A Brief History of Ogema Township
Ogema Township consists of approximately 48 square miles and is located within the southeast corner of Pine County. The township was first organized on August 16, 1915 when it was set off from Clover Township. Original members of the town board included, Martin Andersen, Chairman; Sheridan Greig and Gust Mahlen, Supervisors; Harry Cook, Clerk; H.D. Black, Treasurer; Chris Hansen, Constable; and Jim Jordan Justice of the Peace. (Cordes, 1989) Ogema is an Ojibwe word that means Chief or other important person. The earliest inhabitants of the township were the Ojibwe with villages along the St Croix River as early as 1700. The Lake Lena Ojibwe regard themselves as a distinct individual band made up of Minnesota/Wisconsin Ojibwe. In 1934 the Indian Reorganization Act placed them under jurisdiction of the Mille Lacs Reservation for administrative reasons. (Cordes, 1989)
Logging began in the 1830s bringing the first white men to the area. Property abstracts indicate that the railroads, followed later by logging companies, owned the lands within Ogema Township through the latter part of the 1800s. Land was traded between the logging companies much like money in those days. Intense logging of the pine resource resulted in large wildfires, often lit by farmers clearing land to plant crops. (Beaufeaux, 2007) Without commercial fertilizers, the soils were soon depleted and the State started to buy out the farm homesteaders. Early plat books indicate that Ogema was divided into many, small, private ownerships, which have now been incorporated into St Croix Park and St Croix State Forest ownership. Beginning in the 1930s, a CCC camp was established and helped to create the St. Croix State Park. Currently County, State and Federal lands comprise approximately 54 percent of the Township, with tribal lands at approximately 9 percent, leaving private ownership at approximately 37 percent.
Many of the first white settlers came from other parts of Minnesota between 1890 and 1905. The first farm crops were potatoes, corn and oats. Other non-farming income came from clamming on the St Croix and selling shells and pearls. (Cordes, 1989) The Soo Line RR was built through the township in 1911 and 1912 with a bridge spanning the St Croix River in Sect.21 R16. Another rail line, the Arrow Line of the proposed Twin City and Lake Superior Railroad was planned to run through the township with a bridge that would have crossed the St Croix at the site of the present day State Highway 48. One of the first roads was the one dividing R17 in half. Local people built the road on contract at the rate of one to two miles per year. (Cordes, 1989)
There was a ferry that operated on the St Croix River. The ferry was discontinued in 1918 when the highway bridge was built. (Cordes, 1989)
Various records show that there were four rural schools that existed in the township. The Twin Lakes or Lake Lena School was located in section 10, R17 in 1910. The Gibbon School was an early one in section 19, R17. It was torn down in the 1960s. The Ogema or Bangs Brook School was established in section 21, R17 in 1920. Some records show that this building was built in 1914. The Crooked Creek School was established in 1927 in section 7, R17. It was closed in 1947. (Cordes, 1989)
Due to the natural attractions within the Township and people's willingness to commute, the population of Ogema is rapidly growing, with a 32 percent increase between the 1990 and 2000 censuses. In addition, there is a significant demand for absentee land ownership, which has been driving up land values and cabin development.