Established September 1, 1851, but having remained without organization till
1897, this county commemorates the distinguished statesman, Lewis Cass, who in
1820 commanded an exploring expedition which started from Detroit, passed
through lakes Huron and Superior, and thence advanced by way of Sandy lake and
the upper Mississippi as far as to the upper Red Cedar lake. This name, a
translation from the Ojibway name, was changed by Schoolcraft, the narrator of
the expedition, to be Cassina or Cass lake, in honor of its commander. He was
born in Exeter, N. H., October 9, 1782, and died in Detroit, Mich., June 17,
1866. At the age of eighteen years he came to Marietta, the first town founded
in southern Ohio, and studied law there; was admitted to the bar in 1803, and
began practice at Zanesville, Ohio; and was colonel and later brigadier general
in the War of 1812. He was governor of Michigan Territory, 1813 to 1831;
negotiated twenty-two treaties with Indian tribes; was secretary of war, in the
cabinet of President Jackson, 1831-36, including the time of the Black Hawk war;
minister to France, 1836-42; United States senator, 1845-48; Democratic
candidate for the presidency in the campaign of 1848; again U. S. senator,
1849-57; and secretary of state, in the cabinet of President Buchanan, 1857-60.
To voyage along the upper Mississippi river and to describe and map its principal source were the motives for the expedition undertaken m 1820 by Cass. At this time Michigan Territory, of which he was governor, included the northeastern third of Minnesota, east of the Mississippi; and Missouri Territory extended across the present State of Iowa and western two-thirds of Minnesota.
The report of this expedition, published the next year, is entitled "Narrative Journal of Travels from Detroit northwest through the Great Chain of American Lakes to the Sources of the Mississippi river in the year 1820, by Henry R. Schoolcraft . . . Albany, . . 1821" (424 pages, with a map and eight copper-plate engravings.) This title-page is engraved and is followed by another in print, which states that the author was "a member of the Expedition under Governor Cass." The explorations of the upper Mississippi by Cass and Schoolcraft, of whom the latter visited and named Lake Itasca in 1832, are related in a chapter of "Minnesota in Three Centuries" (1908, vol. I, pp. 347-356, with their portraits.)
Several extended biographies of General Cass were published during his lifetime, in 1848, 1852, and 1856, the years of successive presidential campaigns. In 1889 a marble statue of him was contributed by the State of Michigan as one of its two statues for the National Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington; and the proceedings and addresses in Congress upon the acceptance of the statue were published in a volume of 106 pages. Two years afterward, in 1891, a mature study of his biography, entitled "Lewis Cass, by Andrew C. McLaughlin, Assistant Professor of History in the University of Michigan" (363 pages), was published in the "American Statesmen" series.
For the origins and meanings of these names, information has been gathered in October, 1909, from Iver P. Byhre, county auditor, and in September 1916, from Nathan J. Palmer, clerk of the court, Mack Kennedy, sheriff, James S. Scribner, former county attorney, and M. S. Morical, all of Walker, the county seat, during my visits there.
Ansel township received the name of an earlier postoffice, which was given by its postmaster, Myron Smith, this being the first or christening name of one of the pioneers there.
Backus, the railway village in Powers township, was named in honor of Edward W. Backus, of Minneapolis, lumberman, president of the Backus-Brooks Company, and of the International Falls Lumber Company.
Barclay township bears the surname of one of its pioneers.
Becker township was named for J. A. Becker, an early settler there.
Bena, a railway village adjoining the most southern bay of Lake Winnebagoshish, is the Ojibway word meaning a partridge, spelled bine in Baraga's Dictionary. This game bird species, formerly common throughout the wooded region of this state, is the ruffed grouse, called the "partridge" in New England and in Minnesota, but less correctly known as the "pheasant" in the middle and southern states. Longfellow used this word in his "Song of Hiawatha," "Heard the pheasant, Bena, drumming."
Beulah township received its name in honor of Mrs. Olds, the wife of an early homesteader there, this being her first name, a Hebrew word meaning married.
Birch Lake township was named for its lake adjoining Hackensack village. It is translated, as noted by Gilfillan, from the Ojibway "Ga-wigwasensikag sagaiigun, the-place-of-little-birches lake." On the map of the Minnesota Geological Survey it is called Fourteen Mile lake, indicating its distance by the road south from the Leech Lake Agency.
and Boy River townships were named from their large lake and river,
which are translations of the Ojibway names. Gilfillan wrote that Woman
lake and Boy lake "are so called from women and boys, respectively, they
having been killed in those lakes by the Sioux during an irruption made
by them." The date and origin of the name of Boy lake, whence by Ojibway
usage the outflowing river was likewise named, are stated by Warren in
his "History of the Qjibway Nation" (Minnesota Historical Society
Collections, vol. V, pages 222-232), to have been about the year 1768,
within a few years after the Ojibways had driven the Sioux southward
from Mille Lacs. A war party of Sioux invaded the upper Mississippi
region, by way of the Crow Wing and Gull rivers, and by a canoe route,
with portages, through White Fish, Wabedo, and the Little Boy and Boy
lakes, to Leech lake. At Boy lake they "killed three little boys, while
engaged in gathering wild rice. . . . From this circumstance, this large
and beautiful sheet of water has derived its Ojibway name of Que-wis-ans
(Little Boy)." Warren's narration shows that this attack was on the
lower one of the two Boy lakes, lying partly in the township named for
it. Gilfillan's list of Ojibway names and translations has exactly the
same Ojibway name for this lake, on the lower part of Boy river, and for
the lake about ten miles south on the upper part of the river, which our
maps name Little Boy lake.
Nicollet mapped the lower Boy lake under the name of Lake Hassler, in honor of Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler (b. in Switzerland, 1770, d. in Philadelphia, 1843), who was superintendent of the U. S. Coast Survey.
Bull Moose township was named in compliment to the Progressive or "Bull Moose" division of the Republican party, which supported former President Roosevelt as its candidate in the presidential campaign of 1912.
Bungo township was named for descendants of a negro, Jean Bonga, who, according to Dr. Neill, was brought from the West Indies and was a slave of Captain Daniel Robertson, British commandant at Mackinaw from 1782 to 1787. His family intermarried with the Ojibways, and the name became changed to Bungo. George Bonga was an interpreter for Governor Cass in 1820 at Fond du Lac, and he or another of this family was an interpreter for the Ojibway treaty in 1837 at Fort Snelling. Rev. Joseph A. Gilfillan wrote in 1897 (M. H. S. Collections, vol. IX, page 56): "About Leech lake there are perhaps a hundred descendants of the negro Bungo; nearly all these are very muscular, and some have been of unusually fine physique." This township has a Bungo brook, which was earlier so named, flowing out at its northeast corner.
Byron was named for Byron Powell, the first white boy born in this township, son of Philo Powell, who later removed to northwestern Canada.
Cass Lake, a large railway village, received its name from the adjoining lake, which, as before noted, was named, like this county, in honor of General Cass.
Crooked Lake township took this name from its Crooked lake, half of which extends into Crow Wing county. It is a translation of the aboriginal name, Wewagigumag sagaiigun. By a resolution .of the state legislature, March 6, 1919, this lake was renamed Lake Roosevelt, in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, who two months previously, on January 6, died at his home, Oyster Bay, N. Y.
Cuba and Schley, stations of the Great Northern railway, commemorate the Spanish-American war of 1898.
Cyphers, a railway station five miles south of Walker, was named for a former resident, who removed into Hubbard county.
Deerfield township was named, on request of its people, for the plentiful deer there; but it also is a common geographic name, borne by townships, villages and postoffices in fourteen other states.
East Gull Lake township was named for its comprising the greater part of the northeast end of Gull lake, with its continuation north to Upper Gull lake.
Fairview township received this euphonious name in accordance with the petition of its people for organization.
Federal Dam is the railway village at the reservoir dam built by the United States government on Leech Lake river.
Gould township was named for M. L Gould, logger and farmer, who owned hay meadows there.
Gull River station of the Northern Pacific railway, formerly a place of great importance for its lumber manufacturing, was named for the Gull lake and river, each a translation of the name given by the Ojibways, the latter, in accordance with their general rule, being supplied from the name of the lake. This aboriginal name is noted by Gilfillan as "Gagaiashkonzikag sagaiigun, the-place-of-young-gulls lake."
Hackensack, a railway village, was named for an earlier postoffice there, which derived its name from the town of Hackensack in New Jersey, on the Hackensack river, given by James Curo, who was ihe first postmaster, ranchman, and merchant there.
Hiram township was named by the petition for organization, in honor of Hiram Wilson, an early settler, who was yet living there in 1916.
Home Brook township received the name of a postoffice earlier established, which had taken the name of the brook, given by lumbermen. (Brook and creek have the same meaning in this state, the latter being the more common, or the only term in use, through the greater part of the state; but lumbermen and settlers coming from Maine and others of the eastern states have in many cases named the small streams as brooks, especially in the wooded northeastern third of Minnesota.)
Inguadona township has a name of probably aboriginal derivation, but its significance has not been learned. It was given to the township from its lake so named. If it is of the Ojibway language, its original form and pronunciation may have been so changed as to be now unidentifiable. Gilfillan gave the name of this lake as "Manominiganjiki, or The-ricefield." It was called Lake Gauss on Nicollet's map, for the celebrated German mathematician (b. 1777, d. 1855).
Kego, the name of a township here, is a common Ojibway word, meaning a fish, used as a general term for any fish species. This is spelled Gigo in Baraga's Dictionary.
Leech Lake township was named for the lake, translated from the Ojibway name, noted by Gilfillan as "Ga-sagasquadj imekag sagaiigun, the-place-of-the-leech-lake; from the tradition that on first coming to it, the Chippeways saw an enormous leech swimming in it." Nicollet wrote that this aboriginal name "implies . . . that its waters contain a remarkable number of leeches."
Lima township (pronounced here with the long English sound of i, unlike Lima in Peru) was named probably for the city of Lima in Ohio, where the pronunciation has been thus anglicized. Ten other states have towns and villages of this name.
Loon Lake township was named for its lake in section 20. This large water bird was formerly frequent or common throughout this state, and is yet common in its wooded northeast part.
McKinley township was named in honor of our third martyr president, William McKinley, who was born in Niles, Ohio, January 29, 1843, and died in Buffalo, N. Y., September 14, 1901, assassinated by an anarchist. He was president of the United States, 1897-1901.
Maple township received this name on the petition of its people for organization, referring to its plentiful sugar maple trees, a species that is common or abundant throughout Minnesota, excepting near its west side. The sap is much used for sugar-making, in the early spring, both by the Indians and the white people. Warren wrote of this Ojibway work about Leech lake: "The shores of the lake are covered with maple which yields to the industry of the hunters' women, each spring, quantities of sap which they manufacture into sugar."
May township was named in honor of May Griffith, daughter of a former county auditor, Charles Griffith, in whose office she was an assistant. Lake May, formerly called Lake Frances, in the southwest edge of Walker village, is also named for her.
Meadow Brook township took its name from a brook where a schoolhouse was built and so named before the township was organized.
Mildred, a small railway village in Pine River township, was named in honor of Mrs. Mildred Scofield, first postmistress and wife of the merchant there, who, with her husband, removed to the west.
Moose Lake township was named for its small lake in sections 10 and 15.
Mud Lake township was named for its Mud lake, mostly shallow with a muddy bed and having much wild rice, through which the Leech Lake river flows. The Ojibway name is translated by Gilfillan, "meaning shallow-mud-bottomed lake." Nicollet mapped it as Lake Bessel, in honor of Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (b. 1784, d. 1846), a distinguished Prussian astronomer.
Nushka, a Great Northern railway station in the Chippewa Indian Reservation, is an Ojibway word of exclamation, meaning "Look!" It is used by Longfellow in "The Song of Hiawatha."
Pike Bay township includes the large Pike bay, more properly a separate lake, which is connected on the north with Cass lake by a very narrow strait or thoroughfare. The name commemorates Zebulon Montgomery Pike, the commander of the expedition sent to the upper Mississippi in 1805-06 by the United States War Department. Pike came to Cass lake (then known as the upper Red Cedar lake) on February 12, 1806, by a land march from Leech lake and across Pike bay; spent a day at the Northwest Company's trading post there; and returned on the 14th by the same route. His biography is presented in the chapter of Morrison county, where he is honored by the names of a creek, a township, and rapids of the Mississippi, beside the site of his winter stockade camp.
Pillager, a village of the Northern Pacific railway, the
adjoining Pillager creek, and the lake of this name at its source, are
derived from the term. Pillagers, applied to the Ojibways of this
vicinity and of the Leech Lake Reservation. According to the accounts
given by Schoolcraft and his associate. Dr. Douglass Houghton, in the
Narrative of the expedition in 1832 to Itasca Lake (pages 111, 112,
254), this name, Mukkundwais or Pillagers, originated in the fall of
1767 or 1768, when a trader named Berti, who had a trading post at the
mouth of Crow Wing river, was robbed of his goods.
Warren gave, in the "History of the Ojibway Nation," written in 1852, a more detailed narration of the robbery or pillage, referring it erroneously to the year 1781. The name Pillagers, given to the Leech Lake band of the Ojibways, had come into use as early as 1775, when the elder Henry found some of them at the Lake of the Woods.
Pine Lake township, bordering the most southern part of the shore of Leech lake, contains eight lakes, with others crossed by its boundaries. It had abundant white pine timber, and thence came this name of its lakes, in sections 17 and 18, later given to the township. Its largest lake, in sections 28, 32, and 33, is called Boot lake, from its outline.
Pine River township is on the upper part of Pine river, which flows eastward through White Fish lake and joins the Mississippi near the center of Crow Wing county. This township has, near Mildred station, a second but smaller Boot lake, named for its having a bootlike shape.
Ponto Lake township has a lake of this name, in sections 3, 9, and 10; and an adjoining postoffice is named Pontoria. These are unique names, not in use elsewhere, and their derivation and significance remain to be learned.
Poplar township had an earlier postofiice of this name, referring to the plentiful poplar groves.
Portage Lake, a station of the Soo line, in the Chippewa Indian Reservation, and the lake of this name, a half mile distant to the north, as also the neighboring Portage bay of the large north arm of Leech lake, refer to the canoe portage there between the waters of Leech and Winnebagoshish lakes. On Nicollet's map this Portage lake is named in honor of Duponceau (b. in France, 1760, d. in Philadelphia, 1844), author of a "Memoir on the Indian Languages of North America," published in 1835; and the Portage bay bears the name of Pickering bay on this map, for an American writer of another work on the same subject, published in 1836.
Powers township was named in honor of Gorham Powers, of Granite Falls, who was a landowner there, having a summer home on Sanborn lake, in section 27. He was born in Pittsfield, Maine, September 14, 1840; served in the civil war, 1862-5; was graduated at the Albany law school, 1866, and in the same year came to Minnesota, settling in Minneapolis; removed in 1868 to Granite Falls; was county attorney of Yellow Medicine county, 1872-7, and 1884-6; was a representative in the state legislature, 1879; and was judge in the Twelfth judicial district from 1890 until his death, at Granite Falls, April 15, 1915.
Remer township, and the earlier Remer postoffice and railway village, were named in honor of E. N. and William P. Remer, brothers, of whom the former is treasurer and manager of the Reishus-Remer Land Company, of Grand Rapids, and the latter was the first postmaster here.
Rogers was named in honor of William A. Rogers, who had a homestead in this township, coming, as also his brothers Nathan and Frank, from St. John, N. B. He engaged in logging as a contractor, resided in Walker, and was killed by an elevator accident in Duluth. His son, Edward L. Rogers, has been the county attorney of Cass county since 1913.
Salem was named by its settlers in their petition for township organization. It is the name of townships, cities, villages, and postoffices, in thirty-two states of our Union.
Schley, a Great
Northern railway station, was named in honor of Winfield Scott Schley,
rear admiral of the United States Navy. He was born in Frederick county,
Maryland, October 9, 1839; was graduated at the U. S. Naval Academy in
1860, and was an instructor there after the civil war; commanded the
"Flying Squadron" in the Spanish-American war, 1898, and directed the
naval battle off Santiago, Cuba; author of an autobiography, "Forty-five
Years under the Flag" (1904, 439 pages); died in New York City, October
Three successive stations and sidings of this railway in the north edge of Cass county, established in 1898-99, are commemorative of our short and decisive war with Spain, named Schley, Santiago, and Cuba.
Shingobee township received this name from its creek, being the general Ojibway word for the spruce, balsam fir, and arbor vitae, species of evergreen trees that are common or abundant through northern Minnesota, excepting the Red River valley. It is spelled jingob in Baraga's Dictionary.
Slater township was named for David H. Slater, a homestead farmer in section 6.
Smoky Hollow was named by Levi Morrow, a settler who came from Missouri, in remembrance of his former home in the state of New York, near a locality so named (or perhaps for Sleepy Hollow, a quiet valley near Tarrytown, on the Hudson, of which Irving wrote in "The Sketch Book"). This township has in part a surface of marginal morainic drift, remarkably diversified with knolls, ridges, and hollows.
Sylvan township is named for its Sylvan lake, which refers to the woods or groves on its shores. The Ojibway name, noted by Gilfillan, means Fish Trap lake.
Thunder Lake township is derived likewise from its lake of this name, which is probably a translation of the aboriginal name.
Trelipe township (pronounced in three syllables, with accent on the first, and with the short sound of each) is named, with variation of spelling, for the tullibee, a very common fish in the lakes of northern Minnesota, having a wide geographic range from New York to northwestern Canada. This species, Argyrosomus tullibee (Richardson), closely resembles the common whitefish. The word was adopted, as noted by Richardson, from the Cree language. Tulaby lake, crossed by the line between Becker and Mahnomen counties, was also named for this fish, supplying another way of its spelling.
Turtle Lake township is named for its two lakes in sections 22, 23, 26, and 27, called by the Ojibways, as recorded by Gilfillan, "Mikinako-sagaiigunun, or Turtle lakes."
Wabedo township (accenting the first syllable) received its name from its Wabedo lake. Warren, writing in 1852 in his "History of the Ojibway Nation" (M. H. S. Collections, vol. V, page 224), related that an invading war party of the Sioux, about the year 1768, came "into Wab-ud-ow lake, where they spilt the first Ojibway blood, killing a hunter named Wab-ud-iow (White Gore), from which circumstance the lake is named to this day by the Ojibways." The same party, advancing northward, killed three boys gathering rice, whence Boy lake and river received their name, as noted on a preceding page. Gilfillan spelled Wabedo lake as "Wabuto sagaiigun, or Mushroom lake."
Wahnena (with accent on the second syllable) was named for an Ojibway chief who died about the year 1895.
Walden township bears the name of a pond near Concord, Mass., beside which Henry D. Thoreau, the author, built a hut and lived about two years, 1845-47, as told in his book, "Walden, or Life in the Woods," published in 1854. This is also the name of a town in northern Vermont, and of a large manufacturing village in Orange county, N. Y.
Walker village, the county seat, was named in honor of Thomas Barlow Walker, who has large lumbering and land interests in Cass county and in several other counties of northern Minnesota. He was born in Xenia, Ohio, February 1, 1840; came to Minnesota in 1862, and was the surveyor of parts of the St. Paul and Duluth railway line; commenced in 1868 the purchase of great tracts of pine lands, and later built and operated, in Crookston and elsewhere, many large lumber mills. He resides in Minneapolis, and maintains a very valuable and choice art gallery to which the public are freely welcomed. An autobiographic paper by Mr. Walker is published in the Minnesota Historical Society Collections (vol. XV, 1915, pages 455-478, with his portrait).
Wilkinson township commemorates Major Melville Cary Wilkinson, who was killed in a skirmish with the Bear Island band of the Pillager Indians, at Sugar point on Leech lake, October 5, 1898. He was born in New York, November 14, 1835; served as a volunteer in the civil war, and in 1866 entered the regular army. The "battle of Sugar point," and dealings with these Ojibways preceding and following it, are narrated in Flandrau's "History of Minnesota" (1900, pages 229-234), and more fully by Holcombe in "Minnesota in Three Centuries" (1908, vol IV, pages 245-254).
Woodrow township received its name, by petition of its citizens for the township organization, in honor of President Woodrow Wilson. He was born in Staunton, Va., December 28, 1856; was graduated at Princeton University, 1879; was professor there, of finance and political economy, 1890-1902, and president, 1902-10; author of several books on United States history and politics; was governor of New Jersey, 1911-13; president of the United States since March 4, 1913.
The origin of the name of Leech lake has been noted for the township so
named. It was translated from the Ojibway name, the French translation
being Lac Sangsue (which in English is a bloodsucker, that is, a leech).
This lake has a very irregular outline, with numerous bays and projecting points, and it contains several islands. On the east is Boy River bay, named for its inflowing river, with Sugar point at its west entrance, named for its sugar maples, the site of the battle in 1898, when Major Wilkinson lost his life, as noted for the township of his name. Bear island stretches three miles from north to south, lying in front of this bay and of Rice bay at the southeast, and Pelican island lies far out in the southern central part of the broad lake, these names being translations from those given by the Ojibways.
Big point and Otter Tail point, respectively on the southwest and northwest borders of the main lake, guard the entrance to the more irregular western part. The Peninsula juts into that part from the south, having itself a small Peninsula lake, and bounded on the southeast by Agency bay and on the west by the South arm and West bay. At the south end of the Peninsula, a passage called the Narrows leads from the South arm to Agency bay; and on the north the Peninsula is separated from the main shore by the North Narrows, and it terminates northeastward in Pine point. Nearly all these names are self-explanatory, having an obvious significance. The Otter Tail point, at the end of a tapering tract of land about five miles long, is a translation of the Ojibway name, referring to its outline, which resembles an otter's tail, similarly as the large lake and county of this name have reference to a tapering point of land adjoining the eastern end of that lake.
On the north end of the Peninsula, at the North Narrows, was the village of Eshkebugecoshe (Flat Mouth, b. 1774, d. about 1860), the very intelligent, friendly, and respected chief of the Pillager Ojibways; and close east of this village, at the time of Schoolcraft's visit there in 1832, was the trading house of the American Fur Company. In the time of Pike's visit, 1806, the Northwest Company's trading post was about two miles distant to the northeast from the North Narrows, being opposite to Goose island.
West bay in its north part branches westward to the Northwest arm, entered by a very narrow and short strait, and opens northward, opposite to the North Narrows, into Duck bay, which is entered with Prairie point on the right, and with Aitkin point, succeeded westward by the small Aitkin bay, on the left. Proceeding five miles up the Duck bay, past Duck island (called in the latest atlas Minnesota island), one comes at the northwest corner of this bay to the mouth of the Steamboat river, "fringed with extensive fields of wild rice," whence a canoe route through several little lakes, with portages, leads to Pike bay of Cass lake.
Four years after the southward journey of Schoolcraft through Leech lake in 1832, Rev. William T. Boutwell, his companion of that travel, who a year later had established a mission here for the Ojibways, befriended Nicollet on his exploration of the upper Mississippi country, in his relations with these Indians. Nicollet spent a week on Leech lake in the middle of August, 1836, having his camping place generally on Otter Tail point. Boutwell's mission house was on or near the isthmus that connects the Peninsula with the mainland of the present Leech Lake Agency. On Nicollet's return from Lake Itasca, by way of the Mississippi and Cass lake, he again camped on Otter Tail point during the first week of September, visited with Boutwell, and had long interviews with Flat Mouth.
Sucker bay lies west and north of Otter Tail point, and receives Sucker brook at its north end. Flea point, called Sugar point on Schoolcraft's map of Leech lake, juts into the southern part of the western side of the bay; and the present Sucker brook is designated on that map by the nearly equivalent name of Carp river. The Sucker Family of fishes, Catostomidae, includes "some 15 genera and more than 70 species," wholly limited in geographic range to the fresh waters of North America, excepting that two species occur in eastern Asia. Ulysses O. Cox, in his "Preliminary Report on the Fishes of Minnesota," published in 1897, wrote of this family that "five genera and eleven species" were then known in this state. Our most plentiful species, known as the "common sucker," found in nearly all large lakes of Minnesota, "attains a length of 18 inches or more, ... a food-fish of considerable importance."
On the northwest side of the northern part of the main lake are the Two points and Noon Day point; and this part ends in the little Portage bay, called Rush bay on Schoolcraft's map, whence this map notes the "Route to L. Winnipeg" (that is, Winnebagoshish). The present name of the bay, refers, as before mentioned, to that canoe route and its portage. Nicollet named this most northern bay of Leech lake as Pickering bay, in honor of John Pickering (b. 1777, d. 1846), of Massachusetts, a philologist, who in 1836 published "Remarks on the Indian Languages of North America." This is the only name connected with Leech lake as mapped in much crude detail by Schoolcraft and Nicollet, which they bestowed otherwise than by translation of the Ojibway names.
Of the Ojibway name of this lake, with its translation, Gilfillan wrote:
"Cass lake is Ga-misquawakokag sagaiigun, or The-place-of-red-cedars
lake, from some red cedars growing on the island; more briefly. Red
Cedar lake." The same name was given also by these Indians to Cedar lake
in Aitkin county, as noted in the chapter for that county. Until the
adoption of the new name, Cassina or Cass lake, these were discriminated
respectively as the upper and lower Red Cedar lakes.
Gilfillan further wrote: "The large island in the lake was anciently called Gamisquawako miniss, or the island of red cedars. It is now called Kitchi miniss, or Great island." Schoolcraft in 1832 described and mapped it as "Colcaspi or Grand island," having coined the former word from parts of the names of its three explorers, Schoolcraft, Cass, and Pike. "The town of Ozawindib" (Yellow Head, who was the guide of Schoolcraft and his party in their expedition to Lake Itasca) was on this island, being a village of 157 people, with "small fields of corn and potatoes, cultivated by the women." It is now commonly called Star island, and it has a small lake, about three-fourths of a mile long, which is called Lake Helen, this name having been given in honor of Miss Helen Gould, of New York City, on the occasion of her visit here about the year 1900.
Having set aside the Ojibway name of Red Cedar island for the new name, Colcaspi, Schoolcraft gave the name, "R. Cedar I." on his map, to a small island on the southeast. Garden and Elm islands of Allen's bay, in Beltrami county, each of very small area, are also mentioned by Schoolcraft, the former doubtless so named for its having been cultivated by the Indians.
Thompson in 1798 gave this name as Lake Winepegoos in his Narrative,
published under editorial care of J. B. Tyrrell in 1916; but on
Thompson's map, reproduced in facsimile in that work, it is Winnipeg
Schoolcraft's Narrative Journal of the Expedition in 1820 under General Cass, published in 1821, called it Lake Winnipec in the text, while the map spelled it Lake Winnepec. An island of boulders in its western part, not shown on maps but probably lying off a narrow projecting point, had large numbers of various species of waterfowl, one of which, a pelican found dead, caused it to be named Pelican island.
The map in the Narrative of Long's expedition, 1823, notes it as "Lit. Winnepeek L.;" Beltrami in the same year called it Lake Winnepec; and Allen, in 1832, spelled this name Lake Winnipeg, the same as the lake in Manitoba. Warren, writing in 1852 in his "History of the Ojibway Nation," called it Lake Winnepeg.
In Nicollet's Report, from his exploration in 1836, published in 1843, it appears both in the text and on the map as Lake Winebigoshish; and this form has continued from that time in prevalent use, excepting that the letter n has been doubled. The accent is placed by the white people on the syllable next to the last, with the long o sound.
By the Ojibways of that region, however, this lake name is generally pronounced like the etymologically cognate name of the Winnebago Indians and Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin (which is accented on the next before the final syllable and has the English long sound of the a), with addition of another syllable, shish. Gilfillan followed the orthography introduced to cartographers by Nicollet, and defined the meaning as "miserable-wretched-dirty-water (Winni, filthy; bi, water; osh, bad, an expression of contempt; ish, an additional expression of contempt, meaning miserable, wretched)." The whole lake is shallow, with a mostly muddy bed at a depth probably nowhere exceeding 20 or 25 feet, so that the large waves of storms stir up the mud and sand of the lake bottom and shores, foiling the water upward to the surface upon nearly or quite all its area.
Similar shallowness and general muddiness of Lakes Winnipeg and Winnipegosis, in Manitoba, also caused them to receive these Ojibway names, the former meaning muddy water, as noted by Keating in 1823 (vol. II, page 77), and the latter meaning "Little Winnipeg," according to Hind's "Narrative of the Canadian Exploring Expeditions" (vol. II, page 42).
The spelling received from Nicollet, mispronounced by our white people, has been corrected, in accordance with the Ojibway usage, to Winnebagoshish, by treaties of the United States with the Ojibways under dates of May 7, 1864, and March 19, 1867, and in an executive order of President Grant, May 26, 1874. Rev. S. R. Riggs, in a paper written in 1880, spelled the name as "Lake Winnebagooshish or Winnipeg" (Minnesota Historical Society Collections, VI, 157, 158). The orthography in the treaties here cited was also used by the present writer in the U. S. Geological Survey Monograph XXV ("The Glacial Lake Agassiz"), published in 1896, and was recommended by me in 1899 for general adoption (Final Report of the Minn. Geol. Survey, vol. IV, page 57). It still seems to me desirable that the corrected spelling and pronunciation be adopted by Minnesota writers and speakers.
The list of townships and villages has included sufficient mention of
numerous lakes and streams, including Birch lake, Woman lake, the Boy
lakes and river, Cass lake. Crooked lake, Gull river and lake. Home
brook, Inguadona lake, Leech lake, Loon lake, Lake May, Meadow brook,
Moose lake (in the township of this name), Mud lake and the Leech Lake
river, Pike bay of Cass lake, Pillager creek and lake, Pine and Boot
lakes (in Pine Lake township), Pine river, with the second Boot lake in
Pine River township, Ponto lake, Portage lake, Shingobee creek, Sylvan
lake, Thunder lake, the Turtle lakes in the township named for them, and
On the canoe route from Cass lake and Pike bay to Leech lake, Schoolcraft named the first lake, in sections 2 and 3, Wilkinson, Moss lake, for the mosslike water-plants seen growing in large masses on the lake bottom, which the canoemen "brought up on their paddles." Thence they made a portage of about two miles southwest into a lake at the center of this township, which Schoolcraft named Lake Shiba, spelled by "the initials of the names of the five gentlemen of the party, Schoolcraft, Houghton, Johnston, Boutwell, Allen." About a mile farther southwest, they came into "a river of handsome magnitude, broad and deep but without strong current," since named Steamboat river because it is ascended by steamboats from Duck bay of Leech lake, some three miles distant. Steamboat lake, crossed by the west line of this county, lies a quarter of a mile west from the junction of the outlet of Lake Shiba with this river.
Going from Leech lake southwest to the Crow Wing river, Schoolcraft took a somewhat frequented canoe route, starting from West bay near the site of Walker and first portaging to the present Lake May (formerly called Lake Frances), then named the Warpool by the Ojibways, who there began their war expeditions to the country of the Sioux. Next and very near was the Little Long lake, in sections H and 34, May, and section 4, Shingobee. Thence they passed up a little inlet, through its four lakelets, and by portages through a series of three small lakes, each without outlet, coming next to the Long Water lake in Hubbard county, at the head of the Crow Wing, beginning its series of eleven lakes. Schoolcraft's Lake of the Mountain and Lake of the Island, passed on this route before coming to the Long Water, remain unnamed on later maps.
Distances of travel south from the Leech Lake Agency, on the road to Hackensack and Brainerd, are noted by Three Mile lake, Four Mile lake, Six Mile lake, Ten Mile lake, Fourteen Mile lake at Hackensack (called now Birch lake, translated from its Ojibway name), with the outflowing Fourteen Mile creek, the head of Boy river, and Twenty-four Mile creek, which outflows from Pine Mountain lake, being the head stream of Pine river. These names are recognized as given by white pioneers, being unlike the majority derived by translations.
Gilfillan wrote that the long lake of the northwest part of T. 144, R. 27, in the Chippewa Reservation, between Leech Lake river and Lake Winnebagoshish, is named "Kitchi-bugwudjiwi sagaiigun, meaning- biglake-in-the-wilderness or big-wilderness lake."
Bear river (also called Mud river), in Salem, flowing into the south end of Mud lake, and Grave lake at its head, in sections 10, 14, and 15, Slater, may be aboriginal names translated, but they are not identified in Gilfillan's list. Little Sand lake, section 28, Slater, and its larger companion, Sand lake, crossed by the' south line of this township, probably originated as white men's names, for Gilfillan gave the Ojibway name of this Sand lake as "Mikinako sagaiigun, Turtle lake." Its outlet is noted on the map of the Minnesota Geological Survey as Swift river, flowing northwest through the long and very narrow Swift lake, which the Ojibways name "Ningitawonan sagaiigun, Separating-canoe-route lake."
Big and Little Vermilion lakes, the Upper Vermilion lakes, and the larger Sugar lake (on recent maps noted as Little Sugar lake), and Vermilion river outflowing from them to the Mississippi, are translations from their Ojibway names.
Willow river, Birch brook and lake in Lima township, Big Rice lake, Thunder, Little Thunder, and Turtle lakes, and the long and narrow Blind lake in Smoky Hollow township, are partly or all of Ojibway derivation.
Lakes George and Washburn, Lawrence, Leavitt, and Morrison, in. Crooked Lake and Beulah townships, also the Washburn brook, were named for lumbermen who formerly cut pine logs in these originally well forested townships.
Little Norway lake, named for its red or Norway pines, lying five miles south of Wabedo lake, outflows westward to Ada brook and Pine river. This brook and Lakes Ada and Hattie, also Mitten lake and Lake Laura, outflowing by Laura brook to Lake Inguadona, need further inquiries for the origins of their names.
Mule lake, a mile west of Wabedo lake, is said to have been named by the lumbermen for its outline, resembling a mule's head. Goose lake, next on the west, was named for the wild geese.
Girl lake, in sections 33 and 34, Kego, and Baby lake, in sections 13, 14, 23, and 24, Powers, are names suggested probably by Woman and Boy lakes, which latter are of Ojibway origin, referring to persons of that tribe slain by the Sioux, as noted in the foregoing list of townships.
Whitefish and Little Whitefish lakes, on the Fourteen Mile creek near Hackensack, are named, like the larger Whitefish lake on the Pine river in Crow Wing county, for their highly valued fish of this species, common or abundant in many lakes of northern Minnesota. The Ojibway fisheries of Leech lake are mentioned by Warren as follows: "The waters of the lake abound in fish of the finest quality, its whitefish equalling in size and flavor those of Lake Superior, and they are easily caught at all seasons of the year when the lake is free of ice, in gill-nets made and managed also by the women."
The Jack Pine lakes, two of small size near together, in sections 28, 32, and 33, Hiram, the outflowing Pine Lake brook, the large Pine Mountain lake, which receives this brook, and its outlet, called Twenty-four Mile creek or Norway brook, flowing through Norway lake, are lumbermen's names of the headwaters of Pine river.
On the west side of section 31, Bull Moose, is Township Corner lake, so named from its location; and on the west line of sections 18 and 19, Bungo, is Spider lake, named from its irregular and branching shape.
Stony creek, flowing into the eastern end of Wabedo lake. Stony brook, tributary to the Upper Gull lake, and Mosquito brook and Swan creek, respectively emptying into Crow Wing river about seven and fourteen miles west of Pillager, are names that need no explanations for their significance.
A few other names of lakes remain to be noted, including Lake Kilpatrick, through which Home brook flows, probably named for a former lumberman there; War Club lake, in sections 9 and 16, Deerfield, named for its shape; Island lake, in section 7, Powers; Portage lake, in section 28, Shingobee, smaller than the other Portage lake near Lake Winnebagoshish; Bass lake, in sections 24 and 25, Shingobee; Duck or Swamp lake, a mile west from the north end of Duck bay of Leech lake; and Long lake, in the east half of Kego township.
In 1899 a tract of 1,000 acres of non-agricultural land, from which the pine timber had been cut, was donated to the State of Minnesota from the estate of the late Governor John S. Pillsbury, to be administered by the Forestry Board as a State Forest. In honor of the donors, this tract, lying near the west shore of Gull lake, has been named the Pillsbury Forest. In 1904 and later years, parts of this area, not naturally reseeding to pine, have been planted with white, red or Norway, jack, and Scotch pines, and with Norway and white spruce.
By an act of Congress approved May 23, 1908, the Minnesota National Forest was established, comprising an area of about fourteen government survey townships. It lies mainly in the north part of Cass county, north of Leech lake and river, extending to Cass lake, and including Lake Winnebagoshish, with about four townships at its north and northwest sides in Itasca county. This large tract covers the Chippewa, Cass Lake, and Winnebagoshish Indian Reservations, which had been long previously established. The text of the law for this national forest, fully safeguarding the rights of the Indians to whom it had been reserved, is published in the Thirteenth Annual Report of the Forestry Commissioner of Minnesota, Gen. C. C. Andrews, for the year 1907.
Cass county has the Chippewa Indian Reservation, as it is officially
named, and the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. The former name is not
clearly definitive, for all the reservations now remaining in this state
have been set apart for bands of the Chippewas (Ojibways), excepting
only the very small reservation, a mile square, at the red pipestone
quarry in Pipestone county.
The Chippewa reservation adjoins the north side of Leech lake and its outlet, the Leech Lake river, extending thence north to the Mississippi, Cass lake and Lake Winnebagoshish, and it also extends east across the Mississippi to include a tract equal to about four townships in Itasca county. It was set apart for the Ojibways of the Mississippi, in a treaty at Washington, March 19, 1867.
The Leech Lake reservation, which has an earlier date, borders the south and east shores of this lake, between Shingobee creek and Boy river. It includes the village of the Leech Lake Agency, at the east side of Agency bay. This reservation, and another at the north side of Lake Winnebagoshish, whence it is named, also a third reservation, on the north side of Cass lake and including all its islands, named therefore the Cass Lake reservation, were set apart for the Pillager and Winnebagoshish bands of the Ojibways by a treaty at Washington, February 22, 1855; but their areas were enlarged, by executive orders of the President, in 1873 and 1874.
Boutwell wrote of the Pillager band at Leech lake in 1832, during the expedition with Schoolcraft to Lake Itasca: "This band is the largest and perhaps the most warlike in the whole Ojibway nation. It numbers 706, exclusive of a small band, probably 100, on Bear Island, one of the numerous islands in the lake" (Minn. Hist. Soc. Collections, vol. V, page 481). The national census in 1910 enumerated 1,172 Ojibways in this county, showing decrease of 257 from the census of 1900.
Contributed 2021 May 26 by Norma Hass, extracted from Minnesota Geographic Names, Their Origin and Historic Significance by Warren Upham, published in 1920, pages 86-101
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