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Pathways Through Our Past

The Blackduck Trade and Sport Show visitors were mostly out-of-towners, guess most of the locals attended the fishing derby at Blackduck Lake. It was a beautiful day to be out and about. The whole week has been giving us a taste of -- dare I say it -- spring weather. The seed and flower catalogs are arriving, so it won't be long now. Like everything else these days, we mention something is just around the corner and whoops -- it passes us by. It wouldn't hurt us a bit to slow down and smell the roses. A few of us did just that last Sunday. No, we didn't smell roses, but we did take a walk in the quiet, fresh smelling woods where we actually fed chickadees from our hands. What a way to enjoy a sunny afternoon.

On to history. It's been mentioned before that the Blackduck Area History and Art Center has been instrumental in getting townships to write about their communities and residents. Several have been documented and can be found in our library.

This story is about Cormant Township.

Many Scandinavians were lured to Minnesota through letters they received from relatives that had already made the journey. It sounded like a wonderful place. They soon learned the difficulties of just getting to the "free land" north of Blackduck. Most of these early settlers arrived between 1900 and 1905.

Cormant Township was surveyed in 1891 by Omar H. Case. He described the land as being generally level, with the southern portion covered with a heavy growth of timber, consisting of jack pine, tamarack, cedar and ash. The northern end was also primarily timber, but had been totally destroyed by a fire, except along the banks of the North Cormorant River and another smaller stream. It had a dense growth of small trees and was badly wind felled. There were two Indian trails in Section 18. Case claimed he "ran" the entire township by solar compass.

A petition to organize Township 151, Range 31 was signed by Edw. Goplen, Erick Hanson, Franklin H. Jones, Axel Sandberg, G.T. TenEyck, M.H. Sand, H.G. Benz, Nels Erickson, Nathaniel Jones, Gustav M. Nesset, Tom Christianson, Olof Olson, Carl Falgren, Nels Falgren, George Gunderson and R. Leeland. An affidavit on the petition was signed by M.B. Pettengill June 25, 1902 and sworn before D.L. Sylvester, county auditor. A notation on the folder read, "Organized July 14, 1902."

The petitioners wanted the township named "Cormorant," the same as the river that flowed through it. Count Beltrami had also named it for the double crested cormorant, popular and numerous at the time. The name was changed to Cormant because another township in Minnesota was already called Cormorant.

According to the 1900 census, 21 people lived in Cormant Township.

The 1905 report had recorded 140 residents and in the 1910 census report, approximately 200 people lived here. An April 1999 population estimate from the State Demographic Center showed 211.

There are numerous streams meandering towards Red Lake. In the spring there was considerable activity to move the logs down river to Red Lake where they were then towed to the mill at Redby. The J.A. Irving Company built a dam on the Cormorant River by the Graw homestead and had a logging camp nearby.

George Gunderson homesteaded in Inez around 1900. He built a large cabin that was used as a store as well as living quarters. The store was about a quarter mile from the school so it was handy for the school kids to pick up groceries for the family on their way home. The Inez Post Office was also located in the store.

Halvor Grunt handled the first mail in the Firman area until John Krueth established a post office in his country store. This was located across the road and west of where the Firman Schoolhouse used to stand.

Missionary Pastors served the community in the early 1900s. Some of the pastors were Rev's Bondahl, Einarson, Sumstad and McLane. They walked in mud and snow to hold services in homes. Trinity Lutheran Church was organized November 1919 in Inez with Rev. A.O. Odegaard serving as pastor. The Inez Schoolhouse served as a place of worship about once a month and confirmation classes were also held there. Fifteen services were conducted his first year at a salary of $50. Edwin Bauer, Ole Gunderson and Martin Bauer were trustees, G.M. Nesset was secretary and Clarence Johnson served as treasurer. The Ladies Aid was organized in 1920. Rev. Livingston was pastor from 1928 until 1933. The minutes from the annual meeting held in February 1934 stated, "No more meetings held -- Rev. Livingston accepted a call to Clearbrook."

The township became owners of the land to be known as Pine Ridge Cemetery in 1912. M.H. Sand was the town clerk at that time. Improvements were made to the cemetery recently with the area being cleared, grass seed planted, a chain link fence installed and a sign at the entrance. It also receives perpetual care.

The early pioneers enjoyed dancing and would walk miles to a barn dance. Housewarmings were frequent and there were sewing bees, quilting parties, card parties and chivalries. Pie and basket socials and picnics were common, as were Sunday baseball games.

Farming and logging are still the main occupations in this area. Of those moving out of the area for jobs, we see many returning upon retiring. As they say, "No place like home."

The History and Art Center hopes you'll all take time to view the kid's display and stories on Logging March 13, as well as the pictures from Ely, NV.