Gnesen Township was founded in 1850 by a group of Polish settlers. Because the Polish people felt the oppression of the Prussians, they wanted to leave Poland and come to America. They arrived in what is now known as Gnesen Township to take up a homestead. The name Gnesen came from a town in Poland-Gnesena, which means “the nesting place”.
Some of the early settlers in Gnesen Township were Martin Lepak, Frank Trader, Martin Kuseniarek, John Novak, Johan Grames, Mr. LaBud and Mr. Kaminsky.
The towns of Herman, Rice Lake and Gnesen were organized with the assistance of George Bergman, the auditor of St. Louis County. Elected officials of the Town of Gnesen were: Martin Kuseniarek as Chairman; Henry Musolf as Clerk and Martin Lepak as assessor. Town meetings were held first in the Musolf home and later at Lepak’s home. The original town hall structure was built in 1894 and the current structure was built in 1974.
The Polish settlers of Gnesen were filled with joy when the residents of Rice Lake were able to cut a road through their township, now called the Rice Lake Road, all the way to the south line of Gnesen Township. The Lepak home also housed the area’s first rural Post Office. The delivery of mail came from Fond du Lac to Gnesen to the Range. In 1969 Dominic Lepak donated the Post Office desk to the Duluth Historical Society.
Approximately 1500 people call Gnesen their home. Gnesen is located 12 miles north of Duluth, Minnesota and is best known for the number of lakes within the township limits. Of these lakes, Island Lake, is the largest covering more than 8600 acres and running more than 9 miles in length. Other lakes include Schultz, Sunshine, Jacob’s, and Horseshoe. Gnesen is a unique township in that it is a double section township. Gnesen covers approximately 72 square miles of wooded country. However, in addition to the numerous trees, many farms and lakes can be found in the township.