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Wadena County pioneer locates old "Overland Trail"

For some years, local historians had sought the location of the ancient Overland Trail, one of the great routes to the West. Frank Goodrich, who lived in this country some 70 years, placed it near his father's homestead which was on the creek near what became known as the Dell Larson place, the original home of Dell and Elmer Larson, former probate judge of Wadena County. Here the trail crossed the river near an Indian encampment or reservation as it was known to the settlers, where three or four Indians lived on about 10 acres. These Indians that Goodrich thought were Chippewa, were later forced onto a reservation in Northern Minnesota.

Frank Goodrich was 88 at the time that he told this story. He had come to Staples around 1900 before it was known as Staples. He worked in the sawmill owned by the Staples for whom the city was named. Frank's father had come here some years previously and had homesteaded the above mentioned land. Goodrich placed the first settlers in this community as Ole Nelson and Ole Larson, South Dakota cowboys who came galloping in on their Indian ponies to homestead the land.

Nelson and Larson had nothing but their ponies, but Goodrich's father had arrived that fall with the comparative wealth of a team, a cow and seven cents. In order to live, the two cowboys cut ties and the elder Goodrich hauled them for half to Verndale, with his team. Thus all three made out through the winter.

The first town north of Staples was Huntersville. Staples wasn't considered much of a town since it had only one saloon. Motley, with 21 saloons, far surpassed it in the woodmen's estimation. Of course, you could take the Overland Trail to Fort Wadena, but there wasn't too much there either.

Goodrich said he would like to turn back the wheel of time for just one more glimpse of this country as it was then, the land of the tall timber, the hardy woodsmen, the log cabins of the settlers bobbing up here and there. Staples, a village on stilts. Wadena, a fort on the Overland Trail and Motley and Verndale, which were thriving trading points at the time. and the land denuded of the trees five to eight feet through by the great timber baron, Samson J. Dower who founded the Dower Lumber Company. Goodrich also worked for him in his first mill at Staples and remembered that the land was then available for homestead or purchase for a dollar and a quarter an acre.

From an article submitted by Zola A. Grandahl to the East Otter Tail County History Volume I published in 1977. Lina Belar is the Interim Executive Director of the Wadena County Historical Society.