A History of RED LAKE COUNTY, Minnesota

A Red Lake County Land Rush?

Back to Red Lake County History Home Page

Up until about 1896, legal barriers and the hereditary rights of the redmen prevented the settlement of that area of Red Lake County in the northeast section. The Chippewas of the Red Lake Indian Reservation protected their properties under the provisions of a treaty made years before when the civilized world became too small and the hardy pioneers pushed forward into the wilderness of the northland and established homes for themselves and their posterity.

It would seem that nature had divided the reservation land into three general classes. First, there was the country immediately surrounding the lake in the eastern half of the territory. Here the Indians lived and supported themselves with al! manner of fish, game and fur-bearing animals common to this region. "This was the country chosen by the Indians themselves for a dwelling place, and there was no disposition upon the part of the whites to disturb them in the lake was a great floating bog, formerly the bed of the ancient geological Lake Agassiz which formed an almost impassable barrier between the eastern and western parts of the reservation. Through this mighty marsh, the Red Lake River, the outlet of the lake, wound a sinuous course, and following this stream westward for twenty miles was a country which differed entirely from both preceding sections. Here was to be found the broad acres and rich prairies on either side of the river and adjacent to the lands farmed in Red Lake County before the division that was to create Pennington to the north. It was inevitable that these lands would be coveted by the white settlers, and on December 28, 1895, following many discussions, the commissioner of the general land office at Washington filed with the Secretary of the Interior a schedule of the opening of the lands finally ceded to the government by the Indians. This included 838,746 acres of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, or over 4,000 homesteads of 160 acres each. The price was to be $1.25 per acre payable in five annual payments of $40.00 each, and the full five years residence was necessary before proof of claim could be made.

Again in 1902, the matter of opening more Indian lands north of the Clearwater River was discussed that would subsequently enlarge Garnes and Emardville townships to the north. Early in 1903 a treaty was presented to the Chippewas, but not ratified by them until February 1904 when certain stipulations were met, including provision for the removal of the bodies of dead Indians to a suitable place of interment. The contract for this removal was let to Jos. DuChamp for $14.50 per head, the contract calling for the removal of 113 bodies. Immediately, hundreds of settlers lined up at the land offices and the gateway to this vast tract was choked with anxious homesteaders who desired to gain possession of some choice quarters. In one instance, R. J. Whipple arose early in the morning and started with a load of lumber for the claim which he had picked out. Arriving there shortly after nine o'clock, he found Miss Tillie LaBree digging a well, claiming the land by right of occupation. Instances similar to this were common and many choice quarters were occupied by three and four settlers, each claiming the priority. The sale of 1904 continued until late fall when practically all of the tracts had been taken.