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Cook County, Minnesota


County Name Information


Source: Minnesota Geographic Names, Volume 17; submitted by cd

This county, established March 9, 1874, was named in honor of Major Michael Cook, of Faribault, a prominent citizen and a brave soldier in the civil war. He was born in Morris county, N. J., March 17, 1828; came to Minnesota, settling in Faribault, in 1855, and being a carpenter, aided in building some of the first frame houses there; and was a territorial and state senator, 1857 to 1862. In September, 1862, he was mustered into the Tenth Minnesota regiment, in which he was appointed major, and served until he fell mortally wounded in the battle of Nashville, December 16, 1864, his death occurring eleven days later.

Colonel Charles H. Graves, the state senator from Duluth, introduced the bill to establish this county and to name it in honor of Verendrye, the pioneer of exploration on the northern boundary of Minnesota; but the name was changed before the bill was enacted as a law. It has been thought by some that the name adopted was in commemoration of John Cook, who was killed by Ojibway Indians, as also his entire family, in 1872, his house at Audubon, Minn., being burned to conceal the deed. Colonel Graves has stated, in a letter, that this name was selected to honor Major Cook.

It may well be hoped that some county, yet to be formed adjoining the north line of Minnesota, will receive the name Verendrye, in historic commemoration of the explorations, hardships, and sacrifices of this patriotic and truly noble French explorer. He was the founder of the fur trade in northern Minnesota, in Manitoba, and the Saskatchewan region, where it greatly flourished during the next hundred years; and two of his sons were the first white men to see the Rocky mountains, or at least some eastern range or outpost group of the great Cordilleran mountain belt.


Forests, Indian Reservations & Glacial Lakes.
Source: Minnesota Geographic Names, Volume 17, 1920; submitted by cd

Superior National Forest.

Large tracts in Cook, Lake, and St. Louis counties, exceeding a million acres, deemed chiefly valuable for forestry, were set apart by the United States government as a public reservation and named the Superior National Forest, in a proclamation of President Roosevelt, February 13, 1909, to which subsequent additions through similar proclamations have been since made. The initial recommendation for forestry reservation of these Minnesota lands was addressed to the commissioner of the U. S. General Land Office by Gen. C. C. Andrews, chief forest fire warden of this state, in 1902; and the authority for such national reservations had been vested in the President of the United States by an act of Congress in 1891.

Pigeon River Indian Reservation.

An area of about 65 square miles, including the trading post and village of Grand Portage, the portage road to Pigeon river, and the tract southward to the lake shore and west to Cranberry Marsh or Red Sand river, now commonly known as Reservation river, was set apart in a treaty with the Ojibways at La Pointe, Wis., September 30, 1854, for the Grand Portage band of these Indians. In the national census of 1910 the number of Indians in Cook county, nearly all of whom have their homes in this Reservation, was 220.

Glacial Lakes Duluth And Omimi.

The great glacial lake which was held by the barrier of the departing ice-sheet in the western part of the basin of Lake Superior, was named by the present writer in 1893 as the “Western Superior glacial lake.” In 1897 and 1898, respectively, this cumbersome name was changed by Frank B. Taylor and Arthur H. Elftman to be Glacial Lake Duluth. The heights of its strand lines on Mr. Josephine had been determined by leveling in 1891 by Prof. Andrew C. Lawson, as 607 and 587 feet about Lake Superior, which is 602 feet above the sea.

A somewhat higher and much smaller glacial lake, existing for a relatively short time in the Pigeon river basin in eastern Cook county and extending slightly into Canada, was described and named Lake Omimi by Elftman, as follows (Am. Geologist, vol. XXI, p. 104, Feb. 1898): “Before the ice had receded beyond mount Josephine it retained a lake of about 40 square miles in area lying in the upper valley of the present Pigeon river. The lake bed has an altitude of 1,255 to 1,360 feet above the sea. Its lowest point is thus about 50 feet higher than the upper stage of Lake Duluth….When the ice receded from the vicinity of Grand Portage, Lake Omimi disappeared. The name Omimi is taken from the Chippewa name for Pigeon river.”


Mountains And Hills
Source: Minnesota Geographic Names, Volume 17, 1920; submitted by cd

In voyaging along the north side of Lake Superior, the highland in Cook county within one or two or three miles back from the shore is seen as a succession of serrate hills and low mountains, the peaks being generally about two miles apart for distances of many miles. The visible crest line thus presents a remarkable profile, resembling the teeth of an immense saw. Between Temperance rived and Grand Marais, through nearly thirty miles, a somewhat regular series of these sharp outlines on the verge of the interior plateau has received the name of Sawteeth mountains.

Carlton Peak & Good Harbor Hill.

The most conspicuous and highest summit of this range, at its west end close back from the village of Tofte, was named Carlton peak in 1848 by Colonel Charles Whittlesey, in honor of Reuben B. Carlton, of Fond du Lac, Minnesota, who in that year ascended this mountain with Whittlesey, for the geological survey of this region by David Dale Owen. He is likewise honored by the name of Carlton county. Another peak is called Good Harbor hill, rising about a mile west of the bay so named.

Farquhar Peak.

Farquhar peak, similarly situated near the lake shore two miles west of Reservation river, was named in honor of an officer of the U. S. Survey of the Great Lakes.

Mt. Josephine.

Mt. Josephine, at the east side of Grand Portage bay, was named for a daughter of john Godfrey, of Detroit, Mich., who had a trading post at Grand Marais during several years, up to 1858. With a party of young people, she walked from Grand Portage to the top of this mountain, about the year 1853.

Mountain Lake, Moose Mountain & Mt. Reunion.

Mountain lake, on the international boundary, has Moose mountain close south of its east end, and Mt. Reunion a mile west of its west end, the latter being a name given for its being a place of meeting for parties on the Minnesota Geological Survey.

Brule Mountain.

Brule mountain is the summit of the highland close south of Lower Trout lake on the Brule river.

Eagle Mountain.

Eagle mountain is about five miles southwest of Brule mountain and a mile east of Eagle lake.

Prospect Mountain.

Prospect mountain is between the west ends of Gunflint and Loon lakes.

Misquah Hills & Misquah Lake.

The highest lands of Minnesota are the Misquah hills, an east to west range south of Cross and Winchell lakes, whose hilltops within four miles east and seven miles west of Misquah lake are about 2,200 feet above the sea, the highest being 2,230 feet. The name of Misquah lake and hills is the Ojibway word meaning red, in allusion to their red granite rocks which are exposed in extensive outcrops. Prof. N. H. Winchell wrote in 1881: “Misquah lake is flanked on the northeast and east by high brick-red hills, some of them being 500 or 600 feet high. The trees, being nearly all fire-killed and even consumed, allow a perfect view of the rock.”

Mesabi Lake & Mesabi Iron Range.

In the west edge of this county, the Mesabi lake marks the eastern extension of the Mesabi Iron Range, which passes by Little Saganaga lake and northeast to Gunflint lake. This Ojibway name was given on Nicollet’s map in 1843 as “Missaby Heights.” It has been spelled in several ways, Mesabi being its form in the reports and maps of the Minnesota Geological Survey. Gilfillan translated it as “Giant mountain,” with an additional note: “Missabe is a giant of immense size and a cannibal. This is his mountain, consequently the highest, biggest mountain.” Winchell wrote of it, “The Chippewas at Grand Portage represent Missabe as entombed in the hills near there, the various hills representing different members of his body.” Gunflint and North lakes lie in the course of continuation of the Mesabi Range, about ten miles north from the range of the Misquah hills, with which it is parallel.


Townships & Villages
Source: Minnesota Geographic Names, Volume 17, 1920; submitted by cd

Information of the origins of geographic names in Cook county was gathered during my visit in August, 1916, at Grand Marais, the county seat, from Thomas I. Carter, the county auditor; Axel E. Berglund, county surveyor; George Leng, clerk of the court; William J. Clinch, superintendent of schools; and John Drourillard and George Mayhew, of Grand Marais.

Each of the organized townships in this county comprises several government survey townships; and Grand Marais and Rosebush are very irregular in their outlines, stretching from areas adjoining Lake Superior to areas on the international boundary, with narrow strips connecting their southern and northern parts.

Colville Township.

Colville township, organized in 1906, was named in honor of Colonel William Colvill, to whose name a silent e is added for the township. He was born in Forestville, N. Y., April 5, 1830; and died in Minneapolis, June 12, 1905. He came to Red Wing, Minn., in 1854, and the next year established the Red Wing Sentinel, a Democratic newspaper. He served as captain and colonel of the First Minnesota regiment, 1861-4; was colonel of the First Minnesota Heavy Artillery, 1865, and brevetted brigadier general. He was a representative in the legislature in 1865, and again in 1878; and was attorney general of the state, 1866-8. In the battle of Gettysburg, 1863, he led his regiment in a famous charge, one of the noblest sacrifices to duty in all the annals of warfare. In his later years, Colonel Colvill homesteaded a claim on the Lake Superior shore in this township (section 9, T. 61, R. 2 E.), but his home previously, and also afterward, was near Red Wing. In 1909 his statue in bronze was placed in the rotunda of the state capitol.

Grand Marais Township.

Grand Marais township received this French name, meaning a great marsh, in the early fur-trading times, referring to a marsh, twenty acres or less in area, nearly at the level of Lake Superior, situated at the head of the little bay and harbor which led to the settlement of the village there. Another small bay on the east, less protected from storms is separated from the harbor by a slight projecting point and a short beach. In allusion to the two bays, the Ojibways name the bay of Grand Marais as “Kitchi-bitobig, the great duplicate water; a parallel or double body of water like a bayou” (Gilfillan).

Grand Portage – Village & Former Trading Place.

Grand Portage, a village and formerly a very important trading place, at the head of the bay of this name, and at the southeast end of the Grand portage, nine miles long, to the Pigeon river above its principal falls, has the distinction of being the most eastern and oldest settlement of white men in the area of Minnesota. Probably during the period of Verendrye’s explorations, this place became the chief point for landing goods from the large canoes used in the navigation of the Great Lakes, and for their being dispatched onward, from the end of this long portage, in smaller canoes to the many trading posts of all the rich fur country northwest of Lake Superior. In 1767, when Carver went there in the hope of purchasing goods, Grand Portage was an important rendezvous and trading post. At the time of the Revolutionary War, as Gen. James H. Baker has well said, it was the “commercial emporium” of the northwestern fur trade.

Fort Charlotte – Trading Post & Station of the Northwest Fur Company.

Fort Charlotte was the name of the trading post and station of the Northwest Fur Company at the western end of the portage, on the Pigeon river.

Hovland Township.

Hovland, the oldest organized township of this county, is in compliment to a pioneer settler named Brunas, for his native place in Norway.

Lutsen Township.

Lutsen township was named by its most prominent citizen, Carl A. A. Nelson, for a town in Prussian Saxony, made memorable by the battle there, 1632, in which the renowned Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, lost his life.

Maple Hill Township.

Maple Hill township has extensive sugar maple woods, on the highland five to ten miles back from Lake Superior.

Rosebush Township.

Rosebush township, organized in 1907, took its name from Rose Bush river, as it is popularly known, in translation of its Ojibay name. Oginekan, though called “Fall river” on maps, in the east edge of T. 61, R. 1 W. The creek a mile farther west, mapped as “Rose Bush river,” has no recognized name among the settlers.

Schroeder Township & Village.

Schroeder township and village are in honor of John Schroeder, president of a lumber company having offices in Ashland and Milwaukee, Wis., for whom pine logs have been cut and rafted away from the neighboring Temperance, Cross, and Two Island rivers.

Tofte Township & Village.

Tofte, likewise the name of a township and village, founded in 1898, is in honor of settlers having this surname, derived from their former home in the district of Bergen, Norway.


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