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Rothsay, Minnesota is in both Otter Tail County and Wilkin County. Interstate 94 cuts across the northeastern tip of the city, and County Highways 21, 52, and 88 serve the city.

Rothsay was one of the first towns in Minnesota to grow up along a railroad rather than a river or a body of water. By the late 1800s, the days of the riverboats were coming to an end, supplanted by the railroad, which could go to places where the rivers didn't.

The first transcontinental railroad, made up of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific, was completed in May of 1869. That was the year when settlers began arriving in the area that was to become Rothsay. However, it was the Saint Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway that came through the Rothsay region in 1879.

The largest number of these new settlers were homesteaders, who had come from southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa, or southwestern Wisconsin. The Homestead Act of 1862 gave people the chance to acquire 160 acres of land if they lived on it, and cultivated the land for five years. Alternatively, a settler could purchase the land at $1.35 per acre and avoid the five-year residency requirement.

Rothsay was named by a Scottish railroad official. Although local residents preferred that the town be named Tanberg, for Christen Tanberg, the original town proprietor, the railroad official disregarded the wishes of the townspeople and named the town after Rothesay, his hometown in Scotland. Because the "e" was left out of the name, Rothsay is the only town in the world with that name.

Although the railroad had much to do with the development of the town, settlers came to the region before the railroad came through. Even before Rothsay became a village, there was a saloon there, operated by Gilbert Gilbertson.

There were also several churches. South Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hedemarken Lutheran Church, and North Friborg Lutheran were established before 1872, and Hamar Lutheran Church was organized in 1874, and the Rothsay Baptist Church began as the Swedish Baptist Church of Oscar in 1882. Our Savior's Lutheran Church originated in 1888. In the early days of Rothsay, churches did double-duty as community centers.

Several schools were organized early in the history of the town. First, of course, there were the one-room schoolhouses. State law directed that the sections 16 and 36 of each township be set aside as school grounds. School terms in Rothsay ranged from five to nine months until the state mandated nine-month terms. Teachers were often only a year or so older than their oldest students, particularly in the rural areas. Organized in 1880, about a year after the railroad came to Rothsay, School District #11 includes sections of Akron and Tanberg townships. In 1903, Rothsay voted to reorganize as an independent school district, and a two-story brick building was built. A number of rural schools in Wilkin and Otter Tail counties became part of the Rothsay consolidated system.

The first two general merchandise stores in Rothsay were opened by Amund A. Beatten and Anders B. Pedersen in late 1879. Although modified several times, Pedersen's original store building is still standing, across from the Rothsay Farmers Cooperative elevator in downtown Rothsay.

The first doctor in Rothsay was Dr. Evon Cormington, who came from Norway. He soon moved on, however, because he didn't have enough business. People didn't have money to spend on doctors.

Dentists set up shop in Rothsay one or two days a month.

By the turn of the 20th century, Rothsay had six general merchandise stores, a doctor's office, livery stables, and both freight and passenger rail service through the Great Northern Railroad, which succeeded the Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Manitoba. Rothsay had a newspaper, hotels, and places that served bootleg liquor, known as blind pigs, as Rothsay was a dry community.

George and Albert Cowie began publishing the Rothsay Record in 1894. Subscription prices were one dollar a year.

For a short time during World War I, Rothsay had a radio station, but it was not an approved station, and it was shut down when the government determined that its signal was interfering with an approved station.

Today, Rothsay is known for its large monument to a prairie chicken, which is near the northwestern city limits. Designed by Art Fosse, the monument was dedicated in June of 1976. Fosse's son, Paul Fosse, served more than two decades as Rothsay's mayor, having been elected each time on the basis of write-in votes, never once having filed to be placed on the ballot as a candidate.

The focus of this category is on the small city of Rothsay, Minnesota. Websites representing the city government or Rothsay's schools, churches, organizations, businesses, or residents are appropriate for this category.

 

 

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