Archived Story

Discover OT County history on foot

Published 11:22am Monday, May 16, 2011

For The Journal

Dig out a pair of comfortable shoes and join Otter Tail County Historical Society Executive Director Chris Schuelke for a series of June walking tours. Schuelke’s tours are a real treat as he goes beyond names, dates and architectural styles, to explore events and people shrouded in mystery and legend. Schuelke explained his philosophy on interpreting history.

“Often people have the notion history, especially local history, is boring and unimportant. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The history of Otter Tail County is filled with captivating people and events that make for great entertainment.”

The tour season begins on Friday, June 3, 6:30 p.m. with a walk through Mt. Pleasant Cemetery just east of Battle Lake on MN Hwy 210. Storytellers stationed at various grave sites relate how Alpheus Cutler broke away from the main Mormon church to form a sect known as the Cutlerites. The tour focuses on the harrowing journey the Cutlerites had in making Clitherall the county’s first permanent settlement.

On Thursday, June 9, at 6:30 p.m. Schuelke will take people on a tour of downtown Fergus Falls. Downtown Fergus Falls has a remarkable number of buildings that retain their historical character. During this tour you will discover the history of Otter Tail County’s largest community and see what it once looked like and how the street scape has changed.

The Fergus Falls State Hospital comes to life once again with Milk and Rest: Stories from the Fergus Falls State Hospital on Friday, June 17, at 5:30 p.m.

As the tour proceeds around the outside of the hospital, Schuelke relates stories on what life was like for those who lived and worked there. Be forewarned, this program is not for those who are squeamish or easily offended.

Tours wrap up on Thursday, June 23, with the Lake Alice Cyclone Tour at 7 p.m. Two tornados on June 22, 1919, ripped through Fergus Falls, destroying much of the town and killing nearly 60 people. Lake Alice was hit hard. Dozens of homes were flattened leaving the lake so filled with debris it looked as though you could walk across it.

The lake is the source for some of the cyclone’s most lasting legends. Rumors of gold, jewelry and other treasure dumped into the lake still persist.

All of the tours cost $5 per person. For more information on where to meet visit the Society’s web site or call 218-736-6038.

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