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Otter Tail County celebrates 150th anniversary in 2018

This year is a special one for Otter Tail County, as residents will celebrate the county's 150th anniversary. The county dates back to 1868.

The first group of non-Native American settlers, Cutlerites, came to Clitherall Lake in the spring of 1865 to become permanent settlers. About 35 men, women and children made the trip from Manti, Iowa, on May 6. A second group arrived on July 31. This was seven years after Minnesota became a state, in 1858, and three years prior to Otter Tail County becoming established.

The second permanent settlement in the county was established in 1866 in Otto and Rush Lake townships, now what's north of Ottertail city and south of Perham. The leader was a German Catholic priest, Fr. Joseph Albrecht.

The third permanent settlement took place in 1871, in what's now Western Township, west of Dalton in the extreme southwestern section of Otter Tail County. A group of people from New York had first intended to settle in the northern section of the county but later opted for the southern section.

An exhibit on Otter Tail County's history will open Friday, Feb. 9 at the Otter Tail County Museum in Fergus Falls. In addition, in September 2018, special anniversary theater productions will take place in Pelican Rapids, Perham, Ottertail, Parkers Prairie and Battle Lake.

"We have much history of the county to include in our exhibit that will also be made into a traveling exhibit in 2018," said Chris Schuelke, executive director of the Otter Tail County Historical Society.

He said Otter Tail County was a prime destination during the post-Civil War westward migration. Among the immigrants were Scandinavian farmers.