A visit to Old Clitherall instills a sense of history

The Old Clitherall site is a short distance west of what later became the present-day Clitherall. In the distance is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This is the second church constructed, replacing the original log church. Tom Hintgen/Perham Focus

CLITHERALL -- Visiting Old Clitherall this time of year is well worth the time for county residents interested in the history of Otter Tail County.

Just west of the current-day town of Clitherall, about 25 miles south of Perham, turn south of Highway 210 onto North Clitherall Lake Road. This will take you to Old Town Trail where you will see the Justice Two Coffeehouse and Eatery open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The Old Clitherall town site, with a public marker, is right next door.

The first county board meeting was held in Old Clitherall on Sept. 12, 1868. Marcus Shaw and Chancey Whiting were the first county commissioners.

Previously a state legislative act formally organized Otter Tail County, on March 16, 1868, 10 years after Minnesota became a state, in 1858.

Whiting led the Cutlerites move from Iowa to Old Clitherall, east of Battle Lake, where they established their settlement in May 1865.


He and other church leaders met with local Native American chiefs and made a private treaty to preserve peace.

The township of Clitherall took its name from the lake of that name, and the lake took its name from Major George B. Clitherall. He was an employee of the United States land office at Ottertail City from 1858 to 1861.

The township of Clitherall was organized on Oct. 24, 1868.

In the late 1860s and early 1870s residents of Old Clitherall headed southward and hunted deer in what’s now Leaf Mountain Township, home to Inspiration Peak.

“I remember the first deer that I harvested,” wrote Lurett Whiting, whose account is recorded in “Old Clitherall’s Story Book” compiled by the late Hallie Gould.

She was a descendant of two early pioneer families who were part of the first non-Native American settlement in Otter Tail County, in 1865.

Many of those early settlers at Old Clitherall are buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, just south of Highway 210. The cemetery sits high atop a hill, overlooking Clitherall Lake.

A book about the history of Old Clitherall is available at the Otter Tail County Historical Society in Fergus Falls.

Related Topics: HISTORY
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