Kittson County, Minnesota

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Kittson County is a county located in the state of Minnesota, United States. It is named after Canadian fur trader and railroad entrepreneur Norman Kittson. As of 2000, the population was 5,285. However, has reported that as of February 4th, 2008, Kittson County now has 4,691 inhabitants. Skull Lake is Kittson County's only natural lake. Lake Bronson, for which the city of Lake Bronson takes its name, is man-made. Its county seat is Hallock[1].

The county was officially organized on February 25, 1879, having been part of the Pembina District prior to that time. The county also included the western portion of what is now Roseau County until 1894.


Name origins

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.


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.

The early explorers of the region were the fur traders. Pembina, North Dakota's oldest settlement, which was located just across the Red River of the North, 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 railroad.

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