Benton County History: How Rice Got Its Name, Location
RICE -- The most recent census figures show good growth in Rice. The Benton County community grew by 700 people between 2010 and 2020.
Benton County Historical Society Executive Director Mary Ostby says continual steady growth has always been the case for one of the county's earliest cities. It had 32 people in the 1860s and 232 by 1900. In more recent years the population has gone from 711 in 2000, to 1275 in 2010 to 1975 in 2020.
The town gets its name from George Rice who owned a lot of land in the area dating back to 1864.
He owned property all the way from the Little Rock channel, which is where he had his grist and flour mill, all the way up into the Rice area. The number that comes to mind is 360 acres with another purchase of 80 acres.
Ostby says Rice is where it is because it was a perfect location for a stagecoach stop.
You have the Woods Trail coming in from Stearns County across the Mississippi River into Watab/Langola Township area, you have the Red River Oxcart Trail coming down, you have the Military Road going alongside the Mississippi River, and then you have the railroad coming in. So, honestly, he picked the perfect spot.
The railroad was in Sauk Rapids by 1868, and then the next section up to Brainerd came through Rice around 1877. That's when businesses took off including three hotels, a livery stable, restaurants and general stores.
The creation of Highway 10 has helped the community continue to grow in more recent decades.
George Rice died in 1907.
Earle Street in Rice gets its name from F.W. Earle who built the first hotel in 1870, later this location would become the Janski Store.
Despite its steady growth, Rice never had its own high school, Ostby says they used to have a school that taught students up through the 8th grade.
Once a month Ostby is on the News @ Noon show on WJON talking about the forgotten history of Benton County.