“In spring of the year 1851, seventeen weary emigrants from Sweden stepped ashore at the Falls of the St Croix, looked around at the welcome sights, and trudged slowly up the hill... Following a crude map drawn by another countryman, the menfolk spent several days clearing a passable trail through the woods to Big Lake... Soon a tiny colony of log homes would stand in cleared spaces along the shore of the nearby lake.” (an excerpt from the introduction to Ki-Chi-Saga and the Town of Chisago Lake by Robert Burton Porter, 2011)
Nearly 1.3 million Swedes relocated to the United States between 1850 and 1930; many came to Minnesota and the Chisago Lake area. The joys, struggles, and hardships of those early homesteaders were captured in a four part epic series “The Emigrants” by Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg. Moberg visited the area in 1948. He traveled by bicycle throughout the community collecting the stories for his novels.
A statute of Karl Oskar and Kristina Nilsson, the main characters in Moberg’s books, sets in downtown Lindström. The first two novels were made into international films. The house “Nya Duvemåla” used in the movies is located in Ki Chi Saga County Park and is open by appointment to the public. So realistic are tales that visitors frequently cross the road by the park to Glader Cemetery – the oldest Swedish pioneer cemetery in the state – looking for their graves. U.S. Highway 8 bisects the township running from Taylors Falls on the east to Forest Lake on the west. In 1990, the Minnesota Legislature proclaimed this highway “The Moberg Trail”.
The Town of Chisago Lake was first organized in July 1855 and included all of T33 and T34 of Range 20W and T33 and T34 of Range 21W. It was re-established with slightly different boundaries by an act of the Minnesota Territorial Legislature in 1858– the same year that Minnesota became a state. Originally, the township included three settlements. Those villages later incorporated, separated from the township, and become the municipalities of Lindstrom in 1894, Center City in 1903, and Chisago City in 1906. Today, the township measures 52.6 square miles and is about double the size of most townships.
The township is named for the Big Lake which it surrounds; thus the Chisago Lake (NO “S”) name. The Big Lake has since been divided into five smaller lakes as a result of railroad and highway infrastructure – North and South Center, North and South Lindstrom, and Chisago Lake. There are more than 20 lakes located in the township and recreational opportunities abound on all of them. The largest of the lakes are the five that previously formed Big Lake plus Sunrise Lake, Kroon Lake, Linn Lake and Green Lake. Most of the lakes have public landings and adequate vehicle and trailer parking.
The town is governed by a Board of three Supervisors who are elected on a rotating year basis. The election is held in each year in March usually just before the Annual Town meeting. The Board meets monthly on the third Tuesday of each month. The first elected Board of Supervisors was Ephriam Ingalls, Daniel Lindstrom and Frank Mobeck in 1858. The current supervisors are Wayne Houle, Dave Reed, and Sherry Stirling.
The US Census in 2010 counted 4,656 residents and the state estimated the population at 4,631 in 2015.