1880 Map of Sartell west of the Mississippi River.
Early view of the Village around 1908
Aerial view looking west
Fire Department, Village Hall, DeZuriks, and in the back the Primary Public school.
Paper Mill and Old Highway 10
This is on Riverside Ave. where the Watab Creek joins the Mississippi River. There were 2 dams on the Watab, this one and the second one was about 1/4 mile upstream on the Watab.
Sartell History The Beginnings
"The contour of the Mississippi River marks the eastern boundary of Le Sauk Township where Sartell, its largest city, stands. Along Riverside Avenue North, motorists can enjoy the vista of the river Mark Twain called "the majestic, the magnificent Mississippi." A mere turn of the head allows folks coming and going to enjoy this wonderful natural panorama.
The Upper Mississippi has been utilized for a variety of enterprises. Native Americans used the river for travel and trading and its shores for camping and hunting. The river today is primarily a site for recreation and esthetic enjoyment. the pioneer entrepreneurs like Sartell's first settler, Joseph B. Sartell, the Mississippi provided power for his cluster of mills.
A second body of water, the Watab River-locals call it a creek or a crick-meanders across the heart of Le Sauk Township. The Ojibwe named the Watab River for the slender roots of the tamarack and jack pine that were dug, split and used for threads to sew birchbark canoes and wigwams.
The Sauk River begins in Lake Osakis in Todd county and meanders its way across Stearns County for 125 miles before emptying into the Mississippi. Named for a Dakota band that once inhabited the area, the banks of the Sauk contain three-billion-year-old outcroppings, some of the oldest in the world. The Sauk nicks the township's southeast corner. Until lumbermen laid waste to Central Minnesota's big Woods, oak, tamarack, ash, and maple trees covered a large part of this area.
Le Sauk township witnessed an important chapter of the government's attempt to relocate Native American. The Watab River marked the borderline between the Ojibwe and Dakota peoples-a line established by the 1825 Treaty at Prairie du Chien in present -day Wisconsin.
In 1846, 1,300 Winnebagos were moved from Iowa to the mouth of the Watab where they served as a human buffer between the warring Dakota and Ojibwe. While most Winnebagos settled in Todd County, a few found homes in Le Sauk Township on the Winnebago Prairie- a level sandy plain hugging the Mississippi in Le Sauk and Brockway Townships.
Between 1805 and 1853, explorers made their way up and down the Mississippi where they passed Sartell's future site. Few human footprints remain for contemporary historians to study.
Explorer Henry Rowe Schoolcraft passed by the future Sartell in 1832 on nis way south after discovering and naming Lake Itasca. In the summer of 1836, French explorer, astronomer and mapmaker Joseph N. Nicollet canoed north near the Sartell area on his way to Lake Itasca.
Between 1845 and 1870, oxcart caravans plied their way through the township on their journeys between St. Paul and Winnipeg. A few oxcart ruts from the Woods Trail can still be seen near the site of the vanished village of Watab across the Mississippi in Benton County. Explorers called the future site of Sartell "Third Rapids", a reference to the three sets of rough waters between St. Anthony (Minneapolis) and Sartell.
An 1874 atlas shows a huddled cluster of homes west of the Mississippi where the village of Sartell would later stand. P.D. Davenport's house sat near the lake that carries his name. Other settlers were G.W. Smitten, A.G. Hart, and J.B. Sartell.
Joseph B, Sartell was born in Massachusetts in 1826. After moving to Joliet, Illinois, in 1848, where he operated a sawmill, Sartell met and married Lucinda Johnston with whom he had seven sons and two daughters. After moving alone to the Sartell area in 1854, Sartell erected a sawmill north of the Watab River. In 1855, Lucinda followed her husband to their homestead on Winnebago Prairie.
A Sartell family memoir record the hardships pioneer faced in the virtually unsettled wilderness of Central Minnesota. At one time a son caught a fishhook in his foot. To find a doctor, Joseph placed his son in a wheelbarrow and hauled him nine miles to St. Cloud.
In the late 19th century, St. Cloud entrepreneur Nehemiah P. Clarke farmed approximately 3,000 acres in Stearns County. 1,600 acres in Le Sauk Township alone. Clarke had a national reputation as a breeder of Clydesdale and Hambletonian horses, Shorthorn and Galloway cattle, Berkshire hogs, and Cotswold sheep. Today most of his land has been developed.
In 1905, construction began on both the Watab Pulp and Paper Company and the Sartell Dam that bridges the Mississippi. both projects were completed in 1908. Seven workers died during the dam's construction. Carl Mathie, age 12, sone of one of the Watab Company officers, suffocated to death when the riverbank gave way, burying him alive. An explosion on Memorial Day 2012 ended the 107 year history of the paper mill.
The village of Sartell was incorporated in 1907. Several folks felt the town should be named Wengert after one of the paper company's officers, but because of Joseph Sartell's contributions to the community authorities named the town in his honor. Some sources say Wengert was a separate village across the river in Benton County.
One of the most interesting uses of the river was its role as a conduit for floating logs from the north to sawmills down river. Thomas Sartell said that from the 1870's to the early 1920's the family owned lumbering camps in Morrison County used the Mississippi to float logs down to the mill. In 1866, 18 million logs passes through town by water.
In winter, the Sartell brothers kept up a brisk business felling timbers in the forests of Morrison County. In spring the business switched to moving logs down river to the sawmill.
Henry B. Smart erected a ferry launch five miles north of Sartell in the 1880's. The ferry was operated manually by a set of cables attached to a winch on a raft. River current carried the raft across the Mississippi To Bento County. Philip Beaupre, a colorful Canadian pioneer, also ran a ferry near the mouth of the Sauk River.
Matt DeZurik was a young millwright at the Watab Paper Mill when he invented several products that inspired him to open his own business. In 1932, DeZurik created a new business on the west side of the river across from the paper mill. Today, the company is one of the world's leading producers of valves.
Historic downtown buildings often define a community's visual heritage. A string of businesses along old Highway 10 on both sides of the Mississippi were lost after the highway was moved to its present location. When the current Sartell Bridge was erected in the early 1980's. other structures were lost. Today, a series of contemporary false-fronts, designed with historic facades in mind, have created a new Main Street along Pinecone Road and 2nd Street South. This cluster of buildings was designed to capture the spirit of a late 19th century main street.
Contemporary Sartell was built on the footprints of a pioneer settlement that once stood in raw wilderness. Native Americans, explorers, traders, pioneer, and entrepreneurs have left a rich heritage upon which modern suburbanites have built a new society"
Where Rivers Merge Stories form the History of Sartell, Minnesota William Towner Morgan pages 3-5