Chapter XV.

When the whites first came to Becker county they found an old, well-beaten road running across the county. There were three distinct trails in the road, showing that it had been extensively used for vehicles drawn by a single animal. The road entered Becker County on the south, between the two lakes on the south line of Section 36, of Burlington Township, nearly a mile east of where the Northern Pacific Railroad crosses the county line. It crossed the Otter Tail River a little below the lower Frazee dam, and a little above the present bridge on the Silver Leaf road and passed up through the town of Burlington very near where the Northern Pacific Railroad has since been located, reaching Detroit Lake at the mouth of Sucker Creek, half a mile south of the club house. A little before reaching the present site of the club house the road took to the gravelly beach of the lake, which it followed for some distance, and again took to the water's edge where it crossed the Pelican River in Detroit Township. It then passed up by the old Tyler House, wound around into the southeast corner of the original townsite of Detroit, then back around by F. B. Chapin's house, thence northeasterly about half way between the Richwood road and the Pelican River, thence around nearly to where John O. French now resides, thence west along the south shore of Floyd Lake, then to the north shore of Oak Lake.

From there it wound its way northwest, and then north through the west part of Sections 7 and 6 of Detroit, then up through the western tier of sections in Richwood, then crossed the Buffalo River at the old bridge and thence in a northerly direction across the White Earth Reservation to Pembina.

All efforts to ascertain the date of the first travel over this road have been fruitless. My opinion is that the road was opened up soon after the dividing line was agreed upon by the Sioux and Chippewas between their respective territories, which was on the 19th of August, 1825. The only road connecting the settlements of Pembina on the lower Red River and Fort Snelling and other points on the Mississippi lower down, before that time, passed through where St. Cloud, Alexandria and McCauleyville have since been located, by which all travel to and from the Red River country was obliged to go through the heart of the Sioux country, whereas a road through by the new route would pass through a section of country owned altogether by the Chippewas, and would be considered much safer, as the Sioux even in that day were considered a nation of cut-throats, and were called the "cut-throat Sioux," further west, by the French a long time ago. The most remote date of the use of this road which I have been able to obtain is given in an extract from a letter from Hon. R.M. Probsfield of Moorhead. He says:

I do not know when the old road was first established, but was told by Norman W. Kittson that he used that trail in the late thirties, say between 1837 and 1840, on his way to and from Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin and Pembina and Ft. Gary, now Winnipeg.

Anson Northrup


The Anson Northup expedition with the machinery of the old North Star steamboat passed over this same route. The North Star was dismantled at the mouth of Gull River, on the Mississippi and from there it was all hauled on sleds to the Red River, opposite the mouth of the Sheyenne, where it empties into the Red River.

I left St. Paul on February 26th, 1859, and arrived at Sauk Rapids on the 28th, with a span of horses and wagon. There was no snow on the ground so far, but I was here informed that I could go no further than Platt River with a wagon, so I bought a light sled and loaded my wagon onto it. We stopped at Luther's, about half way between Platt River and Swan River than night, where I left my wagon, and loaded our truck onto the sled and made Crow Wing the following night. We arrived at Otter Tail City on the fourth or fifth of March and stopped with old McDonald where we found a part of the Northup expedition. Another part of the expedition had gone ahead to build a bridge across the Otter Tail River at one of the upper crossings, as the river was not frozen over. The snow was deep, some sixteen or eighteen inches. The bridge was built for the boiler and other heavy machinery. Arriving in the woods that surround Detroit Lake on the southeast side we struck the farthest advanced camp where some of the lightest of the freight had been hauled to. Instead of following the old trail around Detroit Lake, we crossed it on the ice straight over to a point of prairie, probably a little less than a mile east of where the court house now stands. There was a log cabin there, a claim shanty of old McDonald's, where I suppose he had traded with the Indians at intervals, but no one was there at the time when we arrived.

Heavy snow fell after that, making the rest of our journey long, tedious and perilous, getting out of forage for our teams, and the last day also out of provisions for the men.

The Northup Expedition left the old road about a mile west of Oak Lake and about three miles east of where Audubon is now and traveled by compass in a northwesterly direction to a point on the Red River opposite the mouth of the Sheyenne, a place called Lafayette, about five miles from where Georgetown is now. The details of that trip would fill a good volume.

The planking of the hull of the steamboat was sawed out of Red River oak, by hand power whipsaw, operated by three men.

R. M. Probsfield

The trail made by Mr. Probsfield and his party, from the old road a mile west of Oak Lake, to Lafayette on the Red River, afterwards became a well traveled road, and was much used by the Indians, half-breeds and fur traders, after that time. It crossed the Buffalo River near the corners of Sections 9, 10, 15 and 16 in the township of Cuba.

The Leech Lake Road.

In the summer of 1868, the United States Government opened up a road between Leech Lake and White Earth. This road in going west, passed through what is now Osage and Carsonville, not far from where the main road passing through Park Rapids, Osage and Ponsford now runs, only it cut straight across the country instead of following section lines; and on the Reservation it ran, most of the way, in the same location as the old road now in use.