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This is a guide to the city of Thief River Falls, Minnesota, the county seat of Pennington County.

The Thief River, for which the city is named, is a tributary of the Red Lake River. It flows south, entering the Red Lake River in the northwestern segment of the city. The Red Lake River flows generally westward, entering Thief River Falls at its eastern border, flowing northwest to its confluence with the Thief River, and then turns south-southwest, winding through the center of the city, exiting at its southern border. Until a dam was constructed, there was a falls at the confluence of the two rivers. This represented the limit for which the Red Lake River could be navigated.

Before white settlers came, there was an Ojibwe village near the confluence of the two rivers. The Ojibwe named their village Negiddahmitigwayyung (where the two rivers meet).

The Thief River received its name as a translation of the Ojibwe name for the river, which had been given that name because a group of Sioux renegades had concealed themselves in secret places along the river, supporting themselves through theft.

In 1863, the Moose Dung Indian Reservation was established along the western banks of the Thief River, at its confluence with the Red Lake River, but this reservation was dissolved in 1904.

Before that time, in 1889, the site was divided into three villages, including the Ojibwe village. White settlers on the southeast part of the current city formed a village called Red Lake Rapids, while those on the west bank named their village Thief River Falls, although the Thief River ended north of where the village was platted.

Thief River Falls was settled around a lumber mill in the 1880s, platted as a village in 1887, and became a city in 1896 when it incorporated the former village of Thief River Falls. A post office operated there for a short time in 1884, and was reestablished in 1891 when the Rockstad post office moved there.

At one time, Thief River Falls was the terminus for the Great Northern and Soo Line railroads. Because of the rich soil left by the ancient glacial Lake Agassiz, Thief River Falls became a center for shipping wheat.

By 1903, the city had an electric light plant supplied by its dam on the Red Lake River. It had a water-powered grist mill, four grain elevators, a large lumber mill, eight churches, two elementary schools, and a high school, a volunteer fire department, and several stores and other businesses. Its population was about 3,000.

Today, Thief River Falls has a population approaching 9,000. The city and surrounding area have been home to several industries, including manufacturers of snowmobiles, farm machinery, and various electronics equipment. Arctic Cat, a major manufacturer of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, is headquartered in Thief River Falls, as is Digi-Key, the fourth-largest electronic parts distributor in the country.

The river and railroad still helps to sustain the city's economy through shipping and tourism. The Canadian Pacific Railway and the Minnesota Northern Railroad are currently active in Thief River Falls.

The main routes through the city are US Highway 59 and Minnesota State Highways 1 and 32. The unincorporated community of Dakota Junction is about three miles north of Thief River Falls, and the city of Saint Hilaire is about seven miles south.

The focus of this guide is on the city of Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Websites representing the municipal government or Pennington County are suitable for this category, as are those of any churches or other places of worship, schools or colleges, businesses, organizations, or individuals within the city.


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