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Sherburne County History

Jackson St. Elk River, 1960s
Sherburne County is located in central Minnesota, between the Twin Cities and St Cloud. Originally the area was contested middle ground between the northern Minnesota Ojibwa people and the southern Minnesota Dakotas. A treaty in 1837 opened the area to whites and created a buffer zone between the tribes. After the treaty, ox cart trains moved goods and people through the area, but by the 1860s there were several small communities supporting the farmers who had settled. They were drawn by the available prairie land and the proximity to the Mississippi River, which is Sherburne County’s southern border.

As the area population increased, the railroads came, bringing more settlers, communications, and commerce. An ice harvesting industry sprung up on Big Lake. Big Lake ice was renowned for its clarity and was shipped by rail from Big Lake to cities like Minneapolis and Chicago.

The railroad is still a big part of Sherburne County, but these days most people arrive on one of the major highways. The majority of Sherburne County residents today work in the Twin Cities or St Cloud area but live here for the affordable housing, good schools, and sense of community.

Area attractions include the Sherburne Wildlife Refuge, Sand Dunes State Forest, and the Oliver Kelley Farm.

Sherburne County Facts:
Namesake: Moses Sherburne, an early Minnesota politician
County Seat: Elk River
Incorporated: February, 1856
Population (2010): 88,499
County website: