Our Communities


John Gross filed a homestead in 1866 on the land where Bowlus is now located. After several property transfers it became the property of the Soo Line Railroad Company. The village was platted in 1907 and incorporated in 1910. Bowlus grew as a community sustained by agriculture. Farm products such as wheat, oats and potatoes were shipped out on the Soo Line Railway. Farm animals and poultry were also part of the livelihood of the residents. Merchants included a meat market, blacksmith shop, saloon, implement dealer, livery and feed store. Bowlus is still well-known for its meat market and butchering. A business unique to Bowlus, due to its beautiful groves of maple trees, has been the production of maple syrup. Bowlus was settled by many families of Polish descent. The centerpiece of the community is the stately Polish Catholic Church. It speaks of the faith, dedication and hard work...Learn More »

Little Falls

The beautiful falls on the Mississippi River attracted native inhabitants, explorers, traders and settlers. By the 1880's a surge in immigration, railroad expansion and industrial development created a boom. In 1889, Little Falls was incorporated as a city. It is the third oldest city in the state. Due to local brick-making industries, by 1890, large brick buildings replaced the former wooden storefronts. Within a two-year period the population had doubled, reaching 4,699. Major industries that contributed to the growth of Little Falls were the Pine Tree Lumber Company, Hennepin Paper Company, and two large flour mills. Smaller industries included the Kiewel Brewery, a sash and door factory and a horseshoe factory. Carpenters, cigar manufacturers and blacksmiths were among the numerous tradesmen setting up shop. A major contributor to the economic growth of Little Falls was the surrounding diversified farming. Also evident was a vibrant social and religious community. ...Learn More »


The village of Motley began its life early in the 1870's due to the Lake Superior and Puget Sound Railroad Company, which ran east to west, but the community was sustained by an active lumber industry. The earliest settler was Calvin Priestly, sent by the railroad company in the autumn of 1872. In 1878, H.B. Morrison built a large lumber mill. In 1881, Curtis and Lawrence also opened a mill one-mile from the village–sawing lumber, shingles and lath. These two mills provided employment for arriving workmen and opened the door for settlement. Soon additional industries sprang up, as did a thriving retail community. A school, churches and other amenities were built. In the 1920's, the lumber industry in Minnesota began to decline. As a result, other industries took its place. Raising animals for fur became profitable. A variety of animals were farmed such as skunk, fox, muskrat and beaver....Learn More »


In July 1852, Father Francis Xavier Pierz arrived in Crow Wing, a village at the confluence of the Crow Wing River with the Mississippi. He was a missionary sent to serve the upper Mississippi region. When he came upon an area of fertile land, which he called Rich Prairie, he wrote to Europe encouraging people to emigrate. The result was that the area was settled almost exclusively by German Catholics. In honor of this prominent and faithful priest, the village was named Pierz. Even today, the population of Pierz is primarily of German Catholic descent. The broad expanses of rich soil were ideal for the farming enterprise that became the foundation of the area's economy. It spawned the growth of an agriculture-based community of implement dealers, feed businesses, blacksmiths, creameries and stores catering to farmers' needs. The growing community also needed lumberyards, crafts people and hardware stores. Merchants of...Learn More »


Royalton, a town befitting its name, began in the late 1870's, although the first settlers began to arrive in the area in the 1850's. The early immigrants were mostly farmers, loggers and traders of Scottish descent, from Canada. The Platte River, which runs through Royalton, was a thoroughfare for logs harvested in the eastern part of Morrison County. A sawmill, as well as a flour mill, took advantage of the Platte River location. Royalton also could attribute much of its growth to its location along the Northern Pacific Railroad. Royalton became a thriving city of numerous businesses. Farm implement dealers, blacksmiths, a veterinary clinic, a harness maker, a hardware store and grain elevators were just a few of those catering to the growing agricultural community. Clothing and dry goods stores, jewelers, shoe stores and general stores provided every day goods. The community also had its own newspaper, The Banner....Learn More »


As the result of a treaty in 1847, the Winnebago Indians located on lands west of the Mississippi River. A road was cut from the Mississippi River to the Winnebago agency which is, at present, Long Prairie. In addition to providing a route for bringing in the Winnebago, this roadway opened the opportunity for immigration and by the 1860's homesteaders began to settle in the area. In 1893, residents incorporated the Village of Swanville, a community of 180 citizens. Swanville quickly took advantage of its location in the midst of hardwood forests which were interspersed with agricultural land. A railroad which ran from Little Falls to the Dakotas made transport of goods convenient. Hardwood lumber and agricultural products were shipped by rail. A Swanville newspaper began publication in 1900. Social events have always been an important part of community life, from social dances and the building of a...Learn More »