Date Organized: February 25,
1879. Part of the Pembina District until organization. The county
also included the western portion of what is now Roseau County
County Seat: The county seat
is Hallock. The first county commissioners, who were appointed by
Governor Pillsbury, designated Hallock as the temporary county
seat. However, in 1891, a group of citizens from St. Vincent,
circulated a petition to move the county seat to St. Vincent,
with a promise to build an $8,000 courthouse. The petition was dismissed by the county commissioners because of the
"unauthorization of the circulation of the petition"
and that they had no jurisdiction for this matter. A courthouse
was built in Hallock in 1896. The present courthouse was built in
of the County Name: The county is named after
Norman W. Kittson, an early fur trader & partner of
the American Fur Company. He increased the fur trading
traffic significantly by increasing the use of oxcarts.
He was also responsible for the pioneering of the
steamboat in the Red River and was active with James J.
Hill in the development of the railroad. His
contributions played an important role in the settlement
of the county.
Prehistory: Kittson County was
once part of glacial Lake Agassiz. Evidence of this prehistoric
lake can still be seen in the topography of the county today.
Remnants of "McCauleyville Beach" of Lake Agassiz, can
be found on the eastern portion of the county. This is an area of
sandy soil and sand ridges. Other evidence of the glacier and
Lake Agassiz is the approximately 140' drop in elevation from the
eastern portion of the county to the western part, near the Red
River. This is where one can find the black, rich soil that the
Red River Valley is famous for. Evidence of occupation dating
back 1800 years has been confirmed through archaeological
expeditions done in the 1930's and the 1970's around the burial
mounds that are located on the sand ridges in the eastern part of
the county. This dates back to the "Woodland Period".
Evidence has been found that the Laurel, Arvilla, St. Croix &
Blackduck complexes were the early occupants of the county.
However, approximately 400 years ago, the Cree, Assiniboin, Sioux
and Ojibway inhabited the county.
Early Exploration: The early
explorers of the region were the fur traders. Pembina, North
Dakota's oldest settlement, which was located just across the Red
River, dates its beginning to 1797 when the first trading post
was established by Charles Baptiste Chaboillez of the Northwest
Fur Company. The Hudson Bay and the American Fur Companies were
also situated in Pembina as the fur trading industry increased.
The fur traders and voyageurs traveled on the eastern side of the
Red, which eventually would be Kittson County. Alexander Henry,
who erected a fort for the Northwest Company in Pembina, is
considered to be the first white man to test agriculture in the
valley. Joe Rolette, who started a fur post for the American Fur
Company in Pembina, and Norman W. Kittson, were two
"explorers" that predominately opened this area by
developing the Red River Ox Cart trails and broadening the use of
the ox carts. The need for the ox carts diminished as the
steamboats became the new mode for transporting furs and
supplies, Eventually, the steamboats were replaced by the
Settlement: St. Vincent, which
is located directly across the Red River from Pembina, was
settled in 1857. With rumors of a railroad coming through,
settlers moved across the river from Pembina to stake their
claims. Many of these early settlers were Metis, a mixture of
native and naturlized North Americans, Nearly twenty years later,
in 1878, the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad line finally reached
St. Vincent and opened up the area to settlement. This railroad
extended through the western portion of the county. The
communities of Donaldson, Kennedy, Hallock, Northcote, Humboldt
and St. Vincent were established along this line. It wasn't until
the early 1900's when the eastern portion of the county was
settled. The Soo Line railroad was completed in 1904 and the
communities of Karlstad, Halma, Bronson, Lancaster, Orleans and
Noyes were established. Scandinavians, Ukrainians, Polish,
Scottish, Irish, English, Germans, French Canadians and Metis all
contributed to Kittson County's "melting pot".
Historic Sites: There are
currently three sites in the county that are listed in the
National Register of Historic Places. They include the St.
Nicholas Orthodox Church, located in Caribou Township, the burial
mounds referred to as the "Lake Bronson Site" which is
located in Norway & Percy Twps. and the Lake Bronson State
Park WPA/Rustic Style Historic Resources which include an
observation tower and several buildings. The Lake Bronson State
Park also has interpretive sites for the tower, a pioneer
cemetery and the WPA camp.
Names of Cities
- Hallock was named after Charles Hallock, the
founder of the magazine, Forest & Stream. He was an avid
sportsman who purchased one of the early town sites and built
Hotel Hallock, a place for travelers and sportsmen. The town was
built around this location.
- Donaldson was named after Captain Hugh
Donaldson, a veteran and Civil War officer who came to the area
in 1878 and became a dominant figure of the community.
- Humboldt was named after the German scientist,
Alexander von Humboldt,
- Karlstad was named after a Swedish immigrant,
Carl August Carlson, who allowed the Soo Line to put the railroad
through his homestead. The name also came from the city of
- Kennedy was named after John Swart Kennedy, a
native of Scotland who had a connection with James J. Hill's
- Bronson was named after the first settlers in
the area, Giles and Margaret Bronson. It became Lake Bronson in
the late 1930's after the dam was built and their homestead
became part of the lake.
- Lancaster was named after an official of the
Soo Line, believed to have come from Lancashire County in
- Northcote was named for Sir Henry Stafford Northcote, an English Statesman and financier who had financial
interests in James J. Hill's projects.
- Noyes was named after J. A. Noyes, the first
Deputy Collector of Customs at the U. S./Canadian port of entry.
- St. Vincent was named after St. Vincent de
Paul, founder of missions and hospitals in France.
The Kittson County History Center/Museum
located in Lake Bronson, is the only museum in the county. The
museum has many exhibits depicting the pioneer era and a resource
area that includes a microfilm library of most of the county's
newspapers dating back to the early 1880's and state &
federal census records. The museum is open year round and
admission is free.
Kittson County Historical
Cindy Adams, Director
P.O. Box 100
Lake Bronson, MN 56734