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Scottish Cultural Organizations in Minnesota

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Minnesota Pipes & Drums

The Minnesota Pipes & Drums playing the Scottish Ramble at the Landmark Center in St. Paul, in February 1999.

Scottish immigrants first came to Minnesota with the fur trade in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In the 1850s, colonies of Scots began to put down roots in towns such as Mapleton and Caledonia, while others migrated to the larger cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth. Like other immigrants, they sought to preserve the customs of their homeland wherever they landed. The clubs they formed and the events they held allowed them to celebrate their heritage.

Scots came to Mapleton shortly after its founding in 1856. The next year, they held a gathering to honor Scotland’s poet laureate, Robert Burns, and in 1866, they formed the Blue Earth Valley Burns Club. (Since then, Mapleton has held a Burns Night event nearly every year. 2019 marked the town's 143rd Burns celebration.)

Scots in St. Paul formed the St. Andrew’s Society of Minnesota in 1859, a benevolent organization named for the patron saint of Scotland. Steep membership dues of fifty cents every three months or twenty-five dollars for a life membership contributed to the society's rapid decline. The secretary recorded in November 1861 that there were no meetings held or dues paid during that year. He cited poor management, few qualified members, and hard economic times as reasons for the group's failure.

In the 1870s, a resurgence of interest in Scottish heritage prompted the formation of new clubs. Scots in Minneapolis met in June 1871 to organize the St. Andrew’s Society of Minneapolis. On November 30 of that year they held their first event, a celebration of St. Andrew’s Day open to “all Scotchmen and sons or grandsons of Scotchmen throughout the State.” Founded as an all-male society, the group invited members’ wives and daughters to the Burns supper for the first time in 1875 and honored them with the now traditional “Toast to the Lassies.” The group hosted a picnic at Lake Calhoun (Bde Maka Ska) In July 1876. It featured traditional music and highland games, such as the caber toss, putting the stone, and throwing the hammer, as well as wheelbarrow, foot, and sack races for all ages.

St. Paul Scots convened the St. Andrew’s Society of St. Paul in May 1879. They hosted their first annual picnic and games that August at White Bear Lake, and observed St. Andrew’s Day with a supper and ball in November. The group held monthly entertainments and annual Burns celebrations.

By 1874, Scots in Duluth had organized a Caledonian Society. Minneapolis followed suit in 1885. These clubs hosted monthly social events featuring traditional music and readings from Scottish literature. They held annual Burns suppers and picnics with highland games. The growing popularity of the Minneapolis Caledonian Club may have caused the demise of that city's St. Andrew’s Society around 1890.

The traditional Scottish sport of curling may have been played in Minnesota as early as 1857 on the Maple River in Mapleton. The Blue Earth Valley Burns Club became the Maple River Curling Club in 1888 and, later, the Heather Curling Club. The sport's popularity grew as clubs sprang up in towns across Minnesota, especially in the north.

Members of the Minneapolis Caledonian Club formed the Thistle Curling Club (later the Flour City, then Minneapolis Curling Club) in 1885. Organizers planned practice sessions in Central (Loring) Park in Minneapolis “every afternoon, when it is pleasant.” The Duluth Curling Club started in 1887 and became incorporated in 1895. Still active, it has hosted world competitions and boasts Olympic champions among its members. The St. Paul Curling Club grew out of the combined Nushka and Capital City curling clubs in 1912 to become the largest in the country. More than thirty active curling clubs thrive in Minnesota in 2019.

Individual clan and family societies in Minnesota didn't appear until the late twentieth century. The Order of Scottish Clans (OSC), organized in 1878 in St. Louis, was a national fraternal society created to help Scottish Americans in need. It served as an umbrella organization for clan societies with membership open to all with Scottish blood, regardless of surname. The earliest and largest OSC society in Minnesota, Clan Stewart No. 50 of Duluth, began in 1888 with thirty-one members. Clan Stewart hosted annual Burns Night banquets and summer picnics in Fond du Lac, with highland games, dance, and bagpipe competitions. Membership peaked at more than 500 in 1915.

Other OSC societies in Minnesota included Clan Matheson No. 73 and Clan Forbes No. 237 in Duluth, Clan Gordon No. 98 and Clan McDonald No. 198 in Minneapolis, and Clan Campbell No. 116 in St. Paul. By 1898, each had a ladies’ auxiliary.

Immigrants from the Hebridean Isle of Lewis formed the Lewis Society in Duluth in 1911. Unique among Scottish cultural societies in Minnesota, they conducted meetings in Scots Gaelic, their native language. The group remained active until the mid-twentieth century.

The St. Paul St. Andrew’s Society was active until about 1900. The Minneapolis Caledonian Club disappeared in the late 1890s as younger members of the community opted for the more socially active Clan Gordon No. 98, OSC. Some OSC clans remained active in Minnesota until the late 1960s. The OSC merged with the International Order of Foresters in 1971.

As earlier societies disbanded, a group of young Scottish immigrants founded the Twin Cities Scottish Club (TCSC) in 1969. The club's annual calendar includes a Burns supper, whist night, afternoon tea, and family Christmas party. Members participate in Tartan Day events and the Minnesota Scottish Fair and Highland Games. TCSC supports dance programs, pipe bands, and the Scottish American Center.

In recognition of its Scottish Presbyterian roots, Macalester College in St. Paul hosted its first Scottish Country Fair in May 1972. The fair continued at Macalester until 2003. Renamed the Minnesota Scottish Fair and Highland Games, it moved to the Dakota County Fairgrounds in 2004, and later to Eagan. Athletes, bagpipers, and dancers compete for prizes, clan societies staff information tents, and vendors sell Scottish foods and merchandise.

In 1976, members of the Twin Cities Scottish community resurrected the St. Andrew’s Society of Minnesota (SASM). SASM hosts an annual Burns Night, Pub Night gatherings, and a traditional First Footing event on New Year's Day, and participates in the Scottish Fair. Scots in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin formed the Duluth Scottish Heritage Association (DSHA) that same year. Annual events include Burns Night, dance competitions, and a Kirkin' of the Tartan, where clan tartans are blessed in a special church ceremony. The DSHA added a pipes and drums corps in 1990.

Representatives of clan societies organized the Minnesota Coalition of Scottish Clans (MCSC) in 1982. The group helped to coordinate major events, such as A Scottish Ramble, an indoor festival held in St. Paul from 1986 to 2018, and served as a resource for Scottish genealogy. In 2017, the MCSC merged with the Scottish American Center, which had opened in 2006.

In 1999, the Minnesota Tartan Day Cooperative (MTDC) began to plan annual activities to commemorate the April 6 anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath for Scottish Independence. One MTDC initiative came to fruition on February 4, 2002 when the state legislature passed a resolution to accept an official Minnesota state tartan.

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Society Record Book, 1859–1861, Saint Andrew's Society of the State of Minnesota
Manuscripts Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Hand-written constitution (1859) with signatures of members and minutes (1859–1861) of this Scottish benevolent association headquartered in St. Paul.

St. Andrew's Society of the State of Minnesota. Constitution. St. Paul: T. M. Newson, 1859.

"A Scottish Clan." Minneapolis Tribune, November 7, 1891.

Brown, Curt. “A Small Town's Rich Curling History." Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 18, 2018.

The Celtic Croft. MN Tartan History & Information.

"Clan MacDonald Has Anniversary." Minneapolis Tribune, April 29, 1980.

"Clans Gathering." Minneapolis Tribune, May 22, 1892.

“Duluth. Zenith City All-Sorts.” Minneapolis Tribune, June 8, 1889.

"Events in Duluth." St. Paul Daily Globe, December 2, 1887, page 9.

Explore Minnesota. Minnesota is Crazy for Curling.

Clan Stewart No. 50 (Duluth, Minn.). Souvenir: Gathering of the Clans and Pageant of Nations. Duluth: John Christie. 1892.

"Gathering of the Clans." Minneapolis Tribune, May 20, 1894.

Grange Advance. January 28, 1874.

Illinois Saint Andrew Society. The Order of Scottish Clans.

HS1809.M6 S3
Constitution, Saint Andrew's Society of the State of Minnesota, 1859
Manuscripts Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Printed copy of the original constitution of the first incarnation of the
Saint Andrew's Society of Minnesota belonging to Reverend Edward Duffield Neill.

Harlow, Tim. "Piping Up." Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 7, 1993.

"Its Last Gasp." Minneapolis Tribune, February 11, 1896.

Hebridean Connections. Lewis Colony in Duluth, Minnesota.

"Local News." Virginia Enterprise, December 4, 1903.

Membership Book, St. Andrew's Society of St. Paul, 1885–1898
Manuscripts Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Membership book listing members of a society of Scottish Americans living in St. Paul,
containing some home addresses, notations of dues paid, and expenses incurred by the organization.
The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Twin Cities Branch.

Minnesota Coalition of Scottish Clans.

"Minnesota Items." Minneapolis Daily Tribune, February 4, 1872.

Minnesota St. Andrew's Society.

Minnesota Scottish Fair and Highland Games.

147.C.4.4F, Box 7
Project Records, 1969–1982
Minnesota Ethnic History Project
Manuscripts Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Research and administrative material created by the Minnesota Ethnic History Project
(MEHP), a project operated under the auspices of the Minnesota Historical Society from 1973 to 1981
that culminated in the publication of the book They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State's Ethnic

"The News." Minneapolis Daily Tribune. December 9, 1884.

O’Grady, Katrin. “Way Back at Mac: Sheep! Our Scottish Roots.” Mac Weekly, July 15, 2019.

"Organizing a St. Andrew's Society." St. Paul Daily Globe, May 14, 1879.

St. Louis County Historical Society.

"Scots to Meet." Minneapolis Star, February 12, 1969.

Scottish American Center.

"Short City Items." Minneapolis Daily Tribune, June 13, 1871.

"Society. Neighborly Notations. St. Paul." Minneapolis Tribune, October 29, 1893.

The Twin Cities Scottish Club.

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Constitution of a Scottish benevolent association
Constitution of a Scottish benevolent association
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Official Minnesota tartan
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Meeting of Clan Stewart No. 116
Meeting of Clan Stewart No. 116
Skating scene
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Scottish Americans from Minnesota
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Scottish pipe bands at the Macalester College Scottish Country Fair
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Turning Point

The first official Scottish cultural organization in Minnesota is established in Mapleton as the Blue Earth Valley Burns Club in 1866.



The Scots of Mapleton, Minnesota, hold their first celebration in honor of Scottish poet Robert Burns, which includes curling matches on the Maple River.

Feburary 10, 1859

The St. Andrew’s Society of Minnesota is formed as a benevolent society to assist Scottish Minnesotans in need.


A Burns club is established in Winona.


The Duluth Curling Club is mentioned as "a recent association of resident Scotchmen" in the St. Paul Daily Globe on December 2.


The Mallory Burns Club is organized in Polk County.

December 1903

Curling enthusiasts in Virginia, Minnesota, form a club.

August 2, 1908

Scots in Bemidji hold a picnic featuring Scottish music and highland games.


The Eveleth Curling Club is established.

July 21, 1929

A statewide two-day Scottish event sponsored by Scottish societies in the Twin Cities and Duluth is held at Pine City, complete with highland games, bagpipes, dancing, and soccer. An estimated 6,000 people are expected to attend.

ca. 1960

The Macalester College Pipe Band is formed.


The Minnesota Pipes and Drums band (later Minnesota Police Pipe Band) is formed.


Scottish immigrants organize the Twin Cities Scottish Club.


The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Twin Cities Branch, is founded.

July 4, 1976

A new incarnation of the Minnesota St. Andrew’s Society is organized in the Twin Cities.

February 4, 2002

The Minnesota Legislature approves the official Minnesota state tartan.