This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1838

Iowa Territory is formed, including in its claim present-day Minnesota west of the Mississippi River, which was called Clayton County. Henry H. Sibley serves as justice of the peace for the county, but this part of Minnesota would be left without a government when Iowa became a state in 1846.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1840

Governor James D. Doty of Wisconsin Territory (which includes part of the future Minnesota) writes to the U.S. secretary of war protesting an extension of the Fort Snelling military reservation and asking how the federal government can take land "by the simple declaration that it is necessary for military purposes" and without consent of the territorial legislature. The protest is in vain, and military authorities eventually expel "squatters" living in the fort area, causing many of them to move to the site that will become St. Paul.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1869

Norwegian newspaperman Paul Hjelm-Hansen leaves Alexandria to travel to the Red River by oxcart. Hjelm-Hansen had been hired by the State Board of Immigration to publicize the advantages of moving to western Minnesota. His letters, published in a number of Norwegian newspapers, encourage many emigrants to move here. In 1924 the Norwegian-Danish Press Association of America presented the Minnesota Historical Society with a plaque in his memory.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1872

Rutherford B. Hayes, between terms as governor of Ohio, spends the morning in St. Paul visiting the state capitol and "other places of note in the city." He would serve as U.S. president from 1877 to 1881.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1873

Rocky Mountain locusts cross into Minnesota and begin destroying crops in the southwestern part of the state. Relief efforts are organized to keep the settlers from starving. The locusts return for the next four years, finally leaving in August 1877.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1876

The Minnesota Forestry Association is formed to work for the passage of conservation laws to protect the state's forests. At one time boasting 10,000 members, the association would prove so successful that state agencies and civic groups would take on its activities, and in 1948 the group would vote itself out of existence.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1877

Duluth, having suffered a loss of population, reverts from a city back into a town.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1881

The balloon Great Northwest , piloted by Samuel A. King and carrying eight passengers, ascends from Minneapolis. Their plan to travel to the Atlantic Coast garners national attention, but the flight is a failure, with a forced landing before the balloon reaches St. Paul.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1882

Five craft unions and two Knights of Labor Assemblies form the St. Paul Trades and Labor Assembly, the first centralized labor organization in the state.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1883

The Little Sisters of the Poor establish their convent in St. Paul. The Sisters began as a Hospitallers Order in Saint Servan, Brittany, France, dedicated to serving the elderly poor and infirm, and they maintain convents and hospitality houses all over the world.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1883

Theodore Christianson is born in Lac qui Parle Township. From 1925 to 1931 he would serve as the twenty-first governor, but he was only the second one to be born in the state. He would also write a five-volume history of Minnesota. He died on December 10, 1948.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1888

A major blizzard strikes the state, hitting western Minnesota especially hard and causing the deaths of between 100 and 150 people, many of them children on their way home from school.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1889

DeWitt Wallace is born in St. Paul. Wallace would found Reader's Digest in 1922, and his family's fortune has benefited many educational and performing arts associations.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1892

The first car of iron ore travels from Mountain Iron to Duluth and assays at 65 percent iron. Minnesota would lead the country in iron ore production for many years, and iron, in the form of taconite, is still a major export.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1892

Walter "Pudge" Heffelfinger becomes the first professional football player in history. The Minneapolis native signs to play with the Allegheny Athletic Association and is paid $500 for his role in the 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Athletic Club.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1895

Minnesota is the first state to declare Abraham Lincoln's birthday a legal holiday.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1905

Visiting the Twin Cities for the dedication of the new capitol, William Colvill dies in his sleep at the Old Soldier's Home in Minneapolis the night before the ceremony, at which he was to carry the battle flag of his regiment. Born in New York in 1830, Colonel Colvill had led the First Minnesota's famous charge at Gettysburg (see July 2). After the war, the Red Wing resident served as state attorney general.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1908

Harry A. Blackmun is born in Nashville, Illinois. He would spend his early years in St. Paul and return to the area after earning a degree from Harvard Law School. President Richard Nixon would appoint him to the U.S. Supreme Court on April 14, 1970. Blackmun will be remembered for authoring the controversial 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade , which made abortion legal in the United States, and for retracting his support for the death penalty in 1994 by writing "I shall no longer tinker with the machinery of death." He died March 4, 1999.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1913

Alexander T. Heine flies the first airplane over Minneapolis.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1914

The last commercially cut logs pass through Stillwater's boom on the St. Croix, marking the end of large-scale logging in the St. Croix valley. The boom was a chain of logs stretching across the river. Logs floated from upstream, each carrying their owner's brand, were sorted and measured so that each logging company got credit for what they had cut.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1923

St. Paul's first automatic traffic signal, on a pedestal about ten feet high, begins operating at Fifth and St. Peter Streets.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1928

The newly finished Foshay Tower, which would be Minneapolis's tallest building for nearly fifty years, is strung with lights and lit up like a Christmas tree.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1931

With a parade and elaborate ceremonies, a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus is dedicated on the state capitol grounds. Sculpted by St. Paul native Carlo Brioschi, the statue was sponsored by the Minnesota State Federation of Italian American Clubs.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1937

Dennis J. Banks is born on Leech Lake Indian Reservation. An Indian activist, he would be one of the founders of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1968, along with Clyde and Vernon Bellecourt (from White Earth Reservation) and George Mitchell. Intent on raising awareness of the plight of Indians, the members of AIM would participate in the occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, Wounded Knee in South Dakota, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 12, 1939

More than 3,000 people (two-thirds of them children) escape death or serious injury when they rush out of the Amphitheatre in Duluth seconds before the steel-and-wood roof of the expansive sports arena collapses under the weight of snow during an intermission in the annual Duluth police department and Virginia (Minn.) fire department hockey game.

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