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Wadena County, Minnesota facts for kids

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Wadena County
Old Fire and City Hall in Wadena, Minnesota.
Map of Minnesota highlighting Wadena County
Location within the U.S. state of Minnesota
Map of the United States highlighting Minnesota
Minnesota's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Minnesota
Founded June 11, 1858 (created)
February 21, 1873 (organized)
Named for A trading post
Seat Wadena
Largest city Wadena
 • Total 543 sq mi (1,410 km2)
 • Land 536 sq mi (1,390 km2)
 • Water 7.0 sq mi (18 km2)  1.3%%
 • Total 14,065
 • Estimate 
14,177 Increase
 • Density 26.2/sq mi (10.1/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 8th

Wadena County ( wə-DEEN) is a county in the U.S. state of Minnesota. As of the 2020 census, the population was 14,065. Its county seat is Wadena.

Wadena MN County Fairgrounds
Wadena County Fairgrounds
Wadena MN County Fairgrounds Grandstands
The grandstands at the Wadena County Fairgrounds


Wadena MN County Fairgrounds
Wadena County Fairgrounds
Wadena MN County Fairgrounds Grandstands
The grandstands at the Wadena County Fairgrounds

Wadena County was organized on February 21, 1873, at which time Wadena was chosen as the county seat.

Wadena county is composed of fifteen townships, first surveyed in 1863. Each township is 6 miles by 6 miles and contains 36 sections of land (with the exception of Bullard and Thomastown which have a slightly different configuration because their boundaries are aligned with the Leaf and Crow Wing Rivers, respectively). In 1857, a man named Augustus Aspinwall laid out a townsite in what is now Section 15, Thomastown township, at the junction of the Crow Wing and Partridge rivers, and named it Wadena. In 1872, when the railroad went through the area it ran about three miles south of this site and thus the town quickly withered away.

During that period there were five organized townships (Wadena, Aldrich, Thomastown, Leaf River and Wing River) and three county commissioners. The balance of the townships were organized between this time and 1899; the last two, Huntersville and Orton after being organized as one township in 1898, were split in 1899. As of 2010, there are six organized towns in the county: Wadena (the county seat), Verndale, Sebeka, Menahga, Aldrich, and Nimrod.

Ghost towns, towns of the past or unorganized villages, included Kindred or Shell City, Oylen and Ferris, Central, Huntersville, Leaf River, and Blue Grass.

In the early days, before rural mail delivery was begun, there were many post offices in the county to serve people so they did not have to travel far to get their mail. These included Kindred or Shell City, Wing River, Leaf River, Taylor’s Landing, Nimrod, Hoptacong, Farnham, Lukens, Passaic, Hartshorn, Ouichee, Bullard, Oye and Oylen. At the present time there are post offices in Menahga, Sebeka, Wadena, Verndale, and Aldrich.

For the last part of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, there were two railroads in the county. The Northern Pacific main line running east to west through Wadena was built in 1872, while the Great Northern branch or "K" line which ran from Sauk Centre to Bemidji, via Sebeka and Menahga, was completed in 1891. The line from Park Rapids to Long Prairie was abandoned in 1984 while the rest was abandoned in the early 1970s with the northern section from Park Rapids to Cass Lake has since been converted to the Heartland Trail.

Wadena used to be served by the Greyhound Bus Line, Elliott Bros. Transportation Co., Northwest Transportation Co., Red Bus Line, Gray Bus Line, Liederbach Bus Co. and Mercury Bus line.

There are four historical societies in the county, including the Wadena County Historical Society, the Verndale Historical Society, the Sebeka Finnish American Historical Society and the Menahga Historical Society.

In 2010, there were four organized school districts in the county: Wadena, Verndale, Sebeka and Menahga. In 1906, there were 52 school districts in the county, most of which were rural schools.

Sebeka once had the second largest creamery in the state of Minnesota. Over the years there have been approximately ten creameries in the county and ten cheese factories.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 543 square miles (1,410 km2), of which 536 square miles (1,390 km2) is land and 7.0 square miles (18 km2) (1.3%) is water. Wadena is one of 17 Minnesota counties with more savanna soils than prairie or forest soils.


  • Bill Lake - Blueberry Township
  • Blueberry Lake - Blueberry Township
  • Burgen Lake - Huntersville Township
  • Duck Lake - southeast edge in Huntersville Township, southwest edge in Shell River Township
  • Finn Lake - Shell River Township
  • Granning Lake - Lyons Township
  • Jim Cook Lake - Shell River Township
  • Lily Lake - north quarter in Lyons Township, south three-quarters in Bullard Township
  • Lovejoy Lake - Thomastown Township
  • Lower Twin Lake - east half in Shell River Township, west half in Blueberry Township
  • Mud Lake - Meadow Township
  • Radabaugh Lake - Thomastown Township
  • Rice Lake - Meadow Township
  • Round Lake - Huntersville Township
  • Simon Lake - Thomastown Township
  • Spirit Lake - Menahga
  • Stocking Lake - Blueberry Township
  • Strike Lake - Lyons Township
  • Thomas Lake - Blueberry Township
  • Upper Twin Lake - south edge in Shell River Township
  • Yaeger Lake - Meadow Township

Major highways

  • US 10.svg U.S. Route 10
  • US 71.svg U.S. Route 71
  • MN-29.svg Minnesota State Highway 29
  • MN-87.svg Minnesota State Highway 87
  • MN-227.svg Minnesota State Highway 227

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 6
1880 2,080 34,566.7%
1890 4,058 95.1%
1900 7,921 95.2%
1910 8,652 9.2%
1920 10,699 23.7%
1930 10,990 2.7%
1940 12,772 16.2%
1950 12,806 0.3%
1960 12,199 −4.7%
1970 12,412 1.7%
1980 14,192 14.3%
1990 13,154 −7.3%
2000 13,713 4.2%
2010 13,843 0.9%
2015 (est.) 13,875 0.2%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2015
USA Wadena County, Minnesota age pyramid
Age pyramid of county residents based on 2000 U.S. census data

As of the census of 2000, there were 13,713 people, 5,426 households, and 3,608 families residing in the county. The population density was 26 people per square mile (10/km²). There were 6,334 housing units at an average density of 12 per square mile (5/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.89% White, 0.48% Black or African American, 0.55% Native American, 0.18% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.27% from other races, and 0.59% from two or more races. 0.93% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 37.5% were of German, 14.0% Norwegian, 12.5% Finnish, 9.0% United States or American and 5.3% Swedish ancestry.

There were 5,426 households out of which 30.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.30% were married couples living together, 7.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.50% were non-families. 29.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.02.

In the county, the population was spread out with 25.80% under the age of 18, 8.10% from 18 to 24, 23.60% from 25 to 44, 22.60% from 45 to 64, and 19.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 97.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.90 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,651, and the median income for a family was $38,618. Males had a median income of $28,424 versus $21,027 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,146. About 9.70% of families and 14.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.40% of those under age 18 and 12.60% of those age 65 or over.




  • Aldrich Township
  • Blueberry Township
  • Bullard Township
  • Huntersville Township
  • Leaf River Township
  • Lyons Township
  • Meadow Township
  • North Germany Township
  • Orton Township
  • Red Eye Township
  • Rockwood Township
  • Shell River Township
  • Thomastown Township
  • Wadena Township
  • Wing River Township

Unincorporated communities

Ghost towns

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Wadena para niños

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