Lake Lillian to 1958
A short History

by Vernor C. Johnson 1958

posted by Gary Gauer May 15 2020

The following short story of Lake Lillian is just a part of a a hard cover 253 page book
that has many interesting articles of interest about the growth of Kandiyohi County:

Title Page

Centennial year 1858 - 1958

Edited, privately printed and published by Karl & Helen Thurn

Printed by:

Raymond Press, Raymond Minnesota

Color Press Adv., Willmar, Minnesota

Maplewood Bindery, Hutchinson, Minnesota


The Kandiyohi County Centennial Commemoration of 1958 finds us still in the planning and building stage.

True, we have broken the sod - hammered our plowshares into swords and back again two or three times, but to those who will follow in the generations to come - we are the pioneers.

Perhaps the celebrants of the 200th anniversary of this beautiful county will open these pages for a glimpse of 1958 and find here brief but interesting narratives written by many outstanding citizens.

This is not a history. It contains, however, reference material which could be used in such an undertaking.

The writers of the Round Robin were given no specific instructions other than the assignment of the subject matter. The omission of any pertinent material has been unintentional. An attempt has been made to verify all names, dates and places insofar as records were available.

The Round Robin has been designed to afford the reader a brief cross-section of Kandiyohi County.

We are grateful to those who have given so generously of their time and effort in writing for the Round Robin, and to the amateur photographers for the colorful pictures. May they continue to record the past and the present for the coming - tomorrow and tomorrow.

Karl & Helen Thurn Willmar, Minnesota

The photo and narrative below was authored by Vernor C Johnson, pastor of First Lutheran Church..

He was my confirmation pastor in 1953 and researched the following history by 1958.

He and his young family transferred to a pastorate
in Blackfoot, Idaho by 1960.

with Titles and (minor edits) by Gary

Lake Lillian

Lake Lillian gets its name from the lake that is so designated, and which is one of the great bodies of water in the Kandiyohi lake system. This lake is located farthest to the south, and it divides the two townships named after the lake.

On the shore of Lake Lillian, early settlers discovered many buried relics of the Indian uprisings. Many of these discoveries appeared recent in age. Several Indian mounds were found along the south shore, the last visible one gave way to road reconstruction in 1956. The first settlers found that Lake Lillian was a favorite canoeing resort for the friendly Indians to the south along the Minnesota River.

Lake Lillian received its name in honor of the wife of E. Whitefield, who accompanied the first exploring party to the Kandiyohi lakes in the summer of 1856. The first permanent settlers in the west township of Lake Lillian were George W. Hart, who filed his homestead claim June 10, 1864.

In the year of 1905 a group of farmers and business men started to promote better transportation. The idea of building a short line· railroad from Hutchinson to Lake Lillian was explored. The idea proved unsuccessful when an attempt was made to subscribe stock at $100 per share. In the meantime a man by the name of Earl Luce got news of the idea and built the road from Minneapolis to Lake Lillian, a project which took 18 years to complete.

Local interest was evident in the response made through subscription and donation in cash and land to make the railroad possible. In the spring of 1923 the "Electric Short Line" was in operation. In 1927 the railroad was extended to Clara City. To the present time the railroad has changed hands three times and is now owned by the M. & St.L. The first regular passenger train to arrive in the town of Lake Lillian was June 21, 1923; all other trains were "work" trains for section crews.

Business started

The village of Lake Lillian was started in the spring of 1923. E. J. Strom built the first store and was open for business April 28, 1923. To this day Mr. Strom is active in this general merchandise business. The first customers on the opening day were Arthur Johnson and Emil Olson, both now living.

Business establishments located nearby in the surrounding country soon began to move into the new town. Mr. Luce, in building the railroad, had platted the town site in 1922.

The first eating place was established by Mary Anderson in the spring of 1923. She later became the first postmistress. Later in the year Anton Strom opened a cafe, now known as Erickson's Cafe. Axel Lundquist also opened an eating place, .giving the town three eating places the first year.

H. C. Petterson moved his blacksmith and machine shop from Thorpe into Lake Lillian. The business is now known as Petterson's Electric.

Two lumber yards organized in 1923, namely the "Streater" and the “Stearns." Later in the year Thompson Brothers general store was opened, as was the Emil Linn grocery. William R. Johnson built a garage and implement store, now one of the leading business places.

The First State Bank was organized with I. T. Strom the first cashier. In 1950 a new building was erected. Today this is a million dollar business. Mr. A. H. Stellner is the present cashier.

The Farmer's Creamery was built in 1923, as was the Farmer's Elevator. The present elevator structure is the fourth since 1923. Three elevators burned in 1925, 1931 and 1951. In 1953 a modern elevator was built with a grain capacity of 142,000 bushels.

A general merchandise store operated by Lars Erickson since 1900 was moved into the new town in the spring of 1924. Erickson's Store was opened and now is owned and operated by his son Raymond.

In 1924 A. W. Nelson purchased the Linn's Grocery and opened the Litchfield Produce, now known as Nelson's Produce. The Day Hardware was opened in 1924, and is now known as the Flann Hardware. In 1926 Albert Johnson established the Johnson Hardware.


The life and growth of the churches have played an important part in the life of the new community.

Christina Lutheran Church, organized in 1875, by the Swedish settlers five miles southwest, decided to move into the village of Lake Lillian. Peter Beckman was the first pastor.

At a meeting held June I0, 1923, it was decided to move the parsonage into the village.

The year 1925 may be the most important year of the congregation when it was decided to tear down the old Christina church and move it to build a new structure in town. On January 7, 1925, the name of the congregation was changed to First Lutheran Church of Lake Lillian, and so incorporated. On March 15th the last service was held in the old church. Vernor C. Johnson is the present pastor.

Father Murphy gathered the faithful Roman Catholics of the community and organized the St. Thomas More Catholic Parish in Lake Lillian in the year 1936. Father Howard Halloran is the present priest.

Tromso Lutheran Church, established August 16, 1885 by Norwegians, worshipped in the church north of town until March 21, 1945 when it was decided to rebuild in Lake Lillian. A. N. Klevan was the first pastor of Tromso. In November of 1945 the basement was dug, though the superstructure was not started until November of 1946. On December 3, 1946 the last service was held at the Tromso Church. The name of the congregation was changed to Grace Lutheran Church of Lake Lillian in 1946. On June 29, 1947 the first service was held in the new church. Joseph Melby is the present pastor.

Two churches have remained in the country. On December 29, 1868 land was purchased on the east side of the lake where a church was later constructed. This congregation is still named Norwegian and Danish Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. Holland was the first pastor. E. 0. Bissell is the present minister.

The Norwegian Lake Lillian Baptist Church was organized May 21, 1898. It is now known as the Lake Lillian Baptist Church, still located north and (mostly 3 miles east) east of Lake Lillian. Douglas Steward is the present minister.


In the early days (until 1925) the village was divided into East and West Lake Lillian with two separate (township) governments. Shortly after the two groups reorganized (in 1925) and Mr. E. J. Strom was elected the first mayor. Today the town has grown to a population of 400. H. L. Jacobson is the present mayor.