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Fergus Falls, Minnesota is the county seat of Otter Tail County. The falls for which the city was named were discovered by a Scottish trapper by the name of Joe Whitford in 1856, and named for his employer, James Fergus, who may never have visited the city. However, Whitford lived there until he was killed during the 1862 Dakota War. A few years later, George B. Wright purchased Whitford’s lapsed claim, and build the Central Dam that is now in downtown Fergus Falls around 1871. The city was incorporated in the late 1870s. Upon Wright’s death in 1882, his son Vernon came from Boston to Fergus Falls to take over his father’s interests, becoming one of the two people who established the Otter Tail Power Company in 1907. For much of the city’s history there was a strong division between the English and Scottish war veterans who built and maintained most of the city’s downtown businesses and the Scandinavian farmers who came later, but eventually intermarriage and outward migration erased these divisions. A small black community that was concentrated in the southeastern part of the city has gradually dwindled. With a few minor downward fluctuations, the city has gradually increased in population each census year since its population was first recorded in 1880. The major traffic routes passing through the city include Interstate Highway 94, US Highway 59, Minnesota Highway 210, and County Highways 1, 82, and 88. Nearby communities include French, Foxhome, Western, Squier, Dalton, Underwood, Battle Lake, Phelps, Carlisle, and Elizabeth. Wahpeton, North Dakota is less than thirty miles west of Fergus Falls.


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