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Otter Tail County Minnesota

Clitherall Twp & Clitherall Village





From Trygg Historical Maps, Trygg Land Office, Ely, MN www.trygglandoffice.com/maps.html
b=bottom land, m=marsh, p=prairie, s=swamp

 Basic Facts:

Township N, Range W
Government survey 18??
First Settled 1865
Organized October 24, 1868


[Copied by Lory Brasel, lbrasel@leagent.net, from the book "History of Otter Tail County" Volume I - 1916 by John W. Mason]


The first and, in many ways, the most interesting settlement made in Otter Tail county was that known as the Mormon settlement, near Clitherall lake, in what was later included in Clitherall township. This settlement was made in 1865 by a little band of Mormons from Iowa. The violent breaking up of Brigham Young’s church at Nauvoo, Illinois, had scattered the adher­ents of that faith in search for a more safe and pleasant abiding place. The greater part of the band journeyed toward the far west, making temporary stops in Iowa and other parts of the country, in search of a desirable habi­tation. It was in May, 1865, when a little band of this wandering tribe, composed of seven families, left the main body and turned their faces toward the Northwest. They had heard of the beautiful prairies and fertile lands of Minnesota and they determined to find a location and found a colony in this state.

It was a long journey and many hardships were endured. There were also many discouragements and friendly warnings from the less adventurous settlers whom they met on the way. This was but a few years after the Sioux Indian war, when many white inhabitants had been killed or driven in terror from the state. The settlers who had ventured to return were still in a state of dread, apprehensive of another outbreak of the savages who were roaming through the country. But this little band of brave and cour­ageous Mormons disregarded the friendly warnings of settlers whom they passed on their journey. They found a delightful location bordering on this beautiful lake and there they encamped, taking possession of lands in the midst of the half-savage redmen, and in the heart of their choicest hunting and fishing grounds.

In the following month of August they were joined by ten families from Crow Wing, their old friends and neighbors of the same faith. They located their homesteads, each with a frontage of forty rods on the lake, and gave their attention to farming and stock raising. They endeavored to be inde­pendent and self-supporting, manufacturing most of their agricultural machinery, and most of their household furniture. By treating the Indians humanely and kindly, aiding the deserving and firmly refusing assistance to the unworthy, and by means of friendly councils with the chiefs, they were able to live in peace with their half-savage neighbors. Industrious, temper­ate and law-abiding, this little pioneer hand of Mormons enjoyed the fruits of right living, increasing in flocks and herds and in the abundant products of cultivated lands. The knowledge of the success and prosperity of this little community spread abroad and brought other settlers into this section, and the population of what is now Clitherall township increased more rapidly than any other part of the county.

Organization of Clitherall Township.

The township took its name from the lake of that name, and the lake took its name from Major George B. Clitherall, who was register of the United States land office at Otter Tail City from 1858 to 1861. Whether Clitherall saw it first and honored himself by giving his name to this beau­tiful lake, or whether somebody else conceived the idea of doing him this honor, is not a matter of record. It is a matter of record that, a few years later, Clitherall emulated the example of several others connected with Buchanan’s administration by aiding the cause of the Southern Confederacy.

Clitherall was one of the three townships first organized in Otter Tail county; according to the records it was undoubtedly the first township to have a separate existence. At an extra session of the county commissioners, October 24, 1868, a petition was presented asking for the organization of township 132, range 40, by attaching township 133, in ranges 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, and township 132, range 41, to be known by the name of Clitherall. The record fails to state whether the petition was granted, but it evidently was, since, at the March session of the board of commissioners, 1869, the town­ship Clitherall was mentioned in such a way as to make it certain that it was a political entity. The petition of October 24, 1868, carried the following names: S. J. Whiting, C. Whiting, C. Sperry, Joseph Fletcher, F. L. Whiting, L. Fletcher, Leyman Murdock, Isaac Whiting, Hyrum Murdock, Thomas Mason, Marcus Shaw, C. G. Fletcher and J. Burdick.

Character and Faith of These Pioneer Settlers.

It will he of interest in this connection to give a brief statement regarding the character and religions belief of this community of Mormons who founded a colony in Otter Tail county, braving the dangers and enduring the privations incident to early times, and who have contributed so large a part in the development and civilization of the county. The material facts upon which this statement is founded are obtained from an article in the Fergus Falls Journal, June 23, 1876, written by Chancy Whiting, the leader of the Mormon colony at that time.

It is stated in that article that, although this colony accepted the Mormon faith and doctrine as taught in the Book of Mormon, and the doctrines and covenants by Joseph Smith, they do not believe in nor practice polygamy, but denounce the ultra-polygamists as having grossly violated the teachings of their founder, and having gone utterly astray after strange gods. They also hold the Christian Bible to be equally sacred with the Mormon Book, and contend that there is no variance nor contradiction between these two books. Their belief is that the latter contains a fuller and later revelation of God’s will concerning men. These people are intensely spiritual, with unlim­ited faith in God’s promises, believing that He bestoweth the gift of prophecy upon man now, as well as of old; that He gives them power to work mira­cles and to heal the sick by the laying on of hands, as it was given to the disciples in the time of our Savior. They also believe in baptism by immer­sion and in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. In government the church is republican, electing its own leader, council and trustees by ballot or stand­ing vote, and removing them if desired in the same manner.

This colony has prospered to the extent of enjoying without molesta­tion their peculiar religious belief; of earning by honest labor a comfortable living; maintaining good schools and stated religious worship, both public and around their firesides. In this latter respect, especially, they put to shame many of other religious beliefs who are wont to denounce the Mormons. Judged by their fruits, these people are deserving, at least, of our respectful consideration and commendation. Possessing but a moderate worldly ambi­tion, not proselyting in spirit, they have sought rather to dwell together in unity and simplicity than to grow in riches and numerical strength and lower as a community.

It was the practice of this community to so distribute the returns of the harvest and the increase of the flocks that the poorest and most unfortunate among them should never want for the common necessities and comforts A life. Governed by this practice and controlled by a sentiment of unity and harmony, living for the most part in humble and homely log cabins, with few of what are called the luxuries of life, living without strife or contention or threatening ambition, this little Mormon colony planted by Lake Clitherall in 1865 has been recognized as the model community of Otter Tail county.

The present township officers are as follow: Supervisors, William Lundstrom and T. Moher clerk, E. N. Swenson; treasurer, Christ Jenson; assessor, John J. Franze; justice, E. K. Evanson and T. S. Mokley; con­stables Nels Scott and Frank Nelson.


Population totals in state and federal census summaries.

   Clitherall  Clitherall Village
 1870  220  
 1875  515  
 1880  574  
 1885  642  
 1890  831  
 1895  683  
 1900  645  167
 1905  584  149
 1910  499  187
 1920  492  178
 1930  443  151
 1940  488  172
 1950  445  175
 1960  377  138
 1970  349  131

Places of birth for Clitherall Township in the 1905 state census.

 Native (USA)  50   9%
 Minnesota  339   58%
 Foreign  194   33%
     Germany  1   1%
     Sweden  91   47%
     Norway  95   49%
     Canada  1   1%
     Ireland  1   1%
     Denmark  5   3%
     England  0   0%
     Poland  0   0%
     Finland  0   0%
     Russia  0   0%
     Scotland  0   0%
     Other  0   0%

Land Maps


The following names have been extracted from original land records (by John Nelson) and Mason's History (by Karen Terry). Amen , Swan P ; Andersdatter , Ingebert ; Anderson , Martin , Nels , Olof , Truls ; Baalserud , Ole S ; Ballard , William ; Bolsrud , Andrew S ; Bondy , Knud W ; Burdick , J ; Campbell , Hugh ; Clitherall , George B ; Colbenson , Colben ; Corbet , John ; Corliss , Eben E , Roseltha ; Crogan , Clement ; Ellwanger , Frederick ; Estby , Anders ; Evanson , EK ; Evenson , Knud ; Finkelson , Finkel ; Fletcher , Calvin G , CG , John , Joseph , L ; Forloe , John L ; Franze , John J ; Gollings , Harvey W ; Hanson , Laurits ; Haugom , John C ; Hendry , Martin ; Henry , Ole ; Henshilwood , Andrew ; Hernes , Julia J ; Hintz , Mangnus ; Hokansson , Peter ; Holdte , Torger O ; Hole , Christen O ; Huseby , Herman ; Ingebritsen , John ; Jenson , Christ ; Johnson , Gunild , Johannes , John , Nils W , O E , Ole ; Knudson , Albert , Iver ; Kvilekval , T H ; Larsen , Ole ; Larson , Andrew , Gustave A , Hans , Ole ; Larsson , Carl F ; Lundeborg , Erick E ; Lundquist , Peter N ; Lundstrom , Andrew O , William ; Mann , James L ; Mason , Thomas ; Moher , T ; Mokley , TS ; Murdock , Hiram , Hyrum , Leyman , Lyman ; Nelson , Andrew M , Carl , Frank , John , Nels , Truls ; Nerisen , Tosten ; Nielson , Erik ; Nilsen , Toral ; Nilson , John , Kjirstin , Knud , Peter ; Nilsson , Arvid O ; Olsen , Christian , Hanna ; Olson , Bertram , Christian , Hans , Jens , John , John C , Mariah C , Nils , Petter , Wilhelm ; Overland , Ole K ; Pearson , Pear ; Pehrson , Anders ; Peterson , Anders , Andrew , Elias , Peter , Swan ; Petterson , Andreas ; Robertson , Ditlov , William ; Satre , Ole K ; Scott , Nels ; Severson , John ; Shaw , Marcus ; Sherman , Theodore ; Skott , Anders N ; Smith , Joseph ; Sperry , C ; Swenson , EN ; Thomson , Betsey ; Thore , Olaus ; Thorstensen , Somjo ; Thorstenson , Carl O ; Tvete , Knud K , Nils K ; Vefald , Gunder G ; Vennerstram , John O ; Vifald , Bjorn T ; Wallace , Samuel ; Walter , John ; Whiting , C , Chancy , FL , Isaac , SJ


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