The City of Nowthen incorporated in 2008, and was formerly Burns Township.
There are 11 lakes in Burns. Twin Lake is the largest and attains a depth of 90 ft. Nigger Lake was changed to Derigan Lake (also known as Burns Lake). Bass Lake contained quantities of fish but during the severe winter of 1864-65 nearly all perished. In 1865 the town was visited by a severe drought and a fire passed over it, burning the marshes in various places down to the hard-pan bottom and doing immense damage to the swamp.
Burns is situated in the northwest part of the county, with 23,000 acres of which 9,548 was under cultivation in the year 1881. Population was 340 in 1870. 552 in 1880, 650 in 1890 and 920 in 1900.
Oxcarts going north to the lumber camps stopped at Engbloms where they would rest their oxen and eat and sleep. Chippewa Indians had their trading post back of Happy Corner, where they would come down from Mille Lacs.
The first settler on section 29 was M. Derigan, but the exact date cannot be ascertained. In 1854, Charles M. Ford made a claim on section 35 and erected a dwelling and blacksmith shop. Charles Merrill was the next settler and occupied section 34 in 1855 and Franklin Demarest settled nearby. a steady increase came along the north line with Hugh McDonald, J. Sawyer, Henry Gamm, John Besanson, Gustavous Girardot, Peter Laclair, and Joseph Lafontise settler there. Homer McAlister settled in 1867 on section 28.
Burns was formerly a part of St. Francis, but a separate town was established in 1869 and the first election was held. In April 30, 1869 the following officers were elected: Supervisors were John Keen, Chairman: John A. Muzzey and Treasurer, James Kelsey: Clerk, William D. Cheever and Justice of the Peace was H. White. several names were suggested for the new town but James Kelsey was given the credit for naming it Burns.
Burns agricultural process showed: wheat 15,410 bushels, oats 1,135 bushels, corn 7,634 bushels, rye 233,233 bushels, barley 50 bushels, butter 18,585 pounds, potatoes 5,987 bushels, beans 16 bushels, sugar cane 382 gallons, cultivated hay 38 tons, wild hay 1127 tons, apples 140 bushels and wool 251 pounds.
The first birth was in August 1857. Robert J. Demarest, the son of Franklin Demarest. The first death was Charles Markland in 1859. The first marriage was Thomas Webb and Edith Flint in 1857. The first religious service was held at the M. Montfort home in 1858. The first school house was in section 26 in district #7 and in 1863 Clara Wakefield of St. Anthony was the teacher. The first church was built in 1878 and was the German Lutheran and visited by a Clergyman twice a month. The population in Burns in 1976 was 1,834 and 41 percent lived in Burns for over 11 years.
Nowthen Then and Now: A History of Nowthen, Minnesota by Lou Paulson (available in the ACHS Reading Room)