Welcome To KEY TO THE CITY's Page For
Otter Tail County, Minnesota
Chamber of Commerce.
Joseph Whitford, hired by land speculator, James B. Fergus, came to this area in 1854 along the Red River. He called his claim Graham's Point. While returning, he met with some Indians who told him of an area 20 miles up river with a waterfall or rapids. He decided to check it out and staked out another site there. He named it for Fergus who had financed his exploration. He was killed in an Indian Raid in 1862. Fergus later went to Montana to find gold and was successful. He died in 1902 never realizing the potential of Fergus Falls which was named for him. The first permanent settler in Fergus Falls was Ernest Buse who came in 1865. He and his family lived here for two years before anyone else arrived. The area did not grow much under the 1870's when George Burdick Wright, a Minneapolis real estate agent, bought land along the Otter Tail River and the town developed rapidly. The river was the main livelihood for the town with Sawmills, flourmills and woolen mills along its banks. The rapids were also used for electrical power. The railroad came in 1879 which settled the success of the area. Good produced here could now be shipped out effectively. While the railroad helped Fergus Falls to grow, later the route would become a well-used bike path.
In the 1960's, the construction of Interstate I-94 was started and passes through the city limits of Fergus Falls. I-94 stretches from Chicago to Montana. Just as the railroad did in the late 1800's the "interstate" as locals call it, has brought the town into the new world of franchise businesses and growth. Without the interstate the city would be the small out-of-the way town it use to be.
Interestingly, the Otter Tail river which made the founding of the city possible was put into a concrete underground culvert where I-94 passes over it. Most passers-by never know they are crossing the river that founded the town.
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near Fergus Falls, this lake offers camping. Softball complexes, playgrounds and lake accesss. There is a public beach and DeLagoon Park.
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