Reprinted from Dead Lake Newsletter   


Allow me to introduce myself.  I’m Ernie West, and I was elected unanimously as the Dead Lake Township Historian.  I like to refer to it as a landslide victory.  Ok, ok, so I was the only one who raised his hand when the town board asked if anyone would volunteer to do history research on Dead Lake and the Marion Lake Resorts.

After several years at the job I’m astounded at the history this area has.  Every story seems to uncover another story.  Like any other information, it is worthless unless it’s spread around.  With that in mind, I asked the editors of the Dead Lake Association Newsletter if I could include a little blurb of history in each issue.  And they said yes.

So here goes:  Did you know we almost became Canada?  I can’t recall the date, but there was a series of expeditions to find a natural boundary between Canada and the USA.  And because the land west of the established east was so huge, numbers of millions of acres meant very little.  What was more important was to have a natural boundary, namely a river.  The Mississippi dead-ended at Itasca.  A far northern expedition followed a chain of lakes along the Rainy River ending up at the Lake of the Woods with no natural route west.  Then there was a fairly easy route west of the Mississippi that became the Leaf River.  That ended at Portage Lake.  But with just a short portage you could hook up with the Ottertail River then on to the Red River.  It seemed to be a no brainier.  But then came the serious uprising in our area of the Indians.  Dangerous enough anyway that this area wasn’t considered safe enough to explore and make into the country’s border.  That’s how close we came to being Canada.

Next issues maybe:  Indians, cemeteries, dates, names, resorts, people, and forts.

P.S.  For a real education on our history, please visit the new Ottertail Historical Museum in Fergus Falls.  Their address is 1110 Lincoln Avenue West.  I guarantee you’ll be impressed.