308 North Marshall Avenue, Litchfield, MN 55355 - 320-693-8911 - staff@meekercomuseum.org

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History of Meeker County

Meeker County was incorporated on February 23, 1856, by the Seventh Territorial Legislature. Before this time the land was a hunting ground for the Dakota Native American tribe. Led by Chief Little Crow, the tribe claimed the land up to the northern border of Meeker County while Chippewa lived close. Meeker County was named after Judge B.B. Meeker of St. Anthony.

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The first settlers in Meeker County had arrived in 1855.  John Huy, Benjamin Brown and Mr. Mackenzie made their way up the Crow River searching for pine timber.  They reached the edge of the Big Woods and find the land favorable for settling. In Autumn 1856, Huy made up a party with Rudolph Schultz and Thomas Skinner to look at settling. They called their new place "Kar-i-shon." In spring of 1856 they moved downriver and erected a claim shanty, calling their village "Forest City."  At the same time  Manannah  was settled in NW Meeker County. 

Both Forest City and Manannah were involved in the Dakota War in 1862, the former erected a stockade that still be visited today. It finished construction on September 3, 1862 and was immediately tested when attacked the very next day. Many buildings were burned and livestock killed, but those inside the stockade remained safe. The hundreds of settlers remained in the stockade throughout the six-week war, some leaving safety only to check on their farms and livestock. Four settlers from Mannah were killed by the Dakota Indians in what was called the “Manannah Massacre.” 

       

Forest City served as the county seat until 1869, when the establishment of Litchfield along a railroad line meant that Forest City would soon diminish. Following the Civil War, Meeker County had a large increase settlers from the Southeastern United States and northern Europe. Early businesses included fur, wood products, wheat, flax, barley and other grains. A creamery was organized in Litchfield in 1885, and by 1890, hogs and cattle filled out the farming program. By 1900, alfalfa, corn, and sugar beets became more prominent in agriculture.. 

     

By 1920, Meeker County was a dairy producing powerhouse with 17 creameries and a cheese factory. In that decade, local creameries joined together to organize the First District Association. The association quickly grew into a state-wide organization that was renamed to "Land O’Lakes Creamery." Meeker County resident John Brandt helped organize Land O’Lakes and made sure that it remained in Meeker County for as long as possible, serving as president until his death. 

     

More information and numerous pictures from the individual townships can be found by clicking on the links below