Stevens County, Minnesota

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County Organization

Source: Minnesota Geographic Names,1920 - by Warren Upham
Contributed by Janice Rice

Established February 20, 1862, this county was named in honor of Isaac Ingalls Stevens, who in 1853 commanded the expedition making the northern surveys for a Pacific railroad. The expedition started from St. Paul and traveled to the present sites of Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud, and by White Bear (now Minnewaska) and Elbow lakes, to the Bois des Sioux river, thus passing near the northeast corner of this county. Stevens was born in Andover, Mass., March 28, 1818; was graduated at West Point in 1839; served in the Mexican war; was governor of Washington Territory, 1853-57; was a delegate to Congress, 1857-61 ; and was a gallant leader for the Union in the civil war, entering it as colonel of the 79th Regiment of New York Volunteers, known as the Highlanders; attained the rank of major general, July 4, 1862; and lost his life in the battle of Chantilly, in Virginia, on the first day of September in the same year. An earlier attempt to give his name to a county of Minnesota, in 1855, was frustrated by a clerical error in the enrollment of the legislative act, which changed it to Stearns county.

Information for the origins and meanings of names has been received from a pamphlet, "Stevens County, Minnesota, Its Villages, History," etc., 22 pages, published in 1879 by the Board of Trade of Morris; "Illustrated Album of Biography of Pope and Stevens Counties," 1888, having pages 367-530 for this county; and from Edwin J. Jones, a life member of the Minnesota Historical Society, who has resided in Morris since 1878, and A. L. Stenger, judge of probate, each being interviewed at Morris, the county seat, during a visit there in May, 1916.

Cities and Townships

ALBERTA, a railway village in Scott township, formerly called Wheeler, was renamed in honor of the wife of E. B. Lindsey, a farmer there.

BAKER township, originally called Potsdam, has a common personal surname, which is also borne by counties in Georgia and Florida, a county and city in Oregon, and villages in eight other states.

CHOKIO (accented on the second syllable, like Ohio) is a railway village in Baker. This name is a Dakota or Sioux word, meaning the middle.

 DARNEN township, first settled at a stage station in section 12 by Henry Gager in 1866, has many immigrants from Ireland, who may have proposed this name, but its use elsewhere as either a geographic or personal name has not been ascertained. The site of Gager's station, at the crossing of the Pomme de Terte river on a state road from Glenwood to Brown's Valley, was later occupied by the Riverside mill, owned by Hon. H. W. Stone and Company.

DONNELLY township, and its railway village, founded in 1872 and at first called Douglas, are named in honor of Ignatius Donnelly, the distinguished politician and author, who owned a farm in section 31, Rendsville, about a mile east of this village. He is also honored by the name of a township in Marshall county, for which a biographic sketch has been presented.

ELDORADO township has a Spanish name, meaning literally "the gilded," which is borne by a county in California, a city in Kansas, and villages in ten other states.

EVERGLADE township, originally called Potsdam, bears a unique name, received from the Everglades in southern Florida, a large marshy region which has much area of water from 1 to 10 feet deep, inclosing "thousands of little islands, covered with dense thickets of palmetto, cypress, oaks, vines, and shrubs, and in part inhabited by remnants of the Seminole tribe of Indians."

FRAMNAS township is settled mostly by Scandinavians, who selected this name. It is only used elsewhere, as a geographic name, for a cape near the Antartic circle in West Antartica.

HANCOCK, a village of the Great Northern railway in the north edge of Moore township, founded in 1871 when this railway line was completed to Morris, received its name in honor of Joseph Woods Hancock, who was born in Orford, N. H., April 4, 1816, and died in Minneapolis, October 24, 1907. He came to Red Wing in 1849, as a missionary teacher among the Indians ; organized a Presbyterian church there in 1855, and was its pastor until 1861 ; was superintendent of schools for Goodhue county, 1864-1881 ; author of "Goodhue County . . . Past and Present, by an Old Settler," 349 pages, published in 1893. He continued to reside in Red Wing until about a week before his death.

HODGES township was named in honor of Leonard Bacon Hodges, tree planter for the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba (now the Great Northern) railway, who set out trees in many villages along this railway, including the hundred evergreen trees, or more, of the Court House square in Morris. He was born in West Bloomfield, N. Y., July 15, 1823, and died in St. Paul, April 14, 1883. He came to Minnesota in 1854, opened a farm in Olmsted county, and founded the town of Oronoco ; was a state senator in 1871 ; removed to St. Paul in 1872 ; and afterward was much engaged in forestry.

 HORTON township was named in honor of William T. Horton, its earliest settler, who was a farmer in section 14. He was born in Ulster county, N. Y., in 1825; came to Minnesota, and engaged in farming in Fillmore and Mower counties ; served in the Eleventh Minnesota regiment, 1863-64 ; removed to this township in 1878, and here gave attention largely to stockraising.

MOORE township was named for a family of its pioneer settlers.

MOOSE ISLAND, a railway station in the north edge of Donnelly, was named for the former Moose Island lake, noted in the list of lakes, 5 to 8 miles distant southward, which now is mostly drained.

 MORRIS, the county seat, platted in 1869, incorporated as a village February 21, 1878, and as a city in 1902, was named in honor of Charles A. F. Morris, who was born in Ireland in 1827, and died in Excelsior, Minn., June 2, 1903. He came to the United States in 1849, and to St. Paul, in 1854; was connected with the engineering departments of several railroads, among them being the Manitoba and the Northern Pacific; removed to Oregon, but a few years later returned to Minnesota, and resided in Excelsior. Morris township was organized in 1871.

PEPPERTON township was named for Charles A. Pepper, its first settler, who in the fall of 1875 took a soldier's homestead claim in section 34. He was born in Burlington, Iowa, June 1, 1845 ; served in the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, 1863-6; came to Minnesota in 1871, first settling in Washington county; removed to his homestead in this township, 1875, and to Morris in 1883, where he was a dealer in farm machinery, and also in grain ; is now a resident of St. Paul.

RENDSVILLE township has a name not elsewhere found, and its origin and meaning remain to be ascertained.

SCOTT township had settlers from southern Minnesota, and may thence have received this name from Scott county.

STEVENS township was named like this county.

SWAN LAKE township, formerly called Sahlmark, was renamed for its fine lake in sections 26 and 35.

SYNNES township has a Scandinavian name, derived from a group of farms whence some of its settlers came.

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