The County Is Organized*
When Minnesota became a state in 1858, the vast
area above Pokegama Lake was an untraveled wilderness of dismal
swamps, sparkling lakes, and towering pine, known for almost two
centuries only to a few explorers, fur traders and missionaries.
When W. W. Winthrop came up the
Mississippi to Pokegama Falls in 1857 he reported the nearest
lumber camp was forty miles south along the river. The only
buildings in sight were the log cabins built for the men
guarding the rights of the Dayton brothers and the Minnesota and
Dakota Land Company, both of whom claimed land around the falls
for a future townsite. Neither ever won title to the land.
Moreover, their claims lay above the Falls, somewhat west of
where Grand Rapids now lies. At least their ideas were sound.
No homes had been established. But
"Leech River and the
Mississippi above Pokegama flow through immense fields of
wild rice, abounding at this season in ducks and geese,
which afford capital shooting and the best eating."
This was certainly attractive, then
as now. But, below the falls, Winthrop noted that the pine
forests "edge to the river on both sides." And it
was the pine that was to lure the first sizable numbers of men
into Itasca County.
Just a few years before that, when
Minnesota Territory was formed in 1849, the land still belonged
to the Indians. No one could buy it. The United States census in
1850 nevertheless recorded 97 people living in Itasca County.
That must have been a rather rough estimate, a mere guess. If
there were that many, they were primarily trappers living in
isolated cabins, in the peace and quiet. far from nowhere.
Perhaps others, who came for the health-restoring atmosphere, or
for the ducks and geese, or the fish, or the deer, were listed
Those 97 people lived in a county
about five times the size of Rhode Island, a county totaling
5,800 square miles, according to the "vague estimate" of a
commissioner of statistics who had never been near the place and
had no surveyor's statistics whatever to go by. Something like
20,000 square miles and 17 times the size of Rhode Island would
have been closer to the truth.
Itasca County was one of the
original nine counties into which the new territory was divided
in 1849. Its boundaries then extended from the Lake of the Woods
down to the headwaters of the Mississippi on the west, then down
along the Mississippi River to a more or less east-west line
just below Rice Lake but above Mille Lacs. The eastern boundary
was the shoreline of Lake Superior as far north as the mouth of
the Pigeon River. The north boundary was the Rainy River - what
is now the line between Canada and the United States. Enclosed
within these boundaries was all the land that now forms Cook,
Lake, St. Louis, Carlton, Koochiching and Itasca counties, as
well as much of the land that now forms Aitkin and Beltrami
- Minnesota's original
During the succeeding nine years, it
seemed that every time the territorial legislature met, new
counties were formed and boundaries of the old counties changed.
Map makers could never keep track of things; only legislators
could move so swiftly. By 1858 the new state of Minnesota had 61
organized and seven unorganized counties. A number of counties
organized by legislative act or by the appointment of
commissioners did not really function as counties for several
During these years before statehood
quite a bit of land was lopped off Itasca County to form other
counties. Lake County to the east, including what is now Cook
County, was cut out in 1856. A large square to the east around
Duluth was removed to form St. Louis County in 1857. Lake
Vermilion and the Vermilion Range were still within Itasca's
borders. Aitkin and Carlton counties were both formed May 25,
1857; that brought Itasca's southern boundary up to about 47
degrees latitude-between townships 52 and 53, where it is now.
The western boundary still ran
through the middle of the two Red lakes.
Itasca County itself was organized
"with all immunities" in 1857 also. Somehow, although the
legislative act for organization had been passed, no
commissioners were appointed, and when the state was officially
recognized the following year, Itasca County was lost in the
shuffle. It was, in 1858, attached to Morrison County; anyone
living in Itasca was under the jurisdiction of courts and
officials in Morrison County. No records indicate that anyone in
Itasca took advantage of such opportunities offered in Morrison.
- In 1890
Pokegama Falls did roar and rumble over a ten
foot drop. The big drop came just below the
present Pokegama Dam, three miles above the
paper mill dam. Rapids over the rocks by the
present Blandin mill and below discouraged
steamboats from going farther up the
Mississippi; the first buildings were
constructed just below the rapids. The first
Pokegama Dam, made entirely of wood, was erected
at the narrows above the falls in 1884. The
present concrete dam was constructed in 1902;
work on the paper mill dam began May 16, 1901.
Today the river looks placidly different.
As a matter of fact, no one seems to
have taken advantage of any of the many fine opportunities
offered in Itasca County. According to federal census figures
the population by 1860 had dwindled to little more than half of
what it had been ten years before. Itascans totaled only 51.
Surveyors had not yet pushed their lines quite that far into the
northern wilds. The county in 1860 was attached to St. Louis
County, perhaps because Morrisonites no longer felt they needed
In the next few years legislators
continued to whittle Itasca down to size, and still nobody came.
By 1863 the eastern boundary had been moved west to 93 degrees
longitude where it is today-and St. Louis County had been
extended to the Canadian border. The state census of 1865
recorded nobody living in Itasca. The western boundary was moved
east to where it is now when Beltrami County was put on the map,
though not really organized, in 1866. Things seemed to be
getting worse all the time.
The pine that W. W. Winthrop had
noticed in 1857 running down to the river's banks was still
there. But nobody seemed to bother much about it. And they
didn't bother about it because they had all the pine they could
cut and sell farther south.
Logging had begun in Minnesota in
1829 when downriver men from St. Louis built the first
commercial saw mill on Minnesota soil at Marine, twenty miles
below St. Croix Falls. Another mill was built in Stillwater in
1844. Within the next ten years five other mills began operating
in Stillwater, and for many years Stillwater remained the center
of the logging industry.
As the logs began to give out in the
St. Croix Delta, the lumbermen moved north along the Mississippi
and cut pine as they went. When the lumbermen got as far north
as Pokegama Lake and began cutting there, things really began to
boom in Itasca County.
Timber cruisers must have begun
tramping through the woods in the early sixties. No doubt many,
by canoe and afoot, with packsack and rifle and notepad and
pencil, had rambled through the woods around Pokegama and
farther north to bring back quite accurate estimates of the
lumber to be cut from the many huge stands of beautiful white
and red pine.
After the timber cruisers came the
lumberjacks. They threw up their shacks, and their log
bunkhouses, and soon the cookee's beller rang through the woods
at dawn, or before, every morning.
The first cut of logs from Pokegama
Lake came down the Mississippi in the spring of 1868. That year
Joe Knowlton had been cutting timber for T. B. Walker on Black's
Arm on Pokegama. This projection of land was known for many
years as Knowlton's Arm before it received its present name.
That first year, as often happened because of bad weather, low
water, poor business conditions or crude skulduggery, the
lumberjacks were not paid. But the cutting continued. Although
the U.S. census only recorded 96 people in the county in 1870,
by 1872 seventeen lumber camps were operating within a few miles
of Pokegama Falls. Close to 40C lumberjacks were at work in the
woods. Lumbering was under way.
Timber was cut along the Prairie
River almost as soon as on Pokegama. Wes Day had a camp at Hill
Lake near where Hill City now is located and was probably
cutting timber in Itasca in 1870, or even earlier. In the spring
of 1872 he and his crew drove the first logs down the Prairie
River. Wages on that drive were probably about one dollar for a
day of 16 hours. With Gil Hanson, Andy Gibson and John Gilmore,
Wes Day spotted a tote road along the Prairie up to the mouth of
Clearwater Brook in the fall of 1872. By that time Con Dineen
had finished building the dam at the foot of Wabana Lake - while
the Indians were camped on Balgillow Island and along Upper
Buckman Cove. That winter Wes Day had four camps operating on
Clearwater Brook, and Hill Lawrence, who had also had a camp on
southern Pokegama a year or two before, had two camps over on
the lake later named after him.
As more and more timber was cut,
more and more lumber camps and lumberjacks spread through the
woods. Tidd's camp was operating over on the northwest side of
Deer Lake in 1873. Old "Skif" Bonus with a Catholic missionary
had in 1872 made the trip up to Trout Lake where Coleraine now
stands. He reported lots of white pine in the neighborhood. But
he thought Wabana was prettier; he had no notions about iron;
two years later he took out a timber claim on the north shore of
When Mike McAlpine came up to Itasca
County in 1875 he knew of no white women living there, and only
about 35 men stayed through the summer. These men kept watch
over the camps, raised vegetables, made hay, and tended the
oxen. But when winter came, six or seven hundred men must have
moved into the woods, most of them the best of lumberjacks from
Maine and Michigan. Many were Scots from Nova Scotia or New
Brunswick, and a few were tough Irishmen and Yankees from the
Surveyors were coming in, too. They
had come into the Prairie Lake-Wabana Lake area in 1869; by 1873
they had surveyed the two townships just north of Deer Lake.
Food, clothing and implements had to
be supplied for all these men. By one means or another tons of
materials had to be hauled in.
In 1871, when state legislators
changed their minds again and attached Itasca to Crow Wing
County, a road may have existed between Aitkin and Grand Rapids,
but it was probably rather thick with stumps and bumps -a
typical "stump-straddler." At least there were tote roads, one
branching due north to Lawrence's lumber camp on the south side
of Pokegama, and another veering around the east end of
Pokegama, through the present site of Grand Rapids and on up
around the west end of Prairie Lake. Gradually this latter road
became more traveled. Other roads spread out to the east and
west of Grand Rapids; one came up from the Swan River section.
The tote road along the Prairie River was for a time considered
a thoroughfare. The trail wound in and out among the trees along
the banks of the river from one logging camp to the next.
For several years Wes Day and his
crews had little competition around Wabana and farther north;
they logged off only the clearest and the straightest pine; they
made the most use of the Prairie River road.
But in 1878 McAlpine and Kirkpatrick
came in to cut timber. They began the trail that left the
Prairie River road at Piper's farm and eventually, after
touching the shores of almost every lake in the vicinity,
reached Bigfork. It was known later as the Bigfork Road. This
and the Prairie River road were the only roads leading north
from Grand Rapids for many years. Many parts of the roads were
all corduroy. Some sections could not be traveled during rainy
or muddy seasons.
Such roads, however well-traveled
and however easy pioneers might have thought the going, were
never very smooth. Even years later, when wagons hauled freight
from one community to the next, the drivers sat in special seats
built high on long hardwood poles. Leather straps held the
driver in so he wouldn't be thrown out when the wagon bounced
over a boulder or jounced over the corduroy.
Such roads carried tons and tons of
supplies in heavy wagons pulled by straining horses or placid
oxen. But, whenever and wherever possible, supplies for the
lumberjacks were hauled by water, first on flatboats and then on
steamers. On the smaller streams, the big canoe or batteaux was
The steamer North Star,
re-christened the Anson Northup after it negotiated Sauk Rapids,
under the command of Captain Young did in 1858 carry an
excursion party from Fort Ripley on up to the foot of the rapids
below Pokegama Falls. That was the first steamboat to ascend the
river that far. But small steamboats were not available for
hauling supplies. In the early seventies flatboats were
laboriously pushed upstream to carry food, clothing and
equipment to the lumber camps.
Pushing a flatboat up the river was
a man-sized task. Planks lined the edges of a flatboat from stem
to stern. A hefty man at the bow pushed a long pole against
rocks or sand on the river bottom, leaned on it heavily, and
then "walked" along the plank to the stern of the boat where he
yanked out his pole and hurried forward to repeat the process.
Half a dozen men could make a few miles an hour that way-unless
they hung the unwieldy scow on a rock or a sandbar. Even so, it
was less bumpy traveling than over the roads.
It was not until 1878 that the
steamer White Swan began hauling passengers and freight
regularly between Aitkin and Grand Rapids. It wasn't too long
before the Fawn, the Andy Gibson, and the Oriole were also
hauling freight and passengers up the river. The trip upstream
took 18 or 20 hours if no log jams were encountered. The fare in
1889 was $3.50, including meals as well as a bunk for the night.
All the boats were sternwheelers; the Andy Gibson measured
150'x25', could haul 150 tons of freight and perhaps 50
steamer Irene was one of the later boats running
between Aitkin and Grand Rapids on the
Mississippi. The water was shallow; logs,
towheads, rocks and sand bars caused no end of
trouble. Here the men are loading firewood,
perhaps from a farmer's pile along the shore, or
perhaps some they cut themselves. Boats stopped
often along the way to deliver groceries and
what-not to the settlers.
Boats also began to operate on the
lakes. The Comet began operating on Pokegama Lake in the early
80's. In 1890 Charles Seeley brought the Little Eagle from Lake
Pepin up to Pokegama. Tony De Wire early operated a steamboat on
Lake Wabana for several years.
When stacks of supplies were
unloaded from steamboats and flatboats along the banks of the
river at the foot of the rapids below Pokegama Falls they had to
be stored somewhere. Lumbermen were responsible for getting
their materials to their camps, but they still needed storage
space. More people were passing through Grand Rapids; they often
needed someplace to sleep. And more people were living in the
little town; they needed groceries and supplies, too. Moreover,
the lumberjacks in camp usually worked up a thirst that even the
sparkling clear waters of Itasca's lakes and streams couldn't
quench. Consequently, "stopping places" were soon built in Grand
Rapids and at intervals along the main-traveled tote roads.
Stopping places at intervals of a day's travel apart were built
along the Prairie River road. Billy Meyers' Ranch, built in
1875, was one of the first of these. Such stopping places were
usually some sort of a combination warehouse, hotel, general
store and saloon.
Such places served their purpose,
although they were not exactly glistening-bright super-markets
or commodious hotels. Whiskey might be served from one barrel,
vinegar from the next, and kerosene from the third. Boots, axe
handles, shovels and chains might be piled in one corner; wool
plaid shirts, soda crackers, chewing tobacco and sugar might be
stacked in the next. Fresh meat, usually shot in the woods, hung
frozen in the rear. When beds weren't available in the upstairs
rooms, travelers curled up for the night on the hard floor under
horse blankets. A shed attached to the rear, or a log
outbuilding, was used for storage.
Whether Warren Potter or Lowe Seavey
opened the first stopping place in Grand Rapids is open to
debate. About 1872 Warren Potter erected the "first permanent
building" in Grand Rapids. It wasn't too permanent-a canvas roof
over four log walls during the first winter-but it didn't blow
away, and a real roof was added the next year. And about 1872
Lowe Seavey erected the "first bona fide hotel" in Grand Rapids.
This, too, was a log building.
At any rate stopping places were
built in the early seventies. Lowe Seavey, according to Federal
records, was appointed Grand Rapids' first postmaster July 23,
1874. About that time Lowe Seavey's daughter was born. She later
became Mrs. J. R. O'Malley and lived to be, in 1959, the oldest
resident born in the county. Lowe Seavey ran his hotel until
1879 when he sold out to the Wakefield brothers and moved to
Aitkin. Jim Sherry later bought the building.
Lafayette Knox was another pioneer
merchant in Grand Rapids. He managed Potter's business from 1873
to 1879 when he built his own building for his own business.
August 4, 1879, he was appointed the second postmaster in the
village. A year or two later he formed a partnership with
William and Joe Wakefield.
By 1881, when Captain Willard
Glazier reached the rapids below Pokegama Falls on his famous
trip from the mouth to the source of the Mississippi, Grand
Rapids had become a thriving pioneer village. The town Glazier
saw consisted of a hotel, two stores, a saloon and three or four
private homes, "all built of logs." At the Potter House he had
an "ample" meal of beefsteak, potatoes, raspberries and tea and
And by that time, although the U. S.
census reported only 124 residents in Itasca County in 1880, the
woods around Grand Rapids was full of loggers. For two or three
years ox-teams had hauled heavily-laden wagons over the
stump-strewn tote roads to camps on the north end of Trout Lake
where Coleraine now is. About the same time a few settlers had
moved into the Nashwauk area; they began small-scale logging of
the huge stands of white and Norway pine which thickly covered
the land there.
About 1882 the surveyors pushed
north beyond the Bigfork River into township 150, range 25.
Loggers had not yet traveled that far north. But they had begun
to go north of Wabana. Most of the outfits here were bigger.
McAllister and Hasty brought in their crews about 1880; Lorence
and Colwell came in 1882. Six years later still bigger companies
moved in; both the Price Brothers and the Itasca Lumber Company
began operations in 1888. Price Brothers had built the Balsam
timber dam at Balsam rapids the year before; in 1888 they
established headquarters on the east shore of Third Hanson Lake
and began the construction of the long series of Hanson Lakes
dams which they maintained for seventeen years. They took most
of the logs on Balsam Lake also. The Itasca Lumber Company built
permanent dams at Clearwater, Wabana, Bluewater and Trout lakes
and continued operations until 1903.
In 1890 the Blake Brothers also
began cutting timber in this area. When the big company of
Sutton and Mackey began their operations some years later,
something new was added. At first logs had been cut only along
the streams, close enough to the streams so they could easily be
dumped into the water. If any hauling had to be done, it was
done on a Y-shaped go-devil with a team of horses or oxen. The
oxen and horses were next used to pull sleds, sleighs and
wagons. But Sutton and Mackey brought in steam haulers. They had
five in a camp on Wolf Lake and operated them there for two
years. Each of these haulers on caterpillar tracks could tow
upgrade, in one long train, 12 or 14 sleighs loaded with more
than 50,000 feet of logs. Most of these logs went down the
Prairie River and the Mississippi to the C. A. Smith mills in
Powers and Simpson, another big
firm, worked in the woods between Hibbing and Crooked Lake. They
built a railroad out from Crooked Lake; their logs were hauled
to the lake and then floated down the Prairie River and the
Mississippi to Minneapolis.
At the same time that operations
were getting bigger and bigger farther north the big companies
were beginning to buy timber rights around Bigfork-smaller
operations were beginning in the southeastern part of the
county. F. A. McVicar, later a prominent citizen of Grand
Rapids, had contracted to cut timber for a logging concern
around Floodwood and Wawina in 1888. Two years later settlers
had begun to move into Wawina Township. Their first occupation
was logging. They cut all the timber along the Wawina River,
floated it down the Floodwood River and into the St. Louis
River. When the timber was cut, many of these men remained to
grub out stumps and farm the land. The women who occasionally
came to cook in these small lumber camps often married and began
to raise families.
A few settlers as well as bigger
companies began cutting the heavy growth of white and Norway
pine around Keewatin in 1890. The cedar in the swamps was also
cut. Timber was being cut around Calumet. More and more logs
were driven down the Swan River to Jacobson and the Mississippi.
These days of the 1880's were rather
wild and raucous days, days for strong and hardy men. These were
the days when Sam Christy, six-foot, 220 pounds of bone and
gristle, was operating in the woods, and in the saloons, in and
around Grand Rapids. Sam had quite a reputation. His face and
neck under both ears were covered with scars as a result of
someone in Maine having thrown vitriol in his face. Sam often,
as the stories go, began one of his sprees with a quart of
whiskey, at one gulp, "just for a starter."
Being a rather uproarious and
perhaps a somewhat obnoxious sort, Sam was often in trouble.
Once, after a slight altercation, Pigeye Kelly, the bartender in
Sherry's Saloon, put a bullet clear through Sam just above the
heart. Someone whittled an oak stick to size and put it through
the wound from front to back. Two days later Sam was taken to
the hospital in Aitkin. Two weeks later he was as strong and as
thirsty as ever.
On another occasion at Hay's Landing
upriver from Pokegama Sam got into another slight altercation
and had his throat slashed from ear to ear by another Kelly, a
cook in a lumber camp where Sam was working. That time they
thought Sam was done for. They put him in a canoe to take him to
LaPrairie for help. Half way down the river he suddenly sat up
and cut loose with an ear-splitting yell. Sam was bloody but not
dead. The two men paddling the canoe jumped into the river and
swam for their lives. Sam paddled on to LaPrairie where a doctor
sewed him up as good as new. Not too long after that Al Blackman
at Bigfork slashed Sam's throat again and he was sewed up a
Finally, however, Sam got into a
quarrel with Steve Hicks. Steve picked up a barn scraper and
smashed in Sam's head. That was the end of Sam-1889. That was,
too, about the time the lawless days of Itasca County ended.
It was just about time for a little
law and order in Itasca. A one-room log schoolhouse had been
built in 1887 in Grand Rapids. Two little white girls and three
Chippewa attended the first classes taught there by Miss Martha
Maddy. Two years later a two-story frame building was completed.
This first frame
school in Grand Rapids, built in 1889 where Central
School now stands, was later used in Cohasset as a
school and church. Mrs. B. C. Finnegan was the first
More people were coming to Itasca,
even women and children, and babies. In 1880 Mrs. Katherine
Lent, a milliner, became the first white woman to take up a
permanent residence in Itasca County. In 1883, when Grand Rapids
was threatened with an Indian uprising because of the shooting
of a Chippewa by an employee from Wakefield's store, two women,
Mrs. L. F. Knox and Mrs. Mike McAlpine, were expecting babies.
Because of the Indian scare Mrs. McAlpine went to Minneapolis
and Mrs. Knox to Aitkin. Their children were not born in Grand
Rapids. But, a year later, in November of 1884, Mary Ann
("Mamie") Sherry was born in Grand Rapids. She is considered the
first white child born and baptized in Itasca County; Father Buh,
a traveling missionary, baptized her. And other babies came on.
The Federal census for 1890 reported 743 residents exclusive of
Moreover, business in Grand Rapids
was growing. Like John Beckfelt, several pioneer merchants were
doing quite well.
John Beckfelt had bought out
Lafayette Knox in 1884. He became postmaster in 1885 and a year
or two later bought out the Wakefields. He often had 25 deer in
his warehouse, and he occasionally ordered tobacco “by the solid
carload"-Spearhead and Climax for chewing and Peerless for
smoking. He could sell kerosene wholesale for 8Y4 cents a
gallon, ten-penny nails for $1.85 a keg, soda crackers for 3 1/2
cents a pound and still make money. In 1890 he was able to erect
a new two-story frame store building.
The same year that John Beckfelt
built his new store the Duluth and Winnipeg Railroad reached
Grand Rapids. The year before a bridge had been built across the
Mississippi and some roads were improved. With better
transportation facilities, the future county seat began to
bustle and grow.
Grand Rapids was not the only
bustling community in the county. The little town of LaPrairie,
at the juncture of the Prairie and Mississippi rivers and at the
end of the rails for a year or two, had been bustling even more
for several years, the people there said. LaPrairie was
officially organized in 1891, the same year that Grand Rapids
was organized. By that time LaPrairie already had a bank, a
general retail store, a Wells-Stone warehouse, a hardware store,
a tin smith's shop, a restaurant, barber shop, harness shop,
milliner's shop, pool room, livery stable, saw and planing mill,
lumber yard, a village hall, a jail, the first hospital in the
county, a volunteer fire department, two newspapers, and nine
saloons. About 300 people lived there and two or three hundred
more went through the town on a busy day.
By comparison Grand Rapids presented
a "primitive appearance" to John P. Phillips, who arrived there
in September of 1890. Only three homes, he said, and one log
trading post had been built north of the railroad tracks; a few
stores were located between the tracks and the river; Knox and
Beckfelt had their general stores. In addition, Phillips added,
there were several lodging houses and several saloons.
However, after the rails were
extended west in 1890 and after Grand Rapids became the county
seat in 1891, the business came its way. Within five years
LaPrairie had begun to disappear. A number of its buildings were
brought to Grand Rapids. Businesses were moved; homes were
moved. The county seat became the center of business and
LaPrairie became relatively unimportant.
Perhaps the real reason Grand Rapids
became the county seat was because the county leaders, the men
who were strong enough and stubborn enough to insist that the
county be run by people of the county, happened to live in Grand
When the state legislature early in
1887 set up a two-county board of commissioners to have
jurisdiction over Itasca and Aitkin counties but to operate from
Aitkin, quite a number of people in Grand Rapids were quite
displeased. Allen T. Nason, Patrick Casey and William Wakefield,
with no authority whatsoever, and with no legal power
whatsoever, appointed themselves the commissioners of Itasca
County. They held their first meeting in July, 1887, and
appointed Wakefield chairman. In August they levied a tax of
$2809.22 "for road and bridge purposes." In September they let a
contract with Sidney McDonald for road work amounting to $250.
They had no trouble collecting the taxes, and the road work was
finished. In October, after receiving a petition from the
citizens of the community, they organized a school district and
began paying out county funds for its operation. The next year
C. A. Buell replaced Patrick Casey, and the following year L. F.
Knox replaced Wakefield. But this board of commissioners
continued to function, efficiently and honestly, until Itasca
County was separately organized.
Finally, March 7, 1891, Itasca
County was organized, by official act of the state legislature,
with "all the privileges, rights and powers of organized
counties." At the time, Itasca County covered the area now
included in both Itasca and Koochiching counties. A Board of
Commissioners, consisting of L. F. Knox, B. C. Finnegan and J.
P. Sims was appointed by the state and met for the first time
March 24. The first act of the Board of Commissioners was to
declare Grand Rapids the temporary county seat.
At an election held June 9, 1891,
the voters decided to incorporate the village of Grand Rapids.
But for over a year controversy waged as to whether Grand Rapids
or LaPrairie should become the county seat. Finally, at an
election held November 8, 1892, the voters decided Grand Rapids
was to be the permanent county seat. The commissioners formally
approved the results of the election at their meeting December
This is Grand
Rapids in the early 1900's taken at about the
location of the present paper mill dam. At the
extreme left is the Howe sawmill which housed the
first electric generator. In the foreground, work is
starting on construction of the dam. The two-story
building in the upper right is still standing.
Thereafter, the county really grew;
within five years over 3000 people settled in the county, more
and more pine were felled, roads were improved, business boomed.
information listed above comes from Chapter Three of:
- Rottsolk, James E. 1960.
Pines, Mines, and Lakes - The Story of Itasca County
Minnesota. Itasca County Historical Society. p.