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Fanning's Illustrated Gazetteer of the United States

State, Territories, Counties, Cities, Towns & Post Offices


Transcribed by Jeana Gallagher and Sandy Stutzman for the exclusive use of Genealogy Trails

PT is post town; PV is post village; PO is post office, PB is post borough, CH is court house, T is town

Minnesota Territory

So called from the Indian name of the St Peter's river, the principal local stream of the country.  The Indians living on its banks called it thus on account of the different appearance of the waters from those of the Mississippi.   At the junction of the two streams, the waters of the last named river may be observed generally tinged of a chocolate color, derived from the extensive tamarac and pine swamps toward the north, in which it partly has its head springs; while the waters of the Minnesota are entirely different in appearance, being light colored and clear.  The name is compounded of two words, minne "water" and sotah "sky color."  This poetical designation, "the territory of the sky colored water," receives additional ornament in the Dakotah name bestowed on the junction of the river with the Mississippi, that of Mendota or "Mingling of the waters." This is also the appellation of the Indian trading town at the mouth.

This territory lies between 43°30' and 49° north latitude, and 89°30' and 102°12' longitude west from Greenwich; and is bounded north by the British possessions, east by Lake Superior and Wisconsin, from which it is separated in part by the Mississippi, south by the Iowa, and west by Nebraska, from which it is separated in part by the Missouri.  Its superficial area is 93,000 square miles.

Physical Aspect-- one of the most remarkable features in the face of this country is its general monotony.  It contains no mountains nor mountain chains, nor any very lofty hills; but presents a dreary void of extensive prairies, interspersed by innumerable lakes, which give rise to various streams.  Some elevations indeed there are, toward the sources of the larger rivers, and even there are a few hills that might be dignified, by way of contrast with the title mountains, sometimes rising abruptly amidst the prairies like an island in the sea.  At many points along the Mississippi the banks are high, broken and precipitous, yet there are many cases where they gradually slope to the water.  In general the prairie region is less hilly and rocky than that of the forest; and in situations where they are not too wet, they appear to be adapted for similar agricultural purposes as those in the same latitudes in Wisconsin and Michigan.  The lands about Lake Pepin in their general aspect are suited for general crops, and for dairies, stock raising, &c, they are seldom surpassed.

Rivers, Lakes and Bay-- The chief rivers are the Mississippi, Missouri, St Peter's or Minnesota, James or Jacques, Wasses or Vermilion, Tchankasudata or Sioux, Hokah or Root, Crow, Crow-Wing, North Red, White Earth, East Swan, St Louis, Turtle, Elk, Sac and Pine.  The lakes are numerous among the largest of which are, Minsi, Saigaigoning or Mille Lac, Winibigoshich, Leech, Kadikomeg, Gayaskh, Morrah Tanka, Pepin and Superior.  Fond du Lac bay at the southwest corner of Lake Superior, borders on the territory.

Climate-- The climate of this territory, notwithstanding its northern position, is more favorable than the northern portions of New England and New York.  Its winters, it is true are severe and long, with continued deep snows for several months, and the lakes and streams strongly bound in ice; but during the growing season vegetation springs up like magic, and puts forward with astonishing rapidity and luxuriance. The spring and autumn are usually mild and are less liable to destructive frosts, than those of the more eastern or northern states.

Productive Resources-- The agricultural products of the territory are similar to those of Wisconsin.  At present the chief resources are furs, limber and fish.

Government-- The government of Minnesota is that usually applied to territories of the United States. All citizens of adult age are voters, and elect a territorial legislature.  The governor, secretary of state and judges of the supreme and other courts, are appointed by the president of the United States.  Among the important acts of the first territorial legislature, are those establishing a judiciary, a school system, dividing the territory into suitable civil districts, and appointing officers to enforce the laws, and relative to the improvement of roads.  All these will have a paramount influence over the future destiny of the country.  Perhaps one of the most humane and politic acts of the legislature is the admission to citizenship of "all persons of a mixture of white and Indian blood, who shall have adopted the habits and customs of civilized men"; and not less politic is that law which requires the establishment of schools throughout the territory.  The act of the general government organizing the territory, appropriates two sections of land in every township for the support of common schools.  No other territory or state in the Union has received more than one section in each township for such purpose.  The capital of Minnesota is St Paul's.

Population-- in 1850 was 6,077

History-- The territory of Minnesota embraces a portion of Upper Louisiana, as held by the French, prior to the year 1762, when it was ceded to Spain together with the remainder of her possessions in North America.  It was first explored by Hennipen, in 1680, who ascended the Mississippi beyond the Falls of St Anthony.  In 1800, it was receded to France by a secret treaty , who formally took possession of the country in 1803, and immediately after it was sold to the United States.  Subsequent to this Minnesota constituted a part of the Missouri territory, which was supposed to contain all the Mississippi to the "South Sea," except a portion of the present state of Louisiana.  Still later, Wisconsin and Iowa territories were erected, from portions of which this new territory was organized by act of Congress in 1849.  Earl Selkirk commenced a settlement on Red river, near the mouth of the Pembina in 1812.

Minnesota Territory

1850 Counties 

County Description Area in sq miles Courts held at Pop in 1850
Benton on eastern side, on east side of Mississippi river blank Sauk Rapids blank
Dacotah (Dahkotah) central part blank blank 584
Pembina no description blank Pembina 1,134
Ramsey eastern part, Lake Minsi Sagaigoning or Mille Lac, in the north, Mississippi river on southwest blank St Paul's 2,227
Wabashaw no description blank Wabashaw 243
Wahnatah no description blank blank 318
Washington on east boundary, St Croix river on east blank blank 1,056

1850 Towns

Name What County Pop Other
Cottage Grove PO Washington    
Elk River PO Benton    
Fort Ripley PO Wahnahta    
Fort Snelling PO Dacotah    
Lac Qui Parle PO Dacotah    
Long Prairie PO Wahnahta    
Pembina PV, CH Pembina   seat of justice
Point Douglas PO Washington    
Red Rock PO Ramsey    
Red Wing PO Wabashaw    
Reed's Landing PO Wabashaw    
St Anthony's Falls PO Ramsey    
St Paul PV Ramsey 1,135 seat of justice, Capital of Minnesota
Sauk Rapids PO Benton    
Stillwater PO Washington    
Swan River PO Benton    
Taylor's Falls PO Washington    
Wabashaw PO Wabashaw   seat of justice

St. Paul
Postal village, seat of justice of Ramsey Co, and capital of Minnesota, occupies a plateau, at the head of the bold bank of the Mississippi, on its north side, eight miles below the falls of  St Anthony, the head of navigation.  The central position of the town is level, terminating on the bluff, eighty feet high, which recedes from the river at the upper and lower end of the village, forming two landings.  Though yet in embryo, it bids fair to become an important point on the westward stream of civilization.  Population in 1850 was 1,135.

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