The Grant County Museum and Veterans Memorial Hall
The Grant County Historical Society was organized in 1938 and incorporated in 1944. Since that time it has been collecting, preserving and displaying artifacts and archives relating to the history of Grant County and its people, first in the Grant County courthouse, and later in its present building. This building was one of the first in the state to be built for the sole purpose of becoming a museum. The collections cover the periods from prehistoric times to the present. The years from about 1880 to 1920 and the WWII years are especially well represented.
Teeth and bones are among the remains of a prehistoric mammoth found in a gravel pit on the Herman Beach of glacial Lake Agassiz in 1928.
Dakota (Sioux) and Ojibwe (Chippewa) Indians once inhabited this area. Both tribes are represented in the collections of arrowheads, tools, beaded clothing and an authentic birch bark canoe.
The museum is home to the oldest and crudest ox cart known to exist in Minnesota. The ox cart, dating to the 1820s or 1830s is made entirely of wood including the axle, with solid wood wheels. Fur traders and settlers along the famous Red River Trails from Pembina to St. Paul used these handmade carts.
A model of Fort Pomme de Terre reminds us of the days when stage travel was threatened by Indian attacks and the area was yet to be permanently settled.
This area was predominantly settled by Norwegians and Swedes and the collections include many items that reflect the Scandinavian heritage of its pioneer people.
An addition to the museum in 1975 nearly doubled its display space, and it was quickly filled with agricultural and transportation-themed pieces. A threshing machine, reaper, horse-drawn buggies and sleighs, a 1909 REO, and 195 Model T can be seen here.
Another area of the museum represents the shops of main street including a general store, dentist, barber, pharmacy, post office, sheriff’s office, music store, bank, newspaper and hospital.
Many have heard of the Kensington Rune Stone and the controversy surrounding it. A unique item here at the museum is the Setterlund Rune stone. The stone was found in 1949. The runic transcription reads “1776 Four Maidens set camp on the Hill.” It was studied by experts and was at first thought to be genuine, but then found to be a hoax. Victor Setterlund carved the stone. When asked why he didn’t tell anyone it was a fake, he simply replied, “Nobody asked me.”
Adjacent to the museum is a log house that was built southeast of Pelican Lake in 1865 by a Norwegian immigrant. His son and daughter-in-law raised ten children in this four-room house. Also on the museum grounds is the old District #7 one-room schoolhouse.
The Veterans Memorial Hall addition opened in 2008. It was built by the Elbow Lake American Legion Post to honor the men and women of Grant County who have served our country in times of war and peace. It features exhibits from the Civil War to the Iraq-Afghanistan War.
The archives include hundreds of photographs, county newspapers, maps, family files and histories, indexes of obituaries and marriages, and much more.
By Patty Benson as written for Grant County Living, 2020