Tenney is a former city with a population of six, in Wilkin County, Northwestern Minnesota. Tenney billed itself as the smallest statutory city in America. Until 2011, it was a fully incorporated municipality which levied taxes on its residents and nonresident landowners.
The city of Tenney was named for the owner of its townsite, lumberman John P. Tenney, because of his willingness to give land to the railroad which came through in 1885. The first house was built by his son-in-law, Fred Maechler. The post office was established in 1887, and the city was incorporated on November 30, 1901. At this time the land was surveyed and the original plat was approved. The city originally encompassed four square miles, but it never grew enough to meet its boundaries, so in 1916 the farmers petitioned their land from the city, and their request was granted. According to an unpublished town history written in the mid-1980s, the city's population peaked at about 200 in 1910. Before 1910 the city boasted a church, three grain elevators, a hardware store, two mercantile stores, a butcher shop, bank, machine shop, implement shop, blacksmith shop, pool hall, lumberyard, and a hotel, which also housed the barber shop, saloon, and post office. In 1909 a small post office building was erected and used until 1952, when Leonard Hardie became postmaster and moved the post office to the general store. Electricity arrived in Tenney in 1914, through a franchise granted to Ottertail Power Company. After 1910 a steady population decline was driven by the lack of significant population in outlying areas, migration to larger urban centers, and the absence of dynamic economic factors to generate wealth. US Census bureau data indicates that the population fell to 102 in 1920, 89 in 1930, 89 in 1940, 62 in 1950, 35 in 1960 and 24 in 1970. As local establishments burned down or went out of business they were not replaced, and finally the post office was discontinued in 1980 when the population was pegged at 19 by the census bureau. Today the only remaining business in town is the elevator. The only commercial building remaining on the main drag is the former James Bigsby general store, later the G.A. Klugman general store.
The population bottomed out at 2 sometime after the 2000 census, but due to the energetic efforts of current residents, the population has again risen to six, and efforts to attract more residents are ongoing.
Tenney is about a mile east of the intersection of US Highway 75 and Minnesota Highway 55.
Interstate 29 runs about 15 miles to the west, across the border in North Dakota.
Tenney has only five streets; three running north-south and two running east-west. The town is easily walkable. The downtown "business district" is confined to one street, one block long. On this street you'll find the tavern, City Hall, the Social Hall, and the Tenney Fire Hall.
- Tenney Fire Hall, East side of Concord Avenue. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this is a small wood frame building with a bell tower and flag mast, built to house the town's two hand-pulled chemical fire engines. The rearmost part of the building also contained the town jail. This building is privately owned, but the city is hopeing to reacquire it and perform important repairs. According the National Register's Inventory-Nomination Form, the Fire Hall is significant for the following reasons: "Government functions were often centered in towns, [including] places as small as Tenney with its Fire Hall..." and "Though of simple metal-sided, frame construction, the diminutive Tenney Fire Hall... is a visual landmark in the small town."
- City Hall, 295 Concord Avenue. 24 hours every day. Visitors can sign the town's guestbook. This building used to be the town's only church, and was purchased by the city at a cost of $11 in 1999. Free.
- The Wheaton-Dumont Cooperative Elevator. The Co-op has its primary rail terminal in Tenney. In 2003, 20 million bushels of grain were trucked into Tenney from other elevators, and shipped out by rail. At that time it was estimated that in 2004 this figure would rise to 32 million bushels. The elevator is served by the Soo Line Railroad.
- Explore - The residents of Tenney are accustomed to visitors coming to have a look around, and welcome those who wish to explore and learn about the town. However, some visitors innocently forget that a vacant building is not the same thing as an abandoned building. Remember that however small and remote the city is, the land and buildings are still private property or city property. If you have questions or your are curious about the town and its history, your best bet is to talk to someone. History booklets and commemorative coffee mugs are available, and residents are usually happy to visit with you and tell you what they know about the town's history and landmarks.
Buy, eat, drink
There are no stores in Tenney.
RVers are welcome to park on Concord Avenue overnight. Plans for the near future include RV hookups and refuse bins.
If you wish to camp on a city-owned lot in Tenney (camper or pitch a tent), please contact the city in advance: email@example.com.
Leave the same way you came, but don't forget the way back. You will undoubtedly want to visit again.
|Routes through Tenney|
|Moorhead ← Breckenridge ←||N S||→ Jct E → Ortonville → Luverne|
|Hankinson ← Becomes ←||W E||→ Elbow Lake → Paynesville|