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How Towns Were Formed


Mitchell Burton

Junior High Division


Towns were named after a famous person of place. Some townswere named after the first settler who started the town.

Humboldt: James J. Hill, the "Empire Builder,"platted this town site. At first, it was called Hill Town. Later, the townwas named Humboldt in honor of the German scientist, Baron Von Humboldt.Humboldt had no connection with this region but his countrymen did. Theywere heavy investors in Great Northern Railway bonds and naming of new townsafter great Germans either through appreciation or business policy, wascommon.

Kennedy: Kennedy was a Scottish immigrant iron merchantand banker. The town was platted in 1889 and incorporated as a village onJune 15, 1899. John Stewart Kennedy came to this country with Hill. Thiscommunity was settled by people of the Lutheran faith. Three Lutheran churches,East Emmaus in 1884, Maria in 1893, and West Emmaus in 1889 were built.The village was incorporated on June 15, 1899.

Stephen: Mike McCollough, trapper and fur trapper, wholocated on the bank of the Tamarack River near there in 1871 was the community'sfirst settler. Stephen took its name from a farm owned by Lord Ramsey andnamed in honor of Lord Mount Stephen. A substantial settlement began in1878 when immigrants arrived in large numbers from Crookston to the Border,an event which materialized that same fall. Stephen figured prominentlyin early history as the terminus of a stage line running westward to thescene of a "daring bank robbery" from which the bandits made theirgetaway in a horse and buggy.

Argyle: Argyle was first names Louisa, then rechristenedMiddle River. An influx of Scottish settlers brought that nationality intoprominence and the town's name again changed to Argyle.

Alvarado: The construction of Soo Railway through the areain 1905 gave impetus to the development of what is now the town of Alvarado.Alvarado was incorporated October 30, 1907 and has grown substantially since.

Oslo: Although time has brought many other nationalitiesinto the area, Oslo was founded by Norwegian settlers who named the townafter the capitol of Norway. The Soo Line was built through the area in1905, and the sale of town lots by the railway company brought $14,000 inone day. Steamboats plied the Red River by Oslo until 1909, and half a millionbushels of wheat were brought into town each year by the river route. In1912 and 1913, a lift bridge was built across the Red River at Oslo. Anoddity of interest is the fact that the lift bridge has never been lifted.

Middle River: The town site of Middle River was plattedin 1904 by the Northern Townsite Company in the proposed Great Northernbranch line to Greenbush. The site was well known, and the townsite companyevidently acted on good information for the railway came in October of thesame year. The town was incorporated in 1905.

Newfolden: Newfolden was named for a seaport in northernNorway by Scandinavian immigrants who began to settle this district alongthe winding Middle River in 1882.

Robbin: Steamboats provided work for many people. Amongthem was A. C. Tien, who founded the village of Robbin in 1892 with hisbrother, George and six other individuals. Robbin, also snuggled againstthe Red River, is located toward the southern tip of Kittson County. Robbinwas named after the many robins in the community, but a postal clerk inWashington, D.C. changed the spelling to Robbin with two B's. The villageis still struggling along, but the competition of the time is taking itstoll. Presently, Robbin is linked with the eastern part of the county --Robbin, Donaldson, and Karlstad.

The names of towns are as important as the names of people.Everyone likes to have an interesting name for his town.


Easton, Ruth and others, "Kittson County", Unpublishedreport, 1972

Sundburg, Lillian, Gryla, MN, letter.


Sundburg, Lillian, Gryla, MN, letter.