In 1904 eleven townships, which comprised the western part of the Red Lake Chippewa Indian Reservation, were opened for homesteading. The land, which is now Deer Park, was part of that territory. People from many parts of the United States and from many nationalities settled this land. There were Norwegians, Swedes, Poles, Irish, French and German. These pioneers had to be the hardiest of their origin to endure the many hardships that were encountered in those days.
After filing claims on their homestead, building living quarters, other buildings, digging wells, purchasing cattle and oxen, clearing land, they had to establish township governments, schools, churches, markets, roads, mail routes, and telephone service.
The township of Deer Park was organized in 1906. It was named Deer Park because of the many deer that roamed the countryside. The organizational meeting was held in George Singer’s granary. Christ Lindberg was the first chairman; W. A. Swanson, clerk; and Frank Lundeen and John Bammerud were the supervisors. The first poll-tax road was built between Sec. 16 and 17, which went past the Rhoda Post Office (which was later Virgil Radniecki’s home).
There were two stores and post offices before the township was organized. The first store and post office, Radney, was established in March 1905, with John L. Radniecki as postmaster. It was discontinued in October 1915. Hilda was named for the wife of Postmaster Olaf B. Hanson and it was established in December 1905, and discontinued in 1915. Frank Savage was the postmaster for the last two years. Singer was established in May 1905, and later it was called Rhoda with Edward Singer as the first postmaster. It was discontinued in October 1930. Another post office, Roland, was established in July 1910, and it became part of Red Lake County when Red Lake was partitioned. Otto Dahle was the first postmaster there and it was discontinued in February 1917. The Oklee, Gully and Goodridge post offices serve Deer Park today.
A Star mail route was established in 1905 between Sunbeam and Lillo via Radney and Rhoda post offices. Emma Vattendahl was the mail carrier. She used a team of horses and a buggy to deliver the mail. This was the most luxurious form of transportation in the country. In those days, there weren’t any roads. The trails they followed were winding in order to get around low lands and this was often impossible.
Two school districts were organized in Deer Park in 1907- District 34 and District 52. John L. Radniecki was chairman; Mrs. George Baird was clerk and Frank Lundeen was a supervisor of District 52. Miss Anna Fellman was the first teacher.
The organization was completed February 18, 1907 and school commenced in May. District 34 was organized the same year with Caroline Skiie as the first teacher. O.M. Mandt served as treasurer for 31 consecutive years. Both schools consolidated with Oklee in 1969. The last teacher in District 34 was Mrs. Corlan Magnell with nine pupils. The schoolhouse still stands and is used for historical purposes. It is located north of Aaron and Jill Chervestad’s home. The last teacher of District 52 was Mrs. Doris Rindahl with thirteen pupils. The schoolhouse is now the Deer Park Town Hall. It is located just north of Andy and Karen Peterson’s home.
In 1907 the first Lutheran Church was built. It was located in Highlanding Township across the line from Deer Park. It served the people of the Lutheran faith of both townships. The building was built of logs. Ole Vattendahl and Bev Kveste were the leaders of this project and Rev. Kolstoe was the first pastor. In 1916 a more modern structure was built on the T. Lande farm when Rev. Leirfallom was the pastor. In 1954 the church was moved across the road because the basement was giving way. The church was struck by lightning in June 1975 and the congregation built a new church in 1976 two miles south on land donated by Lyle Mandt and Carol Schneider.
In 1916 the first Catholic Church was built across the road from the Singer farm. It was a mission church out of Thief River Falls and was first served by Father S. Bouchard. Until 1916 missionary priests in their homes served Catholics of the area when a church was built at Rhoda. It closed in 1965 to join the Oklee parish. The graves were moved to the Plummer cemetery.
Many of the early settlers engaged in dairying in a small way. This was the principal source of cash income, and there was an increasing need for a more suitable market for dairy products. Up to this time, most cream was churned at home and the butter sold to the local stores. The farmers got together and organized a cooperative creamery. Andrew Rolandson was president, 0. M. Mandt, treasurer; Ida Lillo was the secretary; and Gilbert Hovland was the operator. The creamery was built on the bank of the Clearwater River across the road from what was Woods store. This was still in Deer Park Township at that time because the Clearwater River was a south boundary of Deer Park until 1910, when Red Lake County was partitioned and Pennington County was established. The south boundary now is Judicial Ditch 1, which is also the common boundary of Red Lake and Pennington Counties. This ditch was started in 1909 and became a main road in 1911 when the spoil bank was leveled.
Another store on the north side of the Red Lake River started in 1909 by Olaf Hanson. A post office was established and it was called Hilda in honor of Mr. Hanson's wife; Olaf Hanson operated the only saw mill in Deer Park in those days.
In order to expedite their farm operations and other activities, there was a great need for a faster means of communication, and the farmers formed a telephone company. It was built by the farmers themselves and served Deer Park and Hickory Townships. J. L. Radniecki was the president and Julius Olson was the secretary-treasure. The outside connection was through Red Lake Falls.
Plummer was the principal railroad town serving this territory. Some freight and passenger service was had from river boats on the Red Lake River. There were two boats, one called the Dan Patch owned by the Winton Lumber Company of Thief River Falls. The other was the Lilly of the Valley owned by a large group of farmers. There were no bridges across the Red Lake River from Thief River Falls to the Red Lake, and the river was quite navigable before drainage were dug and carried sand and silt into it. The ill-fated Lilly of the Valley became stuck on a sand bar a few rods east of the J. L. Radniecki farm. It was hauled ashore where it rotted down. The only part that was salvaged was the metal which, in later years, was sold for scrap iron.
The following are names of the early settlers of the Deer Park Township: W. A. Swanson; J. L. Radniecki; Frank Lundeen; Pete Gustafson; John Peterson; John Swanson; 0. M. Mandt; Anton Radniecki; George Singer; Ed Singer; Ole Nesland; Ole Dahle; Knute Syversrude; Per Rensla; Torger T. Lundeen; Torkel Lande; Ole Londe; Thor Lande; Sjur Stolaas; Oscar Swanson; Gunder Hofstad; Ole Legvold; Christ Lindberg; Andrew Rolandson; Knute Lintveidt; Gunder Lintveidf; Ralph Hofstad; Oscar Lindberg; John Eisbrener; William Bruckman; Mike Kolski; John Zintak;Ed Kolske; Gunder Anderson; Oscar Lillo; Herman Lillo; August Lillo; John Romrud; Jens Bolstad; Martin Hybrid; W. Wojarnouski; Olaf Hanson; John Gunderson; Sam Swanson; Rev. E .H. Mostue; Tome 0. Rinestad; Ole P. Gisselquist; Ole Loland; Andrew Kolstrand; George Baird; Nels Loiland; Henry Costello; Henry Rovold; George Leimers; Mat Bakken; Ole Skreland; Hans Quam; Benny P. Rustad; Torgie Lofthus; Charles Johnson; A. Gongstad; Clarence Hayford; S. Jenband; O. K. Kolshus; Tom Leauandoski; A. A. Brovald; W. J. Polbrook; T. 0. Lofthus; Anon Knutson; Ed Rustan; D. J. Holberg; Peter Milne; Andrew Hanson; William Erb; E. Childrup; Wilson Rodman; Elvira Hoveband; and T. G. Roman.
(by Helen C.) There are very few of the early pioneers living in Deer Park at this time. Those who live here in 1972 — Mrs. Ed Rustan, Ole Dahle, and Mrs. Gunder Hofstad who is residing in Red Lake Falls. The rest of the pioneers have passed away or moved out of the territory.
Conclusion: As my memory takes me back over the past 56 years and I recall all the events that took place in the development of our township, I look with pride at the progress that has been made during this time. I take no credit as an individual, but I feel a sense of satisfaction to have been able to work together with my neighbors to make Deer Park Township a progressive community and a good place to live.
(The above history was submitted by Mrs. Orlando Chervestad, with the notation: “This was written by J. L. Radniecki (now deceased) in 1960 for the Oklee’s 50th anniversary history book.)
The interest and enthusiasm shown by the farm families in this township in development of a progressive and attractive community is certainly evident in bringing about the existing good conditions.
We have grown from a wilderness to a prosperous farming area. In the 1980s, wheat, corn and sunflowers have been excellent crops. However, in the last few years before 1984 there were some heavy rainfall and floods. The farmers have had several years of poor crops. 1984 was an excellent crop year. Deer Park had seven dairy operations, two hog farms, five beef farms, two chicken ranches and a vegetable/carrot farm in 1984. In the 2000s wheat and soybeans were the main crops raised by most of the grain farmers. Some have put drain tiles in their fields to help in draining the land. By 2005 there were no longer any dairy, hog or poultry operations and no carrot farm in Deer Park, but beef, grain and hay farming are remaining quite strong.
The farm families are very active in church activities and community organizations. There is great enthusiasm among the young people from the area getting started in farming here and there is a sense of satisfaction for the older farmer who has worked so hard along with his neighbor to make it such a desirable place to live and raise a family along with the help of our Lord who shows us the way to live a happy life.
Officers of the township in 2005 were; Clerk – Juell Chervestad, Treasure – Arden Lundeen, Supervisors – (chairman) Orlan Stolaas & Monte Haugen & Glenn Hofstad.