More About the History of Bemidji, MN

From Scandinavian homesteaders to Paul Bunyan—we have a rich cultural history that offers every resident and travelers alike a different adventure through our diverse cultivation of interests. If you were to visit our town, you'd be able to experience a wide range of activities, such as a hike through The True Northwoods or a trip to see the Birthplace of Paul and Babe.

  • Early explorers referred to Bemidji as Pamitchi, in 1835.
  • Bemidji was organized in 1896.
  • Our name comes from the Ojibwe (Chippewa) words Bay-me-di-ga-maug, meaning a lake with (river) water flowing through.
  • A small settlement grew around the Carson Trading Post, which was located on the south shore of Lake Bemidji in the early 1890s.
  • By 1900, Bemidji had about 2,183 residents.
  • Logging was the original concern of the people in the early 1900s.
  • Bemidji also attracted railroads, and railroad right-of-ways determining the location of emerging nearby towns.

Bemidji has now matured into a highly diversified, cultural region that continues to flourish.

More About the History of Water Well Drilling

  • The first [successfully] drilled well (for salt) happened in 1808 near Charleston, West Virginia.
  • The first well was actually created by using a 4-foot diameter hollowed out sycamore tree.
  • Two men played very important roles in the early water well drilling industry.
    • Levi Disbrow (1823) came from the salt industry in the West Virginia/Ohio area to north of the Potomac river to become the first professional water well driller.
    • Edwin L. Drake (1859) became the first American to use a pipe to separate water from other materials being drilled to prevent contamination. (This man was also the first to drill for oil successfully)
  • At first, all wells were manually drilled or dug.
  • Then, wells were powered by horses that walked around a circular track.
  • By the 1890s, steam power was widely used in water well drilling and was used for about the next 50 years until the internal combustion engine came along.
  • The internal combustion engine then took well drilling into the 20th and 21st centuries, making tools more efficient and portable.
  • Water well drilling was invented in the United States.
  • The first freshwater well was drilled in the New Jersey area in the 1800s.

The rest history! From there, water well drilling became quite popular in residential and commercialized areas alike. Today, there are various methods and techniques to drilling a well. Check out the video from the American Ground Water Trust to see how one popular way to drill a well is done.

Thank you, and credit to John Mack Freeman and the Bemidji Chamber for access to this history.