Sartell began as a small river town relying on lumber and a paper company for its existence. The present site of the City of Sartell was first known as "The Third Rapids", this name was given by the French fur traders because it was the third "rapids" they would encounter as they traveled north up the Mississippi River from St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis. One of the first settlers of the community was Joseph B. Sartell who arrived in 1854 who worked as a millwright at a local sawmill. In 1877 Joseph B. Sartell opened a flour mill on the Watab River, near the present day Watab Creek Park, and in 1884 he and his sons started the Sartell Brothers Lumber Company.
In 1905, a dam across the Mississippi near the "third rapids" was begun, and finished in 1907. Seven people were killed during the construction of this first dam. Also in 1905, construction began on the Watab Pulp and Paper Company. The paper mill was completed and began making paper in 1907. This was to become the St. Regis Paper Company in 1946 and finally Champion International in 1982. The paper mill has always been the city's largest employer.
The Incorporation and Naming of the Village
At this time residents decided it was time to incorporate. The "Village of Sartell" was incorporated in 1907. When the village was being incorporated several influential people thought the name of the town should be "Wengert" after one of the businessmen, another person was lobbying to name the town "Oberly" after himself. However, because of his many relatives and the fact he was a generous contributor to the community the village was named "Sartell" after Joseph B. Sartell. In fact from 1907 until 1973 there was a Sartell on nearly every City Council. The most prominent being Ripley B."Rip" Sartell who was mayor for 31 years.
Another of Sartell's largest employers is the DeZurik Valve Company founded in 1925 by Matt DeZurik, who started as an employee of the Watab Paper Company, but then started his own shop to make valves and other products. In fact, during World War II the DeZurik Company produced castings for tank tracks and valves for ships. Today, the company produces industrial valves for large plants, municipal applications, and valves for the paper industry.
The town continued to grow slowly and developed a number of businesses and a "downtown" on the east side of the Mississippi along US Highway #10. In the 1960's US Highway #10 was re-routed and greatly contributed to the demise of the downtown area. Then the construction of the new bridge over the Mississippi in the early 1980's replaced the remaining businesses. This and Sartell's nearby location to St. Cloud's major retail center account for Sartell not having a traditional "downtown".
Because residents wanted to educate their children locally, Independent School District #748, Sartell-St. Stephen, was created in 1969. Despite not having a downtown the city continued to grow and the pace of the growth started to pick up in the 1970's. From 1970 to the present, the city's population has grown from 700 to over 10,000. Sartell is known as a popular place to live and raise a family because of the fine school system, affordable and well-kept housing, proximity to work, active local organizations and churches, and yet maintains a small town atmosphere.
Source: "Sartell: 75 Years of Progress"
(For more information, visit the Sartell Historical Society)