Peter Vadnies arrived in 1855 and settled on the Mississippi River, calling the area Marsailles. His trading post was near the site of the current power plant. The area was known as a center of hay production at one time, but by 1900 potatoes had become a bigger crop. The village was platted in 1870 by JE Herman and Henry Fridley and incorporated in 1904. The nearby Northern States Power plant opened in 1974.
Early settlers in the area, arriving as early as 1847 included several Vermonters and other New Englanders. Joseph Brown was among that early group; he built a home on Big Lake that he called Humboldt that served as the county seat from 1856 to 1865. The park and pavilion at Big Lake was a popular retreat for tourists in the 1920s and 1930s who wanted a quick vacation. Almost from the beginning, Big Lake residents described their town as a community of commuters, although today’s highways make the trip easier than yesterday’s trails.
Exploring the Area
The Sherburne History Center in Becker (10775 27th Ave SE; 763.261.4433) is a new facility surrounded by native prairie grasses and hiking trails, with indoor exhibits on local history and a research library.
Snuffy’s Landing, a few miles northwest of Becker on the north bank of the river (12812 115th Ave SE) has picnic tables and short hiking trails along to the river, plus an overlook atop the hill.
Next stop downriver: Monticello.
Next stop upriver: Clearwater and Clear Lake.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2015