuable and judicious aid of all these persons, those who are named and those who are not, it would have been impossible to compile a history of Polk County of the completeness and high character it is hoped and believed this one has. Finally, to the residents of Polk County, to whose patronage the book is indebted for its publication, and whose life stories constitute a large part of its contents, the publishers freely tender their grateful thanks, with the hope that these persons will find in the volume an ample recompense for their generosity and public spirit in making its production possible.

 

Table of Contents

CHAPTER I.
GEOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY OF POLK COUNTY 9

CHAPTER II.
THE EARLY INDIAN INHABITANTS 17

CHAPTER III.
THE FIRST WHITE MEN IN POLK COUNTY 28

CHAPTER IV.
FUR TRADERS THE FIRST WHITE RESIDENTS 34

CHAPTER V.
EARLY AMERICAN EXPLORATIONS IN RED RIVER VALLEY 40

CHAPTER VI.
CHIEF HISTORIC FEATURES OF EARLY TIMES 46

CHAPTER VII.
EARLY HISTORICAL DATA AFTER 1850 56

CHAPTER VIII.
HISTORICAL ARTICLES OF THE EARLY SETTLEMENT 63

CHAPTER IX.
CROOKSTON AND ITS INSTITUTIONS 85

CHAPTER X.
THE NEWSPAPERS OF POLK COUNTY 90

CHAPTER XI.
THE SCHOOLS OF POLK COUNTY 96

CHAPTER XII.
THE CROOKSTON SCHOOL OF AGRICULTURE 106

CHAPTER XIII.
THE NORTHWEST SCHOOL OF AGRICULTURE AND EXPERIMENT STATION 111

CHAPTER XIV.
HISTORY OF AGRICULTURE IN POLK COUNTY 116

CHAPTER XV.
THE RISE AND FALL OF COLUMBIA COUNTY 125

CHAPTER XVI.
THE BANKING INTERESTS OF THE COUNTY 131

 

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The great watercourses of Polk County are the Red River, which here flows nearly north-northwest, forming the western boundary of the county and the state, and its principal tributary, the Red Lake River, which takes a more meandering course. If the many small loops and bends of the latter stream are disregarded, however, its general route, from which the bends mostly deviate only a quarter to a half of a mile on either side, is seen on the map to be quite direct, running west and northwest through the central part of the county. The cities of Grand Porks and East Grand Porks are named from their situation where these streams unite, or rather where the lower river forks as it was seen by the Indians or the French voyageurs when coming up in their canoes.