Find Morrison County history articles through these category links:

Agriculture / Architecture / Artifacts / Business & Industry / Culture / General / Military / People / Transportation

Intro to Morrison County History

Morrison County has a rich history. First the Dacotah and then the Ojibwe Indians lived in the central Minnesota area, where the county straddles the Mississippi River. French and English fur traders and voyageurs traveled through Minnesota from the 1600s to the 1800s. They used the river to transport their goods. The county was named for fur trading brothers, William and Allan Morrison.

The 1800s saw three prominent explorers lead expeditions along the river through what would become Morrison County. Zebulon Montgomery Pike came through in 1805. Winter storms forced him and his men to erect a fort near the mouth of the Swan River. Governor Lewis B. Cass led his expedition through the area in 1820. Explorer and scientist, Joseph N. Nicollet, created the first accurate map along the river in 1836.

Some of the earliest European settlers in the area were missionaries. Methodist missionaries settled temporarily along the Little Elk River in 1838. The Reverend Frederick and Elizabeth (Taylor) Ayer moved to the Belle Prairie area in 1849. They started a mission and school there for the Ojibwe. Father Francis Xavier Pierz came to the area in 1852 and started many communities in central Minnesota, including Sobieski and Rich Prairie (later renamed Pierz) in Morrison County.

The event that prodded further development of the county was the building of Fort Ripley. In order to construct this military outpost, a dam and sawmill were erected in 1849 by the Little Falls Mill and Land Company. This company was formed by James Green, Allan Morrison, Henry M. Rice, John Irvine, John Blair Smith Todd, and Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh Dana. Fort Ripley was built ostensibly to protect the Winnebago Indians, who had been relocated by Henry Rice from Iowa to central Minnesota west of the Mississippi River, between the Crow Wing and Long Prairie Rivers. Rice hoped the Winnebago would act as a buffer between the warring Ojibwe and Dacotah Indians. His plan was unsuccessful and the Winnebago were moved to the Blue Earth River in southern Minnesota in 1855.

Little Falls, the county seat, sprung up when a second dam was built by the Little Falls Company (later called the Little Falls Manufacturing Company). This dam washed out, as the first had done, and Little Falls entered a long period of economic depression and stagnation as far as population growth. Bit by bit, Little Falls grew, until it was officially incorporated as a village in 1879.

Another wave of immigration occurred between 1880 and 1920. A wide variety of ethnic groups chose Morrison County for their new home. This wave of immigration was spurred by the construction of the third dam at Little Falls in 1887. A group of investors from Louisville, Kentucky, led by M. M. Williams, provided the financing for this dam. They wanted to be sure their investment was successful. To this end, they worked to encourage other major industries to locate in the city, touting the water power as a prime feature.

Pine Tree Lumber Company, run by Charles A. Weyerhaeuser and Richard “Drew” Musser, was one such business that took advantage of the water power, with their operations in Little Falls beginning in 1890. Hennepin Paper Company also started operations that year in the city.

The Louisville, Kentucky, investors were also responsible for drawing up a charter to transform Little Falls from a village to a city. This occurred in 1889, with Nathan Richardson, one of the original organizers of Morrison County, becoming the first mayor of the new city.

The history continues and includes such figures as Chief Hole-in-the-Day I and II, Gertrude Staples, Frances Eliza Babbitt, Jacob Kiewel, Paul Larson, Pamelia and James Fergus, Ashley Morrill, Ed Morey, Clarence B. Buckman, Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser, Sarah Musser, congressman C. A. Lindbergh and his son, the aviator, Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., Senator Gordon Rosenmeier, Peter Roy, Hans Gosch, A. R. Davidson, Dr. S. G. Knight, Alfred Tanner, Enmegahbow, F. A. Nelson, Dr. G. M. A. Fortier, the Harting Brothers, and many, many others.

Find Morrison County history articles through these category links:

Agriculture / Architecture / Artifacts / Business & Industry / Culture / General / Military / People / Transportation

12 Replies to “History”

  1. Hello: My name is Bob Savard, and I have been researching the “Roy” family line. Today I noticed that my ancestor “Peter Roy” was mentioned on the history page of your website, and I was wondering whether or not there is more information on his family? Peter was an assistant marshal during the 1857 Minnesota Territorial Census. Peter is also an ‘assignee to 160 acres of land in Morrison County as follows: the northeast quarter section of section 26 in township 41 N, range 32 west. Peter was also the assistant marshal during the 1860 Federal Census in Crow Wing County. Any assistance or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Bob Savard

    1. Hi Bob!

      We do indeed have a Roy family file, and it’s quite thick!

      If you’d like, you’re more than welcome to stop by our museum during business hours and we’ll pull that file for you! However, if you can’t visit we do charge a research fee to find that specific info in the files. We charge $25 per hour of research, along with a small fee for any copies and shipping. You can reach out to us at with more specifics if that’s the route you’d like to take.

      Thanks so much for reaching out to us!

      Grace Duxbury
      Museum Assistant

  2. Matthew or Mathias Jeninski or Jelenski and Rosalia or Rose Jelenski or Jelinski had Mary – these are some of my relatives.
    Do you have info on them?

    1. Hi Rebecca-

      We would be happy to look into that for you! We do charge a research fee–$25 per hour of research, along with a small fee for copies and shipping. You would be sent an invoice along with any copies found upon completion of the research. If that’s alright by you, can you send an email to with a physical address that would work best to have the completed research sent to, and any other information you might be interested in having us look up?

      Thanks so much for reaching out to us!

      Grace Duxbury
      Museum Assistant

  3. Hi,
    I have a copy of the photo of the Pierz Band 1890. I was told that the band leader is my great great gpa, Frank Boehm. I know he was very active in bands as I have found many references to him having recitals and parties at their home (Agram) in the Little Falls Herald. Could you tell me if any of the other photos have my G G gpa in them. Also do you have a file at the society on the Boehms. My great gma was Rose Boehm who married Adam Billig in 1906. My grandmother was Laura Boehm ( she never knew her father and was raised by Frank and Anna Boehm) She never knew her father but through DNA I do! And I was wondering if off the top of your hat you know what happened to the homestead in Agram?

    Thank you so much

    1. Hi Karen-

      I took a look into our files and was unable to find anything on the Boehm family. Searching through the newspapers, I found a few articles that mention Frank, like the time in February 1900 when his cornet was stolen. We do have some band photos, but the ones we have deal primarily with bands from Little Falls. So sorry we couldn’t be of more help in that regard!

      Grace Duxbury
      Museum Assistant

  4. Hello! I am researching Weisbrich family history. I believe there is a typed document, a biography of Katharina Weisbrich (born around 1830s) in your collection? How may I find out more about seeing this document? I do not live in the area. My father, Richard, was born in Little Falls. Many thanks. – E. Weisbrich

    1. Good morning! We can get you a copy of that biography, I’ll be sending it to your email!

      Grace Duxbury
      Museum Manager

  5. Thanks so much for the super-prompt reply, Grace! I so appreciate it. I am fascinated by my Dad’s family history. Until he lived in the orphanage in St. Cloud, his earliest childhood was spent in a farmhouse near a place I think called Pine Lake near Upsala. His parents died in the forties, and I do not know what became of the farmhouse. I have been tracing his Minnesota story for most of my life, and I am starting to learn more about Silesian German emigration to Minnesota. This Katharina Weisbrich is not my great-great gran, but this WPA bio is compelling, and it is heartening to find a family connection. I am grateful. Thanks on behalf of my family!

    All the best,

    Erika Weisbrich

  6. Hi! I’m researching the Lucking and Klemaseski families My grandmother was a Lucking and grandfather a Klemaseski. They both lived in Minnesota. How can I get access to whatever information you may have about these families? I live in another state.
    I would appreciate any information you can pass onto me.

    Thank you, Daphne

    1. Good morning, Daphne!

      We would be happy to take a look into our family files for you! We charge a research fee, $25 for staff research time plus any copies (around .20 per page) which will be billed to you upon completion of the research. You can pay this fee either through an invoice on our online store, or via check. Just let us know how you’d like to proceed and we’ll go from there!

      Grace Duxbury
      Museum Manager

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