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A BRIEF HISTORY OF KANABEC COUNTY

The county bears a name proposed by William H. C. Folsom of Taylors Falls, who proposed its formation in a legislative bill to the state senate in 1858. Kanabec (Ka-nay’-bec) is the Ojibwe word for snake. They gave this name to the river that flows north to south, winding its way through the county. The word has a long “a” sound and a heavy accent on the second syllable.

The first recorded history of Kanabec County indicates perhaps that two French fur traders, Radisson and Groseilliers, and a large band of Huron and Ottawa Indians spent the winter of 1659-1660 on Knife Lake, north of present day Mora. Twenty years later, Father Hennepin, taken captive by a band of Mille Lacs Sioux in St. Paul, passed through Kanabec County.

 In 1837, land including Kanabec County was obtained via a treaty with the Ojibwe Indians and purchased from them for 1 1/3 cents per acre. The treaty called for the government to make payments to the Ojibwe over the next twenty years. The area contained vast stands of white pine and, with the existence of the Snake and St. Croix rivers for transportation, loggers were impatient to start harvesting. However, they could not begin operations until the Ojibwe had been paid. When the treaty was finally ratified by Congress, logging in Kanabec County began.

 Logging was Kanabec County’s first industry and was conducted in earnest from the 1850’s through the early years of the next century. Logs were floated down the Ann, Knife, Snake and St. Croix rivers to the mills in Stillwater and Winona. The O’Neal Brothers operated a logging railroad from Knife Lake north to Isle, while the Hersey, Staples & Bean concern built their camp on Millet Rapids and platted the original town of Brunswick 1 1/2 mile north of its present location.

 By the early 1890s, the stands of white pine that were once abundant in the county had been harvested and the lumberjacks had moved on. Land companies promoted the area as the “Land of Clover” to entice newly arrived immigrants to settle in Kanabec County. Settlers began to clear the land and are directly responsible for the agricultural economic base that still exists in Kanabec county today. Potatoes became Kanabec County’s first cash crop. Large potato warehouses were built to sort, store and ship the vegetable to markets. In Grasston, a starch factory was built to handle the surplus produce.There the potatoes were made into starch and shipped to the garment industry on the East Coast.

 Kanabec county was established on March 13, 1858, with Brunswick serving as its first county seat. Twenty-five years later, with the arrival of the railroad, the county seat was moved to Mora.

 Mora was platted by Myron R. Kent in 1882, and named for Mora, Dalarna, Sweden, the hometown of Mr. Israel Israelson, a settler making his home near Lewis Lake. The first building in Mora was a log structure that Mr. Kent sold to A. J. Conger who completed it as a hotel. Six years later, the village would boast a courthouse, jail, school,