All Aboard ............
The historical origins of Britt, Minnesota started in earnest in 1901 at what was then called “Lake Junction”; which was at that time the northernmost point of the railroad built from Virginia, MN toward Rainy Lake by the “Duluth, Virginia and Rainy Lake Railway. “ Lake Junction” was located where today St. Louis County Highway 68 crosses the railroad tracks of the current Canadian National Railway. From Lake Junction the “Sand Lake Line” was constructed in a westerly direction to the Sand Lake area in 1901-02, and eventually further west to the Sturgeon Lake area for the purpose of moving timber to the mill in Virginia. It is along and on both sides of the “Sand Lake Line” that the community of Britt developed.
Preservation of the historical origins and development of the Britt community started in earnest on March 14, 2008 with the creation of the BRITT COMMUNITY HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
The Britt Community Historical Society, now still in its infancy, will continue this effort of recording and updating the local history providing records of it for the future generations. It will only be accomplished by the members of the community, past, present, and future, in an effort to do so.
Did you know...
that in 1940’s and 50’s mailing a letter to someone in Britt it could have gone to....
Britt is a community in St. Louis County, Minnesota, USA
Britt is a station of the DWP railway, eight miles north of Virginia.
The community is located north of the city of Virginia.
U.S. Highway 53 is nearby.
The original logging/railroad community of Britt is now located within Sandy Township and areas to the west of Sandy Township in all of TWP 60-80, and parts of Angora, Alango, Great Scott, and TWP 61-17 in the Superior National Forest.
Britt is a community in the Canadian province of Ontario, located in the unincorporated township of Wallbridge in the Parry Sound District.
The community is located on the north shore of the Magnetawan River at Byng Inlet, approximately 5 kilometeres west of Highway 69, at the end of Secondary Highway 526.
Britt is a city in Hancock County. The community is believed named for a railroad engineer or brakeman. The latitude of Britt is 43.097N. The longitude is -93.801W. Elevation is 1,227 feet.
In looking to United States Postal History the first location was listed “Britt Rural Station”, however, there was not a origin date included, perhaps it was a location description. Prior to the Post Office name, the community was called either “Lake Junction or Sand Lake Junction,” depending on the document where it is found. Those names remained until 1919 when there appeared confusion about the name with another Post Office and it was changed by the U.S. Postal Service to “Brittmount” until 1950 when changed to the present, Britt.
The following is a transcribed 10 June 1919 article from the Cook Journal: “Britt Gets A Post Office
The Journal is informed that Britt will have a post office which will be instituted about July 1st, with F, Rowbottem as postmaster. This will be a great convenience to the settlers who are now compelled to go to Virginia for their mail.”
The community name of “Brittmount” never quite caught on with any popularity even though we were requested to use it for our mail in the mid 1940s. With the advent of zip codes the Post Office name remained Britt. Actually it was the town of Britt, Iowa that was sometimes stamped on our misdirected letters.
Present day Britt 55710 includes all of TWP 60 -18, parts of Angora, Alango, Great Scott, 60-19, 59-18, Sandy and 61-17 Townships. The population (2000 census) is 1,498; USPS residential deliveries are 607; USPS business deliveries are 11.
Volunteer Fire Department
There are 2 volunteer fire departments located in Britt, the Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department on Highway 65 and the Pike Sandy Britt Region Fire Department on County Road 68.
Origins of Britt, Minnesota
In the early days Britt was known as “Lake Junction” because of its location near the railroad junction at Sand Lake. It became Britt in 1911, the name coming from the then famous prizefighter, Jimmie Britt, whom one of the town supervisors admired, according to John Connery, the DWP dispatcher.
The History of the Lake Junction, Britt Rural Station, Brittmount or Britt logging community perhaps could not be learned without looking to railroad history. At it’s infancy in the turn of the century, Lake Junction was the northernmost terminus of the Duluth Virginia & Rainy Lake Railway from Virginia prior to September of 1902, when it was then extended to Idington.
Wirt H. Cook and William O’Brien, who owned sizable timber holdings in the Sand Lake area about 20 miles northwest of Virginia formed the Minnesota Land & Construction Company to conduct their logging and railroad-building operations and built a new mill in Virginia at Silver Lake (on the site of the burned down Moon and Kerr mill).
On August 15, 1901 the two lumbermen chartered the Duluth, Virginia & Rainy lake Railway to move their timber from the woods into Virginia. The Duluth, Virginia & Rainy Lake main line extended to Lake Junction (later renamed Britt), ten miles north of Virginia, from which point
01 January 1902, a camp was constructed for the railroad workers near where a creamery was later built as the first store near what is now Cook. By Sept 1, 1902 the railroad was constructed far as Idington.
January 1, 1904: First railroad train caboose arrived in Cook. The train turned around just north of the Little Fork River and headed back to Virginia.
January 13, 1904: Gust Buboltz arrived in Cook with the first passengers on the train. Cook, was then known as “Ashawa”. In 1904 railroad construction began north of the Little Fork River in Ashawa through the Engdall farm.
On May 1, 1905, to facilitate acquisition of additional timber holdings and extension of the railroad toward the Canadian border, the Virginia & Rainy Lake Company was incorporated with capitalization of $2,000,000 as a holding company for the stock of the railway construction and associated logging activities. That same year* the railroad reached Ashawa, another 18 miles nearer Canada.
Canadian railroad builders Mackenzie and Mann had acquired the Minnesota & Manitoba Railroad, which dipped south of Lake of the Woods through Minnesota providing the Canadian Northern with a through line between Winnipeg and the Canadian Lakehead. Canadian Northern board of directors were keeping careful track of the progress on the logging railroad that was working its way north to the Canadian border.
Before the end of 1905 Mackenzie, Mann and company acquired Cook and O’Brien’s interest in the Duluth, Virginia & Rainy Lake, and control of the road passed to Montreal. The name was changed to the Duluth, Rainy Lake & Winnipeg at that time. They moved quickly to close the 66 mile gap between Ft. Francis, Ontario and Cook, by 1907 the rails had reached Glendale and the next year the remaining 49 miles to Ranier, opposite Ft. Francis on the Rainy River. In April of 1908 the first passenger train crossed the Rainy River Bridge establishing through service between Virginia and Ft. Francis. The railroad later became the Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific.
By 1909 Virginia & Rainy Lake motive power consisted of three small Moguls, five Consolidations, and five Shays. In addition the company owned 200 Russell logging cars and 3 steam jammers for loading. It acquired from the Canadian Northern, enough steel to build railroads into its vast holdings, connecting at the main line of the Duluth, Rainy Lake & Winnipeg at Britt, Cusson, Arbutus, and Kinmount. The length of the logging lines totaled about 150 miles at any given time, although the lines themselves varied from year to year.
Virginia Rainy Lake Logging Railroad
The Sand Lake line was eventually constructed to Sturgeon Lake, some 20 miles west. By 1903 six large Mogul-type locomotives acquired from the Dickson Manufacturing Company for road service and two small Porter Moguls for woods work made up the motive power roster.”
From 1905 to 1911 the main Virginia & Rainy Lake headquarters operations north of Virginia were located west of Sand Lake at Camp 35 near Clear Lake. In 1912 Virginia & Rainy Lake headquarters was moved from Sand Lake to Cusson 30 miles north of Virginia.
The Virginia and Rainy Lake camp buildings at Sand Lake were torn down in 1
914 and the rails were removed from the tracks. (TWP 60 R 18)
The present Britt Bypass (old Highway 53) is located on that railroad bed from the present junction of Comfort Point Road to the County Road 68 junction. It appears that Britt was not an organized town, but may have had a town supervisor, who was, more than likely, an employee of the V&RL Railway or the Minnesota Land & Construction Company, that indeed named our community Britt.
Britt Community Historical Society--BCHS, P.O. Box 154, Virginia, MN 55792---Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Site Maintained by Volunteers of the BCHS