In the mid to late 1800s, the Northern Pacific railroad platted towns along its tracks in order to draw more business to the railroad. The first town platted by the railroad, entering Otter Tail County from the east, was Bluffton. It was platted by A.M. Arling for the proprietor, C.M. Maltby in 1880 and recorded in March of that year. Charley Maltby also established a grist mill in the town, which accounted for its rapid growth. In the early 1870s, its population was larger than that of Wadena.
Next up the line was Topelius, also spelled Dopelius. It was located about four miles east of New York Mills and had a depot that was open day and night. Further on was Boardman, the first village platted in Newton Township. It was located on the Northern Pacific railroad in Section 7 and its plat recorded in 1880. Being that New York Mills was laid out one-half mile from Boardman, it was eventually enveloped and lost its identity and became a part of New York Mills, which was platted in 1883.
New York Mills had been named by Dr. Van Aerman and his two partners, Olcot P. Boardman and George L. Cornwell, who built their sawmill in Section 8, the present town site. The first car lot shipment of material hauled by the railroad was supplies for their saw mill.
Richdale, which was a few miles west, was located in Section 33, where the railroad crossed Pine Lake Township. It was platted in 1899 by George A. Burbank for Albert and Augusta Boedigheimer. It was originally platted as Richland, but due to another town by that name, it was changed to Richdale.
Coming next: Perham and westward on the Northern Pacific railroad line.