From industrial mill to hydro-electric power to tourist attraction–pond helped define Pelican Rapids

Former Pelican Rapids mayor and history enthusiast Wayne Runningen has been gathering information on the city’s iconic “Mill Pond.”

This image is an artist’s rendition of the Mill Pond pedestrian bridge, which became a reality in 1975–providing a pedestrian crossing from E.L. Peterson Park to Sherin Park on the opposite side of the pond.

The pond and dam closely parallel the growth of the town–as well as some red-letter dates such as the fire destroying the Frazee Mill; the advent of hydro-powered electricity; the creation of the “World’s Largest Pelican,” and the building of the famous suspension bridge.

From processing lumber from the wooded lakesides to milling grain from the fields to attracting tourists; the Mill Pond is also a reflection of the economic evolution of the community.

The story of the pond dates to the 1870s, when one of the city’s founders W.G. Tuttle owned the mill and dam property, according to Runningen, who delivered a presentation of the history at a recent meeting of the Pelican Rapids area Rotary Club.

R.L. Frazee built the first flour mill in either 1878 or 1879, depending on the published account.  According to an article in the Fergus Falls Journal, the mill facility measured 64-feet-high from the basement to the peak of the roof.

Frazee died in 1906, but the operation proceeded under T.C. and H.E. Frazee.

A spectacular fire destroyed the mill on May 3, 1923.

The mill was rebuilt by H.E. Frazee, along with the so called “windmill” building that stands today; which generated power.

The famous Pelican statue arrived in 1957–engineered by Ted and Anton Resset and plastered into final form by Alvin Anderson.

Former Pelican Rapids mayor, Wayne Runningen. A history enthusiast, Runningen has been researching and assembling a history of Mill Pond in Pelican Rapids. He recently spoke on the subject at a Pelican Area Rotary Club meeting.

The city of Pelican Rapids acquired most of the land around the pond in two separate transactions,  according to Runningen.  The first in 1960, purchased from the Utility Feed Mill Company.

In 1963, the north section of the land around the Mill Pond was purchased, and is now Sherin Park.

The concept of a pedestrian bridge to link the two sides of the pond date as far back as 1965. In 1975, the Pelican Rapids area Rotary club completed the bridge–at a cost of about $50,000.