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Donnelly is a small town in Stevens County, Minnesota. State Highway 9 is the main route through the city. Nearby communities include Alberta, Chokio, Cyrus, Hancock, Herman, Hoffman, Johnson, Kensington, Morris, and Norcross. Elbow Lake is about twenty miles north, Alexandria forty miles east, Ortonville fifty miles southwest, and Willmar about sixty miles southeast of Donnelly. In the 1870s, the first settlers in the area built sod houses to get them started on their new farms. Donnelly was platted in 1871, and incorporated as a village in 1900. Originally, the village was known as Douglas as the Great Northern Railway station there was known as Douglas until 1877. It was renamed for Ignatius Donnelly, a politician and author who owned a farm about a mile east of the village, and whose brother, John Gavin Donnelly, served as the city’s railroad agent and postmaster. Early on, the new town was hit with a devastating swarm of locusts which consumed everything, not only their crops but clothing hanging on lines and the wooden handles of farming tools. The plague of locusts lasted for three years, and many people left, including Ignatius Donnelly, whose main home was near St. Paul. Once the locusts left, new settlers came in, however, most of them arriving by train, bringing their livestock, farm machinery, and furniture. By 1910, Donnelly had shops, saloons, inns, a restaurant. and a bank. Like many other towns, Donnelly took a hit from the Great Depression and World War I. Donnelly has never been a large town, its peak population being 396 in 1950, but its population has fluctuated in both directions.



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