Though Native Americans had been here for centuries, the first european visitors to this region began in 1831. Pilander Prescott, a trader stopping at Bear Lake, was the first visitor to write about what he considered the most splendid resource on his prairie travels.
In 1833, the American Fur Company established a trading post on the east edge of Bear Lake. One of the best known traders during the post’s regime was Joseph Laframboise. Painter George Catlin was a guest of Laframboise, staying with the trader as he traveled to visit the Pipestone Quarries. Catlin is commonly noted as the first white visitor to this national monument.
In 1838, Nicollet and Lt. John Fremont came west with a government expedition. These men were on an expedition to explore the Minnesota River and Missouri River. Their party spent three days with LaFramboise. In his writings, Nicollet mentions an area called “Lost Timber,” which is a hidden wooded area near Chandler. The Sioux had named this area, “Tchan-na tambe,” which can be translated to “hidden woods.”
The first settler to the Leeds area was Hans Simonson, who arrived in June 1872. He was followed by Christian Christiansen, Gilber Johnson, and Theodore Knutson. Soon after, the villages began to form: Avoca, Iona, Currie, Fulda, Hadley, Lake Wilson, and Chandler, to name a few.