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Thief River Falls, also called Thief River or TRF, is a city in Pennington County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 8,573 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Pennington County.

U.S. Route 59 and Minnesota State Highways 1 and 32 are three of the main arterial routes in the city.

The town is the home of snowmobile manufacturer Arctic Cat. South of Thief River Falls is one of the area's few Native American casinos, 7 Clans Casino, which also contains a hotel and indoor water park. Thief River Falls is home to the electronic parts distributor Digi-Key, one of the largest employers in the area, and was the birthplace of the vaunted Steiger Tractor, produced from 1958 to the late 1980s.

 

History

Thief River Falls takes its name from a geographic feature, the falls of the Red Lake River at its confluence with the Thief River. The name of the river is a loose translation of the Ojibwe phrase, Gimood-akiwi ziibi, literally, the "Stolen-land river" or "Thieving Land river," which originated when a band of Dakota Indians occupied a secret encampment along the river, hence "stealing" the land, before being discovered and routed by the neighboring Ojibwe. In the Treaty of Old Crossing of 1863, the Moose Dung's Indian Reservation was established on the west bank of the Thief River, at its confluence with Red Lake River. This Indian Reservation was dissolved in 1904 and their population incorporated as part of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa.

Thief River Falls marked the limit of navigation on the Red Lake River. The eponymous town site was established in 1887 and later incorporated as a city in 1896. Thief River Falls first developed as a lumber milling town. It is located in a major agriculture area because of the rich soil left by ancient, Glacial Lake Agassiz. The Great Northern and the Soo Line railroads brought prosperity when Thief River Falls became a center for shipping wheat.

The City Hall (Depot) has historic photographic panels that can be viewed by the public Monday - Friday. For more information or current hours of operation, go to www.citytrf.net

 

Education

Thief River Falls is home to a public school district operating a high school (Lincoln High School), middle school (Franklin Middle School), and elementary school (Challenger Elementary School). Benefactor Ralph Engelstad, who was raised in Thief River Falls, built an $11.5 million hockey arena for the high school hockey team. The arena is called Ralph Engelstad Arena, the same name as the $100 million hockey arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Thief River Falls is also home to Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC), which also has a campus in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. The college has experienced steady growth in enrollment in the past decade.

 

Healthcare

Sanford Thief River Falls Medical Center is a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) with 25 beds; has non-governmental, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) status; and is the area's community hospital. The clinical services are also under the same roof as the hospital for convenience for patients.

Sanford Health Thief River Falls offers medical services that include emergency services 24/7, laboratory, radiology, surgery, over 30 specialties, rehab, respiratory therapy, pharmacy, eye center and optical.

The downtown location houses inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services, with a 10-bed inpatient unit. The behavioral health group also encompasses a free-standing 15-bed treatment center to help adults with behavioral health treatment and a free-standing 14-bed residential behavioral health treatment center for children.

It is staffed by over 600 employees, making it one of the largest employers in the area. It is governed by an eight-member board of directors.

 

Media

The local newspaper is the weekly Thief River Falls Times. The daily newspapers Grand Forks Herald andMinneapolis Star Tribune are also available. Most local television stations that can be received in TRF are based in Grand Forks or Fargo. Thief River Falls is home to several radio stations, and several radio stations fromGrand Forks, North Dakota can also be received. KBRR-TV 10 is licensed to Thief River Falls but the signal originates from Fargo, North Dakota.

Local radio stations

Licensed to Thief River Falls:

Signals that reach Thief River Falls:

 

Industry

Thief River Falls (and surrounding region) has been home to major industry including snowmobiles, farm machinery, and global electronics distribution.

Rivers and Rails

Thief River Falls is situated on the junction of two rivers, Red Lake River from the east, southeast and the Thief River from the north. The proximity to forests and shipping made Thief River Falls ideal for logging. In the late 19th century the Great Northern Railway was built, and in 1904, the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railway (“Soo Line”) passed through on its route from Saint Paul to Winnipeg. Branches were later built to Drake, North Dakota and Duluth, Minnesota. The Minnesota Northwestern Electric Railway, an electric powered passenger train, ran from Thief River Falls to Goodridge between 1914 and 1940.

Today, the river and rails still power the local economy with tourism and shipping. Canadian Pacific Railway and Minnesota Northern Railroad now occupy tracks through town. To this day, Soo Line engine 1024 rests outside city hall (formerly the Soo Line Depot).

On Tuesday, August 21, 2007, the Empress Express (Canadian Pacific 2816) spent the night in front of the historic Soo Line depot in Thief River Falls. Thief River Falls Radio reported that the classic steam engine was built in 1930, and the 45 ticketed passengers were to leave for Glenwood, Minnesota on Wednesday morning.

Snowmobiles

Arctic Cat, Inc. can trace its roots to former Polaris Industries founder Edgar Hetteen who left Polaris in 1960 and started Polar Manufacturing in Thief River Falls. Shortly after changing name to Arctic Enterprises, the new company produced snowmobiles. Arctic Cat purchased several boat manufacturers including Spirit Marine which produced the first Wetbike in 1978. A few snowless winters in the early 1980s bankrupted the 20-year-old company, which closed their facilities by 1982. In 1984, Arctic Cat was reborn under a new company name, Arctco, which was changed to Arctic Cat in 1996.

Digi-Key Electronics

Digi-Key is a privately held global electronics distributor based in Thief River Falls. The company started in 1972 with Dr. Ronald A. Stordahl's interest in ham radio, which led him to assemble and sell digital electronic keyer kits for sending radiotelegraph code for ham radio operators. This device was called the Digi-Key.[11] Digi-Key has distributed parts literally "around the world", as parts from Digi-Key now orbit Earth in satellites.

Tractors

Steiger Tractors were invented by Douglas and Maurice Steiger from Thief River Falls during the 1950s. The brothers built their first tractor the winter of 1957-58 after seeing a need to cover their ground more efficiently. After designing and building the tractors on their farm for six years, the brothers opened a production facility in Fargo, North Dakota. A new plant built in 1974 could produce a new tractor every 18 minutes. Steiger produced many models of tractor with the main feature being the horsepower. Ford chose Steiger to manufacture the Ford tractors of the late 1970s and early 80s. As the farm economy slumped in the late 80s, Steiger had trouble selling tractors. Steiger filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1986, and was soon after sold to Tenneco, parent company of J. I. Case. Case IH continued to produce and sell Steiger tractors while introducing its own lines of 4wd tractors. Case still produces Steiger tractors out of the Fargo, North Dakota facility.[12]

 

Notable Residents

 

Information above courtesy of the Thief River Falls wiki