Cook County


Places & Towns


Cook County was established by Legislature March 9,1874 but the County itself was not organized until 1882. Col. Graves, senator from Duluth, proposed it should be named Verendrye County, in honor of the pioneer of exploration of the northern boundary of the states, but the name was changed to Cook, before the bill was passed, in honor of Major Michael Cook, Fairbault. Grand Marais was designated as County Seat. John M. Miller was County Auditor, Joseph E. Mayhew County Treasurer, Thomas Mayhew Register of Deeds, Joseph E. Mayhew and Thomas Ross.

Note: Townships in Cook County were abandoned during the depression of the 1930's.  Today only three townships exist; Lutsen, Tofte and Schroeder, and the city of Grand Marais as a political division.   

Chippewa City - was once a thriving Indian settlement a mile east of Grand Marais.
Much of it is now incorporated into Grand Marais.  It no longer is a community. It is a ghost town.

Colville - organized In 1906, was named in honor of Colonel William Colvill.

Croftville - a settlement in the early 1900s located east of Grand Marais, established by Peter Olsen and brothers Charles and Joe Croft, who had come to the area in 1894 and were known as herring-chokers

Grand Marais - received this French name meaning a great marsh, in the early fur-trading times. Referring to a marsh, twenty acres or less in area, nearly at the level of Lake Superior situated at the head of the little bay and harbor which led to the settlement of the village there. Another small bay is on the east, less protected from storms. It is separated from the Harbor by a slight projecting point and a short beach, In alluding to the two bays, the Ojibway named the bay of Grand Marais as "Kitchi-bitobig", the great duplicate water.

Indian legend tells of a wonderful medicine man by the name of Ogi-mah-quish-gon, who lived at a place on the shore of the great lake where the huge cliffs nursed two wonderful bays that were separated by a point of rock and an Isthmus of gravel. One bay made a deep indentation into the land. Its water was shallow. In places grasses and flowering plants sprang up from the water which was calm and peaceful even when the big sea waves were most fierce, the other had sloping gravelly banks. Here were many wigwams, for fish and game were plentiful, and to these bays, trails and canoe routes led from all directions.

Here Ogi-mah-quish-gon called together his people from far and near, saying, "Come to the place on the shore of the great sea, where Gitch-be-to-beck (the big pond) lies beside the pleasant bay." Here they came and for many days engaged in sports the red man loved or listened to words of wisdom from their chief who taught then how to heal the sick and how to unite their forces for protection against their enemies. From that time on, by the chief's orders this place was called "Gitch-be-to-beek" or the big pond, and the Frence when they translated it into French and called It Grand Marais the big marsh or big pond.

Grand Portage -  a village and formerly an important trading place, at the head of the bay of this name, and at the southeast end of the Grand Portage, nine miles long, to the Pigeon River above its principal falls, has the distinction of being the most eastern and oldest settlement of white men in the area of Minnesota. Probably during the period of VTrendrye's explorations, this place became the chief point for landing goods from the large canoes used in the navigation of the Great Lakes and for their being dispatched onward, from the end of this long portage, in smaller canoes to the many trading posts of all the rich fur country northwest of Lake Superior. In 1767, when Jonathan Carver went there in the hope of purchasing goods, Grand Portage was an important rendezvous and trading post. At the time of the Revolutionary War, as Gen. James H. Baker has well said, it was the "commercial emporium" of the northwestern fur trade. A post office called Grand Portage in Hovland Township, section 4, was first established in Superior County, Wis., 1856-64, and reestablished in Minnesota, 1864-71.

Gunflint Trail

Hovland -  the oldest organized "township" of this county, is in compliment to a pioneer settler named Brunes... for his native place in Norway.

Lutsen - was named by its most prominent citizen, Carl A.A. Nelson for a town in Prussian Saxony, made memorable by the battle there, 1632, n which the renowned Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, lost his life.

Maple Hill - has extensive sugar maple woods, on the highland five to ten miles back from Lake Superior. It once was a township but was dissolved in the 1930's during the depression.

Pigeon River - which is the boundary line between the United States and Canada, was named after the passenger pigeon which was very abundant in Minnesota in 1870. The Chippewa called it "Omimi-sibi", Omimi meaning pigeon and Sibi meaning river. This river was delineated on "the oldest map of the region west of Lake Superior, traced by a chief of the Assiniboines, named Ochagach, for Verendrye in 1730.

Schroeder -  named in honor of John Schroeder, president of a lumber Company having offices in Ashland and Milwaukee, WI for whom pine logs have been cut and rafted away from the neighboring Temperance, Cross, and Two Island rivers.

Tofte - founded in 1898 is in honor of settlers having this surname, derived from their former home in the district of Bergen, Norway.

Ghost Towns

USGS GNIS Query: Cook Co., MN