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Mountain Lake, Minnesota

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Mountain Lake, Minnesota

Mountain Lake, Minnesota
Motto: "Home On The Prairie"
Location of Mountain Lake, Minnesota
Location of Mountain Lake, Minnesota
Country United States
State Minnesota
County Cottonwood
 • Type Mayor – Council
 • Mayor Mike Nelson
 • Total 1.55 sq mi (4.01 km2)
 • Land 1.53 sq mi (3.96 km2)
 • Water 0.02 sq mi (0.05 km2)
Elevation 1,302 ft (397 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 2,104
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 2,082
 • Density 1,375.2/sq mi (531.0/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 56159
Area code(s) 507
FIPS code 27-44566[4]
GNIS feature ID 0648194[5]

Mountain Lake is a city in Cottonwood County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 2,104 at the 2010 census.[6]

Mountain Lake was initially composed mostly of the 1,800 Low German (or more specifically, Plautdietsch) speaking Mennonites from Russia who settled there between 1873 and 1880. The city has gradually become more diverse, with the most recent immigrant groups being Lao, Hispanic, and Hmong people.


  • History 1
    • Original settlement 1.1
    • Mennonite immigration 1.2
  • Geography 2
  • Demographics 3
    • 2010 census 3.1
    • 2000 census 3.2
  • Politics 4
  • Sports 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The city of Mountain Lake was formally platted on May 25, 1872.[7] One source indicates that it has had a post office in operation since 1871.[8]

Original settlement

The name "Mountain Lake" is usually attributed to early settler, William Mason. The city’s official website recalls, “the first white settler to the area, William Mason, found a shallow 900-acre lake with three islands. The two smaller islands just broke the water's surface. The third much larger, higher island looked to Mason like a mountain rising from the lake. He named the lake Mountain Lake and the island Mountain Island.” The story continues that in 1871 the Sioux City and St. Paul Railroad had selected "Midway" as the name of the village since it was located midway between Saint Paul, Minnesota and Sioux City, Iowa. However, Mason insisted that the village being platted be named "Mountain Lake".[9]

Demand for more tillable farmland and construction advances led to the draining of the original lake in 1905-06, which was located in Mountain Lake township, southeast of town. However, in 1937-38 a dam, bridge, and outlet were constructed by the Works Progress Administration at a new site in Midway township to create a new Mountain Lake. This lake, located on the north edge of town, also has an island.[9][10]

The large island of the original lake – now just a hill amidst the surrounding cornfields – became a county park which has since 1973 been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[11] Archeological evidence suggests that early settler William Mason was not the first to appreciate the unique qualities of the original lake's island. Artifacts unearthed in a 1976 dig indicated evidence of inhabitation as early as 500 years before Christ, thus making this unique location the oldest human habitation yet to be discovered in the state of Minnesota.[12][13]

Mennonite immigration

Recent Mennonite immigrants from Ukraine (at the time, Ukraine was part of Russia) began to arrive in Mountain Lake in 1873, having been recruited by William Seeger, a member of the Minnesota State Board of Immigration. Seeger had specifically targeted Mennonites, “because they were believed to be hard workers of good character.” [14]

Because Mountain Lake was already an established community and its surrounding farmland largely surveyed, the Mennonites could not arrange themselves in the traditional communal villages they had been accustomed to in their Ukrainian colonies. This forced them to adapt to American-style, single family farms and to live amongst their non-Mennonite neighbors. As settlement continued, the Mennonites of Mountain Lake had soon established a successful and cohesive community, “based primarily on agriculture and local commerce.” [14] For many decades thereafter, they retained the speaking of Plautdietsch, the Mennonite variation of Low German.[14]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.55 square miles (4.01 km2), of which, 1.53 square miles (3.96 km2) is land and 0.02 square miles (0.05 km2) is water.[1]

Minnesota State Highway 60 serves as a main route around the city, running generally east to west. Secondarily, County Road 1 runs north and south through town.


2010 census

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 2,104 people, 829 households, and 526 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,375.2 inhabitants per square mile (531.0/km2). There were 923 housing units at an average density of 603.3 per square mile (232.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 82.8% White, 0.8% African American, 0.2% Native American, 10.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 3.9% from other races, and 1.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.7% of the population.

There were 829 households of which 31.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.9% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 36.6% were non-families. 34.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.16.

The median age in the city was 39.3 years. 27.6% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 20.6% were from 25 to 44; 23.1% were from 45 to 64; and 20.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.7% male and 51.3% female.

2000 census

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 2,082 people, 817 households, and 531 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,540.3 people per square mile (595.5/km²). There were 896 housing units at an average density of 662.9 per square mile (256.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.29% White, 0.58% African American, 0.48% Native American, 6.82% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 4.27% from other races, and 3.46% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.76% of the population.

There were 817 households out of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.0% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.0% were non-families. 32.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 20.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 3.07.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.5% under the age of 18, 7.4% from 18 to 24, 22.2% from 25 to 44, 16.5% from 45 to 64, and 27.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 92.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,146, and the median income for a family was $36,652. Males had a median income of $30,291 versus $17,917 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,845. About 8.5% of families and 13.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.2% of those under age 18 and 5.4% of those age 65 or over.


Mountain Lake is located in Minnesota's 1st congressional district, represented by Mankato educator Tim Walz, a Democrat. At the state level, Mountain Lake is located in Senate District 22, represented by Republican Doug Magnus, and in House District 22B, represented by Republican Rod Hamilton.

Gilbert Esau, one of southern Minnesota's longest-serving legislators in state history, represented Mountain Lake in the Minnesota House for all but 4 of the years between 1962 and 1982.[16]



Mountain Lake’s baseball team (playing as Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin) took third place overall in the Minnesota State High School League baseball tournament in 1993. They shared their third place honors with Sebeka, due to a rain cancellation which precluded the actual playing of the 3rd/4th place game.[17]

Probably Mountain Lake's most decorated baseball player, Grant Wall, appears numerous times in high school and collegiate record books. Over his Minnesota state high school career (2002 - 2005), he is listed as: 6th overall in career total bases with 219, 8th overall in career runs scored with 122, 8th overall in career on base (H, W, HBP) with 206, and is tied for 4th place in single season doubles, at 15, in 2004.[18] Wall went on to play collegiate baseball (NAIA D2) for Northwestern College (Iowa), where he currently holds the overall record (tie) in single season doubles, at 19 during the 2007 season.[19] While there, Wall was a two-time Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) 1st Team All-Conference shortstop (2007 and 2008) and was named the GPAC conference player of the year in 2007.[20]


The Mountain Lake boys' basketball program has a rich history within Minnesota state high school basketball, making a total of 15 state tournament appearances. They participated in the state’s first-ever basketball tournament, a 13-team, state-wide invitational in 1913, hosted at Carleton College in Northfield. Under coach Henry Griebenow, Mountain Lake narrowly lost to Fosston by a 29 - 27 score in the state's inaugural championship game. They were also state runners-up in 1915 and 1917.[21] [22]

Then in 1939, Mountain Lake won the state title in single class competition against Minneapolis Marshall, by a score of 37 – 31 under Coach Ray Bassett.[23] [24]

Minnesota High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame basketball and football coach, Burt A. Munson, guided Mountain Lake boys' basketball teams to four (1946, 1948, 1951, and 1952) state tournament appearances.[25][26] Mountain Lake’s Burt Munson Field is named in his honor.

Their most recent state tournament appearance in 2013 (playing as Mountain Lake Area) was under Head Coach Shawn Naas, assisted by coaches Nate Brinkman, Larry Hempeck, Paul Metcalf, and Steve Thiessen. Their 2012-13 season record was 24 wins and 6 losses.[27][28]

On January 10, 2014, Coach Naas achieved his 300th career coaching victory.[29]

In total, Mountain Lake has made boys’ state basketball tournament appearances in: 1913 (runner-up), 1914, 1915 (runner-up), 1917 (runner-up), 1922, 1933, 1939 (champion), 1940, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1952, 2012 (as "MLBO"), and 2013 (as "Mountain Lake Area).[30] Those 15 appearances put them at 11th overall in total state tournament appearances. The ten teams that have made more tournament appearances include Austin(29), Bemidji(29), Red Wing(24), Moorhead(23), Hopkins(20), Crosby-Ironton(20), Chisholm(19), DeLaSalle(19), Mpls. North(19), and Mankato(17) - all of which are larger schools.[31]

In March 1952, Mountain Lake's boys basketball team played against Hopkins High School in the Minnesota State Basketball Tournament in front of 18,979 people, the largest crowd to ever see a high school basketball game anywhere in the United States at that time.


The Mountain Lake boys team has qualified for the class ‘A’ state cross country meet a total of 4 times: 1976 (4th place), 1978 (8th), and 1979 (6th) under coach Paul Metcalf. Then in 1991 they made another team appearance, as Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin, where they placed 8th overall.[32]


The Mountain Lake girls cross country team qualified to participate in the state class ‘A’ meet a total of 9 times - including 7 consecutive state tournament appearances in the years 1979 through 1985. They qualified for state competition in the years 1979 (9th place), 1980 (5th), 1981 (3rd), 1982 (8th), 1983 (runner-up), 1984 (7th), and 1985 (10th) under head coach Paul Metcalf. It would be 22 years after that streak ended before they again qualified for the state tournament – in both 2006 (9th place) and 2009 (3rd) - under the Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin banner.[33]


Mountain Lake has made a total of six Minnesota state high school football tournament appearances, starting in 1980, when they were the state Class 'C' runner-ups. They lost that year in the championship game to Bird Island/Lake Lillian by a 20-7 score. Playing under the banner of Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin, they made state appearances in 1991, 2002, and 2003. In 2002, they achieved the state runner-up status (in class 'A') for the second time with a 14-7 loss to Rushford-Peterson. They made two additional state tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013, playing as Mountain Lake Area.[34]


Mountain Lake’s golf standout Bruce Lindstrom made consecutive individual state tournament appearances in 1975 and 1976.

Aaron Walzak made back-to-back class ‘A’ state individual tournament appearances in 2014 (28th place) and 2015 (13th place).[35][36]


Playing as Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin, the Mountain Lake girls' fast-pitch team earned their first-ever berth in the state high school softball tournament in 2001.[37]


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External links

  • City of Mountain Lake
  • Mountain Lake Public Schools
  • Mountain Lake Christian School
  • newspaper siteThe Observer / Advocate
  • History of Mountain Lake by John P. Jungas (circa 1970)
  • "Mennonites of Mountain Lake" by the Minnesota Historical Society
  • "A History of the Origin of the Place Names Connected with the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railways" by Chicago and North Western Railway Company p. 184
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