The Minnesota Territory- was the land of the mighty Dakota (Sioux) long before Europeans discovered its resources. As settlers ventured west, Ojibwe (Chippewa) were pushed into Northern Minnesota. This caused conflict between the two tribes for many years.

Spanish explorers were the first to claim this land. France later assumed control but ceded the territory to England in 1763 the territory became part of the United States after the Revolutionary War. Although three countries had made successive early claims, only French Canadian fur trappers settled here, establishing posts and trading with area tribes. They called this region of Minnesota "Mille Lacs", or "Thousand Lakes". The largest of the lakes was named Mille Lacs.

The Louisiana Purchase added the western part of Minnesota to the United States and the era of American exploration began. In 1805 Lt Zebulon Pike camped near Mississippi River. Although he never found the river's source, he mapped much of its upper region and identified suitable sites for military and trading posts.

In 1837 Clement H Beaulie established a trading post at the mouth of the Crow Wing River in a densely forested area dominated by the Ojibwe. Beauliu's post, called Old Crow Wing, became the headquarters for trade with the tribe.

Treaties with both the Dakota and Ojibwe in 1838 and the 1850's opened the territory for settlement. In 1843 Philip Beaupre led an oxcart train to Old Crow Wing. When the fur trade declined, Old Crow Wing became an outfitting center for the oxcart trains traveling northwest along the Red River Trail.

In 1846 a reservation was set aside for the Winnebago tribe to act as buffer between the feuding Ojibwe and Dakota tribes. A military garrison was established on the west side of the Mississippi, seven miles south of the mouth of the Crow Wing River.

In 1848 settlers purchased tracts of land in the area from Chief Hole-in-the-Day and the Ojibway for a nominal amount of money. They began to cut down the dense timber and floated logs down the Mississippi to sawmills at Little Falls and St. Anthony. As loggers swelled the region's population, the legend of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe began to grow. Old Crow Wing acquired a post office in 1857. Crow Wing County was established on May 23, 1857 and organized March 3, 1879. The county is named for the Crow Wing River. In 1858 Minnesota became the 32nd state.

The Northern Pacific Railroad reached the area in 1870 but officials failed to negotiate acceptable land prices with Beaulie. The railway crossed the Mississippi River at what now is Brainerd, originally called "The Crossing". The trading settlement at Old Crow Wing soon became a ghost town.

The discovery of iron in the Cuyuna Range during the 1880's brought the mining industry to Crow Wing County. Towns such as Crosby and Ironton were established. During the 1920's the resort industry boomed. It remains important today.

County Population: 55,099
County Houses: 33,483
Land area: 996.6 sq. mi.
Water area: 160.0 sq. mi.

Page updated Nov. 22, 2005