Darwin Township was originally called “Rice City” in honor of Edmund Rice when it was organized in 1857. Its name was changed to "Darwin" in 1869 after the railway village was platted in memory of Electus Darwin Litchfield, the most prominent of the three Litchfield brothers involved in the St. Paul and Pacific railroad company.
Darwin was originally selected as a division point for the railroad, and the expectation was that Darwin would become a busy, thriving town. All were shocked to see that the railroad company was threatening to move the division point to Willmar if Darwin was not named the Meeker County seat of government. Early settlers documents claimed that these threats had caused excessive values to be placed on building lots and that the growth of Darwin was suppressed. When Litchfield was chosen as county seat instead, the railroad moved the rail center to Willmar.