The Origins

History in the Pines emblem white v2

The origins of Bemidji State University

Resting quietly beneath campus is a foundation of history-shaping groundwork. More than 100 years ago, Bemidjians fought diligently for the privilege of establishing a school in our town.

The fight for a school

Today, Bemidji State University is taken for granted. Been here forever, or so it seems. Today, most of the Bemidji townspeople have long forgotten or never even heard about.. well… “Cass Lake State University.”(?) Ahhhh, therein lies a most important tale of “What Might Have Been…”


Art Lee: When just one (unexpected) non-signature would enrich Bemidji

Bemidji won the new normal school in 1913, but not before a wild fight with many twists, turns, tensions and triumphs.

Signed, sealed, delivered

Several century-old documents detail how Bemidji State University first came to be. Click on an image to expand it.

Bemidji Pioneer: Bemidji wins normal school (July 15, 1913)
Bemidji wins memo (July 18, 1913)
History of establishment (1910s)

The triumphant scene of victory

Bemidji, MN – July 15, 1913

When news reached the streets of Bemidji that the town had won the vote, the citizens unleashed the wildest celebration in its history. The Bemidji Daily Pioneer celebrated with the headline “EXTRA!! Bemidji Wins the Sixth Normal School by Unanimous Vote” and recounted the scene:

“As the news reached Bemidji, the town almost went wild. The fire whistle was blown and both whistles of the lumber company mills were set off and continued to blow for almost an hour. Automobiles paraded through the streets tooting their horns, and shouts of joy from boys and men were heard everywhere. The fire bell was clanging and together with the firecrackers and other explosives, Bemidji celebrated one the of the greatest events of its history. A procession of automobiles loaded with enthusiasts was quickly formed and crowded the streets of the city, taking entire possession of every available thoroughfare. To say that all acted like a lot of ‘crazy hoodlums’ is putting it mildly. Boys formed in line with tin pans and sticks and all in all the town presented one of the wildest scenes ever known in its history.”

History comes to life

Time travel back to Bemidji State's journey across the 20th century through BSU's 1994 documentary "University in the Pines."