History of Denmark Township

Historical Background

Historical settlement of the Denmark Township area began in Point Douglas, at the southeastern tip of Washington County at the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers.  In July 1840, the first post office in Minnesota outside of Fort Snelling was established here, with Levi Hurtsill as its postmaster. In 1843, David Hone, one of the original partners in the Marine Mill Company, located in the southern part of the Township built the Union House hotel. Hone and Hurtsill, along with Oscar Burris, laid out the village of Point Douglas in 1849. Other early settlers included William Dibble, Simon Shingledecker, Martin Leavitt, E. H. Whitaker, Caleb Truax, G. W. Campbell, Thomas Heatherington, Mark Wright and John Allibone.

The soils in the Denmark area were ideal for crop cultivation and the area was to become one of the prime farming areas of the region. Point Douglas was the early depot from which supplies were purchased and transported to interior settlements in the 1840’s. Hurtsill and Burris built and operated what became the largest merchandise business in the county. Many believed that Point Douglas, because of its early business dominance, would become the most important City in the northwest.

Trades and services accompanied settlement of the area. W. McAboy opened the first blacksmith shop in 1851; and an early lime kiln, operated by William Bush, was in use by 1856. David Hone built the first frame building at Point Douglas. This structure, called Union House, was the showplace hotel of its time. In 1852, Hone built another large frame building, which he named the Northwestern House and used primarily as a store. Later uses of Northwestern House included a hotel, a boarding house, and dance hall that became the center of social activity during the 1860’s. Many other stores and feed mills came into being during the heyday of Point Douglas. However, they began to decline as other settlements prospered in the river valleys.

Settlers organized to meet the educational and spiritual needs of the growing population. According to early historians, the first school in the township was known as the Valley School and was organized in 1850. The Reverend W. T. Boutwell is credited with preaching the first sermon at Point Douglas in 1844 and Reverend Wilcoxen is credited with organizing St. Mark’s Parish at Point Douglas in 1856 as well as St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in 1863.

The Township of Denmark was organized in 1858. According to historical accounts of Washington County, the Township name arose because of a preponderance of men named Mark. It was said that the community was a literal “den of Marks”. The first elected officials were James Shearer, Chairman; Thomas Wright and David Hone, Supervisors; and G.W. Campbell, Clerk. Further information about the history of Washington County may be found in Willard E. Rosenfelt’s publication “Washington: A History of the Minnesota County”, 1997.

Although growth and development in the Township has occurred during the last century and a half, the character of the Township remains predominantly rural. The Township does not have central wastewater treatment services or public water supplies. Property owners are responsible for individual sewage treatment systems and private wells. Most of the Township is zoned to maintain agricultural production, but each of the river corridors to the east and the south has historically been developed with low-density residential development.

Visit Washington County Historical Society-Denmark Township for more information.