Sartell, Minnesota

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Sartell is a city in Benton and Stearns counties in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It is part of the St. Cloud Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 15,062 as of July 1, 2009 state census estimates, making it St. Cloud's most populous suburb and the largest city in the central Minnesota region after St. Cloud.



Sartell got its start as a small town on the Mississippi River, relying on lumber and a paper company for its existence. The present site of the city was originally dubbed "The Third Rapids" as it was the third set of rough waters that French fur traders encountered as they traveled north from Saint Anthony Falls in Minneapolis.

One of the first people to settle in the fledgling town was Joseph B. Sartell who arrived in 1854 and worked as a millwright at a local sawmill. In 1877, he opened a flour mill at the nearby Watab River, and in 1884 he started the Sartell Brothers Lumber Company with his sons.

In 1905, construction was begun on both the Watab Pulp and Paper Company as well as on the Sartell Dam across the Mississippi near the "third rapids". Both projects were completed in 1907 with the dam having claimed the lives of seven workers. Watab Pulp and Paper would be rebuilt and expanded through the years, passing through multiple ownerships and eventually emerging as Verso Paper's Sartell mill, the city's largest employer.

It was in 1907 that residents of the town decided it was time to incorporate. Several influential people felt the town ought to be named "Wengert" after a local businessman. Another man lobbied to have the town named "Oberly" after himself. However, because of his many relatives and generous contributions to the community, the town was incorporated as "The Village of Sartell" in honor of Joseph B. Sartell. From 1907 until 1973 there was a Sartell on nearly every City Council, the most prominent being Ripley B. "Rip" Sartell who was mayor for 31 years.

The town continued to grow slowly and developed a number of businesses and a "downtown" on the east side of the Mississippi along U.S. Route 10. In the 1960s the highway was re-routed, greatly contributing to the demise of the downtown area. The later construction of the current Sartell Bridge over the Mississippi in the early 1980s replaced the remaining businesses. This and Sartell’s nearby location to St. Cloud's major retail center account for Sartell's lack of a traditional "downtown".

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