Earliest known history shows the area that encompasses Blackduck today was originally inhabited by the Sioux tribes. As the Algonquin tribes of the East Coast moved further west in retreat from European settlers, they displaced the Sioux and settled in most of the land in northern Minnesota. In this area they became known as the Chippewa, or as they call themselves the Anishinaabe, or First People. The area provided many of the things needed to exist; game, fish, berries, wild rice, nuts and roots. As more and more European settlers came to the area in search of the natural resources, conflict because of differing views about use of the land became inevitable. In a series of treaties, more and more land was ceded to the new arrivals. Several reservations were established. The Red Lake Reservation, just to the northwest of Blackduck is recognized as a sovereign nation. The lands were never allotted to individuals, but are held in common by all Red Lake members.
The European settlers came to the area looking for free land. In addition to the hunting and fishing resources, they found rich soil. One of the first things they did was plant their gardens; they knew they would need all they could harvest to carry them over the winter months. Most of the early settlers staked their claims along the shores of Blackduck Lake.
Logging companies sprang up around the area, harvesting some of the richest pine in northern Minnesota. Many of these loggers chose to stay here after their camps moved on. They found work at numerous saw mills that were built as the demand for sawed lumber increased. Others worked in the pole yards and in the construction of homes and businesses.
In the early days there were a lot more birds, waterfowl, and animals. There is a legend that the lake was once covered by Cormorants, thought to be black “ducks”. The lake became Blackduck Lake, and when choosing a name for the town it only made sense to name the town Blackduck.
The first plan for the town site was along the Blackduck Lake. Meanwhile, Beltrami County surveyor Marcus D. Stoner purchased a homestead where the town now sits, from Nickolas Jansen. Stoner surveyed and plotted out the present town site. The village was organized October 19, 1900, and on December 21, 1900, residents voted to incorporate. The long awaited Minnesota and International railroad did not reach Blackduck until December 9, 1901. Finally there was a link to the outside world for quick delivery of equipment and supplies into the town and for the exporting of lumber.
The nearby Civilian Conservation Corps Camp has a rich history of its own. Camp Rabideau was one of many such camps created in the 1930’s by President Roosevelt to employ young men in conservation work and help bring an end to the great depression. It is the most well preserved CCC camp in the United States and recently was designated as a National Historic Landmark. Restoration is ongoing and guided tours are available from May through September.
For more information on Blackduck history see www.lakesnwoods.com/BlackduckHistory.htm.