North Branch Area History
The story of the geographical area that the municipal government of North Branch has encompassed since its incorporation as a township in 1861 has come full circle. In 1881 the citizens of the township continued under one municipal government when North Branch incorporated as a township-size village (36 square miles).
In 1901, however, the jurisdiction divided. A one-square mile area of the township detached from the original village and reincorporated itself as the village of North Branch. The village of North Branch was more urbanized and was centrally located within the original 35 square mile rural area that reverted its status back to township and named itself Branch.
In 1961 Branch became a village, still surrounding the village of North Branch. When both communities grew rapidly after the completion of 1-35 in 1969, North Branch continued to be the more densely populated urban area of the community while Branch became home to many commuters who built homes on one-acre or larger lots. Farms comprise the remainder of the area.
In 1974, both communities became statutory cities under the state law that encouraged uniformity in municipal government. Within the next 10 years citizens began to reconsider the benefits of consolidating the governments and services of the communities.
A special election in 1984 proposed a study of merging the two cities. The proposal failed, and for the next 10 years the area experienced detachment/annexation proceedings, requests for extension of North Branch's municipal services, citizens' petitions to respective city councils and a study on consolidation by the Minnesota Municipal Board and a 20-member citizens' task force.
The Municipal Board granted the consolidation and the North Branch City Council adopted it. However, the Branch City Council defeated the measure. A sufficient number of Branch residents petitioned for a referendum on consolidation, which was held on September 13, 1994 to coincide with the primary election. Large majorities of the voters in both Branch and North Branch voted for consolidation. As a result, the Municipal Board met and called for election of officers for the new city at the general election. The city officials were sworn in and the new city name came into existence on November 14, 1994.