Veterans Memorial at Military Park
By Missy Hermes
Education Coordinator for Otter Tail County Historical Society
[This story can be found on page 43 of the 2017 Otter Tail Lakes Country Destination Guide.]
On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, the entire town of Henning turns out to turn red, white and blue. Runners and walkers, family and friends dress in their best all-American costumes or all white attire. It’s time for the annual Patriotic Color Splash 5K Fun Run/Walk. At several stages along the route of the 5K folks throw handfuls of colored cornstarch on the participants in a joyful burst of patriotic fervor.
This community event, now in its 4th year, begins and finishes at the new Henning Military Park. Money raised from the 5K has helped fund improvements to the park like the lighted flag display honoring all branches of the military. They have also donated thousands of dollars to the Wounded Warrior Project. Event organizers all have family members currently serving in the military.
Open year round, the Military Park in Henning has picnic tables and benches, providing an excellent stop-off for visitors who are biking, motorcycling or taking a Otter Tail Scenic Byway side trip. A walk along the Military Park pathway is also a look into Henning’s military history. Paving stones along the trail celebrate generations of residents that served in the military. The care and planning that went into the Military Park is evidence of the history and patriotism of the community.
When the first homesteaders and pioneers arrived to plat the town and plow the fields, the area around Henning had a decidedly tranquil name – Peace Prairie, named for the first resident. Mr. Peace recognized the “abundance of water, wood, prairie and rich soil” and promoted the area for settlement.
By 1881, the Northern Pacific Railroad had reached this town that sits on the Continental Divide. A section foreman for the railroad promised that if town leaders named the little village after him, he would donate a bell for the first church. Thus the name of Henning was chosen.
After the Civil War, veterans and immigrants settled in Henning Township, taking advantage of the Homestead Act. Their descendants continue to proudly serve their country, representing all branches of the military. A visit to Henning should include a visit to the Military Park.
Across the street from the Henning Military Park, visitors can also see Trinity Lutheran Church, which recently received a Minnesota Historical Society Grant to place it on the National Register of Historic Places.