Willmar was a popular destination in the 1850s due to the fertile land, abundance of timber, and wild game. The Dakota War left the area abandoned for several years. When the railway arrived in 1869, the area was resettled. The area was settled by mainly Scandinavians. It is named after Leon (Chadwick) Willmar.
Willmar was the site of a bank robbery by the Machine Gun Kelly gang on July 15, 1930. They robbed the bank and got about $70,000 and wounded three people in the process.
Willmar was home to Pinky Nelson, as astronaut and Earl B Olson, founder of the Jennie-O Turkey Company. Curt Swan, who illustrated Superman comics from the 1950s to the 1980s is also from the area.
This heavy metal bait could be used as a lure by adding the included hook or as a decoy for darkhouse spearing through the ice.