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WHAT'S IN A NAME: Lavinia is named after a railroad man’s wife

The Lavinia area was established around 1890 after the entry of the first railroad into Bemidji when residents of the Grand Forks, N.D., area decided to develop a summer colony on the lake.

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The Lavinia neighborhood was established around 1890 after the entry of the first railroad into Bemidji, when residents of the Grand Forks, N.D., area decided to develop a summer colony on the lake.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Editor's note: This is part of a 20-story series titled "What's in a name?" completed by Pioneer reporters for our 2022 Annual Report. Read more of the section by clicking the embed at the bottom of this article.

Lavinia is a lakeside neighborhood nestled along the east side of Lake Bemidji.

The area was established around 1890 after the entry of the first railroad into Bemidji when residents of the Grand Forks, N.D., area decided to develop a summer colony on the lake.

Lavinia’s namesake is believed to be attributed to the wife of depot-master and former president of the Minnesota and International Railway, William Gemmell.

Lavinia Gemmell was prominent in the social work field at the time, and was buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Brainerd after her death in 1937.

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Access to the neighborhood of Lavinia was made relatively easy because the summer residents could travel by boat across the lake from the Third Street Dock or they could come via the railway.

A December 1915 article in the Bemidji Daily Pioneer described Lavinia as "one of the best cottage resorts in northern Minnesota” and noted it had a “safe bathing beach for ladies and children."

A post office was established in the neighborhood in 1906, discontinued in 1907 and reestablished as the Northern Post Office in 1915.

At first, the federal government wouldn't allow a Lavinia Post Office because of post offices by the same name in Iowa and Tennessee.

But the Northern Post Office caused even more issues because there was a town of Northern where letters were often mistakenly directed.

In response to residents' petitions, federal authorities agreed to change the name to the Lavinia Post Office.

Related Topics: WHAT'S IN A NAME
Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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