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Mizpah Minnesota


From the Northome Bicentennial Book, 1977

This information obtained from Koochiching County Historical Society

It is recorded that the first permanent settlers in the Village of Mizpah, in southwestern Koochiching County were Will, Walter, and Sam Potter. They arrived in January 1900 and reported that they found signs of previous habitation. Several deserted cabins were seen near the site of the present village.

Very soon after, the Langaard brothers and their parents arrived, all of them taking homesteads in the area.

In April, Ed Francis a brother of Mrs. Walt Potter, who was attending the University, came up for a visit and he was so impressed he filed before returning to school.

A little later that same year the following were among new settlers to come in: Fred Peterson, Ed Hendrickson, George Martin, Claude Covey, Jerry Foster and Al Langaard.

Claude Covey and Jerry Foster had built the first store where the depot now stands. As many new settlers were arriving by this time, Charles Gilbertson soon built a hotel.

After finishing his schooling in 1902, Ed Francis came back to his claim and here he platted a townsite on part of his land. He built the first business structure then. Here he operated his printing office, taking over the Mizpah Message, from John Cowan that same fall.

The Mizpah Message, the first newspaper, was started by John Cowan, and its first home was a log cabin. The first school was also in this place. Claude Covey taught the first week until the regular teacher, Miss Cassie Smith, who later became the wife of Harry Bridgeman, Senator of Bemidji, arrived.

When the Post Office was established in 1904 and the village named Mizpah, interpreted as meaning "a watchtower," Walter Potter was the first postmaster.

George Martin was the first mail carrier. He walked to and from Bridgie, a distance of 12 miles by trail, three times a week.

Will Potter built the first sawmill at Mizpah in 1904. A little later he pat in a light plant and Mizpah became the first place in the county to have electricity.

The Buckmasters started a meat market and George Semon built a livery stable. This he later sold to Lawrence Christenson and he purchased the Mizpah Mercantile Store, using the ground floor for a general merchandise business and the upper story as a hall for the Odd Fellows and the general public.

After the M. & I. Railway built through the village in 1906, Joe Condon was the first depot agent. When the railway reached Int'l. Falls in 1907 the Mizpah Band, with Ed Francis as bandmaster and Jerry Foster beating the bass drum made the trip to the Falls by train for the celebration.

The first school building was erected in 1904 near the Gilbertson Hotel. This is now the home of the Lutheran Church. Roy Leek was the first teacher in this building. His father, was the first passenger engineer on the railroad.

The first Sunday school and church services were conducted in the Walt Potter home. His father, a minister was in charge. Rev. Kingman, missionary from Sierra Leone, Africa, was the first minister to come to Mizpah. The first church was built in 1904 on land donated by Mr. Walt Potter, with the request that its doors never be locked. Anyone hard pressed for shelter could find it in the church. Walt Potter was superintendent of the Sunday school as long as he lived there. The first regular minister was Jesse Rickle, Baptist.

In the early days when many large camps were in operation, Mizpah was a lively little town. The big lumber concerns bought up the best of the settlers timber and cut and hauled it into the town where it was sawed and shipped to market.

To accommodate the lumberjacks, John Cowan established the first bank with Fred LaBrie in charge. The hotels and saloons did a flourishing business, as in all of the new lumbering towns.

A forest fire swept through part of Mizpah in 1910 destroying several buildings. The Covey-Foster store was one of them. In its place, Fred Siats erected a large building which served for years as the drug store and post office. The first physician, Dr. Grover had his offices above the drug store.

Fred Siats served for many years as village clerk. Claude Covey was the first mayor.

The first girl to be born in Mizpah was Lillian Covey (Mrs. Ted Wielander) Bagley. The first boy to be born in Mizpah was Donald Potter, son of Walter Potter, born on July 18,1902.


The village was plotted in December 1902. Surveyor was M.D. Stoner of Bemidji, Minnesota. The first plot had nine blocks, not all rectangular. Blocks 2 and 3 were triangular, but by railroad right of way.

At that time we were part of Itasca County. In Dec. 1906 we became part of the newly created Koochiching County. This gave the early settlers the distinction of living in two different counties without ever moving.

In Nov. 1904 a group of citizens petitioned the County Board to set an election date to vote for or against incorporation of the Village of Mizpah. The area in the first petition included 8 sections and the census showed 154 persons living in that area.

Petitioners were:

Henry Lillac, Anton Carlson, J.F. Shipman, A. Green, Henry Ranfranz, Otto Lehmann, Elmer Smith, Henry 0 Kane, J. Willianson, Geo. Bold, Percy Gilson, W.H. Sparrow, Frank Sullivan, John K. Matheson, Charles Gilbertson, Daniel W. Francis, Claude E. Covey, Albert Hill, Andy Hagen, Fred Comstock, Wm Haugslifer, Walter J. Potter, A. E. Foster, W.A. Potter, Paul Clements, John Mahoney, John Fennil, Gust Johnson, Gust Bucklin, Lawrence Christianson, George Burfield, S.A. Burfield, J. Rickel, William M. Farley, R.N. Hanson, J.L. Durrin, N.P. Johnson, William Archer, R. Mc Dougal.

The election was set for Dec. 28, 1904, at the school house. 30 votes were cast, the majority in favor of incorporating.

In Feb. 1905 a petition was filed for detaching sections 11, 14, 15, 22, & 23 from the Village of Mizpah and annexing them to Englewood Twp. That left the current sections 2, 3, & 10 in the corporate village.

The official committee for there legal procedures was Daniel W. Francis, Whiter J. Potter, and Claude E. Covey.

Electric light ordinance granted to Wm A. Potter in 1908. Mizpah was the first village in the area to have electricity. R.N. Hanson was granted the franchise in 1913.

The present Mizpah General Store was built by a local Co-op in 1908. The top floor Lodge Hall owned by the I.O.O.F. was a social center for years. Men away from home needed the brotherhood the Lodge offered.

A fire in 1910 destroyed most of the business section of Mizpah, about 15 buildings were reduced to ashes in 3 hours. One news clipping says the fire started in a store basement during the night. The fire hall was among the first buildings to catch fire and the boys had to leave their apparatus behind in the burning building. Bucket brigades, dynamiting several structures and a timely change in the wind kept fire from spreading to the next block.

There were no injuries or loss of life. Loss was estimated at $30,000.00, with about half covered by insurance.

1910 Liquor licenses were $500.00 a year, at least 3 granted.

1912 Liquor licenses shall be $750.00 per year, limit 2.

1913 Liquor licenses back to $500.00, limit 2.

May 1911, will let contract for village cemetery to be plowed, dragged, leveled down, and ready for grass seed. In the fall the village drayman does the work. Pay was $5.50 per day for man and team.

Sept. 1912 The council accepted the bid of $220.00 to build a 3 cell lockup.

Dec. 3, 1912 paid Frank S. Lang for filling cemetery plat.

June 9, 1913 Voted to fence cemetery. The first cemetery was located north of Highway 71 on the first hill west of the creek on the K Bar Ranch, Most of the burials were moved to the new location. As late as 1955 one could still see a rustic fence and several grave markers in the old cemetery. Two of these were for Fraley girls.

In 1914-1915 there was much discussion about outstanding indebtedness.

In 1917 it was declared unlawful to have horses and cattle running at large.

In 1918 the village issued bonds for $3,000.00, @ 6% for the purpose of taking up outstanding warrants. The bid of Charles Draheim was accepted.

Aug. 6, 1919 The towns of Englewood, Pinetop and Forest Grove ask permission to come in the Village of Mizpah with their telephone lines and operate a switch. Permission granted.

Chemical fire fighters were purchased.

June 7, 1922 The Community Club asked to have part of cemetery grounds as a park. The club would clear, improve, and beautify the same. The village fathers would have rubbish and down timber removed.

June 5, 1923 A claim for $1,500.00 for injury to a woman falling on account of bad sidewalk. After discussing the case with an attorney and the husband, the council offered $150.00 for full settlement. This offer was accepted.

July 1, 1925 decided to let the Lutherans use the old town hall for church service.

March 1926 Paid Dr. Dufort for small pox bill.

In April 1926, R.J. Larson applied for a dance permit for a dance to be given by the Ball Team in the Semon building.

May 1926 Resolved to have whistle blown at 9:00 P.M. curfew. All children 16 years or under shall be off the streets.

June 1926 The Community Club and Council were interested in establishing a tourist park. The club had $125.00 on hand for this.

May 1929 The Mizpah Council and the Englewood Board accepted the low bid of Tom Gosline for road gravel @ 58 per yard. He hauled 200 loads that summer. Our windmill tower for the fire bell was purchased in 1930 for $33.15 plus $2.49 freight.

1,000 pounds of grasshopper poison was ordered in 1932.

May 1933 The council allowed hotel keeper, Ed Flank $1.00 to pay meals for a "[derogatory adjective deleted]".

Dec. 1934 Liquor vote 39 no, 33 yes.

1935 Vote tied at 36 for and 36 against.

Dec. 1936 The vote was 35 for and 13 against liquor license and Municipal Store.

Oct. 1940 Bought the Lang building for a Village Hall. Plans for remodeling were drawn by Wm Woessner. Bill was then hired to supervise the work. Some youth were employed. Previously the I.O.O.F. Hall was used for public gatherings and elections.

In 1941 Walter Weichselbaum began showing movies in the west side of the hail. This is where we saw "Gone With the Wind", among many other fine shows.

During this period of time the Minnesota and Ontario Company had a planing mill, storage yard, and shipping facilities in Mizpah. The M.& O. Co. was very generous with insulite wall and ceiling for the new Village Hall.

1943 Some sewer lines were put in.

1945 Henning Carlton was granted permission to construct telephone service system.

1948 The village put up the quonset type building for municipal liquor and fire hall. Later the store burned out. This building is the present Village Hall. Truck, pumper, and hose purchased.

1949 D. Hoist and later Dave Fox had roller skating in the hall. (the former theater),

Feb. 1953, fire ruined the interior of the liquor store. There was much discussion whether to repair the building or build a new store near Highway 71. They made arrangement to operate temporarily in Runyon's Tavern. Later the village and Runyon made a long time lease arrangement that involved moving his building up by the highway.

There was roller skating in the hall in 1953 & 1954. Back in 1953 the Village Councils were writing State Congressmen to protest closing small depots.

The burned out liquor store was sold to Herman Carlton. His dad, Henning Carlton used it as garage and shop for his telephone business.

In 1950s a Square Dance Club was very active. One 4th of July there were at least 9 squares on the floor, pretty crowed. One of our current Senior Citizens, Walter Hanson did not go dancing till he wore a peg leg, following an accident.

In 1954 the Fire Hall was insulated, one-half the material was given by M. & O. Paper Co.

Jan. 1956 the council voted to sell out their liquor business to Runyon and sell him a private license.

Sept. 1961, the Mizpah Fire Department owned the west part of the building that housed their equipment. This year they purchased the east part of the building from H. Carlton and then presented the deed to the Village of Mizpah. Members of the council and the department then made plans to convert it into a Village Hall. There followed 2 years of fund raising and work bees by all the organizations in the area to clean out, renew and restore the place. Old walls, ceiling and floor all had to be replaced. The Community Club, Lutheran Aid, Presbyterian Aid, Farmers Club, American Legion & Auxiliary, Firemen, the 4-H Club, and private citizens all worked together. Several non-active organizations such as Square Dance Club, Boy Scouts and Sportsmen Club emptied their treasuries into the Hall Building Fund.

In 1963, the Ace High 4-H planted trees in the cemetery and dump ground woods. Peter Reiners bought the old hall. He later sold it to the K Bar Ranch who used it for storage.

The council protested mail trucks replacing mail train cars in 1965.

Independence Day Program, Mizpah Minnesota, 1902
From the Northome Bicentennial Book, 1977    Home Page    Contact Us    Privacy 



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