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HISTORY OF MAHNOMEN COUNTY: A NEW COUNTY FIGHTS TO FORM, FIGHTS TO LIVE
(portions of an article taken from the 75th Anniversary book, Mahnomen, MN)

      "That's only half the battle!" So it was for the fledgling Mahnomen County back in 1906-1907. It took some doing for the citizens of the area to get the go ahead to form a new county from the eastern 16 townships of Norman County. Once that was accomplished a fight of nearly two year's duration was waged over attempts to have the new county dissolved.

      Since the history of the village of Mahnomen and the County of Mahnomen are so closely entwined, it is fitting to take a detailed look at how this county came into being.

      The usual complaints about being too far from the County Seat at Ada; lack of services for "distant relatives", and some forcefully expressed opinions that the geographical and ethnic division was a natural. A mass meeting was called at Aamoth's Hall, March 17, 1906.

     The enthusiasm generated by that gathering resulted in a blitz campaign to secure the necessary petition signatures. The petitions were presented to the Norman County board of commissioners which approved them and called for a special election in November, 1906.

On this page:

B. C. NESS MAHNOMEN COUNTY HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Located on Main Street in Mahnomen.


GLACIAL LAKE AGASSIZ AND THE RED RIVER VALLEY

          The Red River Basin has its origins in Glacial Lake Agassiz. About 14,000 years ago during the Ice Age, the continental glacier covered the Basin. As glacial ice retreated northward, Glacial Lake Agassiz formed about 12,000 years ago. The lake drained to the south through what is now the Minnesota River valley, to the west through northern Saskatchewan to Alaska, and to the east to the Great Lakes.

          Mahnomen County is on the far eastern edge of what was Glacial Lake Agassiz.


RED RIVER OX-CART TRAILS (1820-1870)

          Early commerce between the Selkirk settlement (Winnipeg) and St. Paul was attained by slow-moving, awkward-looking caravans of oxen-towed wagons, known as RED RIVER OX-CARTS.

          The routes established in the 1800's included a trail that traversed western Mahnomen County. The trail was established in 1844 and was known as the Woods Trail. Actually only a small section was of forest. The landscape from Pembina, ND to Detroit Lakes was virtually all prairie.

          The trail entered Mahnomen County near the farm owned by David Pederson. It followed a course southeast, crossing the Wild Rice River near the Vincent and Eloise Kettner farm. From there the trail angled southeast crossing Thunder Hills -- a series of rolling ridges in southern Pembina and Popple Grove townships.

          Some Mahnomen County residents may recall the deep rutted tracks left by the ox-carts in the prairie soil. Few of the original tracks remain.

          There are, also deep rutted tracks east of the town site of Beaulieu. They can still be seen in parts of a pasture.

          These trails contributed significantly to both the history of Manitoba and the history of Minnesota.

          Mahnomen County is a part of that history!


FORMATION OF THE WHITE EARTH INDIAN RESERVATION
(portions of an article taken from the Mahnomen Centennial book)

1867 Treaty (a portion of the treaty is as follows:)

          Articles of agreement made and concluded at Washington, D. C., this 19th day of March, A.D. 1867, between the United States represented by Louis V. Bogy, special commissioner thereto appointed, William H. Watson, and Joel B. Bassett, United States agent, and the Chippewas of the Mississippi, represented by Que-we-zance, or Hole-in-the-Day, Qui-we-shen-shish, Wau-bon-a-quot, Min-e-do-wob, Mijaw-ke-ke-shik, Shob-osk-kunk, Ka-gway-dosh, Me-no-ke-shick, Way-namee and O-gub-ay-gwan-ay-aush.

          Whereas, by a certain treaty ratified March 20, 1865, between the parties aforesaid, a certain tract of land was, by the second article thereof, reserved and set apart for a home for the said bands of Indians, and by other articles thereof provisions were made for certain moneys to be expended for agricultural improvements for the benefit of said bands: and whereas it has been found that the said reservation is not adapted for agricultural purposes for the use of such of the Indians as desire to devote themselves to such pursuits, while a portion of the bands desire to remain and occupy a part of the aforementioned reservation, and to see the remainder thereof to the United States: (this is but a portion of the Treaty. The complete treaties are available to read online through several websites.)

WHITE EARTH

          In the spring of 1868 the surveyors came and officially marked off the boundaries of the new reservation. The western part was fertile, rolling prairie. The eastern part was rich timberland. Underneath the black soil were beds of white clay. This gave the reservation its name "White Earth". The land was described by the government commission as "a square body containing 796,000 acres. It was so diversified in soil and timber resources as to constitute one of the finest bodies of land to be found in the United States. It contains nearly every natural resource necessary to Indian's subsistence and happiness, except coal."

          The Clapp Amendment of 1906 allowed the sale of lands.

          This situation brought in settlers to buy land for farming and it also brought in people to start businesses.


VILLAGES/TOWNS WITHIN MAHNOMEN COUNTY

BEAULIEU

          John H. Beaulieu started a trading post in this area in 1868, along the Wild Rice River. This was years before Mahnomen County was ever formed.

          Mr. Beaulieu traded with the Native Americans for their furs in exchange for hardware, calico, tobacco, flour, tea, etc.

          A post office was established as time went on.

          A government boarding school for the Native American children was built in the 1890's. The barracks and buildings took up about two city blocks.

          Soon businesses began to sprout: T. J. Beaulieu's general store, two pool halls, restuarnat, and additional genral store, Weston's Store and show hall, Weston's roller rink, blacksmith shop, two hotels and an additional school.

          The Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church and their cemeteries were also established in the early years.

          The government school later was turned into a senior citizens home.

Source of information: Mahnomen Co. History

BEJOU

          1904 was the beginning for the village of Bejou, when the Soo Line railroad came through the area.

          Bejou township and the village received its name from the Ojibwe greeting which means "Good Day" or how the English would say, "How do you do?"

          Records state that in 1908 Russ and Annie Bethel donated to public use forever all streets, avenues and alleys in Bejou.

          Bejou remained as a township until it was incorporated in 1921.

          The first school was the west half of what was the Catholic Parish hall. It was also used for a church. The east half was added to the school, so two rooms could be used. Soon it became too small and in 1915 a modern brick school was built.

          The Bejou post office was established in 1906 with John A. Hinzen as the first postmaster.

          A grain elevator, livery barn, blacksmith shop, hardware store, lumber yard, bank, restaurant, hotel, tavern, two general merchandise stores, butcher shop and a dance hall were some of the early businesses in Bejou.

Source of information: Mahnomen Co. History

DUANE

          Duane was located 10 miles south of Fosston and 7 miles north of Beaulieu. There was a combined grocery store and post office at Duane. Postmasters that served at Duane were Henry Goodwin, Simon Goodwin, Alexander McDonald and Joseph Hillenbrand. Christ Natvig delivered the mail from Mahnomen to Duane.

          Pastor Duane Porter ministered at the Methodist Church for many years. Duane was named after Pastor Duane Porter. Pastor Porter had served the longest as pastor of the Methodist Church of anyone in Minnesota history. Following his service in Duane, Pastor Porter took over duties at the Pine Bend Church.

          In 1908 the Porterville Day School was started at Duane. James Fischer was the first teacher. Ethel Fischer was the housekeeper. The Day School was also named in honor of Pastor Porter.

Source of information: Mahnomen Co. History

MAHNOMEN

          Mahnomen is the county seat of Mahnomen County. Mahnomen means "wild rice" in the Ojibwe language.

          October 1, 1904 the first train arrived in Mahnomen. As there was not a depot built yet at that time, a box car served as the depot. Telegraph instruments were installed and put into service. In a short time a round house was built.

          The first permanent building was a hardware store owned by S. B. Olson. As time went on more businesses started: general stores, clothing stores, livery barns, pool halls, butcher shop, restaurants, hotels, blacksmith shop, additional hardware stores, barber shop, drug store, two banks and a grain elevator.

          S. B. Olson became Mahnomen's first postmaster.

          Part of the Bank of Mahnomen was used for a courthouse until in 1909 one could be built.

Source of information: Mahnomen Co. History

MAH KONCE

          Mah-Konce meaning "bear cub" in the Ojibwe language is located approximately 15 miles east of Mahnomen on Highway 200.

          At one time a store/gas station was located there.

NAY-TAH-WAUSH

          Nay-tah-waush is located in the eastern part of Mahnomen County, along the shore of North Twin Lake.

          Nay-tah-waush means "smooth sailing" in the Ojibwe language. The village was first called Twin Lakes, (Gah-nee-shoo-gah-mag) which means "eagle soaring". The name change took place around 1906 because of mail being sent to another town by the name of Twin Lakes in the southern part of Minnesota. The village was named after an Ojibwe chief who moved to the area in 1888.

          Many white people and Native Americans passed through this community when going to the Red Lake Reservation years ago. The Trail passed from White Earth to Red Lake through the narrow pass (Pinehurst) between the lakes.

Source of information: Mrs. Bisek's 6th grade class, History of Nay-tah-waush 1951-1952

PEMBINA

          This low spot on the Wild Rice River was a crossing point for the Red River Valley ox-carts, hence, a small village formed.

          The Pembina Mission (Wild Rice Church) south and west of what is now Mahnomen was the site of the early post office, which was housed in a government building. Mr. Pettijohn was the postmaster. The post office was first known as the Perrault and later the Wild Rice post office. After the railroad came through and people started settling in the area by the railroad, citizens of the new Mahnomen had to travel to this spot to pick up their mail.

          In the years to follow, the church was moved into Mahnomen. The abandoned cemetery, on the hill, can still be see from the road.

PINE BEND

          "When I found the Indians selling their allotments around Duane and moving farther east, I advised those who had parted with all their land and had no place to go to move to the 80 acres given by the government to the Methodist Episcopal Church at Pine Bend, about 12 miles east of Duane. Many of them took advantage of this opportunity and built themselves small but comfortable log houses and established a small community which gradually increased to about 100 souls."

          quote: from The Beginnings of Pine Bend Mission by Rev. Duane Porter

          The village of Pine Bend sits in a beautiful setting Norway and White pines in the northeastern part of Mahnomen County. Scott Porter, Rev. Duane Porter's brother is said to have named the village in the early years.

          Mahnomen County established and maintained a Day School at Pine Bend. Dorothy Hanley was the teacher of the Day School.

Source of information: History of Rev. Duane Porter

WAUBUN

          Waubun is located in the souther part of Mahnomen County.

          The Soo Line Railraod arrived in what is now called Waubun in 1904.

          Waubun was first established as Bement in Norman County in 1905. In 1906 Bement was changed to Waubun meaning "rising sun" in the Ojibwe language when it became a part of Mahnomen County.

          Early businesses included Wm. Bement's butcher shop, Nels Narum's general store, Golden Rule store, Woodworth Elevator Co., First State Bank (later becoming Waubun State Bank) and Luck Land Co.

          A mill near the railroad tracks ground grain for farmers and stores sold "Fredenburg's Waubun Flour." The first lumberyard was built by a fur buyer and was later owned by Dorenkemper. (more owners followed in later years.)

          Telephone service began in 1908.

          In 1907 school for 13 pupils was held above Anderson's Hardware while a larger school building was being built.

 

 

 

 

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