Otter Tail County Historical Society
Museum, Research Library and Educational Resource
The Otter Tail County Historical Society is located Fergus Falls, Minnesota in the heart of west central Minnesota. We are the official county historical society and collect the history of the entire county.
Who We Are
The Otter Tail County Historical Society is a private, nonprofit organization whose purpose is the collection, preservation and interpretation of Otter Tail County's history and heritage. This is achieved through a variety of services including the Society's exhibit gallery, educational outreach program, special public programs, archival and object collections, and a genealogical and local history research library. The development of these services has made the Society an active partner in the educational and cultural life of Otter Tail County.
Otter Tail County Historical Society was organized on July 31, 1927, at a gathering at Amor Park. For decades the Society was headquartered in the basement of the county courthouse. In 1972, Underwood native, John Gronner, lead a county-wide capital fund drive which resulted in a new museum. Ten years later another drive provided funds to add an agriculture wing.
Many volunteer hours have gone into making the Society what it is today. Local artist, Charles Beck, designed and implemented the installation of many exhibits that continue to tell the history of Otter Tail County.
Our library has grown because of the generous donations of time and funds. A financial contribution made in honor of Samuel P. Adams continues to sustain the library and archives. Volunteer hours donated by many volunteers including Ann Smalley Jordan, for whom the archives was named on May 22, 2004, have and continue to increase our holdings.
Our educational programs started in 1979 when educator, Judy Stringer, put together our first education kit.
In 2002 we celebrated our 75th Anniversary with the completion of a site improvement project which almost doubled our parking lot, made a bus drop-off and handicap accessible ramp. It also provided better drainage away from the building.
We are currently trying to raise $100,000 for our Technology Fund. This fund will provide a regular source of revenue for computer upgrades and improvements. Please consider making a donation to this fund.
The Establishing of Otter Tail County
Otter Tail County was first mentioned in the history of Minnesota in an act of the state Legislature passed on March 18, 1858. The legislative act formally organizing the county was passed March 16, 1868. The governor of the stae appointed Marcus Shaw and Chancey Whiting as the first county commissioners. They met at the house of Marcus Shaw in Clitherall on September 12, 1868 and proceeded to organize the county. From this date through 1873 the county was getting its county seat and territorial limits established. The name was derived from the Otter Tail Lake and River. The lake, from which the river was named, derived from the narrow sandbar which the Ojibwe said gave the impression of the tail of an otter.
Chris Schuelke, Executive Director Contact Chris with questions about the operations of the Historical Society.
Kathy Evavold, Curator of Collections Contact Kathy with questions about the Society's collections, artifact donations, exhibits, library or website.
Missy Hermes, Education Coordinator Address questions about our educational programs, tours and outreach to Missy Hermes.
LeAnn Neuleib, Office Manager LeAnn will help you with questions about our gift shop, newsletter and membership.
Vicky Anderson, Research Assistant Address questions about research and genealogy to Vicky.
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