Crow Wing County was established on May 23, 1857 and organized March 3, 1879. The county is named for the Crow Wing River.
Zebulon Pike in 1805 and Schoolcraft in 1820 and 1832 used the French name of this river, de Corbeau, meaning of the Raven; but its more complete name in French was riviere a 1 Aile de Corbeau, River of the Wing of the Raven.
Mrs. E. Steele Peake, widow of an early missionary in 1856-61 to the Ojibwas at the mission stations of Gull Lake and Crow Wing, wrote in a letter of her reminiscences in the Brainerd Dispatch, September 22, 1911, concerning the aboriginal name of Crow Wing River: "Where the river joins the Mississippi was an island in the shape of a crow's wing which gave the name to the river and the town."
After the adoption of the English name of the river and 20 years or more before the county was outlined and named, the important Crow Wing trading post was established on the east side of the Mississippi River opposite the mouth of the Crow Wing River.
It was surrounded by a village of the Ojibwas and white men. The earliest record of a trader near this site is in the list of licenses granted in 1826 by Lawrence Taliaferro, an Indian agent. One of these licenses was for "Benjamin F. Baker, Crow Island Upper Mississippi," in the service of the American Fur Company.
� Allan Morrison, John H Fairbanks and C. H. Beaulieu Sr. were the first Crow Wing commissioners. The county was organized by an act of the legislature on March 3, 1870.|
+ Henry Schoolcraft who discovered the source of the Mississippi River, wrote, "When an Indian lost his wife it w a considered a duty to marry her sister (if she had one) or he may have them both."
There was again a station of the fur traders at Crow Wing, facing the northern mouth of the Crow Wing River about in 1837. A few years later it became the center of Indian trading for all the upper country, the general supply store being located here.
In 1866, the settlement and village contained seven families of whites and about 23 half-breeds and Chippewas, with a large transient population. The entire population was about 600.
Crow Wing, as a business point, was passed away, most of the buildings have been removed to Brainerd, and the remaining ones destroyed.
By an act of the Legislature, February 18, 1887, the part of Crow Wing county west of the Mississippi River, which previously belonged to Cass County, was annexed to this county, somewhat more than doubling its former area.
Brainerd township was founded in 1870 when the Northern Pacific survey determined that the crossing of the Mississippi should be here. It was organized as a city March 6, 1873. However, an act of the Legislature, January 11, 1876, substituted a township government.
It again became a city November 19, 1881. The name first suggested for this place was 'Ogemaqua' in honor of Emma Beaulier, a woman of rare personal beauty, to whom the Indians gave the name mentioned, meaning Queen, or Chief Woman.
The present name was chosen in honor of the wife of J. Gregory Smith, first president of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, Mrs. Smith's family name being Brainerd.
Mrs. Anna Eliza (Brainerd Smith was a daughter of Hon. Lawrence Brainerd, of St. Albans, Vt. Her husband, John Gregory Smith, also a resident of St. Albans, honored by the name of Gregory Park Square in Brainerd and by Gregory station and village in Morrison County, was governor of Vermont, 1863-65. He was president of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, 1863-72 and later was president of the Vermont Central Railroad until his death.
Mrs. Smith was author of novels, books of travel and other works. Her father, Lawrence Brainerd was a director of the St. Albans Steamboat Company, a builder and officer of railroads in northern Vermont, a noted abolitionist and was a United States Senator, 1854-55.
Portraits of Mrs. Smith for whom Brainerd was named, and her father with extended biographic notices are in "The Genealogy of the Brainerd, Brainerd Family of America" (three volumes, published in 1908).
As quoted from these voIumes, ""She was president of the board of managers for the Vermont woman's exhibit at the Centennial Exposition in 1876, at Philadelphia, and was frequently chosen in similar capacities as a representative Vermont woman.
"Her patriotic feeling was shown in the Civil War, at the rebel rail on St. Albans and the plunder of the banks, Oct. 19, 1864, and a commission as Lieutenant-Colonel was issued to her for gallantry and efficient service on that occasion by Adjutant-General P. T. Washington."
She was born in St. Albans, Vt., October 7, 1819 and died at her home there, January 6, 1905.
The Northern Pacific Railroad ran its first train to Brainerd, a special train, on March 11, 1871 and its regular passenger service began the next September.
The first passenger train from the Twin Cities, by way of Sauk Rapids, came November 1,1877. Crow Wing, the former trading post, was soon superseded by Brainerd, which the Ojibwas named "Oski-odena, New Town."
Reproduced from the Centennial Edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1871-1971).