The first and, in many ways, one of the most interesting settlements made in Otter Tail County was that known as the Mormon settlement, near Clitherall lake, in what was later included in Clitherall township. This settlement was made in 1865 by a little band of Mormons from Iowa. The violent breaking up of Brigham Young’s church at Nauvoo, Illinois, had scattered the adherents of that faith in search for a more safe and pleasant abiding place. The greater part of the band journeyed toward the far west, making temporary stops in Iowa and other parts of the country, in search of a desirable habitation. It was in May 1865, when a little band of this wandering tribe, composed of seven families, left the main body and turned their faces toward the Northwest. They had heard of the beautiful prairies and fertile lands of Minnesota and they determined to find a location and found a colony in this state.
The township took its name from the lake of that name, and the lake took its name from Major George B. Clitherall, who was a register of the United States land office at Ottertail City from 1858 to 1861.