Plentiful hunting almost earned area the state capital

Hunting has played a definite role in Kandiyohi County life for hundreds and thousands of years. It was about 150 years ago, when settlers started arriving on the scene, that people started taking notice of the results of all the hunting being done around here.

The early Americans were very good hunters and hunting played an important part in their religion. Not all tribes prayed to their intended prey — telling it how every bit of its body would be used to sustain their lives and of their families. They hunted for their own survival and, consequently, they were very aware of the effects their efforts had on this area.

Photo by Miss Bliss 55 on Flickr,

Settlers soon became aware of this concern and helped to preserve it. With our present hunting and fishing limits we would be shocked to find out the amount of fresh meat being taken regularly out of this area and brought to tribal camps in the Minnesota River Valley.

One settler reported that a small Dakota hunting party had set up camp on one of its traditional hunting grounds between Nest Lake and Green Lake. In just a few days of intensive hunting, members of the party took 68 deer, 20 elk and several black bears back to their village on the Minnesota River.

It wasn’t the settlers, nor was it their Dakota neighbors who took the really large wagon loads of game, birds and fish back home. Gov. Sibley was one of the people who bragged about their hunting and fishing prowess, and brought the results of their hunts home.

They took wagon loads — yes, wagon loads — of game and fish from here mostly to the Minneapolis or St. Paul markets. No thought was given to conservation — the game was here!

Old timers told of flights of pigeons so large and so dense that day was turned into night. It was the same with deer and antelope. Bison were feeling the pinch because Buffalo Bill and friends had already shot millions of them and let them lay and rot. In spite of that warning, not much was done to protect those that remained.

What must have been one of the largest, if not the largest wolf hunts held anywhere at any time was held in 1882, when more than 500 hunters got together, formed a big circle and scoured a large area near present-day New London for wolves. And not one wolf was found!

This was Gov. Sibley’s favorite hunting ground and he came here as often as he could.

When the matter of the location of the new state’s capital came up, he selected a party of three of his friends to survey all of Minnesota to find to find the best central location. Those three men left St. Paul on horseback came out to the Kandiyohi lakes, where they set up camp and enjoyed the hunting and fishing. When the search time was over, the rode back to St. Paul and reported that there was no finer location than the Kandiyohi lakes area, which, of course, was located in the very center of the new state.

Sibley got that report into the works, but it was stymied when the Civil War broke out. Wartime was no time to move the state capital, which had been located in St. Paul for years. When Sibley’s term was over, a new governor took his place and disagreed heartily with Sibley’s survey report. Furthermore, the capital was so integrated in its location by then that people had come to recognize its position in spite of its location on the very eastern edge of the state, where it is to this day.