The City of Foley is named after the Foley brothers, lumber barons
who settled in
Benton County. The four brothers came from Lanark, in eastern
Ontario, where their father, John., an Irish immigrant, had settled
a century and a quarter earlier, in the second administration of
Andrew Jackson"the turbulent 1830's."
The first brother to come to Minnesota was Michael, who arrived
in 1870 and spent most of his time in Benton County. Michael would
soon see the awesome economic possibilities in Minnesota, and was
catapulted into the lumber industry through getting to know James
J. Hill, "the empire builder."
After a few years, Michael returned to Lanark to persuade his brothers,
Thomas, Timothy and John, to join him in seeking their fortune in
the Land of Sky-Tinted Water. Immediately the four brothers formed,
without a word in writing, a partnership which would last for a
lifetime. They bought 80 acres of land in Gilman township, land
with fine pine and oak trees, and they set up a sawmill and sold
lumber to the railroad for ties, bridges, and depots. Then they
extended their industry to grocery stores and bakeries located near
railroad depots. They speculated, rightly, that the railroad would
go from St. Cloud to Hinckley, making it easier for them to ship
out their lumber.
Msgr. Vincent Yzermans writes about the size of Foley when the
"By the time the Great Northern Railroad opened its line through
this area in 1882
the future town site already had a saw mill, an office and general
store, a blacksmith shop and several barns to house the many horses
needed for a successful logging operation. Several years later
the [Foley] brothers opened a two-story hotel. Within a few years
the site came to be known as the Foley settlement."
In 1898, the Foley brothers filed the original plat of the village,
for business was mushrooming. In 1900 such enterprises as a bank,
a newspaper, a drugstore, a livery stable, a meat market, a machinery
dealer, and cafes and saloons lined the streets. Incessant efforts
were made to have the village of Foley grow.
One of the next major moves was to have the Benton County offices
moved from Sauk Rapids to Foley. The citizens of Foley spread propaganda
for the cause far and wide throughout the county, and a committee
circulated a petition on March 4, 1901, to be presented to the county
commissioners. Foley's citizens pledged $12,000 to build a new court
The Sauk Rapids citizenry was, naturally, opposed, and spread the
rumor that the pledges were not worth a Continental. Immediately
John Foley deposited $12,500 in the Foley Bank to cover the pledges
and other costs of the new courthouse. The election was held in
June, and the editor of the Foley Independent gleefully reported
the results. There were 788 votes for keeping the county seat at
Sauk Rapids; 1,284 for moving it to Foley. Mayhew Lake voted 106
to 54 in favor of Foley.