History of Douglas County
Information for this county was gathered from the History of Douglas and Grant Counties, Constant Larson, editor, 1916, two volumes, 509, 693 pages; "Plat Book of Douglas County," 1886, 82 pages, including a "Historical Sketch" in four pages; and from George P. Craig, judge of probate, Gustav A. Kortsch, president of the Douglas County Bank, R. C. Bondurant, local editor of the Alexandria Post News, Mrs. Charles F. Canfield, and Mrs. James H. Van Dyke, interviewed during a visit at Alexandria, the county seat, in May, 1916. -- Submitted by SD
This county, established March 8, 1858, and organized June 15, 1866, was named in honor of Stephen Arnold Douglas, statesman and leader in the Democratic party, eminent in his patriotic loyalty to the Union at the beginning of the Civil War. He was born in Brandon, Vermont, April 23, 1813; and died in Chicago, June 3, 1861. He lived in Vermont to the age of seventeen years; studied law, and was admitted to practice in Illinois in 1834; was elected to the state legislature in 1835, and won there the sobriquet of "the Little Giant," by which he was ever afterward well known; was elected a judge of the state supreme court in 1841; was a member of Congress, 1843-47; and U. S. Senator, 1847-61. On the application of Minnesota to be admitted as a state, in 1857-58, Douglas earnestly advocated it, being then chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories.
In a series of debates in Illinois in 1858, with Abraham Lincoln, his Republican opponent, nominated for the United States senate, Douglas defended his view that Congress had no authority for exclusion of slavery from territories not yet received into the Union as states. Each of these great political leaders then aroused extraordinary interest throughout the nation, and two years later they were opposing candidates for the presidency, Lincoln was elected, the southern states seceded, and in 1861 the great Civil War began. Several biographies of Douglas have been published, in the presidential campaign of 1860, again new editions of one of these in the midst of the Civil War and at its close, and more complete and dispassionate studies in recent years. The influence of his loyalty for preservation of the Union was an inestimable contribution to the making of history and the welfare of the world.
Townships And Villages.
Information for this county was gathered from the "History of Douglas and Grant Counties," Constant Larson, editor, 1916, two volumes, 509, 693 pages; "Plat Book of Douglas County," 1886, 82 pages, including a "Historical Sketch" in four pages; and from George P. Craig, judge of probate, Gustav A. Kortsch, president of the Douglas County Bank, R. C. Bondurant, local editor of the Alexandria Post News, Mrs. Charles F. Canfield, and Mrs. James H. Van Dyke, interviewed during a visit at Alexandria, the county seat, in May, 1916.
Alexandria, settled in 1858, established as a township, June 15, 1866, was named in honor of Alexander Kinkaid, because he and his brother William were its first settlers, coming from Maryland. The form of the name follows that of the large city in Egypt, which was founded in the year 332 B. C. by Alexander the Great. Fifteen other states have villages or cities of this name. The village of Alexandria was incorporated February 20, 1877; and its charter as a city was adopted in 1908. The first passenger train on the railroad reached this place November 5, 1878.
Alexander Kinkaid removed to California, and additional record of him has not been learned. William Kinkaid was born in Elkton, Md., December 3, 1835; came to Minnesota in 1856; served in the Second Minnesota Battery, 1862-3; was afterward chief clerk in the hospital at Washington for returned prisoners of war; died in St. Cloud, Minn., May 22, 1868.
Belle River township, settled in 1865, was established March 8, 1870, being then named Riverdale. January 4, 1871, the present name was chosen by vote of the people. Each of these names was suggested by the Long Prairie river, which flows meanderingly through the north half of this township, on its way toward the Long Prairie that borders it in Todd county, being what the French first word of the township name signifies, beautiful.
Brandon, settled in 1860, was established as a township September 3, 1867, and was then called Chippewa, for its lakes and river of that name, used as a "road of war" by the Ojibways in their forays to the Sioux country. Previously it had a station, named Chippewa, of the Burbank stage route from St. Cloud to the Red river, at the home and hotel of Ole Brandon, on a low hill about two miles north of the present railway village, which received his name, whence also the township was renamed. The village was incorporated November 22, 1881.
Carlos, first settled in 1863, was made a township May 1, 1868. Its railway village was incorporated July 7, 1904. The name was adopted from the beautiful, large and deep Lake Carlos, which had received it before 1860, given by Glendy King, a homesteader adjoining Alexandria, who had been a student at West Point. Lakes Carlos and Le Homme Dieu were named by him for two of his friends in the eastern states.
Evansville, permanently settled in 1865, established as a township January 7, 1868, commemorates the first mail carrier, named Evans, of the route opened in 1859 from St. Cloud to Fort Abercrombie, who had a log cabin here for staying over night. He was killed in the Sioux outbreak of 1862. The village of Evansville was platted in the fall of 1879, with the coming of the first railway train, and was incorporated in 1881.
Forada, the railway village in Hudson, platted in July, 1903, by Cyrus A. Campbell, of Parker's Prairie, Otter Tail county, incorporated April 6, 1905, has the first name of Mrs. Campbell, Ada; but that name was already widely known as the county seat of Norman county, and therefore it received the prefixed syllable.
Garfield, the railway village of Ida township, platted February 17, 1882, incorporated September 9, 1905, was named in honor of President Garfield, who was shot July 2, 1881, by the assassin Guiteau, and died at Elberon, N. J., our second martyr president, September 19, a few months before this village was founded.
Geneva Beach, a village of summer homes at the south end of Lake Geneva, received its name from this lake, which, as also the adjoining Lake Victoria, was named by Walter Scott Shotwell. The former name was derived from the lake and historic city in Switzerland; the latter is in honor of Queen Victoria. The sponsor of these names was a son of Daniel Shotwell from New Jersey, whose homestead claim, taken in 1859, was between these lakes. The son studied medicine, traveled to California, and died many years ago.
Holmes City, settled in 1858, established as a township October, 4, 1866, was named in honor of Thomas Andrew Holmes, leader of its first group of settlers. He was born in Bergerstown, Pa., March 4, 1804; and died in Cullman, Ala., July 2, 1888. He established an Indian trading post in 1839 at Fountain City, Wis., and in 1849 removed to Sauk Rapids, Minn.; was a member of the first territorial legislature; founded the towns of Shakopee and Chaska in 1851. Before engaging in the Indian trade, he had been one of the founders of Janesville, Wis., in 1836. Following the receding frontier, he went to Montana in 1862, and there participated in founding Bannack City, at an early locality of placer gold mining, which became the first capital of Montana Territory.
Hudson township, first settled in 1864, organized April 16, 1869, was named from Hudson, Wis., whence some families of its pioneers came, including Mrs. S. B. Childs, who proposed this name.
Ida township, settled in 1863, organized April 7, 1868, received the name of its large Lake Ida, which had been so named by Myron Coloney, one of its first settlers, for a friend, probably residing in an eastern state. Interlachen Park, a summer village in Carlos township, bordering the north shore of Lake Le Homme Dieu and having its western end beside Lake Carlos, derived this name, with a slight change of spelling, from Interlaken, Switzerland, much visited by tourists, between Lakes Thun and Brienz. It means "between the lakes."
Kensington, the railway village of Solem township, was platted by Hon. William D. Washburn in March, 1887, and was incorporated June 6, 1891. This is the name of a western section of the city of London, and it is also borne by villages and townships in seven other states. On the farm of Olof Ohman, about three miles northeast from this village, the famous Kensington rune stone was found in November, 1898. It is described in the Minnesota Historical Society Collections, volume XV, pages 221-286, with illustrations and maps.
La Grand township, first settled in 1860, was organized September 23, 1873, being then called West Alexandria; but in December of that year it was changed to La Grand, taking the name of an early resident of Alexandria.
Lake Mary township, settled in 1863, established September 3, 1867, was named for its large lake, which commemorates Mary A. Kinkaid, a homesteader of 1861 in section 24, La Grand, sister of Alexander and William Kinkaid, before mentioned as the first settlers in Alexandria. Her homestead adjoined Lake Winona, which she probably named.
Leaf Valley, to which the first settler came in 1866, was established as a township November 23, 1867. Its name refers to its situation at the southern border of the Leaf hills, commonly called "mountains," which rise conspicuously in the adjoining edge of Otter Tail county.
Lund, first settled in 1866, made a township March 1, 1872, is named for the very ancient city of Lund in southern Sweden, which has a famous university founded in 1666. In pagan times Lund attained great importance, and during a long period of the Middle Ages it was the seat of an archbishopric and was the largest city of Scandinavia.
Melby, the railway village of Lund, was platted in April, 1902, being named probably for a farming locality in Sweden, whence some of the adjoining settlers came, receiving from it their own personal surnames.
Millerville, established as a township November 23, 1867, was named for John Miller, an early and prominent German settler. Its village was incorporated June 29, 1903.
Miltona township was established December 19, 1871, receiving its name from the large Lake Miltona, which occupies more than a sixth part of its area. The lake was named for Mrs. Florence Miltona Roadruck, wife of Benjamin Franklin Roadruck, who had a homestead in section 22, Leaf Valley, at the west end of this lake. In 1877 they returned to their former home in Indiana. (Letter from George L. Treat, of Alexandria.) Tradition tells that her family washing was often done on the lake shore.
Moe, settled in 1863, was established as a township September 3, 1867, being at first called Adkinsville in honor of Thomas Adkins, one of the first settlers. "Later the name was changed to Moe, in memory of a district in Norway, from which a number of the pioneers came."
Nelson, a railway village on the east line of Alexandria township, founded about the year 1875, was incorporated August 31, 1905. The post office and village were at first named Dent, in honor of Richard Dent, who settled at Alexandria in 1868, and died in Spokane, Wash., May 19, 1915. The name was changed to Nelson, after 1881, in honor of Senator Knute Nelson, the most eminent citizen of this county. He was born in Vossvangen, Norway, February 2, 1843; came to the United States when six years old, with his mother; served in the Fourth Wisconsin Regiment, 1861-4; was admitted to the bar in 1867; came to Minnesota in 1871, and settled on a farm near Alexandria; practiced law in Alexandria after 1872; was a state senator, 1875-8; representative in Congress, 1883-9; governor of Minnesota, 1893-5; and resigned to accept the office of U. S. senator, which position he has since filled with very distinguished ability and grand loyalty to this state and the nation. His biography is in "Lives of the Governors of Minnesota," by Gen. James H. Baker (M. H. S. Collections, vol. XIII, 1908, pp. 327-355, with portrait).
Orange was settled in 1863-4, and was established as a township January 7, 1868. Eight states have counties of this name, and it is borne in twenty states by cities, villages, and townships.
Osakis, first settled in 1859, was established June 15, 1866, this and Alexandria being the oldest townships of the county. The name was received from Osakis lake, which, as also the Sauk river out-flowing from it, has reference to Sauk Indians formerly living here, as narrated in connection with Sauk Rapids in the chapter of Benton county. In 1859 the stages running to Fort Abercrombie had a station on the site of Osakis village, and the earliest settlers took claims; but the Sioux outbreak in 1862 caused these claims to be abandoned. The village was founded in 1866, and was incorporated February 21, 1881. The date of the first passenger train was November 1, 1878.
Solem, settled in 1866, was established as a township March 10, 1870. "The township takes its name from a district in Norway, from which place many of the pioneers came."
Spruce Hill township, the latest established in this county, was organized March 9, 1875. Its low timbered hills of morainic drift bear the black spruce, balsam fir, white pine, paper or canoe birch, balsam poplar, and blueberries, with other trees and shrubs, the several species thus named reaching here the southwestern limits of their geographic range. This township has two hamlets, named Spruce Hill and Spruce Center.
Urness, first settled in 1862-3, was established as a township, March 22, 1869, to be called Red Rock, from its lake of that name, referring to reddish boulders on its shore, one being especially noteworthy on the northeast shore of the main lake. On February 7, 1871, the commissioners received a petition requesting that the name of the township be changed to Urness, "in memory of a certain district in Norway." Two of its pioneer farmers, Andrew J. and Ole J. Urness, respectively in sections 24 and 12, coming in 1865, were immigrants from that district.
History of Douglas and Grant Counties,
Minnesota; Their People, Industries, and Institutions.
Minnesota History Bulletin, Volume 2 by Theodore Christian Blegen, Minnesota Historical Society, 1917-1918 - CONSTANT LARSON, editor-in-chief. In two volumes. - Transcribed by AFOFG TK
The histories proper of the two counties are made up of intermingled historical narratives, statistical material, and accounts descriptive of present-day conditions. Of special interest to students of Minnesota history are the portions which deal with the situation in this region at the time of the Sioux outbreak of 1862 and with the process of organizing the counties. The former accounts furnish an admirable illustration of the double effect of the Indian war in retarding and in advancing settlement. In the matter of county organization a number of interesting features are brought out. Each county was created at a time when there were few, if any, settlers in that part of the territory. Douglas County was created in 1858, the very year in which permanent settlement began. The next year, however, according to this account, "a move was started to organize Douglas for administrative purposes . . . and an election was held. . . . Not all of the settlers were willing thus to assume the responsibilities of government and it is narrated that only a few voted. The returns of the election therefore were not recognized by the authorities and the election was held to be void. . . . Not long after," the governor, under legislative authorization, appointed a board of commissioners, who, in turn, appointed a register of deeds, a sheriff, and a probate judge. "This organization was maintained until the time of the Indian outbreak, when it . . . was abandoned and all records that had been made were lost." It was not until 1866 that a permanent and complete organization was effected. Grant County, created in 1868, was first fully organized in 1873. The governor had previously appointed three county commissioners, and it is said that "in 1872, Peter N. Smith and Henry Secor, two lawyers from Otter Tail county, came down and induced the county commissioners to appoint a full set of officers, with Secor as auditor and Smith as county attorney. These officers evidently never held their positions legally, as they left no official record, and their presence here is known only through tradition.