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Neighbors: Why is the Minnesota city named Ottertail but the county and lake are Otter Tail?

Bob Lind, Neighbors Columnist. The Forum

Today Neighbors is catching up with notes it received concerning topics and people mentioned in The Forum last year.

One concerned a column in which a reader wondered why the city of Ottertail, Minn., is spelled with one word while other places with that name, such as the river, lake and county, use two words: Otter Tail.

That brought a letter with the explanation from a man who signed it only Ken S., Moorhead.

"The townsite was initially platted in 1903 when the Soo Line Railroad built through the location and was incorporated in 1904," Ken wrote. "It was given the name Ottertail spelled as one word to distinguish it from the older settlement of Otter Tail City.

"After Otter Tail County was established in 1858," Ken continued, "Otter Tail City was designated as the county seat.

"The settlement had developed around a trading post built by Donald McDonald and became a boomtown in anticipation that the Northern Pacific Railroad would come through there.

"After the railroads bypassed Otter Tail City and the county seat was moved to Fergus Falls in 1872, Otter Tail City declined.

"There is a lot of interesting history in these changes, but I hope this will help answer your questions," Ken said.