East Lake Lillian is the “youngest” township in Kandiyohi County. It was originally a part of Lake Lillian Township, which was organized in 1872, and was twice as large as all the other townships in the county. Both townships border on Lake Lillian, named for the wife of Edwin Whitefield, the first white explorer of record to visit that area. Much of what is considered Lake Lillian history really took place in what is now East Lake Lillian. J. R. Brown of Henderson made Lake Lillian a major stop on his trail to Canada. He built a barn large enough to accommodate a hundred or more oxen, so his carts would always get fresh ox power when they passed by his establishment in Lake Lillian. Brown also held the mail contracts for people who had settled near his route.
In addition to all this Brown was also a trader who carried on a lively trading center near Lake Lillian.
The first settlers in the Lake Lillian area were brought there by the Rev. J.A.J. Bomsta. He had been a well-known pastor in his part of Norway, who did not always agree with the state church. Many of the people who agreed with Bomsta followed him and his family to the New World, and to the Lake Lillian area which was actually first settled by Bomsta’s friends from Norway.
Lake Lillian was chosen as a site suitable for such settlement by accident.
Pastor Bomsta’s sons had enlisted in a cavalry unit in the Union Army, and had ridden into the Lake Lillian area several times in the course of their military duties. They were deeply impressed by the geography of the area and urged their father to go see for himself. He did after the war was over, and was just as impressed as his sons had been. Claims were filed and the development of the southeast corner of Kandiyohi County had begun.
Bomsta, himself, became a farmer-preacher, working the land with the help of his family, an arrangement that allowed him to make many missionary visits which, in turn, resulted in more Norwegian families joining their friends at Lake Lillian. Many of those families had already staked claims, but gave them up when they found new lands with the Bomstas.
New settlement created needs within the township. Two county schools (one of them the largest school in the county) were established before East Lake Lillian Township was established and a Baptist congregation was formed.
By a peculiar set of circumstances only 15 families filed claims in what is now East Lake Lillian.
One third of the township was granted to the state. Two sections were set aside as capital and university lands, and the balance of the land became railroad grant. Meanwhile, the western portion of the township was also developing rapidly, with the portions devoted to new businesses in the western part.
In 1893, a petition was granted for the separation of the two halves of Lake Lillian Township, and the creation of the new East Lake Lillian Township. And that’s the way it was!