The city of Milaca has a vibrant and well-documented background. Its name, location and purpose are steeped in history and its beginnings can be dated back to the 1600s when the Dakota (Sioux) and Ojibwa (Chippewa) Indians where the areas primary inhabitants. Much like how Minnesota became known as The Land of 10,000 Lakes, through faulty interpretation and adaptation, so did the names Rum River and Milaca.
The original territory was actually developed because of its bountiful forests, lumber industry attributes and natural, strong river systems. Be sure to read our more detailed begins – The Early History of the Milaca Area. And for those in search of even more Milaca History information, be sure to check out the Centennial Book at the Milaca Library.
- In 1837, land-session treaties with the Indians opened the rich pine land, of the then Wisconsin Territory, to the white settlers for the first time.
- In March of 1849, the Minnesota Territory was organized. During this time the present day Milaca area was located in Benton County, which extended from present day Elk River, north to Grand Rapids, and west to Long Prairie.
- Benton County was subdivided, establishing Mille Lacs County on May 23, 1857.
- From there logging continued to grow and the railroad industry began to take root.
- Due to the depressions of 1857 and 1873 the railroads experienced problems trying to maintain themselves as a thriving transportation source.
- One settler never lost hope, James J. Hill - Hill knew the railroads would bring settlers to the upper Midwest, and in turn those same railroads would be used to transport farm products, especially wheat, back to consumer markets in the east. He immediately sought out the shortest route between the Red River wheat fields, and the area served by his St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway.
- In 1885, where Hill’s railroad first crossed the Rum River, a settlement began to develop. This settlement was originally named Oak City.
- In December of 1885 surveyor Charles Keith was hired by the Mille Lacs Lumber Company to survey the plat of land that would later come to be known as Milaca.
The following is the original text that can still be found at the Mille Lacs County Courthouse: *“The undersigned, The Mille Lacs Lumber Company, a corporation under the laws of the State of Minnesota, proprietor of Milaca, does hereby certify that it has had the same laid out for town purposes as heron platted and intended, and does hereby dedicated all full and fractional streets, avenues and alleyways as shown on this plat and naught else to the public use.”
- The Mille Lacs Lumber Company
- James J. Hill, President
- William Secombe, Secretary
*(This document was notarized on March 24th, 1886)