If Cotton-wood Echo when Granite Falls, would Hazel Run?

Part I

Following are brief histories of the above named towns in southwest Minnesota. The title comes from a long-ago “ditty” that appeared in one of the Twin Cities Sunday newspapers.


Cottonwood is one of the younger villages of Lyon County, situated in the midst of an excellent farm country and built on the bank of Cottonwood Lake. In the Sept. 9, 1887 issue of the Marshall News Messenger we read: “Cottonwood Lake is without doubt the prettiest sheet of water, next to Lake Benton, in this part of the state, and a station will be located there. It will prove a great resort in summer for all people hereabouts and no more beautiful location for a town can be found anywhere.”

The town site was laid out in July of 1888 by Tyler and Schutz of Marshall who purchased the 372 acres of land from Dr. Lange, of New York City for $18.00 per acre. The Great Northern Railroad laid track in September of the same year and service began at that time.

One of the big institutions of Lyon County is the Norwegian Mutual Fire Insurance Company that headquartered in Cottonwood in 1877 and operates to this day.

The first businesses were a blacksmith shop, hotel and general merchant. Martin Norseth began a lumber/hardware store. Norseth’s house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The country post office was at Vineland, located over the line in Yellow Medicine County. The postmaster, O.S. Reishus moved the office to Cottonwood and renamed it after the village.

The first cooperative oil association in the United States was organized in Cottonwood in June of 1921 and started operation in July of the same year. It too is still in operation today. It organized with a capital stock of $2,000 and engaged in grain and produce business.

Oral history tells us that the town got its name from an immense cottonwood tree that stood like a tower on the eastern shore of the lake, with smaller cottonwoods also around the lake. The Great Northern Railway (railroad companies always named a new station along its tracks) very naturally named this station after these trees and “Cottonwood” thus became the name of the village.

Cottonwood experienced a rapid growth in 1889 because “a large tract of tributary country, which before had been long distances from market, demanded a good trading point, and Cottonwood filled the bill.” Because of this rapid growth, three years later the population was more than 200; it contained twenty businesses and fifty residences, and the residents decided to petition to incorporate it as a village. The election for incorporation consisted of 33 for, 11 against. The Sept. 24, 1891, issue of the Marshall Reporter read: “Cottonwood is making a boom this fall. All the stores report good business and there has been more wheat shipped from this place than from any other station on the road … Cottonwood is having a steady growth, and the large and good country surrounding warrants it.”

In June of 1921 the first cooperative oil association in the United States was organized in Cottonwood and began operation in July of the same year. Author, A. P. Rose states the following regarding the Cottonwood Oil Company: “The Cottonwood cooperative association evolved out of the realization of the farmers in that vicinity that they were being exploited by the oil companies. It arose from consciousness of need and from the hope that by uniting purchasing power they could not only make direct savings, but also develop a bargaining power with which to carry their activities further. The village of Cottonwood and the surrounding community has the honor of being the birthplace of the cooperative oil distributors of the U.S.A. and the entire world and of creating an organization that has helped to better the economic welfare of its members.”

Continued next week

Sources: History of Lyon County Minnesota, 1912, A.P. Rose; History of Yellow Medicine County; History of Yellow Medicine County, Carl and Amy Narvestad.


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