Swift County Historical Society
 
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Swift County is located in the west central part of Minnesota. The county is rectangular in shape, 42 miles long by 18 miles wide. The county is made up of eight trading centers and 21 townships. Its population is declining since 2000 census when there were 6,636 people living in the eight towns (ranging from 108 in the smallest town to 3,376 in Benson) and 4,121 living in the 21 townships (ranging from 80 to 505 each). There is a large percentage of people living in the townships that do not farm but work in town.

In 1858, with the promise of larger annuities, the Indians were persuaded to sign a treaty ceding the million acres of land north of the Minnesota River.

The Indians had real grievances against the government including delays in sending annuities which caused near starvation several times. In August, 1862, an Indian rebellion broke out in Minnesota. The warfare reached the settlements just getting started in the northeastern part of Swift County. By the latter part of September, 1862, the Indian War was almost over but the settlers hesitated to venture back to the prairie country of Swift County until 1865 when all danger was apparently over.Scandinavians and Germans were in decided majority among the early settlers. A number of them came with the honor and privileges of Civil War veterans.

Since wooded sites provided a little timber for the buildings, and the necessary fuel to tide the families over the long cold winter, they were selected first. A few hardy souls did venture out into the treeless plains. Many of the houses out on the level prairie were built out of the sod itself, laid piece on piece after the manner of laying bricks.

The county of Swift was organized on February 18, 1870, and was named in honor of Henry Adoniram Swift who was governor of Minnesota in 1863. In the spring of 1876, the legislature authorized the construction of a courthouse in Benson for $3,000. It soon proved to be too small to meet the needs of the large increase in the official business of the county. The county commissioners voted to advertise for bids to construct a new courthouse on March 26, 1897.
Swift County Courhouse
1876 & 1898 Swift County Courthouse
By 1869, the St. Paul & Pacific railroad had reached Willmar and the following year it arrived in Benson. The railroad company determined the number of future trading centers (Kerkhoven, DeGraff, Benson, Randall) in the county by locating sites at intervals of approximately eight miles.
Kerkhoven
 
Kerkhoven
DeGraff
Benson
DeGraff
Benson

While Benson and Kerkhoven were laying their foundations two other trading centers had begun to develop at the two water power sites in the county – Appleton and Swift Falls. A Mr. Clark had begun the erection of a mill on section 14, Appleton township.

In 1872, having insufficient funds, Mr. Clark entered partnership with the Lathrop brothers who pulled up stakes at Benson to assist in the organization of another new village. The mill was completed the same year and began to grind flour for the farmers who formerly had to depend on the New London mill or the market at Benson.

In 1870, a Mr. Danelz staked out a claim in section 10 of Camp Lake township. Detecting the presence of a waterfall, he purchased it from the railroad company. His partner, Theodore Hanson of Benson, gave financial support of $6,000 and a mill was built with the first flour produced on June 9, 1873.

Appleton Mill
Appleton Mill
Swift Falls Mill
Swift Falls Mill

In 1879, the Hastings and Dakota railroad was completed through Appleton to Ortonville. At the same time a stage carried passengers and mail twice weekly to and from Benson connecting with railroad there.

In the spring of 1886, surveyors had started work on a proposed Watertown railroad connecting Benson and Appleton. By the next spring, the Great Northern had the construction work completed and two additional railroad towns, Danvers & Holloway, were platted.

Danvers
Danvers
Holloway
Holloway
Agriculture has been and still is the main industry in Swift County. Besides farming, the county is home to agriculture equipment manufacturers, an ethanol plant, and the new Fibromin Plant which burns turkey litter to create electricity.
Farming in Swift County
Farming in Swift County
©Swift County Historical Society
2135 Minnesota Avenue | Benson, MN 56215
Phone: 320-843-4467
e-mail: swiftmuseum@embarqmail.com