Northwestern Minnesota

Roseau County History


This county was established December 31, 1894, and received an addition from Beltrami county, February 10, 1896. It is named from the Roseau Lake and river, of which the former appears, with this name, on Verendrye's map (1737). The river is shown on Thompson's map (1814), with the name Reed river, translated from this French name, which is in turn a translation of the Ojibway name. Gilfillan wrote it, "Ga-shashagunushkokawi-sibi or the-place-of-rushes-river, or briefly, Rush River." It is more accurately called Reed-grass River on Long's map (1823) and on Pope's map (1849). The very coarse grass, or reed, referred to is Phragmites communis, which is common or frequent in the shallow edges of lakes throughout the prairie region of Minnesota and Manitoba. During a canoe trip around all the shore of Red Lake in September 1885, this species was observed in great abundance at many places, growing 8 to 12 feet in height.

Information of the origins and meanings of geographic names has been received from Syver G. Bertilrud, county auditor, interviewed at Roseau, the county seat, during a visit there in September, 1909; and from him a second time, also from D. H. Benson, dealer in real estate, and J. W. Durham, janitor of the High School, each of Roseau, interviewed there in September, 1916.


ALGOMA township bears a name of Indian derivation, "formed by Schoolcraft from Algonquin and goma meaning 'Algonquin waters."' It designates a large district in Canada, bordering Lakes Huron and Superior.

AMERICA township was named by its settlers, mostly born in the more eastern states and thence called Americans, in distinction from the foreign immigrants who settled many townships of this county.

BADGER a railway village in the east edge of Skagen, took its name from the Badger creek, flowing northwestward, tributary to the Roseau River.

BARNETT township was named in honor of Myron E. Barnett, one of its American homesteaders.

BARTO township was named for a Bohemian settler there.

BEAVER township was named for its former colonies of beavers, living on the head streams of the North fork of Roseau river.

BLOOMING VALLEY is the most northwestern township of the county, named for its prairie and woodland flowers in the slight depression of the Roseau valley.

CASPFRSON Post office, in Golden Valley township, was named for brothers who took homestead claims near it.

CEDAR BEND township has a bend of the West branch of War Road river, bordered by many trees of white cedar, also known as the American arbor vitae.

CLEAR RIVER township received this name in allusion to the clearness of the West branch of War Road river in its southwestern part, contrasted with the frequently dark color of streams in this region, stained by seepage from peaty ground.

DEER township had formerly many deer, being a favorite hunting ground.

DEWEY township commemorates Admiral George Dewey, hero in the Spanish-American war, 1898, who was born in Montpelier, Vt., December 26, 1837, and died in Washington, D. C., January 16, 1917. He was graduated at the U. S. Naval Academy, 1858; served in the civil war; was promoted to be a captain, 1884, Commodore in 1896, and Admiral in 1899. Soon after the outbreak of the war with Spain, he destroyed the Spanish fleet off Cavite in the Bay of Manila, May 1, 1898; and on August 13 his fleet aided the troops under General Merritt in the capture of Manila.

DIETER township was named in honor of a German settler, Martin Van Buren Dieter, who later removed to Montana.

DUXBY post office, in Pohlitz, was named for its first postmaster.

EDDY post office, in Stafford, was named in honor of Frank Marion Eddy, of Sauk Center. He was born in Pleasant Grove, Minn., April 1, 1856; taught school a few years, and was land examiner for the Northern Pacific railroad company; was clerk of the district court of Pope county, 1884-94; representative in Congress, 1895-1903; and later was editor of the Sauk Center Herald.

ELKWOOD township had elk formerly on its small prairie tracts, but most of its area is woodland.

ENSTROM township received its name in honor of Louis Enstrom, a homestead farmer and lawyer in Malung, who was a member of the board of county commissioners. He was born in Sweden in 1873, and settled here in 1889.

FALUN township bears the name of an important mining town in central Sweden, famous for its mines of copper, silver, and gold, whence it is sometimes called "the Treasury of Sweden."

FOX is a railway village in Ross, named for foxes, as the next village and creek westward are named for badgers.

GOLDEN VALLEY township, crossed by the South fork of Roseau river, was thus auspiciously named by vote of its settlers.

GREENBUSH a railway village in Hereim, was named for the first evergreen trees seen near the "ridge road," as one comes eastward from the Red river valley. These are spruce trees, about two miles northeast of the village. An early trail, later a wagon road, and latest the railway, here began a curving course along a gravel beach ridge of the glacial Lake Agassiz, following this beach for about twenty miles, or nearly to the site of Roseau.

GRIMSTAD township was named for John Grimstad, a Norwegian homesteader there, who removed several years ago to North Dakota.

HAUG Post office, in Soler, was named for Theodore E. Haug, a homestead farmer from Norway.

HEREIM township was named for another Norwegian farmer, Ole Hereim.

HOMOLKA post office, in the south edge of Poplar Grove township, was named for Anton Homolka, a Polish settler.

HUSS township bears the name of the great Bohemian religious reformer and martyr, John Huss (b. 1369, d. 1415). He followed Wyclif of England, "the Morning Star of the Reformation."

JADIS, the township in which Roseau is situated, was named in honor of Edward W. Jadis, agent for the Sprague Lumber Company of Winnipeg. He was born in England, and received a liberal education there; came from eastern Canada to Minnesota before 1875, and was a lumberman on Mud and Pine creeks, floating the logs down the Roseau and Red rivers to Winnipeg; removed to Hallock, was auditor of Kittson county, 1887-92, and died November 1, 1892.

JUNEBERRY post office, in T. 162, R. 44, is named for a small tree, variously called Juneberry, service berry, or shad bush, which is common or frequent throughout Minnesota.

LAONA township was at first called Roosevelt, like its railway village, but was renamed because another Minnesota township, in Beltrami county, had earlier received that name.

LEO post office, in Barto, was named in, honor of Leo XIII (b. 1810, d. 1903), who was the Pope twenty-five years, from 1878 until his death.

LIND, the most southwestern township, is in honor of John Lind, the fourteenth governor of this state. He, was born in Kanna, Sweden, March 25, 1854; came to the United States in 1867 with his parents, who settled in Goodhue county, Minn. He attended the University of Minnesota in 1875-6; was admitted to the bar in New Ulm in 1877, and practiced there, excepting terms of absence in official duties, until 1901; represented his district in Congress, 1887-93; was governor of Minnesota, 1899-1901; removed to Minneapolis in 1901, and was again a member of Congress, 1903-05; president of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota, 1908-13; was envoy of President Wilson in Mexico, 1913-14.

LONGWORTH, a railway station in Algoma, six miles north of Warroad, is named in honor of Nicholas Longworth, of Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was born November 5, 1869. He was graduated at Harvard University, 1891, and in its Law School, 1893; was married to Alice Lee Roosevelt, daughter of President Roosevelt, in 1906; was a member of Congress, 1903-13; and since 1916.

MALUNG township and village have the name of a town in western central Sweden.

MANDUS railway station, formerly called Lucan, was named for Mandus Erickson, an adjoining Swedish farmer.

MICKINOCK township commemorates a petty chief of the Ojibways, whose home was near Ross post office, west of Roseau lake. He was described as "one of the best Indians that ever lived, intelligent, sociable, and honest."

MOOSE township was named for its formerly frequent moose. This is one of our few English words received, with slight change, from the Algonquian languages.

MORANVILLE township received its name in compliment for Patrick W. Moran, its first settler, who came here in 1894.

NERESEN township was named in honor of Knut Neresen, one of its Norwegian homesteaders.

NORLAND township, meaning Northland, adjoins the international boundary.

OAKS township was named for Charles Oaks, an American homesteader near the center of this township, who was a stage-driver between Stephen and Roseau but removed several years ago to the Peace river valley in Alberta.

PALMVILLE township was named in compliment for Louis Palm, a Swedish homesteader there.

PENCER, a post office in Mickinock, was intended to honor John C. Spencer, a traveling salesman from St. Paul, but the proposed name was thus changed by the U. S. postal department. He took a homestead claim near Wannaska, about six miles distant to the southwest.

POHLITZ township was named for one of its pioneer homesteaders, an immigrant from Iceland.

POLONIA township was settled mostly by immigrants from Poland.

POPLAR GROVE township was named by vote of its people, this being chosen from the ten or more names proposed.

ROOSEVELT, a railway village in the southeast corner of Laona, adjoining the east boundary of the county, was named in honor of Theodore Roosevelt, the eminent author and statesman. He was born in New York City, October 27, 1858; served as a colonel in the Spanish-American war, 1898; was governor of New York, 1899-1900; president of the United States, 1901-09; was later an editor of "The Outlook;" died at his home, Oyster Bay, N. Y., January 6, 1919.

ROSEAU, the county seat, a village in Jadis, was named like this county, for the Roseau Lake and river.

ROSS, one of the earliest townships organized, needs further inquiry for the selection of its name, which is borne by a county in Ohio, and by villages in Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and other states.

SALOL, a railway village in Enstrom, was named by Louis P. Dahlquist, formerly a druggist clerk, who was county superintendent of schools and later the county treasurer. Salol is a, white crystalline powder, used as a remedy for rheumatism and neuralgia.

SANWICK, a former post office in Dewey, was named for Aven Sanwick, a Norwegian settler.

SKAGEN township is in honor of Albert 0. Skagen of Ross, who was chairman of the county commissioners. This is the name of a seaport and cape at the north extremity of Denmark.

SOLER township is named for the district of Soler in Norway.

SPRUCE township had formerly much spruce timber. Our larger species called black spruce, attaining a height of 70 feet and diameter of one to two feet, is much used for paper-making; but the white spruce, of somewhat more northern range, is a smaller tree, here growing to the height of about 20 feet, with a diameter of six to eight inches. Both are common in northern Minnesota, extending westward to the Roseau river.

STAFFORD township was named for, William Stafford, a settler who came from Michigan.

STOKES township was named for George Stokes, who lived in Badger village, adjoining the west line of this township.

STRATHCONA, a railway village in Deer township, commemorates Donald Alexander Smith, later Lord Strathcona, who was born in Forres, Scotland, August 6, 1820, and died in London, January,21, 1914. He came to Canada in 1838 in the service of the Hudson Bay Company; was stationed during thirteen years at trading posts on the Labrador coast, and later in the Canadian Northwest; was promoted to be resident governor for that company; was one of the principal financial, promoters for construction of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific railway, and was a friend of James J. Hill, under whose leadership the Great Northern railway was built; was during many years a member of the Dominion House of Commons; after 1896 was High Commissioner for Canada in London, and in 1897 was raised to the peerage as Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal; was a very generous donor from his great wealth to many institutions of education and charity.

The compound title of his peerage referred to Glencoe, his summer home in the county of Argyle, Scotland, and to Mount Royal in Montreal, his former home in Canada. "Glencoe, the glen or valley of Conan, has its equivalent in Strathcona." ,.(The Life of Lord Strathcona, by Beckles, Wilson, 1915, vol. II, p. 265)

TORFIN, a former post office in the east edge of Palmville, was named in honor of Iver Torfin, a Norwegian pioneer, who was the first clerk of the court for this county, 1895-1005, now a farmer in that township.

WANNASXA, a hamlet in Grimstad, on a camping ground of the chief Mickinock, is said to bear an early Ojibway name of the Roseau River, Probably it referred rather to a deep place of the river, being derived from wanashkobia, defined by Baraga as: "a reservoir or, basin of water."

WARROAD, a township of small area on the southwest side of the Lake of the Woods, and its village on the Warroad River near its mouth, incorporated November 9, 1901, are named from this river, which was in a neutral tract between the warring Ojibways and Sioux. Carver's map from his travel to the Minnesota river in 1766-67, explains this term, as follows: "All Countries not possessed by any one Nation, where War Parties are often passing, is called by them the Road of War."


The name of the Lake of the Woods is fully considered in the first chapter, treating of our large rivers and lakes; and Roseau lake and river are noticed at the beginning of this chapter.

An unnamed lake near the international boundary, in Algoma, and Mud lake, quite small, in sections 10 and 11, T. 160, R. 37, complete the meager list of lakes in this county, which lies within the area of the glacial Lake Agassiz, having therefore smoothed surface, with few hollows for lakes or sloughs.

Mud and Pine Creeks, flowing from the edge of Manitoba, join the Roseau River and lake, and were formerly routes of, driving pine logs to Winnipeg.

In Laona is Willow creek, tributary to the Lake of the Woods; and in Moranville the Warroad river is formed by union of its East and West branches, having also between them a small affluent called Bull Dog Run.

Roseau river, formed by its North and South forks, which unite in Malung, receives also Sucker creek, Hay creek, flowing into the North fork, and Cow creek, these being tributaries above Roseau lake; and farther west it receives Badger creek, which runs in a drainage ditch along most of its course.

On the southwest, the head stream of the South branch of Two Rivers flows past Greenbush, and thence it crosses Kittson county to the Red river.









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