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The History of Thief River Falls
By Gretchen Beito
Thief River Falls first developed as a lumber milling town. It also became a major agricultural service area because of the rich soil left by ancient, glacial Lake Agassiz. The unusual name, “Thief River,” was given to the river by the Ojibwe and Dakota people. “Falls” was added to the name of the new city in 1896 because a series of rapids in the river had been converted to a waterfall by the construction of the dam. Until 1904, an Ojibwe village of 40 families was located where the Thief and Red Lake Rivers meet. The Great Northern and the Soo Line Railroads brought prosperity when Thief River Falls became a center for shipping wheat. Today, the city continues its entrepreneurial spirit, preserving and respecting the past, yet growing and moving toward the future, especially in the manufacturing and distribution industries, both nationally and internationally.