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Wadena, Minnesota is the county seat of Wadena County, although a small portion of the city crosses over into Otter Tail County.

Besides the small residential area in the lower west part of the city that is in Otter Tail County, a narrow strip of land within the city limits, mostly following US Highway 71 northeast, from the northeastern part of the city, connects it to another portion of the city, north of the Leaf River, which largely includes the White Tail Run Golf Course and a small residential area to the east of the course.

The main routes through the city are US Highways 10 and 71, and Minnesota State Highway 29.

Wadena is surrounded by Wadena Township and Leaf River Township in Wadena County, and by Compton Township and Bluffton in Otter Tail County. The city of Bluffton is about six miles northwest, Verndale seven miles southeast, Hewitt nine miles south, Deer Creek ten miles southwest, and Sebeka fifteen miles north.

Wadena was settled in 1871, and named for the Ojibwe Chief Wadena. A post office was established there in 1873, and Wadena was incorporated in 1881. A railroad depot was built there, which served the Great Northern Railway and the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Early in the history of Wadena, the Northern Pacific Railroad attempted to encourage Scottish immigrants to settle the region and purchase land acquired by the railroad. Somehow, these immigrants were combined with another group of immigrants from England

They first came to Wadena, then toured the Red River Valley, settling on Wadena because the water was good and there was a supply of timber.

They came to Wadena by train. Prominent among the Scottish settlers were the Andersons, Camerons, Davidsons, Stewarts, Strangs, Wilsons, and the Thomas and Jim Robb families. Among the English were the Ashburners, Askews, Broadfoots, Hursts, Kissacks, Rawsons, and John Stewart, his wife Mattie, and their four children.

The Northern Pacific promised to build the settlers a church and a school, and the Furness Colony was to have been founded on Christian values. However, there were disputes among the two different groups of settlers, and the 1873 recession prompted the railroad to abandon them to their own resources. The Rev. Richard Bailey, one of the leaders of the English group, returned to England.

A group of the English settlers settled southeast of Wadena, forming the unincorporated community of England Prairie, but others north and east, some within the area that would become the city of Wadena. Many of the Swiss remained also, joining other settlers who came to create the city.

Henry Franklin Burch came to Wadena in 1877, taking a job as a clerk in the Pineo & Yeaton General Store. The following year, he opened the Henry Burch Cash Store. In 1880, Charles Peake bought the Pineo & Yeaton General Store, creating the Peake Store. Later that year, Burch and Peake entered into a partnership to form the Peake & Burch General Store. In 1885, Burch bought Peake's interest in the store, forming the H.F. Burch Store. In 1907, Burch took on Theodore Thompson as a partner, renaming the store the Model Department Store. When the partnership dissolved in 1910, Burch retained the business. After World War I, his sons took over the business, which became Burch Brothers Grocery Store until it closed in 1938.

In 1910, John Frederick Peterson and Daniel H. Biddick formed a wholesale produce company in Wadena, buying and selling chickens and eggs, as well as dealing in hay, potatoes, dressed veal, hogs, and other farm products. In 1916, the built the Peterson Biddick Seed and Feed Company, which expanded over the years, adding grain elevators, garages, and a feed mixing operation. In 1997, the company became Wemnsman Seed Company.

Other early businesses included the Commercial Hotel, the Merchants Hotel, the First National Bank, and the Wadena Cracker Factory, which sustained a serious fire in November of 1904.

In a quarrel over the location of the county seat, the citizens of Verndale, just southeast of Wadena, built a large courthouse building and offered it to Wadena County if the seat of government were moved to Verndale. Wadena matched the offer, and an election was held in 1886 to decide the matter. Wadena won the election by 474 votes. The election was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Wadena.

In 2010, the city was hit by a tornado that was over a mile wide at its peak, and on the ground for ten miles, damaging about thirty percent of the homes in Wadena, as well as the city's community center and high school.

This is a guide to the city and township of Wadena. Websites representing the municipal, township, or county governments are appropriate for this category, as well as those of local businesses, churches, schools, and organizations.


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