Cass Lake, Minnesota - History


The area was inhabited for thousands of years by succeeding cultures of indigenous peoples. In historic times, the Ojibwe/Chippewa moved west and south from the Great Lakes region, settling across present-day Minnesota.

The village was established in 1898 with the construction of the Great North Railway. The post office was originally established as 'Tuller' in December 1898, named after the brother-in-law of the first postmaster. When this was known, residents quickly lodged protests with the Postmaster General and by the end of March 1899, it was renamed 'Cass Lake'.

The forest industry has historically supplied many jobs, but has been susceptible to boom-and-bust cycle. Between 1898 and 1923, the city was dependent on lumber mills utilizing pine from the surrounding forests. Depletion of the pine resource was followed by utilization of lower value species at a box factory which operated until 1950, and a wood treatment plant operated by Wheeler Lumber between 1949 and 1985. From 1983 until 2009, Potlatch Corporation and its successor Ainsworth operated an oriented strand board plant in nearby Farden Township, which provided employment to many residents. Cass Forest Products, an employee-owned company, operates a sawmill that has been in operation since 1939, and is one of the largest forest product producers in Minnesota. The former wood-treating plant operated by Wheeler Lumber within the city limits has been designated a Federal Superfund site, due to soil and groundwater contamination by the wood treating compounds creosote, pentachlorophenol, and ammoniacal copper arsenate.

In 2005 Elaine Fleming was the first Native American to be elected as mayor of the town.

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