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This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1840

Thomas B. Walker is born in Xenia, Ohio. After making his fortune in lumber, he would plan and develop the Walker Art Gallery, which opened in 1894. He would also play an instrumental role in the creation of the Minneapolis Public Library. He died in 1928.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1841

Father Lucien Galtier dedicates his log church to "St. Paul, the apostle of nations." This name is deemed superior to "Pig's Eye," the community's previous moniker, and St. Paul is incorporated as a town on this date in 1849. The log structure later serves as the first school of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and in 1856 its logs are dismantled, numbered, and hauled up the hill to the St. Joseph's Academy construction site. Unfortunately, the plan to rebuild the chapel as a historic site had not been communicated to the workmen, who use the logs to warm themselves and their coffee.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1847

Ard Godfrey arrives at the Falls of St. Anthony to build his sawmill. His house, Minneapolis's first frame building, still stands at the corner of University and Central Avenues.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1849

Henry H. Sibley is elected delegate to Congress and other state officers are chosen in Minnesota's first territorial election.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1849

Minnesota Territory is legally organized when territorial governor Alexander Ramsey signs a proclamation written by Judge David Cooper.412

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1849

The legislature establishes funding for the territory's public schools. By decree of the Northwest Ordinance, one section in each township had been set aside to support a school, and in Minnesota these lands are not sold for short-term cash but are rented out to provide a steady and long-term cash flow. Martin McLeod authored the bill, which Territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey would consider his administration's most important piece of legislation.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1850

At the Minnesota Historical Society's first annual meeting, the Reverend Edward D. Neill gives a lecture, the Sixth Regiment's band provides music, and a grand ball is held in St. Paul's Central House.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1851

Cass and Chisago Counties are created. Cass is named for Lewis Cass, governor of Michigan Territory, who explored the upper Mississippi in 1820 and negotiated several Indian treaties. Chisago is named for the lake, a contraction of the Ojibwe name for the lake, Ke-chi-sago, meaning "large and lovely."

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1855

At the Washington Navy Yard, Susan L. Mann christens the steam frigate Minnesota with a bottle of Minnesota water. On April 6 of the previous year, Congress had authorized construction of this ship and, coincidentally, the frigate Merrimac , which, rebuilt as a Confederate ironclad and renamed the Virginia, would attack the Minnesota during the Civil War.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1856

The territorial legislature incorporates the St. Peter Company, which is authorized to engage in milling and waterpower work and to develop real estate. The company's stockholders hope to move the state capital to St. Peter, but their efforts are thwarted (see February 27). James J. Hill would purchase the company's charter in 1901, hoping that its real estate powers would prove useful to the Great Northern Railway.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1856

Minneapolis is approved for a town government by the territorial legislature. It would become a city ten years later. The legislature also forms three counties: Lake County, named for Lake Superior; McLeod County, named for Martin McLeod, a fur trader and member of the territorial legislature; and Pine County, named for the extensive pine forests of the region or perhaps for the Pine River and Pine Lakes.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1856

The first issue of Ignatius Donnelly's newspaper, the Emigrant Aid Journal , is published in Philadelphia. This publication encourages recent immigrants to move to Nininger, a town Donnelly had founded on the Mississippi River downstream from St. Paul. Although 1,000 people live there at its peak, the town would eventually fail. Incidentally, the editor of the Emigrant Aid Journal is A. W. MacDonald, who would later edit Scientific American .

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1857

Wendelin Grimm moves to Carver County. Grimm begins experimenting with what he called Ewiger Klee, or "everlasting clover," in the next year, developing a winter-hardy strain of alfalfa. Fed to cows, this alfalfa would be critical to the dairy boom in the Upper Midwest. Local schoolteacher Arthur Lyman describes Grimm alfalfa in a speech to the State Agricultural Society on January 12, 1904; with this publicity it soon becomes a major American crop and the leading variety of alfalfa until the 1940s. A monument to Grimm was erected on his old farm in Laketown Township in 1924.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1859

The steamboat Anson Northup begins working on the Red River. In an effort to cash in on the lucrative Red River valley trade and to improve connections with Fort Garry (now Winnipeg), St. Paul businessmen offered a $2,000 prize to the first boat to deliver a cargo to Fort Garry. Mr. Anson Northup traveled with his Mississippi steamer North Star up the Crow Wing River as far as possible. Then he dissembled the 90-by-24-foot boat and began the overland trip with sixty-four horses and a crew of sixty men.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1860

The state's first book-quality paper, manufactured at the Cutter and Secombe paper mill in St. Anthony, is used in The Minnesota Farmer and Gardener, an agricultural magazine.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1869

Black residents of Minnesota hold a grand convention in St. Paul's Ingersoll Hall "to celebrate the Emancipation of 4,000,000 slaves, and to express...gratitude for the bestowal of the elective franchise to the colored people of this State."

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1870

The Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad inaugurates rail travel between St. Paul and Duluth.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1873

St. Paul character "Old Bets" dies at age eighty-five. The Dakota woman was a familiar sight in early St. Paul and made her living by begging and charging tourists who photographed her.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1878

On an unusually balmy day, the steamer Aunt Betsy carries a load of passengers from St. Paul to Fort Snelling. Crowds line the Jackson Street landing, the bluffs, and the Wabasha Street Bridge to watch, and the passengers carry palm-leaf fans to stave off the heat.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1880

An act of Congress places Fort Ripley Military Reservation in the public domain, making the land available for settlement. The fort, located on the Mississippi River below the mouth of the Crow Wing River, had been established in 1849 and was abandoned by the army in 1878.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1881

The first state capitol building burns. Three hundred people escape safely, but the building, including the law library, is a total loss. Luckily, most of the Minnesota Historical Society's artifacts are rescued from the basement. A second capitol is built on the same site, a square block bounded by Wabasha, Cedar, Exchange, and Tenth Streets, but is later replaced by the present capitol.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1886

St. Paul's first Winter Carnival opens, hosting competitions in curling, skating, and ice polo and boasting the first ice palace in the United States. Built in Central Park, the palace is 140 feet long, 120 feet wide, and 100 feet high. The Winter Carnival suggests that those Minnesotans who do not enjoy complaining about their winter may actually enjoy the season.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1887

The Northwestern Publishing Company is incorporated in St. Paul as a general job order printing office, with the subsidiary enterprise of publishing the Western Appeal (which would became The Appeal in 1889), a weekly African American newspaper that had first appeared in 1885. Editor John Quincy Adams later calls it "A National Afro-American Newspaper" and intends it to be a bold and active paper printing articles that an oppressed people want to read.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1893

Workers nail the final spike in the 818 miles of track stretching from Pacific Junction, Montana, to Everett, Washington, completing the Great Northern Railroad and connecting St. Paul to the Pacific Ocean.

This Day in Minnesota History

January 1, 1894

A forest fire kills 413 people and burns 160,000 acres of timberland around Hinckley. Railroad engineer James Root saves more than 100 people by loading them onto train cars and driving through the blaze. The devastation of this fire convinces many of the importance of forest conservation.

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