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Auditorium, Deerwood. 1940

Deerwood Auditorium, Deerwood. 1940
Crow Wing Census Information
Estab:  May 23, 1857
Parent County:  Ramsey
Crow Wing county with county seat

Southeast region of Minnesota Southwest region of Minnesota Northwest region of Minnesota Northeast region of Minnesota Central region of Minnesota

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Crow Wing County

This county, established May 23, 1857, organized March 3, 1870, was named for the Crow Wing River, translated from the Ojibwe name, spelled Kagiwigwan on Joseph N. Nicollet's map, and Gagagiwigwuni by Rev. Joseph A. Gilfillan, who would preferably translate it, following Henry R. Schoolcraft, as "Raven Feather river."

Zebulon Pike in 1805 and Schoolcraft in 1820 and 1832 used the French name of this river, de Corbeau, meaning "of the Raven," but its more complete name in French was riviere a l'Aile de Corbeau, river of the Wing of the Raven, as translated by the voyageurs and traders from the Ojibwe name. In the Summary Narrative of an Exploratory Expedition to the Sources of the Mississippi River in 1820, published in 1855, Schoolcraft referred to the somewhat erroneous English translation, Crow Wing River, as follows: "The Indian name of this river is Kagiwegwon, or Raven's-wing or Quill, which is accurately translated by the term Aile de Corbeau, but it is improperly called Crow-wing. The Chippewa term for crow is andaig, and the French, corneille,--terms which are appropriately applied to another stream, nearer St. Anthony's Falls."

Mrs. E. Steele Peake, widow of an early missionary in 1856-61 to the Ojibwe at the mission stations of Gull Lake and Crow Wing, wrote in a letter of her reminiscences in the Brainerd Dispatch, September 22, 1911, concerning the aboriginal name of Crow Wing River: "Where the river joins the Mississippi was an island in the shape of a crow's wing, which gave the name to the river and the town."

The North American crow, common or frequent throughout the United States, has been confounded in this name with "his regal cousin, the raven," a larger bird, not addicted like the crow to uprooting and eating newly planted corn. Our American variety of the raven inhabits the country "from Arctic regions to Guatemala, but local and not common east of the Mississippi river." Dr. P. L. Hatch, in Notes on the Birds of Minnesota, 1892, wrote of ravens, "they are rarely seen in the vicinity of Minneapolis and St. Paul, but from Big Stone Lake to the British Possessions they seem to become increasingly common." Probably because the early English-speaking travelers and employees in the fur trade came from the eastern states, where the raven is practically unknown, they anglicized this name as Crow Wing, used only once by Schoolcraft in his Narrative of 1832, and criticized by him in 1855, as before cited.

After the adoption of the English name of the river, and 20 years or more before the county was outlined and named, the important Crow Wing trading post was established on the east side of the Mississippi opposite to the mouth of the Crow Wing River north of its island and was surrounded by a village of the Ojibwe and white men.

The earliest record of a trader near this site is in the list of licenses granted in 1826 by Lawrence Taliaferro, as Indian agent, one of these being for "Benjamin F. Baker, Crow Island, Upper Mississippi," in the service of the American Fur Company (Minnesota in Three Centuries, 1908, vol. 2, p. 54). Among the traders licensed in 1833-34, none is mentioned for that post, which seems to have been abandoned.

There was again a station of the fur traders at Crow Wing, facing the northern mouth of the Crow Wing River, "about the year 1837," and it became a few years later "the center of Indian trading for all the upper country, the general supply store being located at this place. . . . In 1866, the settlement and village contained seven families of whites, and about twenty-three of half-breeds and Chippewas, with a large transient population. . . . The entire population was, from reliable estimates, about six hundred. Crow Wing, as a business point, has passed away, most of the buildings having been removed to Brainerd, and the remaining ones destroyed" (History of the Upper Mississippi Valley, 1881, pp. 637-38).

The village and post became the nucleus of the Crow Wing State Park, established in 1959. The whole park encompasses the intersection of the Mississippi and Crow Wing Rivers and includes parts of Morrison and Cass County, as well as Crow Wing County. A section of the trail connecting St. Paul with the Red River valley is preserved, and the house of trader Clement Beaulieu was moved back to its original site. The entire park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

By an act of the legislature, February 18, 1887, which was ratified by the vote of the people of the county at the next general election, the part of Crow Wing County west of the Mississippi River, previously belonging to Cass County, was annexed to this county, somewhat more than doubling its former area.