Becker County History
Becker County is located in west central Minnesota, 30 miles east of the Fargo/Moorhead MSA. Established by an act of the
legislature, Becker county was approved on March 18, 1858. The county is situated in the heart of what is known as Park Region
and is considered one of the state's most beautiful and versatile recreation areas. The county contains more than 400 lakes and
encompasses 11 communities, including the county seat, Detroit Lakes. It encompasses 1440 square miles, divided into 37 townships,
and stretches 30 miles north to south and 48 miles east to west. It is the only Minnesota county containing all the Minnesota
state symbols: loons, pink and white lady slippers, wild rice, Norway Pines, blueberries and eagles.
Becker County was named for Brigadier General George Loomis Becker of St.
Paul. in 1857, when Minnesota was a new state, Becker was one of three men
elected as members of Congress. Minnesota could only send two, so Becker
stayed in Minnesota, and authorities promised him they would name the next
county after him. Thus, when the county was formed, it was named Becker
after the General.
1895 Map of Becker County
For 10 years after the establishment of Becker County there were no white
settlers. The Chippewa (Ojibwe) Indians occupied nearly all of the county.
The Sioux Indians had about one half of Cormorant Township and a small part
of the corner of Lake Park Township. In 1867, a treaty was signed
establishing the White Earth Reservation, a large tract of land in the
northern part of Becker County, to be home for the Chippewa Indians.
Colonel George Johnston, the founder of Detroit Lakes, selected the area
in 1871 for settlement. He built a flour mill on the Pelican River, and as
the Northern Pacific Railroad was constructed through Becker County, the
city quickly grew.
As the population of Becker County grew, it became necessary to choose a
county seat. There was considerable controversy over the matter. Detroit,
Frazee, Audubon, and Lake Park each felt they were the most desirable
During 1874 and 1875, the County Commissioners used Lake Park as their
meeting place due to the fact that the County Auditor owned a store and had
his office in Lake Park, and all of the Commissioners lived west of Detroit.
In August 1875, the Becker County Commissioners resolved to obtain
offices in Detroit. The matter was finally decided at an election in the
fall of 1877 and resulted in a victory for Detroit by about a ninety percent
majority, which settled the county seat contest.
In 1881, the village was incorporated and named Detroit - which is French
for strait. By 1884 businesses in Detroit included the elegant Hotel
Minnesota, and Lakes Hotel, a bank, a newspaper, and an opera house. Also in
1884, the foundation for the first Courthouse was laid. The first major
industry was the Fargo-Detroit Ice Company which bottled and sold pure
spring water. In 1885, the village hall was built which housed the County
Fire Department. In 1926, Detroit was renamed Detroit Lakes to eliminate
postal mix-ups with Detroit, Michigan.
In 1941 a State Fire Marshall described the Courthouse as a very serious
fire hazard and a menace to public safety. In a short time, the Courthouse
was sold to Gopher Lumber and Wrecking Company of St. Cloud for $531.00. On
September 18, 1941, there was a ground breaking ceremony for the present
Courthouse, built by the WPA. Additions and changes have since been made to
many parts of the Courthouse.
The only book published on the complete history of Becker County,
"History of Becker," by A.H. Wilcox, appeared in 1907. A great deal of
history has occurred since that time, but no other edition has been printed
to attempt to bring that history up to date. Originally sold at the price of
$2.50, the edition is still for sale at the
Becker County Museum.