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Fort Juelson to celebrate first anniversary

Cliff Knutson was instrumental in the renovation of the Fort Juelson site west of Battle Lake. Tom Hintgen/FOCUS

Cliff Knutson is proud of the renovated Fort Juelson site, west of Battle Lake, that is coming up on the first anniversary of its dedication, which took place June 11, 2011.

Knutson was the driving force for the renovation and has handed over the Friends of Fort Juelson role to Underwood historian, Ron Shebeck.

"This pleasant hill, with flowers and grasses, belongs to the people of Otter Tail County," said Knutson, who has authored a book about the fort built in 1876.

Civil War veterans Hans Juelson and Berge O. Lee were put in charge of construction. They built a sod fort with two cross walls on top of a hill east of Underwood.

Fort Juelson was constructed in the summer of 1876 by a group of Tordenskjold Township farmers in response to reports of marauding bands of Indians. While many pioneers left their homesteads for the protection of a town, the Tordenskjold group decided to stay and protect their properties.

In 1876, a gun owned by John Bjorge, crafted in Norway by his father Syrak, was used to test the strength of Fort Juelson's sod walls. Margaret "Peggy" Miller of Apple Valley, Minn., the great- granddaughter of Hans Bjorge, deeded the gun to the Otter Tail County Historical Society.

The historical society took possession of the bear gun during the June 2011 Fort Juelson dedication ceremony.

Interpretive signs are in place at Fort Juelson, a flag is lit during nighttime hours, split rail fencing is positioned and there's a restored new gateway where visitors begin their walk to the top of the hill.

The restored Fort Juelson site is located north of Highway 210, west of Battle Lake and about two miles east of Underwood.

A featured guest at the dedication this past summer was Stanley Rudsenske, a native of Underwood and current resident of Austin, Minn., who donated the historic site to Otter Tail County.

Rudsenske gave the property in honor of his parents, Philip and Ruby Rudsenske.

"Stanley is pleased to see enhancements made at the Fort Juelson site," said Knutson.