Aboriginal Era Through 1850's
- TOPICS INCLUDED:
- Legendary and Aboriginal Era
- Fort Snelling
- Selkirk Settlement
- George Catlin
- First Legislature
- Land Titles
- Panic of 1857
LEGENDARY AND ABORIGINAL ERA.
There is no doubt that Louis Hennepin, a Franciscan priest of the Recollect order, was the first white man who ever entered the present boundaries of Minnesota. He was with LaSalle at Fort Creve-Coeur, near Lake Peoria, in what is now Illinois, in 1680. LaSalle was the superior of the exploring party of which young Hennepin was a member, and in February, 1680, he selected Hennepin and two traders for the arduous and dangerous undertaking of exploring the unknown regions of the upper Mississippi. Hennepin was very ambitious to become a great explorer, and was tilled with the idea that by following the water courses he would find a passage to the sea and Japan.
On the 29th of February, 1680, he, with two voyageurs in a canoe, set out on his voyage of discovery. When he reached the junction of the Illinois river with the Mississippi, in March, he was detained by floating ice until near the middle of that month. He then commenced to ascend the Mississippi, which was the first time it was ever attempted by a civilized man. On the 11th of April they were met by a large war party of Dakotas, which tilled thirty-three canoes, who opened fire on them with arrows, but hostilities were soon stopped, and Hennepin and his party were taken prisoners and made to return with their captors to their villages.
Hennepin, in his narrative, tells a long story of the difficulties he encountered in saying his prayers, as the Indians thought he was working some magic on them, and they followed him into the woods and never let him out of their sight. Judging from many things that appear in his narrative, which have created great doubt about his veracity, it probably would not have been very much of a hardship if he had failed altogether in the performance of this pious duty. Many of the Indians who had lost friends and relatives in their fights with the Miamis were in favor of killing the white men, but better counsels prevailed, and they were spared. The hope of opening up a trade intercourse with the French largely entered into the decision.
While traveling up the river one of the white men shot a wild turkey with his gun, which produced a great sensation among the Indians, and was the first time a Dakota ever heard the discharge of firearms. They called the gun Maza wakan, or spirit iron.
The party camped at Lake Pepin, and on the nineteenth day of their captivity they arrived in the vicinity of where St. Paul now stands. From this point they proceeded by land to Mille Lacs, where they were taken by the Indians to their several villages, and were kindly treated. These Indians were part of the band of Dakotas, called M'de-wa-kon-ton-wans, or the Lake Villagers. (I spell the Indian names as they are now known, and not as they are given in Hennepin's narrative, although it is quite remarkable how well he preserved them with sound as his only guide.)
While at this village the Indians gave Hennepin some steam baths, which he says were very effective in removing all traces of soreness and fatigue, and in a short time made him feel as well and strong as he ever was. I have often witnessed this medical process among the Dakotas. They make a small lodge of poles covered with a buffalo skin or something similar, and place in it several large boulders heated to a high degree. The patient then enters naked, and pours water over the stones, producing a dense steam, which envelops him and nearly boils him. He stands it as long as he can, and then undergoes a thorough rubbing. The effect is to remove stiffness and soreness produced by long journeys on foot or other serious labor.
Hennepin tells in a very agreeable way many things that occurred during his captivity; how astonished the Indians were at all the articles he had. A mariner's compass created much wonder, and an iron pot with feet like lions' paws they would not touch with the naked hand; but their astonishment knew no bounds when he told them that the whites only allowed a man one wife, and that his religious office did not permit him to have any.
I might say here that the Dakotas are polygamous, as savage people generally are, and that my experience proves to me that missionaries who go among these people make a great mistake in attacking this institution until after they have ingratiated themselves with them, and then by attempting any reform beyond teaching monogamy in the future. Nothing will assure the enmity of a savage more than to ask him to discard any of his wives, and especially the mother of his children. While I would be the last man on earth to advocate polygamy, I can truthfully say that one of the happiest and most harmonious families I ever knew was that of the celebrated Little Crow, who, during all my official residence among the Dakotas, was my principal advisor and ambassador, and who led the massacre in 1862. He had four wives, but there was a point in his favor - they were all sisters.
Hennepin passed the time he spent in Minnesota in baptizing Indian babies and picking up all the information he could find. His principal exploit was the naming of the Falls of St. Anthony, which he called after his patron saint "Saint Anthony of Padua."
That Hennepin was thoroughly convinced that there was a northern passage to the sea which could he reached by ships is proven by the following extract from his work: "For example, we may be transported into the Pacific sea by rivers, which are large and capable of carrying great vessels, and from thence it is very easy to go to China and Japan without crossing the equinoctial line, and in all probability Japan is on the same continent as America."
Our first visitor evidently had very confused ideas on matters of geography. The first account of his adventures was published by him in 1683, and was quite trustworthy, and it is much to be regretted that he was afterwards induced to publish another edition in Utrecht, in 1680, which was filled with falsehoods and exaggerations, which brought upon him the censure of the king of France. He died in obscurity, unregretted. The county of Hennepin is named for him.
Other Frenchmen visited Minnesota shortly after Hennepin for the purpose of trade with the Indians and the extension of the Territory of New France. In 1689 Nicholas Perot was established at Lake Pepin with quite a large body of men, engaged in trade with the Indians. On the 8th of May, 1689, Perot issued a proclamation from his post on Lake Pepin, in which he formally took possession in the name of the king of all the countries inhabited by the Dakotas "and of which they are proprietors." This post was the first French establishment in Minnesota. It was called Fort Bon Secours; afterwards Fort Le Sueur, but on later maps Fort Perot.
In 1685 Le Sueur built the second post in Minnesota between the head of Lake Pepin and the mouth of the St. Croix. In July of that year he took a party of Ojibways and one Dakota to Montreal for the purpose of impressing upon them the importance and strength of France. Here large bodies of troops were maneuvered in their presence and many speeches made by both the French and the Indians. Friendly and commercial relations were established.
Le Sueur, some time after, returned to Minnesota and explored St. Peter's river (now the Minnesota) as far as the mouth of the Blue Earth. Here he built a log fort and called it L'Hallier, and made some excavations in search of copper ore. He sent several tons of a green substance which he found and supposed to be copper, to France, but it was undoubtedly a colored clay that is found in that region, and is sometimes used as a rough paint. He is supposed to be the first man who supplied the Indians with guns. Le Sueur kept a journal in which he gave the best description of the Dakotas written in those early times, and was a very reliable man. Minnesota has a county and a city named for him.
Many other Frenchmen visited Minnesota in early days, among whom was Du Luth, but as they were simply traders, explorers and priests among the Indians it is hardly necessary in a work of this character to trace their exploits in detail. While they blazed the trail for others they did not, to any great extent, influence the future of the country, except by supplying a convenient nomenclature with which to designate localities, which has largely been drawn upon. Many of them, however, were good and devoted men, and earnest in their endeavors to spread the gospel among the Indians; how well they succeeded I will discuss when I speak of these savage men more particularly.
The next arrival of sufficient importance to particularize was Jonathan Carver. He was born in Connecticut in 1732. His father was a justice of the peace, which in those days was a more important position than it is now regarded. They tried to make a doctor of him, and he studied medicine just long enough to discover that the profession was uncongenial and abandoned it. At the age of eighteen he purchased an ensign's commission in a Connecticut regiment, raised during the French war. He came very near losing his life at the massacre of Fort William Henry, but escaped, and after the declaration of peace between France and England, in 1763, he conceived the project of making an exploration of the Northwest.
It should be remembered that the French sovereignty over the Northwest ceased in 1763, when, by a treaty made in Versailles, between the French and the English, all the lands embraced in what is now Minnesota were ceded by the French to England, so Carver came as an Englishman into English territory.
Carver left Boston in the month of June, 1766, and proceeded to Mackinaw, then the most distant British post, where he arrived in the month of August. He then took the usual route to Green bay. He proceeded by the way of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to the Mississippi. He found a considerable town on the Mississippi near the mouth of the Wisconsin, called by the French "La Prairie les Chiens," which is now Prairie du Chien, or the Dog Prairie, named after an Indian chief who went by the dignified name of "The Dog." He speaks of this town as one where a great central fur trade was carried on by the Indians. From this point he commenced his voyage up the Mississippi in a canoe, and when he reached Lake Pepin he claims to have discovered a system of earthworks which he describes as of the most scientific military construction, and inferred that they had been at some time the intrenchments of a people well versed in the arts of war. It takes very little to excite an enthusiastic imagination into the belief that it has found what it has been looking for.
He found a cave in what is now known as Dayton's Bluff, and describes it as immense in extent and covered with Indian hieroglyphics, and speaks of a burying place at a little distance from the cavern, and made a short voyage up the Minnesota river, which he says the Indians called "Wadapaw Mennesotor." This probably is as near as he could catch the name by sound; it should be Wak-pa Minnesota.
After his voyage to the Falls and up the Minnesota he returned to his cave, where he says there were assembled a great council of Indians, to which he was admitted, and witnessed the burial ceremonies, which he describes as follows:"After the breath is departed the body is dressed in the same attire it usually wore, his face is painted, and he is seated in an erect posture on a mat or skin placed in the middle of the hut with his weapons by his side. His relatives seated around, each harangues the deceased; and, if he has been a great warrior, recounts his heroic actions nearly to the following purport, which, in the Indian language, is extremely poetical and pleasing: 'You still sit among us, brother; your person retains its usual resemblance and continues similar to ours, without any visible deficiency except it has lost the power of action. But whither is that breath flown which a few hours ago sent up smoke to the Great Spirit? Why are those lips silent that lately delivered to us expressions and pleasing language? Why are those feet motionless that a short time ago were fleeter than the deer on yonder mountains? Why useless hang those arms that could climb the tallest tree or draw the toughest bow? Alas! Every part of that frame which we lately beheld with admiration and wonder is now become as inanimate as it was three hundred years ago! We will not, however, bemoan thee as if thou wast forever lost to us, or that thy name would be buried in oblivion. Thy soul yet lives in the great country of spirits with those of thy nation that have gone before thee; and though we are left behind to perpetuate thy fame, we shall one day join thee.
Actuated by the respect we bore thee whilst living, we now come to tender thee the last act of kindness in our power; that thy body might not lie neglected on the plain and become a prey to the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, we will take care to lay it with those of thy ancestors who have gone before thee, hoping at the same time that thy spirit will feed with their spirits, and be ready to receive ours when we shall also arrive at the great country of souls.' "
I have heard many speeches made by the descendants of these same Indians, and have many times addressed them on all manner of subjects, but I never heard anything quite so elegant as the oration put into their mouths by Carver. I have always discovered that a good interpreter makes a good speech. On one occasion, when a delegation of Pillager Chippewas was in Washington to settle some matters with the government, they wanted a certain concession which the Indian commissioner would not allow, and they appealed to the President, who was then Franklin Pierre. Old Flatmouth, the chief, presented the case. Paul Beaulieu interpreted it so feelingly that the President surrendered without a contest. After informing him as to the disputed point, he added:
"Father, you are great and powerful; you live in a beautiful home where the bleak winds never penetrate. Your hunger is always appeased with the choicest foods. Your heart is kept warm by all these blessings, and would bleed at the sight of distress among your red children. Father, we are poor and weak; we live far away in the cheerless north in bark lodges; we are often cold and hungry. Father, what we ask is to you as nothing, while to us it is comfort and happiness. Give it to us, and when you stand upon your grand portico some bright winter night and see the northern lights dancing in the heavens it will be the thanks of your red children ascending to the Great Spirit for your goodness to them."
Carver seems to have been a sagacious observer and a man of great foresight. In speaking of the advantages of the country, he says that the future population will be "able to convey their produce to the seaports with great facility, the current of the river from its source to its entrance into the Gulf of Mexico being extremely favorable for doing this in small craft. This might also in time be facilitated by canals or short cuts and a communication opened with New York by way of the lakes." He was also impressed with the idea that a route could he discovered by way of the Minnesota river, which "would open a passage for conveying intelligence to China and the English settlements in the East Indies."
The nearest to a realization of this theory that I have known was the sending of the stern wheeled steamer "Freighter" on a voyage up the Minnesota to Winnipeg some time in the early fifties. She took freight and passengers for that destination, but never reached the Red River of the North.
After the death of Carver his heirs claimed that while at the great cave. May 1, 1767, the Indians made him a large grant of land, which would cover St. Paul and a large part of Wisconsin, and several attempts were made to have it ratified by both the British and American governments, but without success. Carver does not mention this grant in his book, nor has the original deed ever been found. A copy, however, was produced, and as it was the first real estate transaction that ever occurred in Minnesota I will set it out in full:"To Jonathan Carver, a chief under the Most Mighty and potent, George the Third, King of the English and other nations, the fame of whose warriors has reached our ears, and has been fully told us by our good brother Jonathan aforesaid, whom we all rejoice to have come among us and bring us good news from his country:
WE, Chiefs of the Nandowessies, who have hereunto set our seals, do, by these presents, for ourselves and heirs forever, in return for the aid and good services done by the said Jonathan to ourselves and allies, give, grant and convey to him, the said Jonathan, and to his heirs and assigns forever, the whole of a certain Territory or tract of land, bounded as follows, viz: From the Falls of St. Anthony, running on east bank of the Mississippi, nearly southeast as far as Lake Pepin, where the Chippewa joins the Mississippi, and from thence eastward, five days' travel accounting twenty English miles per day, and from thence again to the Falls of St. Anthony on a direct straight line. We do for ourselves, heirs and assigns, forever give unto said Jonathan, his heirs and assigns, with all the trees, rocks and rivers therein, reserving the sole liberty of hunting and fishing on land not planted or improved by the said Jonathan, his heirs and assigns, to which we have affixed our respective seals.
At the Great Cave, May 1st, 1767.
This alleged instrument bears upon its face many marks of suspicion and was very properly rejected by General Leavenworth, who, in 1821, made a report of his investigations in regard to it to the commissioner of the general land office.
The war between the Chippewas and the Dakotas continued to rage with varied success, as it has since time immemorial. It was a bitter, cruel war, waged against the race and blood, and each successive slaughter only increased the hatred and heaped fuel upon the fire. As an Indian never forgives the killing of a relative, and as the particular murderer, as a general thing, was not known on either side, each death was charged up to the tribe. These wars, although constant, had very little influence on the standing or progress of the country, except so far as they may have proved detrimental or beneficial to the fur trade prosecuted by the whites. The first event after the appearance of Jonathan Carver that can he considered as materially affecting the history of Minnesota was the location and erection of Fort Snelling, of which event I will give a brief account.
In 1805 the government decided to procure a site on which to build a fort, somewhere on the waters of the upper Mississippi, and sent Lieut. Zebubon Montgomery Pike, of the army, to explore the country, expel British traders who might be violating the laws of the United States, and to make treaties with the Indians.
September 21, 1805, he encamped on what is now known as Pike island, at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota, then St. Peter's river. Two days later he obtained, by treaty with the Dakota nation, a tract of land for a military reservation with the following boundaries, extending from "below the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Peters' up the Mississippi to include the Falls of St. Anthony, extending nine miles on each side of the river." The United States paid two thousand dollars for this land.
The reserve thus purchased was not used for military purposes until February 10, 1819, at which time the government gave the following reasons for erecting a fort at this point: "To cause the power of the United States Government to be fully acknowledged by the Indians and settlers of the Northwest; to prevent Lord Selkirk, the Hudson Bay Company and others, from establishing trading posts on United States territory; to better the condition of the Indians, and to develop the resources of the country." Part of the Fifth United States Infantry, commanded by Col. Henry Leavenworth, was dispatched to select a site and erect a post. They arrived at the St. Peters' river in September, 1819, and camped on or near the spot where now stands Mendota. During the winter of 1819-20 the troops were terribly afflicted with scurvy. Gen. Sibley, in an address before the Minnesota Historical Society, in speaking of it, says: "So sudden was the attack that soldiers apparently in good health when they retired at night were found dead in the morning. One man was relieved from his tour of sentinel duty and had stretched himself upon a bench; when he was called four hours later to resume his duties he was found lifeless."
In May, 1820, the command left their cantonment, crossed the St. Peters' and went into summer camp at a spring near the old Baker trading house, and about two miles above the present site of Fort Snelling. This was called "Camp Coldwater." During the summer the men were busy in procuring logs and other material necessary for the work. The first site selected was where the present military cemetery stands, and the post was called "Fort St. Anthony"; but in August, 1820, Col. Joshua Snelling of the Fifth United States Infantry arrived, and, on taking command, changed the site to where Fort Snelling now stands. Work steadily progressed until September 10, l820, when the cornerstone of Fort St. Anthony was laid with all due ceremony. The first measured distance that was given between this new post and the next one down the river, Fort Crawford, where Prairie du Chien now stands, was 204 miles. The work was steadily pushed forward. The buildings were made of logs, and were first occupied in October, 1822.
The first steamboat to arrive at the post was the "Virginia," in 1823. The first saw-mill in Minnesota was constructed by the troops in 1822, and the first lumber sawed on Rum river was for use in building the post. The mill site is now included within the corporate limits of Minneapolis.
The post continued to be called Fort St. Anthony until 1824, when, upon the recommendation of General Scott, who inspected the Fort, it was named Fort Snelling, in honor of its founder. In 1830, stone buildings were erected for a four company post; also a stone hospital and a stone wall, nine feet high, surrounding the whole post, but these improvements were not actually completed until after the Mexican War.
The Indian title to the military reservation does not seem to have been effectually acquired, notwithstanding the treaty of Lieutenant Pike made with the Indians in 1805, until the treaty with the Dakotas, in 1837, by which the Indian claim to all the lands east of the Mississippi, including the reservation, ceased. In 1836, before the Indian title was finally acquired, quite a number of settlers located on the reservation on the left bank of the Mississippi.
October 21, 1839, the President issued an order for their removal, and on May 6, 1840, some of the settlers were forcibly removed.
In 1837 Mr. Alexander Faribault presented a claim for Pike island, which was based upon a treaty made by him with the Dakotas in 1820.
Whether his claim was allowed, the records do not disclose, and it is unimportant.
May 25, 1853, a military reservation for the fort was set off by the President, of seven thousand acres, which in the following November was reduced to six thousand.
In 1857, the Secretary of War, pursuant to the authority vested in him by act of Congress of March 3,1857, sold the Fort Snelling reservation, excepting two small tracts, to Mr. Franklin Steele, who had long been sutler of the post, for the sum of ninety thousand dollars, which was to be paid in three installments. The first one of thirty thousand dollars was paid by Mr. Steele, July 25, 1857, and he took possession, the troops being withdrawn.
The fort was sold at private sale and the price paid was, in my opinion, vastly more than it was worth, but Mr. Steele had great hopes for the future of that locality as a site for a town and was willing to risk the payment. The sale was made, by private contract, by Secretary Floyd, who adopted this manner because other reservations had been sold at public auction, after full publication of notice to the world, and had brought only a few cents per acre. The whole transaction was in perfect good faith, but it was attacked in Congress, and an investigation ordered, which resulted in suspending its consummation, and Mr. Steele did not pay the balance due. In 1860 the Civil War broke out and the fort was taken possession of by the government for use in fitting out Minnesota troops and was held until the war ended. In 1808 Mr. Steele presented a claim against the government for rent of the fort and other matters relating to it, which amounted to more than the price he agreed to pay for it.
An act of Congress was passed, May 7, 1870, authorizing the Secretary of War to settle the whole matter on principles of equity, keeping such reservation as was necessary for the fort. In pursuance of this act, a military board was appointed and the whole controversy was arranged to the satisfaction of Mr. Steele and the government. The reservation was reduced to a little more than fifteen hundred acres. A grant of ten acres was made to the little Catholic church at Mendota for a cemetery, and other small tracts were reserved about the Falls of Minnehaha and elsewhere, and all the balance was conveyed to Mr. Steele, he releasing the government from all claims and demands. The action of the Secretary of War in carrying out this settlement was approved by the President in 1871.
The fort was one of the best structures of the kind ever erected in the West. It was capable of accommodating five or six companies of infantry, was surrounded by a high stone wall and protected at the only exposed approaches by stone bastions guarded by cannon and musketry, its supply of water was obtained from a well in the parade ground near the sutler's store, which was sunk below the surface of the river. It was perfectly impregnable to any savage enemy, and in consequence was never called upon to stand a siege.
Perched upon a prominent bluff at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, it has witnessed the changes that have gone on around it for three-quarters of a century, and witnessed the most extraordinary transformations that have occurred in any similar period in the history of our country. When its corner stone was laid it formed the extreme frontier of the Northwest, with nothing but wild animals and wilder men within hundreds of miles in any direction. The frontier has receded to the westward until it has lost itself in the corresponding one being pushed from the Pacific to the East. The Indians have lost their splendid freedom as lords of a Continent and are prisoners, cribbed upon narrow reservations. The magnificent herds of buffalo that ranged from the British possessions to Texas have disappeared from the face of the earth and nothing remains but the white man bearing his burden, which is constantly being made more irksome. To those who have played both parts in the moving drama, there is much food for thought.
I devote so much space to Fort Snelling because it has always sustained the position of a pivotal center to Minnesota. In the infancy of society it radiated the refinement and elegance that leavened the country around. In hospitality its officers were never surpassed, and when danger threatened, its protecting arm assured safety. For many long years it was the first to welcome the incomer to the country and will ever be remembered by the old settlers as a friend.
After the headquarters of the Department of the Dakota was established at St. Paul, and when General Sherman was in command of the army, he thought that the offices should be at the fort and removed them there. This caused the erection of the new administration building and the beautiful line of officers' quarters about a mile above the old walled structure, and its practical abandonment, but it was soon found to be inconvenient in a business way and the department headquarters were restored to the city, where they now remain.
Since the fort was built nearly every officer in the old army, and many of those who have followed them, have been stationed at Fort Snelling, and it was beloved by them all.
The situation of the fort, now that the railroads have become the reliance of all transportation, both for speed and safety, is a most advantageous one from a military point of view. It is at the center of a railroad system that reaches all parts of the Continent, and troops and munitions of war can be deposited at any point with the utmost dispatch. It is believed that it will not only be retained but enlarged.
THE SELKIRK SETTLEMENT.
Lord Selkirk, to check whose operations were among the reasons given for the erection of Fort Snelling, was a Scotch earl who was very wealthy and enthusiastic on the subject of founding colonies in the Northwestern British possessions, he was a kind-hearted, but visionary man, and had no practical knowledge whatever on the subject of colonization in uncivilized countries. About the beginning of the Nineteenth Century he wrote several pamphlets urging the importance of colonizing British emigrants on British soil to prevent them settling in the United States. In 1811 he obtained a grant of land from the Hudson Bay Company in the region of Lake Winnipeg, the Red River of the North and the Assinaboine, in what is now Manitoba.
Previous to this time the inhabitants of this region, besides the Indians, were Canadians, who had intermingled with the savages, learning all their vices and none of their good traits. They were called "Gens libre," free people, and were very proud of the title. Mr. Neil, in his history of Minnesota, in describing them, says they were fond of"Vast and sudden deeds of violence.
Adventures wild and wonders of the moment."
The offspring of their intercourse with the Indian women were numerous and called "Bois Brules." They were a line race of hunters, horsemen and boatmen, and possessed all the accomplishments of the voyageur. They spoke the language of both father and mother.
In 1812 a small advance party of colonists arrived at the Red River of the North in about latitude 50 degrees north. They were, however, frightened away by a party of men of the Northwest Fur Company, dressed as Indians, and induced to take refuge at Pembina, in Minnesota, where they spent the winter suffering the greatest hardships. Many died, but the survivors returned in the spring to the colony and made an effort to raise a crop, but it was a failure, and they again passed the winter at Pembina. This was the winter of 1813 - 14. They again returned to the colony in a very distressed and dilapidated condition in the spring.
By September, 1815, the colony, which then numbered about two hundred, was getting along quite prosperously, and its future seemed auspicious. It was called "Kildonan," after a parish in Scotland in which the colonists were born.
The employees of the Northwest Fur Company were, however, very restive under anything that looked like improvement and regarded it as a ruse of their rival, the Hudson Bay Company, to break up the lucrative business they were enjoying in the Indian trade.
They resorted to all kinds of measures to get rid of the colonists, even to attempting to incite the Indians against them, and on one occasion, by a trick, disarmed them of their brass field pieces and other small artillery. Many of the disaffected Selkirkers deserted to the quarters of the Northwest Company. These annoyances were carried to the extent of an attack on the house of the Governor, where four of the inmates were wounded, one of whom died. They finally agreed to leave, and were escorted to Lake Winnipeg, where they embarked in boats. Their improvements were all destroyed by the Northwest people.
They were again induced to return to their colony lands by the Hudson Bay people, and did so in 1816, when they were reinforced by new colonists. Part of them wintered at Pembina in 1816, but returned to the Kildonan settlement in the spring.
Lord Selkirk, hearing of the distressed condition of his colonists, sailed for New York, where he arrived in the fall of 1815, and learned they had been compelled to leave the settlement. He proceeded to Montreal, where he found some of the settlers in the greatest poverty, but learning that a large number of them still remained in the colony he sent an express to announce his arrival and say that he would be with them in the spring. The news was sent by a colonist named Laquimonier, but he was waylaid and, near Fond du Lac, brutally beaten and robbed of his dispatches. Subsequent investigation proved that this was the work of the Northwest Company.
Selkirk tried to obtain military aid from the British authorities, but failed. He then engaged four officers and over one hundred privates who had served in the late war with the United States to accompany him to the Red river. He was to pay them, give them lands and send them home if they wished to return. When he reached Sault Ste. Marie he heard that his colony had again been destroyed. War was raging between the Hudson Bay people and the Northwest Company, in which Governor Semple, chief governor of the factories and territories of the Hudson Bay Company, was killed. Selkirk proceeded to Fort William, on Lake Superior, and finally reached his settlement on the Red river.
The colonists were compelled to pass the winter of 1817 in hunting in Minnesota, and had a hard time of it. In the spring they once more found their way home and planted crops, but they were destroyed by grasshoppers, which remained during the next year and ate up every growing thing, rendering it necessary that the colonists should again resort to the buffalo for subsistence.
During the winter of 1819 - 20 a deputation of these Scotchmen came all the way to Prairie du Chien on snowshoes for seed wheat, a distance of a thousand miles, and on the 15th day of April, 1820, left for the colony in three Mackinaw boats, carrying three hundred bushels of wheat, one hundred bushels of oats, and thirty bushels of peas. Being stopped by ice in Lake Pepin, they planted a May pole and celebrated May day on the ice. They reached home by May of the Minnesota river with a short portage to Lac Traverse, the boats being moved on rollers, and thence down the Red river to Pembina, where they arrived in safety June 3. This trip cost Lord Selkirk about six thousand dollars.
Nothing daunted by the terrible sufferings of his colonists and the immense expense attendant upon his enterprise, in 1820 he engaged Capt. R. May, who was a citizen of Berne, Switzerland, but in the British service, to visit Switzerland and get recruits for his colony. The Captain made the most exaggerated representations of the advantages to be gained by emigrating to the colony, and induced many Swiss to leave their happy and peaceful homes to try their fortunes in the distant, dangerous and inhospitable regions of Lake Winnipeg. They knew nothing of the hardships in store for them and were the least adapted to encounter them of any people in the world, as they were mechanics, whose business had been the delicate work of making watches and clocks. They arrived in 1821, and from year to year, after undergoing hardships that might have appalled the hardiest pioneer, their spirits drooped, they pined for home, and left for the South. At one time a party of two hundred and forty-three of them departed for the United States and found homes at different points on the banks of the Mississippi.
Before the eastern wave of immigration had ascended above Prairie du Chien, many Swiss had opened farms at and near St. Paul, and became the first actual settlers of the country. Col. John H. Stevens, in an address on the early history of Hennepin county, says that they were driven from their homes in 1836 and 1837 by the military at Fort Snelling, and is very severe on the autocratic conduct of the officers of the fort, saying that the commanding officers were lords of the North, and the subordinates were princes. I have no doubt they did not underrate their authority, but I think Colonel Stevens must refer to the removals that were made of settlers on the military reservation of which I have before spoken.
The subject of the Selkirk colony cannot fail to interest the reader, as it was the first attempt to introduce into the great Northwest settlers for the purposes of peaceful agriculture - everybody else who had preceded them having been connected with the half-savage business of the Indian trade; and the reason I have dwelt so long upon the subject is because these people on their second emigration furnished Minnesota with her first settlers, and, curiously enough, they came from the North.
Abraham Perry was one of these Swiss refugees from the Selkirk settlement, who, with his wife and two children, settled at Fort Snelling first, then at St. Paul, and finally at Lake Johanna. His son Charles, who came with him, has, while I am writing, on the 29th of July, 1899, celebrated his golden wedding at the old homestead at Lake Johanna, where they have ever since lived. They were married by the Rt. Rev. A. Ravoux, who is still living in St. Paul. Charles Perry is the only survivor of that ill fated band of Selkirkers.
In 1835 George Catlin, an artist of some merit, visited Minnesota and made many sketches and portraits of Indians. His published statements after his departure, concerning his personal adventures, have elicited adverse criticism from the settlers of that period.
Featherstonhaugh, an Englishman, about the same time, under the direction of the United States Government, made a slight geological survey of the Minnesota valley, and on his return to England he wrote a book which reflected unjustly upon the gentlemen he met in Minnesota; but not much was thought of it, because, until recently, such has been the English custom.
SCHOOLCRAFT AND THE SOURCE OF THE MISSISSIPPI.
In 1832 the United States sent an embassy, composed of thirty men, under Henry R. Schoolcraft, then Indian agent at Ste. Marie, to visit the Indians of the Northwest, and when advisable to make treaties with them. They had a guard of soldiers, a physician, an interpreter, and the Rev. William T. Boutwell, a missionary at Leech lake. They were supplied with a large outfit of provisions, tobacco and trinkets, which were conveyed in a bateau. They traveled in several large bark canoes. They went to Fond du Lac, thence up the St. Louis river, portaged round the falls, thence to the nearest point to Sandy lake, thence up the Mississippi to Leech lake. While there they learned from the Indians that Cass lake, which for some time had been reputed to be the source of the Mississippi, was not the real source, and they determined to solve the problem of where the real source was to be found, and what it was.
I may say here, that in 1819, Gen. Lewis Cass, then Governor of the Territory of Michigan, had led an exploring party to the upper waters of the Mississippi, somewhat similar to the one I am now speaking of, Mr. Henry P. Schoolcraft being one of them. When they reached what is now Cass lake, in the Mississippi river, they decided that it was the source of the great river, and it was named Cass lake, in honor of the Governor, and was believed to be such until the arrival of Schoolcraft's party in 1832.
After a search an inlet was found into Cass lake, flowing from the west, and they pursued it until the lake now called "Itasca" was reached. Five of the party, Lieutenant Allen, Mr. Schoolcraft, Dr. Houghton, Interpreter Johnson and Mr. Boutwell, explored the lake thoroughly and, finding no inlet, decided it must be the true source of the river. Mr. Schoolcraft, being desirous of giving the lake a name that would indicate its position as the true head of the river, and at the same time be euphonious in sound, endeavored to produce one; but being unable to satisfy himself, turned it over to Mr. Boutwell, who, being a good Latin scholar, wrote down the Latin words, "veritas," truth, and "caput," head, and suggested that a word might be coined out of the combination that would answer the purpose. He then cut off the last two syllables of Veritas, making "Itas," and the first syllable of caput, making "ca," and, putting them together, formed the word "Itasca," which in my judgment is a sufficiently skillful and beautiful literary feat to immortalize the inventor. Mr. Hunt well died within a few years at Stillwater, in Minnesota.
Presumptuous attempts have been made to deprive Schoolcraft of the honor of having discovered the true source of the river, but their transparent absurdity has prevented their having obtained any credence, and to put a quietus on such unscrupulous pretences Mr. J. V. Brower, a scientific surveyor, under the auspices of the Minnesota Historical Society, has recently made exhaustive researches, surveys and maps of the region, and established beyond doubt or cavil the entire authenticity of Schoolcraft's discovery. Gen. James H. Baker, once Surveyor General of the State of Minnesota, and a distinguished member of the same society, under its appointment, prepared an elaborate paper on the subject, in which is collected and presented all the facts, history and knowledge that exists, relating to the discovery, and conclusively destroyed all efforts to deprive Schoolcraft of his laurels.
ELEVATIONS IN MINNESOTA.
While on the subject of the source of the Mississippi river, I may as well speak of the elevations of the State above the level of the sea. It can be truthfully said that Minnesota occupies the summit of the North American continent. In its most northern third, rises the Mississippi, which in its general course flows due south to the Gulf of Mexico. In about its center division, from north to south, rises the Red River of the North, and takes a general northerly direction until it empties into Lake Winnipeg; the St. Louis and other rivers rise in the same region and flow eastwardly into Lake Superior, which is the real source of the St. Lawrence, which empties into the Atlantic.
The elevation at the source of the Mississippi is 1,600 feet and at the point where it leaves the southern boundary of the State 620 feet. The elevation at the source of the Red River of the North is the same as that of the Mississippi, 1,600 feet, and where it leaves the State at its northern boundary 767 feet. The average elevation of the State is given at 1,275 feet, and its highest elevation in the Mesaba Range. 2,200 feet, and its lowest, at Duluth, 602 feet.
In 1836 a French savant, Mr. Jean N. Nicollet, visited Minnesota for the purpose of exploration. He was an astronomer of note and had received a decoration of the Legion of Honor, and had also been attached as professor to the Royal College of "Louis Le Grand." He arrived in Minnesota, July 26, 1836, bearing letters of introduction, and visited Fort Snelling, whence he left with a French trader, named Fronchet, to explore the sources of the Mississippi. He entered the Crow Wing river, and by the way of Gull river and Gull lake, he entered Leech lake. The Indians were disappointed when they found he had no presents for them, and that he spent the most of his time looking at the heavens through a tube, and they became unruly and troublesome. The Rev. Mr. Boutwell, whose mission house was on the lake, learning of the difficulty, came to the rescue, and a very warm friendship sprang up between the men. No educated man who has not experienced the desolation of having been shut up among savages and rough unfettered voyageurs for a long time can appreciate the pleasure of meeting a cultured and refined gentleman so unexpectedly as Mr. Boutwell encountered Nicollet, and especially when he was able to render him valuable aid.
From Leech lake Nicollet went to Lake Itasca with guides and packers. He pitched his tent on Schoolcraft island in the lake, where he occupied himself for some time in making astronomical observations. He continued his explorations beyond those of Schoolcraft and Lieutenant Allen, and followed up the rivulets that entered the lake, thoroughly exploring its basin or watershed.
He returned to Fort Snelling in October and remained there for some time, studying Dakota. He became the guest of Gen. Henry H. Sibley at his home in Mendota for the winter. General Sibley, in speaking of him, says:"A portion of the winter following was spent by him at my house and it is hardly necessary to state that I found in him a most instructive companion. His devotion to his studies was intense and unremitting, and I frequently expostulated with him upon his imprudence in thus overtasking the strength of his delicate frame, but without effect."
Nicollet went to Washington after his tour of 1836-7, and was honored with a commission from the United States government to make further explorations, and John C. Fremont was detailed as his assistant.
Under his new appointment Nicollet and his assistant went up the Missouri in a steamboat to Fort Pierre; thence he traveled through the interior of Minnesota, visiting the red pipestone quarry, Devil's lake and other important localities. On this tour he made a map of the country - the first reliable and accurate one made, which, together with his astronomical observations, were invaluable to the country. His name has been perpetuated by giving it to one of Minnesota's principal counties.
The missionary period is one full of interest in the history of the State of Minnesota. The devoted people who sacrifice all the pleasures and luxuries of life to spread the gospel of Christianity among the Indians are deserving of all praise, no matter whether success or failure attends their efforts. The Dakotas and Chippewas were not neglected in this respect. The Catholics were among them at a very early day and strove to convert them to Christianity. These worthy men were generally French priests and daring explorers, but for some reason, whether it was want of permanent support or an individual desire to rove, I am unable to say, but they did not succeed in founding any missions of a lasting character among the Dakotas before the advent of white settlement. The devout Romanist, Shea, in his interesting history of Catholic missions, speaking of the Dakotas, remarks that, "Father Menard had projected a Sioux mission; Marquette, Allouez, Druillettes, all entertained hopes of realizing it, and had some intercourse with that nation, but none of them ever succeeded in establishing a mission." Their work, however, was only postponed, for at a later date they gained and maintained a lasting foothold.
The Protestants, however, in and after 1820, made permanent and successful ventures in this direction. After the formation of the American Fur Company, Mackinaw became the chief point of that organization. In June, 1820, the Rev. Mr. Morse, father of the inventor of the telegraph, came to Mackinaw and preached the first sermon that was delivered in the Northwest. He made a report of his visit to the Presbyterian missionary society in New York, which sent out parties to explore the field. The Rev. W. M. Terry, with his wife, commenced a school at Mackinaw in 1823 and had great success. There were sometimes as many as two hundred pupils at the school, representing many tribes of Indians. There are descendants of the children who were educated at this school now in Minnesota who are citizens of high standing and are indebted to this institution for their education and position.
In the year 1830 a Mr. Warren, who was then living at La Pointe, visited Mackinaw to obtain a missionary for his place, and not being able to secure an ordained minister he took back with him Mr. Frederick Ayre, a teacher, who, being pleased with the place and prospect, returned to Mackinaw, and in 1831, with the Rev. Sherman Hall and wife, started for La Pointe, where they arrived August 30, and established themselves as missionaries, with a school.
The next year Mr. Ayre went to Sandy lake and opened another school for the children of voyageurs and Indians. In 1832 Mr. Boutwell, after his tour with Schoolcraft, took charge of the school at La Pointe, and in 1833 he removed to Leech lake and there established the first mission in Minnesota, west of the Mississippi.
From his Leech lake mission he writes a letter in which he gives such a realistic account of his school and mission that one can see everything that is taking place, as if a panorama was passing before his eyes. He takes a cheerful view of his prospects, and gives a comprehensive statement of the resources of the country in their natural state. If space allowed, I would like to copy the whole letter; but as he speaks of the wild rice in referring to the food supply, I will say a word about it, as I deem it one of Minnesota's most important natural resources.
In 1857 I visited the source of the Mississippi with the then Indian Agent for the Chippewas, and traveled hundreds of miles in the upper river. We passed through endless fields of wild rice, and witnessed its harvest by the Chippewas, which is a most interesting and picturesque scene. They tie it in sheaves with straw before it is ripe enough to gather to prevent the wind from shaking out the grains, and when it has matured they thresh it with sticks into their canoes. We estimated that there were about one thousand families of the Chippewas, and that they gathered about twenty-five bushels for each family, and we saw that in so doing they did not make any impression whatever on the crop, leaving thousands of acres of the rice to the geese and ducks. Our calculations then were, that more rice grew in Minnesota each year, without any cultivation, than was produced in South Carolina as one of the principal products of that State; and I may add that it is much more palatable and nutritious as a food than the white rice of the Orient or the South. There is no doubt that at some future time it will be utilized to the great advantage of the State.
Mr. Boutwell's Leech lake mission was in all things a success.
In 1834 the Rev. Samuel W. Pond and his brother, Gideon H. Pond, full of missionary enthusiasm, arrived at Fort Snelling in the month of May. They consulted with the Indian agent, Major Taliaferro, about the best place to establish a mission and decided upon Lake Calhoun, where dwelt small bands of Dakotas, and with their own hands erected a house and located.
About the same time came the Rev. T. H. Williamson, M. D., under appointment from the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, to visit the Dakotas, and ascertain what could be done to introduce Christian instruction among them. He was reinforced by the Rev. J. D. Stevens, missionary, Alexander Huggins, farmer, and their wives, Miss Sarah Poage and Miss Lucy Stevens, teachers. They arrived at Fort Snelling in May, 1835, and were hospitably received by the officers of the garrison, the Indian Agent and Mr. Sibley, then a young man who had recently taken charge of the trading post at Mendota.
From this point Rev. Mr. Stevens and family proceeded to Lake Harriet in Hennepin county and built a suitable house. Dr. Williamson and wife, Mr. Huggins and wife, and Miss Poage went to Lac qui Parle, where they were welcomed by Mr. Renville, a trader at that point, after whom the county of Renville is named.
The Rev. J. D. Stevens acted as chaplain of Fort Snelling in the absence of a regularly appointed officer in that position.
In 1837 the mission was strengthened by the arrival of the Rev. Stephen R. Riggs, a graduate of Jefferson College, Pennsylvania, and his wife. After remaining a short time at Lake Harriet Mr. and Mrs. Riggs went to Lac qui Parle.
In 1837 missionaries sent out by the Evangelical Society of Lausanne, Switzerland, arrived and located at Red Wing and Wapashaw's Villages on the Mississippi, and about the same time a Methodist mission was commenced at Kaposia, but they were of brief duration and soon abandoned.
In 1836 a mission was established at Pokegama, among the Chippewas, which was quite successful, and afterwards, in 1842 or 1843, missions were opened at Red Lake, Shakopee and other places in Minnesota. During the summer of 1843 Mr. Riggs commenced a mission station at Traverse des Sioux, which attained considerable proportions and remained until overtaken by white settlement, about 1854.
Mr. Riggs and Dr. Williamson also established a mission at the Yellow Medicine agency of the Sioux, in the year 1852, which was about the best equipped of any of them. It consisted of a good house for the missionaries, a large boarding and school house for Indian pupils, a neat little church, with a steeple and a bell, and all the other buildings necessary to a complete mission outfit.
These good men adopted a new scheme of education and civilization, which promised to be very successful. They organized a government among the Indians, which they called the Hazelwood Republic. To become a member of this civic body it was necessary that the applicant should cut off his long hair and put on white men's clothes, and it was also expected that he should become a member of the church. The Republic had a written Constitution, a president and other officers. It was in 1856, when I first became acquainted with this institution, and I afterwards used its members to great advantage, in the rescue of captive women and the punishment of one of the leaders of the Spirit Lake massacre, which occurred in the northwestern portion of Iowa, in the year 1857, the particulars of which I will relate hereafter. The name of the president was Paul Ma-za-en-ta-ma-ni, or the man who shoots metal as he walks, and one of its prominent members was John Otherday, called in Sioux, An-pay-tu-tok-a-cha, both of whom were the best friends the whites had in the hour of their great danger in the outbreak of 1862. It was these two men who informed the missionaries and other whites at the Yellow Medicine agency of the impending massacre and assisted sixty-two of them to escape before the fatal blow was struck.
What I have said proves that much good attended the work of the missionaries in the way of civilizing some of the Indians, but it has always been open to question in my mind if any Sioux Indian ever fully comprehended the basic doctrines of Christianity. I will give an example which had great weight in forming my judgment. There was among the pillars of the mission church at the Yellow Medicine agency, or as it was called in Sioux, Pajutazee, an Indian named Ana-wang-mani, to which the missionaries had prefixed the name of Simon. He was an exceptionally good man and prominent in all church matters. He prayed and exhorted and was looked upon by all interested as a fulfillment of the success of both the church and the Republic. Imagine the consternation of the worthy missionaries when one day he announced that a man who had killed his cousin some eight years ago had returned from the Missouri and was then in a neighboring camp, and that it was his duty to kill him to avenge his cousin. The missionaries argued with him, quoted the Bible to him, prayed with him; in fact, exhausted every possible means to prevent him carrying out his purpose, but all to no effect. He would admit all they said, assured them that he believed everything they contended for, but he would always end with the assertion that "he killed my cousin, and I must kill him." This savage instinct was too deeply imbedded in his nature to be overcome by any teaching of the white man, and the result was that he got a double-barreled shotgun and carried out his purpose, the consequence of which was to nearly destroy the church and the republic. He was, however, true to the whites all through the outbreak of 1862.
When the Indians rebelled the entire mission outfit at Pajutazee was destroyed, which practically put an end to missionary effort in Minnesota, but did not in the least lessen the ardor of the missionaries. I remember meeting Dr. Williamson soon after the Sioux were driven out of the State, and supposing, of course, that he had given up all hope of Christianizing them, I asked him where he would settle, and what he would do. He did not hesitate a moment, and said that he would hunt up the remnant of his people and attend to their spiritual wants.
Having given a general idea of the missionary efforts that were made in Minnesota, I will say a word about the Indians.
The Dakotas - or, as they were afterwards called, the Sioux - and the Chippewas were splendid races of aboriginal men. The Sioux who occupied Minnesota were about eight thousand strong, men, women and children. They were divided into four principal bands, known as the M'day-wa-kon-tons, or Spirit Lake Villagers; the Wak-pay-ku-tays, or Leaf Shooters, from their living in the timber; the Si-si-tons, and the Wak-pay-tons. There was also a considerable band, known as the Upper Si-si-tons, who occupied the extreme upper waters of the Minnesota river. The Chippewas numbered about seven thousand eight hundred, divided as follows: At Lake Superior, whose agency was at La Pointe, Wisconsin, about sixteen hundred and fifty; on the upper Mississippi, on the east side, about three thousand four hundred and fifty; of Pillagers, fifteen hundred and fifty, and at Red lake, eleven hundred and thirty. The Sioux and Chippewas had been deadly enemies as far back as anything was known of them and kept up continual warfare. The Winnebagoes, numbering about fifteen hundred, were removed from the neutral ground in Iowa to Long Prairie in Minnesota, in 1848, and in 1854 were again removed to Blue Earth county, near the present site of Mankato. While Minnesota was a Territory its western boundary extended to the Missouri river, and on that river, both east and west of it, were numerous wild and warlike bands of Sioux, numbering many thousands, although no accurate census of them had ever been taken. They were the Tetons, Yanktons, Cutheads, Yanktonais and others. These Missouri Indians frequently visited Minnesota.
The proper name of these Indians is Dakota, and they know themselves only by that name, but the Chippewas of Lake Superior, in speaking of them, always called them "Nadowessioux," which in their language signifies enemy. The traders had a habit when speaking of any tribe in the presence of another, and especially of an enemy, to designate them by some name that would not be understood by the listeners, as they were very suspicious. When speaking of the Dakotas they used the last syllable of Nadowessioux, "Sioux," until the name attached itself to them, and they have always since been so called.
Charlevoix, who visited Minnesota in 1721, in his history of New France, says: "The name Sioux that we give these Indians is entirely of our own making, or rather it is the last two syllables of the name Nadowessioux, as many nations call them."
The Sioux live in tepees or circular conical tents supported by poles, so arranged as to leave an opening in the top for ventilation and for the escape of smoke. These were, before the advent of the whites, covered with dressed buffalo skins, but more recently with a coarse cotton tent cloth, which is preferable on account of its being much lighter to transport from place to place, as they are almost constantly on the move, the tents being carried by the squaws. There is no more comfortable habitation than the Sioux tepee to be found among the dwellers in tents anywhere. A fire is made in the center for either warmth or cooking purposes. The camp kettle is suspended over it, making cooking easy and cleanly. In the winter, when the Indian family settles down to remain any considerable time, they select a river bottom where there is timber or chaparral, and set up the tepee; then they cut the long grass or bottom cane and stand it up against the outside of the lodge to the thickness of about twenty inches, and you have a very warm and cozy habitation.
The wealth of the Sioux consists very largely in his horses, and his subsistence is the game of the forest and plains and the fish and wild rice of the lakes. Minnesota was an Indian paradise. It abounded in buffalo, elk, moose, deer, beaver, wolves, and in fact nearly all wild animals found in North America. It held upon its surface eight thousand beautiful lakes, alive with the finest of edible fish. It was dotted over with beautiful groves of the sugar maple, yielding quantities of delicious sugar, and wild rice swamps were abundant. An inhabitant of this region with absolute liberty, and nothing to do but defend it against the encroachments of enemies, certainly had very little more to ask of his Creator. But he was not allowed to enjoy it in peace. A stronger race was on his trail, and there was nothing left for him but to surrender his country on the best terms he could make. Such has ever been the case from the beginning of recorded events, and judging from current operations there has been no cessation of the movement. Why was not the world made big enough for homes for all kinds and colors of men and all characters of civilization?
As the white man progressed towards the West and came in contact with the Indians, it became necessary to define the territories of the different tribes to avoid collision between them and the newcomers as much as possible. To accomplish this end, Governor Clark of Missouri and Governor Cass of Michigan, on the 19th of August, 1825, convened at Prairie du Chien, a grand congress of Indians, representing the Dakotas, Chippewas (then called Ojib- ways), Sauks, Foxes, Menomonies, Iowas, Winnebagoes, Pottawattamies and Ottawas, and it was determined by treaties among them where the dividing lines between their countries should be; which partition gave the Chippewas a large part of what is now Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the Dakotas lands to the west of them. But it soon became apparent that these boundary lines between the Dakotas and the Chippewas would not be adhered to, and Governor Cass and Mr. T. L. McKenney were appointed commissioners to again convene the Chippewas. This time they met at Fond du Lac, and there, on the 5th of August, 1826, another treaty was entered into, which, with the exception of the Fort Snelling treaty, was the first one ever made on the soil of Minnesota. By this treaty the Chippewas, among other things, renounced all allegiance to or connection with Great Britain and acknowledged the authority of the United States. These treaties were, however, rather of a preliminary character, being intended more for the purpose of arranging matters between the tribes than making concessions to the whites, although the whites were permitted to mine and carry away metals and ores from the Chippewa country by the treaty of Fond du Lac.
The first important treaty made with the Sioux, by which the white men began to obtain concessions of lands from them, was on August 29, 1837. This treaty was made at Washington through Joel R. Poinsette, and to give an idea of how little time and few words were spent in accomplishing important ends I will quote the first article of this treaty."Article I. The chiefs and braves representing the parties having an interest therein cede to the United States all their land east of the Mississippi river and all their islands in said river."
The rest of the treaty is confined to the consideration to be paid and matters of that nature.
This treaty extinguished all the Dakota title in lands east of the Mississippi river in Minnesota and opened the way for immigration on all that side of the Mississippi. Immigration was not long in accepting the invitation, for between the making of the treaty in 1837, and the admission of the State of Wisconsin into the Union in 1848, there had sprung into existence in that State west of the St. Croix the towns of Stillwater, St. Anthony, St. Paul. Marine, Areola and other lesser settlements, which were all left in Minnesota when Wisconsin adopted the St. Croix as its western boundary.
Most important, however, of all the treaties that opened up the lands of Minnesota to settlement were those of 1851, made at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota, by which the Sioux ceded to the United States all their lands in Minnesota and Iowa, except a small reservation for their habitation, situated on the upper waters of the Minnesota river.
The Territory of Minnesota was organized in 1849 and immediately presented to the world a very attractive field for immigration. The most desirable lands in the new Territory were on the west side of the Mississippi, but the title to them was still in the Indians. The whites could not wait until this was extinguished, but at once began to settle on the land lying on the west bank of the Mississippi, north of the north line of Iowa, and in the new Territory. These settlements extended up the Mississippi river as far as Saint Cloud, in what is now Stearns county, and extended up the Minnesota river as far as the mouth of the Blue Earth river, in the neighborhood of Mankato. These settlers were all trespassers on the lands of the Indians, but a little thing like that never deterred a white American from pushing his fortunes towards the setting sun. It soon became apparent that the Indians must yield to the approaching tidal wave of settlement, and measures were taken to acquire their lands by the United States. In 1851 Luke Lea, then commissioner of the general land office, and Alexander Ramsey, then Governor of the Territory of Minnesota, and ex-officio superintendent of Indian affairs, were appointed commissioners to treat with the Indians at Traverse des Sioux, and after much feasting and talking a treaty was completed and signed, July 23, 1851, between the United States and the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of Sioux, whereby these bands ceded to the United States a vast tract of land lying in Minnesota and Iowa, and reserved for their future occupation a strip of land on the Upper Minnesota, ten miles wide on each side of the center line of the river. For this cession they were to be paid $1,665,000, which was to be paid a part in cash to liquidate debts, etc., and five per cent per annum on the balance for fifty years, the interest to be paid annually, partly in cash and partly in funds for agriculture, civilization, education and in goods of various kinds; these payments, when completed, were to satisfy both principal and interest, the policy and expectation of the government being that at the end of fifty years the Indians would be civilized and self-sustaining.
Amendments were made to this treaty in the Senate, and it was not fully completed and proclaimed until February 24, 1853.
Almost instantly after the execution of this treaty, and on August 5, 1954, another treaty was negotiated by the same commissioners with two other bands of Sioux in Minnesota, the Me-day-wa-kon-tons and Wak-pay-koo-tays. By this treaty these bands ceded to the United States all their lands in the Territory of Minnesota or State of Iowa, for which they were to be paid $1,410,000, very much in the same way that was provided in the last named treaty with the Sissetons and Wak-pay-tons. This treaty also was amended by the Senate and not fully perfected until February 24, 1853. Both of these treaties contained the provision that "The laws of the United States, prohibiting the introduction and sale of spirituous liquors in the Indian country, shall be in full force and effect throughout the Territory hereby ceded and lying in Minnesota, until otherwise directed by Congress or the President of the United States." I mention this feature of the treaty because it gave rise to much litigation as to whether the treaty making power had authority to legislate for settlers on the ceded lands of the United States. The power was sustained. These treaties practically obliterated the Indian title from the lands composing Minnesota, and its extinction brings us to the territorial period.
It must be kept in mind that during the period which we have been attempting to review, the people who inhabited what is now Minnesota were subject to a great many different governmental jurisdictions. This, however, did not in any way concern them, as they did not as a general thing, know or care anything about such matters, but as it may be interesting to the retrospective explorer to be informed on the subject I will briefly present it. Minnesota has two sources of parentage. The part of it lying west of the Mississippi was part of the Louisiana purchase made by President Jefferson from Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803, and the part east of that river was part of the Northwest Territory ceded by Virginia in 1784 to the United States. I will give the successive changes of political jurisdiction, beginning on the west side of the river.
First it was part of New Spain, and Spanish. It was then purchased from Spain by France, and became French. On June 30, 1803, it became American, by purchase from France, and was part of the Province of Louisiana, and so remained until March 26, 1804, when an act was passed by Congress creating the Territory of Orleans, which included all of the Louisiana purchase south of the 33d degree of north latitude. This act gave the Territory of Louisiana a government and called all the country north of it the District of Louisiana; this was to be governed by the Territory of Indiana, which had been created in 1800, out of the Northwest Territory, and had its seat of government at Vincennes, on the Wabash.
On June 4, 1812, the District of Louisiana was erected into the Territory of Missouri, where we remained until June 28, 1834, when all the public lands of the United States lying west of the Mississippi, north of the State of Missouri, and south of the British line, were, by act of Congress, attached to the Territory of Michigan; we remained under this jurisdiction until April 10, 1836, when the Territory of Wisconsin was created. This law went into effect July 3, 1836, and Wisconsin took in our territory lying west of the Mississippi, and there it remained until June 12, 1838; then the Territory of Iowa was created, taking us in and holding us until the State of Iowa was admitted into the Union, on March 3, 1845, which left us without any government west of the Mississippi.
The part of Minnesota lying east of the Mississippi was originally part of the Northwest Territory. On May 7, 1800, it became part of the Indiana Territory and remained so until April 26, 1836, when it became part of the Wisconsin Territory; it so continued until May 29, 1848, when Wisconsin entered the Union as a State with the St. Croix river for its western boundary. By this arrangement of the western boundary of Wisconsin, all the territory west of the St. Croix and east of the Mississippi, like that west of the river, was left without any government at all.
One of the curious results of the many governmental changes which the western part of Minnesota underwent is illustrated in the residence of Gen. Henry H. Sibley at Mendota. In 1834, at the age of twenty two, Mr. Sibley commenced his residence at Mendota, as the agent of the American Fur Company's establishment. At this point Mr. Sibley built the first private residence that was erected in Minnesota. It was a large, comfortable dwelling, constructed of the blue limestone found in the vicinity, with commodious porticos on the river front. The house was built in 1835-6, and was then in the Territory of Michigan. Mr. Sibley lived in it successively in Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and the Territory and State of Minnesota. He removed to St. Paul in the year 1862. Every distinguished visitor who came to Minnesota in the early days was entertained by Mr. Sibley in his hospitable old mansion, and, together with its genial, generous and refined proprietor, it contributed much towards planting the seeds of those aesthetic amenities of social life that have so generally flourished in the later days of Minnesota's history, and given it its deserved prominence among the States of the West. The house still stands, and has been occupied at different times since its founder abandoned it, as a Catholic institution of some kind and an artist's summer school. The word Mendota is Sioux, and means the meeting of the waters.
It was the admission of Wisconsin into the Union in 1848 that brought about the organization of the Territory of Minnesota. The peculiar situation in which all the people residing west of the St. Croix found themselves set them to devising ways and means to obtain some kind of government to live under. It was a debatable question whether the remnant of Wisconsin which was left over when the State was admitted carried with it the Territorial government, or whether it was a no man's land, and different views were entertained on the subject. The question was somewhat embarrassed by the fact that the Territorial Governor, Governor Dodge, had been elected to the Senate of the United States from the new State, and the Territorial secretary. Mr. John Catlin, who would have become Governor ex-officio when a vacancy occurred in the office of Governor, resided in Madison, and the delegate to Congress, Mr. John H. Tweedy, had resigned, so even if the Territorial government had in law survived there seemed to be no one to represent and administer it.
There was no lack of ability among the inhabitants of the abandoned remnant of Wisconsin. In St. Paul dwelt Henry M. Rice, Louis Roberts, J. W. Simpson, A. L. Larpenteur, David Lambert, Henry Jackson, Vetal Guerin, David Herbert, Oliver Rosseau, Andre Godfrey, Joseph Rondo, James R. Clewell, Edward Phelan, William G. Carter and many others. In Stillwater, and on the St. Croix, were Morton S. Wilkinson, Henry L. Moss, John McKusick, Joseph R. Brown and others. In Mendota resided Henry H. Sibley. In St. Anthony, William R. Marshall; at Fort Snelling, Franklin Steele. I could name many others, but the above is a representative list. It will be observed that many of them are French.
An initial meeting was held in St. Paul, in July of 1848, at Henry Jackson's trading house, to consider the matter, which was undoubtedly the first public meeting ever held in Minnesota. On the 5th of August, in the same year, a similar meeting was held in Stillwater, and out of these meetings grew a call for a convention to be held at Stillwater, August 26, which was held accordingly. There were present about sixty delegates.
At this meeting a letter from Hon. John Catlin, the secretary of Wisconsin Territory, was read, giving it as his opinion that the Territorial government of Wisconsin still existed, and that if a delegate to Congress was elected he would he admitted to a seat.
A memorial to Congress was prepared, setting forth the peculiar situation in which the people of the remnant found themselves and praying relief in the organization of a Territorial government.
During the session of this convention there was a verbal agreement entered into between the members to the effect that when the new Territory was organized the capital should be at St. Paul, the penitentiary at Stillwater, the university at St. Anthony, and the delegate to Congress should be taken from Mendota. I have had reason to assert publicly this fact on former occasions, and so far as it relates to the university and the penitentiary my statement was questioned by Minnesota's greatest historian, Rev. Edward D. Neill, in a published article, signed "Iconoelast," but I sustained my position by letters from surviving members of the convention, which I published, and to which no answer was ever made. The same statement can be found in William's History of St. Paul, published in 1876, at page 182.
The result of this convention was the selection of Henry H. Sibley as its agent or delegate, to proceed to Washington and present the memorial and resolutions to the United States authorities. It was, curiously enough, stipulated that the delegate should pay his own expenses.
Shortly after this event the Hon. John H. Tweedy, who was the regularly elected delegate to Congress from the Territory of Wisconsin, no doubt supposing his official career was terminated, resigned his position, and Mr. John Catlin, claiming to be the Governor of the Territory, came to Stillwater, and issued a proclamation, October 9, 1848, ordering a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Delegate Tweedy. The election was held, October 30. Mr. Henry H. Sibley and Mr. Henry M. Rice became candidates, neither caring very much about the result, and Mr. Sibley was elected. There was much doubt entertained as to the delegate being allowed to take his seat, but in November he proceeded to Washington and was admitted, after considerable discussion.
March 3, 1849, the delegate succeeded in passing an act organizing the Territory of Minnesota, the boundaries of which embraced all the territory between the western boundary of Wisconsin and the Mississippi river, and also all that was left unappropriated on the admission of the State of Iowa, which carried our western boundary to the Missouri river, and included within our limits, a large part of what is now North and South Dakota.
The passage of this act was the first step in the creation of Minnesota. No part of the country had ever before borne that name. The word is composed of two Sioux words, "Minne," which means water, and "Sota," which means the condition of the sky when fleecy white clouds are seen floating slowly and quietly over it. It has been translated "skytinted," giving to the word Minnesota the meaning of skytinted water. The name originated in the fact that in the early days the river now called Minnesota used to rise very rapidly in the spring and there was constantly a caving in of the banks, which disturbed its otherwise pellucid waters, and gave them the appearance of the sky when covered with the light clouds I have mentioned. The similarity was heightened by the current keeping the disturbing element constantly in motion. There is a town just above St. Peter, called Kasota, which means cloudy sky - not stormy or threatening, but a sky dotted with fleecy white clouds. The best conception of this word can be found by pouring a few drops of milk into a glass of clear water and observing the cloudy disturbance.
The principal river in the Territory was then called the St. Peter's river, but the name was changed to the Minnesota.
An act organizing a territory simply creates a government for its inhabitants, limiting and regulating its powers, executive, legislative and judicial, and in our country they resemble each other in all essential features. But the organic act of Minnesota contained one provision never before found in any that preceded it. It had been customary to donate to the Territory and future State one section of land in each surveyed township for school purposes, and section sixteen had been selected as the one, but in the Minnesota act the donation was doubled, and sections sixteen and thirty-six in each township were reserved for the schools, which amounted to one-eighteenth of all the lands in the Territory, and when it is understood that the State, as now constituted, contains 84,287 square miles, or about 53,943,379 acres of land, it will be seen that the grant was princely in extent and incalculable in value. No other State in the Union has been endowed with such a magnificent educational foundation. I may except Texas, which came into the Union, not as a part of the United States public domain, but as an independent republic, owning all its lands, amounting to 237,504 square miles, or 152,002,560 acres - a vast empire in itself. I remember hearing a distinguished Senator, in the course of the debate on its admission into the Union, describe its immensity by saying, "A pigeon could not fly across it in a week."
It affords every citizen of Minnesota great pride to know that, under all phases and conditions of our Territory and State, whether in prosperity or adversity, the school fund has always been held sacred, and neither extravagance, neglect nor peculation has ever assailed it, but it has been husbanded with jealous care from time to time since the first dollar was realized from it until the present, and has accumulated until the principal is estimated at $20,000,000. The State Auditor, in his last report of it, says:
The general method of administering the school fund is, to invest the proceeds arising from the sale of the lands, and distribute the interest among the counties of the State according to the number of children attending school; the principal always to remain untouched and inviolate.
Generous grants of land have also been made for a State university, amounting to 92,558 acres. Also for an agricultural college to the extent of 100,000 acres, which two funds have been consolidated, and together they have accumulated to the sum of $1,159,790.73, all of which is securely invested.
The State has also been endowed with 500,000 acres of land for internal improvements, and all its lands falling within the designation of swamp lands. An act of Congress, of February 26, 1857, also gave it ten sections of land for the purpose of completing public buildings at the seat of government, and all the salt springs, not to exceed twelve, in the State, with six sections of land to each spring, in all seventy-two sections. The twelve salt springs have all been discovered and located, and the lands selected. The salt spring lands have been transferred to the regents of the University, to be held in trust to pay the cost of a geological and natural history survey of the State. It is estimated that the salt spring lands will produce, on the same valuation as the school lands, the sum of $300,000. Large sums will also be gained by the State from the sale of timber stumpage and the products of its mineral lands. Some idea of the magnitude of the fund to be derived from the mineral lands of the State may be learned from the report of the State Auditor for the year 1896, in which he says that during the years 1895-6 there has been received from and under all mineral leases, contracts and royalties, $170,128.83.
It will be seen from this statement that the educational interests of Minnesota are largely provided for without resort to direct taxation, although up to the present time that means of revenue has, to some extent, been utilized to meet the expenses of the grand system prevailing throughout the State.
THE FIRST TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT.
The organization of the Territory was completed by the appointment of Alexander Ramsey, of Pennsylvania, as Governor; Aaron Goodrich as Chief Justice, and David Cooper and Bradley B. Meeker as Associate Justices, C. K. Smith as Secretary, Joshua L. Taylor as Marshal, and Henry L. Moss as District Attorney.
May 27, 1849, the Governor and his family arrived in St. Paul, but there being no suitable accommodations for them, they became the guests of Honorable Henry H. Sibley at Mendota, whose hospitality, as usual, was never failing, and for several weeks there resided the four men who have been perhaps more prominent in the development of the State than any others, Henry H. Sibley, Alexander Ramsey, Henry M. Rice and Franklin Steele, all of whom have been honored by having important counties named after them and by being chosen to fill high places of honor and trust.
The Governor soon returned to the capital, and on the 1st of June, 1849, issued a proclamation declaring the Territory duly organized June 11, he issued a second proclamation, dividing the Territory into three Judicial Districts. The County of St. Croix, which was one of the discarded counties of Wisconsin, and embraced the present county of Ramsey, was made the First District. The Second was composed of the county of La Pointe (another of the Wisconsin counties) and the region north and west of the Mississippi river, and north of the Minnesota, and on a line running due west from the headwaters of the Minnesota to the Missouri. The country west of the Mississippi and south of the Minnesota formed the Third District. The Chief Justice was assigned to the First, Meeker to the Second and Cooper to the Third, and courts were ordered held in each district as follows: At Stillwater, in the First District, on the second Monday; at the Falls of St. Anthony on the third Monday, and at Mendota on the fourth Monday in August.
A census was taken of the inhabitants of the Territory in pursuance of the requirements of the organic act, with the following result: I give here the details of the census, as it is interesting to know what inhabited places there were in the Territory at this time, as well as the number of inhabitants.
NAMES OF PLACES
Lake St. Croix
Little Canada and St. Anthony
Crow Wing and Long Prairie
Falls of St. Croix
La Pointe County
Big Stone Lake and Lac qui Parle
Black Dog Village
Crow Wing, East Side
Red Wing Village
Wabasha and Root River
Soldiers, women and children in Forts
On the 7th of July the Governor issued a proclamation dividing the Territory into seven council districts, and ordering an election for a delegate to Congress, nine councillors and eighteen representatives to constitute the first Territorial Legislature, to be held on the 1st of August. At this election, Henry H. Sibley was again chosen delegate to Congress.
The courts were held in pursuance of the Governors' proclamation, the first one convening at Stillwater. But before I relate what there occurred I will mention an attempt that was made by Judge Irwin, one of the Territorial Judges of Wisconsin, to hold a term in St. Croix county, in 1842. Joseph R. Brown, of whom I shall speak hereafter, as one of the brightest of Minnesota's early settlers, came to Fort Snelling as a fifer boy in the regiment that founded and built the fort in 1819, was discharged from the army about 1826, and had become clerk of the courts in St. Croix county. He had procured the Legislature of Wisconsin to order a court in his county for some reason only known to himself, and in 1842 Judge Irwin came up to hold it. He arrived at Fort Snelling and found himself in a country which indicated that disputes were more frequently settled with tomahawks than by the principles of the common law. The officers of the fort could give him no information, but in his wanderings he found Mr. Norman W. Kittson, who had a trading house near the Falls of Minnehaha. Kittson knew Clerk Brown, who was then living on the St. Croix, near where Stillwater now stands, and furnishing the Judge a horse, directed him how to find his clerk. After a ride of more than twenty miles Brown was discovered, but no preparations had been made for a court. The Judge took the first boat down the river a disgusted and angry man.
After the lapse of five years from this futile attempt the first court actually held within the bounds of Minnesota was presided over by Judge Dunn, then Chief Justice of the Territory of Wisconsin. The court convened at Stillwater in June, 1847, and is remembered not only as the first court ever held in Minnesota, but on account of the trial of an Indian chief named "Wind," who was indicted for murder. Samuel J. Crawford, of Mineral Point, was appointed prosecuting attorney for the term, and Ben C. Eastman, of Plattville, defended the prisoner. "Wind" was acquitted. This was the first jury trial in Minnesota.
It should be stated that Henry H. Sibley was in fact the first judicial officer who ever exercised the functions of a court in Minnesota. While living at St. Peters (Mendota) he was commissioned a justice of the peace in 1835 or 1836 by Governor Chambers, of Iowa, with a jurisdiction extending from twenty miles south of Prairie du Chien to the British boundary on the north, to the White river on the west and the Mississippi on the east. His prisoners could only be committed to Prairie du Chien. Boundary lines were very dimly defined in those days, and minor magistrates were in no danger of being overruled by superior courts, and tradition asserts that the writs of Sibley's court often extended far over into Wisconsin and other jurisdictions. One case is recalled which will serve as an illustration. A man named Phalen was charged with having murdered a sergeant in the United States Army in Wisconsin. He was arrested under a warrant from Justice Sibley's Iowa court, examined and committed to Prairie du Chien, and no questions asked. Lake Phalen, from which the City of St. Paul derives part of its water supply, is named after this prisoner. Whatever jurisdictional irregularities, Justice Sibley may have indulged in, it is safe to say that no injustice ever resulted from any decision of his.
The first courthouse that was erected within the present limits of Minnesota was at Stillwater, in the year 1847. A private subscription was taken up and $1,200 was contributed. This sum was supplemented by a sufficient amount to complete the structure from the treasury of St. Croix county. It was perched on the top of one of the high bluffs in that town, and much private and judicial blasphemy has been expended by exhausted litigants and judges in climbing to its lofty pinnacle. I held a term in it ten years after its completion.
This courthouse fell within the First Judicial District of the Territory of Minnesota under the division made by Governor Ramsey, and the first court under his proclamation was held within its walls, beginning the second Monday of August, 1849. It was presided over by Chief Justice Goodrich, assisted by Judge Cooper, the term lasting one week. There were thirty-five cases on the calendar. The grand jury returned thirty indictments, one for assault with intent to maim, one for perjury, four for selling liquor to the Indians and four for keeping gambling houses. Only one of these indictments was tried at this term, and the accused, Mr. William D. Phillips, being a prominent member of the bar, and there being a good deal of fun in it, I will give a brief history of the trial and the defendant.
Mr. Phillips was a native of Maryland and came to St. Paul in 1848. He was the first district attorney of the county of Ramsey. He became quite prominent as a lawyer and politician, and tradition has handed down many interesting anecdotes concerning him. The indictment charged him with assault with intent to maim. In an altercation with a man he had drawn a pistol on him, and his defense was that the pistol was not loaded. The witness for the prosecution swore that it was, and added that he could see the load. The prisoner, as the law then was, was not allowed to testify in his own behalf. He was convicted and fined $25. He was very indignant at the result, and explained the assertion of the witness, that he could see the load, in this way: He said he had been electioneering for Mr. Henry M. Rice, and from the uncertainty of getting his meals in such an unsettled country he carried crackers and cheese in the same pocket with his pistol, a crumb of which had gotten into the muzzle, and the fellow was so scared when he looked at the pistol that he thought it was loaded to the muzzle.
Another anecdote which is related of him shows that he fully understood the fundamental principle which underlies success in the practice of law - that of always charging for services performed. Mr. Henry M. Rice had presented him with a lot in St. Paul, upon which to build an office, and when he presented his next bill to Mr. Rice there was in it a charge of four dollars for drawing the deed.
The Territorial courts, as originally constituted, being composed of only three judges, the trial terms were held by single judges, and the Supreme Court by all three sitting in bank where they would review each other's decisions on appeal.
When the State was admitted into the Union the judiciary was made to consist of a Chief Justice and two Associate Justices, who constituted the Supreme Court, with a jurisdiction exclusively appellate and a District Judge for each district. As the State has grown in population and business the Supreme Court judges have been increased to five and the judicial districts to eighteen in number, two of which, the Second and the Fourth, have six judges each; the Eleventh three; the First and Seventh two each, and the remainder one each.
The practice adopted by the Territorial Legislature was generally similar to that of the New York code, with such differences as were necessary to conform it to a very new country. From a residence in the Territory and State of forty-six years, nearly all of which has been spent either in practice at the bar or as a judge on the bench, I take pride in saying that the judiciary of Minnesota, in all its branches, both Territorial and State, has, during its fifty years of existence, equaled in ability, learning and integrity that of any State in the West, which is well attested by the seventy-one well filled volumes of its reported decisions.
Nearly all of the old lawyers of Minnesota were admitted to practice at the first term held at Stillwater, among whom were Morton S. Wilkinson, Henry L. Moss, Edmund Rice, Lorenzo A. Babcock, Alexander Wilkin, Bushrod W. Lott and many others. Of the whole list Mr. Moss is the sole survivor.
FIRST TERRITORIAL LEGISLATURE.
The first Legislature convened at St. Paul on Monday, the 3d of September, 1849, in the Central House, which, for the occasion, served for both capitol and hotel. The quarters were limited, but the Legislature was small. The Council had nine members and the House of Representatives eighteen. The usual officers were elected, and on Tuesday afternoon both houses assembled in the dining room of the hotel. Prayer was offered by the Rev. E. D. Mill, and Governor Ramsey delivered his message, which was well received both at home and abroad.
It may be interesting to give the names of the men constituting this body and the places of their nativity. The Councillors were:James S. Norris, Maine.
Samuel Burkleo, Delaware.
William H. Forbes, Montreal.
James McBoal, Pennsylvania.
David B. Loomis, Connecticut.
John Rollins, Maine.
David Olmsted, Vermont.
William Sturgis, Upper Canada.
Martin McLeod, Montreal.
The Members of the House were:
Joseph W. Furber, New Hampshire.
James Wells, New Jersey.
M. S. Wilkinson, New York.
Sylvanus Trask, New York.
Mahlon Black, Ohio.
Benjamin W. Bronson, Michigan.
Henry Jackson, Virginia.
John J. Duvey, New York.
Parsons K. Johnson, Vermont.
Henry F. Setzer, Missouri.
William R. Marshall, Missouri.
William Dugas, Lower Canada.
Jeremiah Russell, Lower Canada.
L. A. Babcock, Vermont.
Thomas A. Holmes, Pennsylvania.
Allen Morrison, Pennsylvania.
Alexis Bailly, Michigan.
Gideon H. Pond, Connecticut.
David Olmstead was elected president of the council, with Joseph R. Brown as secretary. In the House Joseph W. Furber was elected speaker and W. D. Phillips clerk.
Many of these men became very prominent in the subsequent history of the State, and it is both curious and interesting to note the varied sources of their nativity, which shows that they were all of that peculiar and picturesque class known as the American pioneer.
The work of the first Legislature was not extensive, yet it performed some acts of historical interest. It created eight counties, named as follows: Itasca, Wabashaw, Dakota, Wahnahtah, Mankato, Pembina, Washington, Ramsey and Benton. The spelling of some of these names has since been changed.
A very deep interest was manifested in the school system. A joint resolution was passed ordering a slab of red pipestone from the famous quarry to be sent to the Washington Monument association, which was done, and now represents Minnesota in that lofty monument at the National Capital.
This was done at the suggestion of Henry H. Sibley, who furnished the stone. It will be remembered that I have referred to the visit of George Catlin, the artist, to Minnesota in 1835, and that his report was unreliable. Among other things, he says that he was the first white man who had visited this quarry, and induced geologists to name the pipestone "Catlinite." Mr. Sibley, in his communication to the Legislature presenting this slab, in answer to this pretension, says:"In conclusion, I would beg leave to state that a late geological work of high authority by Dr. Jackson designates this formation as Catlinite upon the erroneous supposition that Mr. George Catlin was the first white man who had ever visited that region; whereas it is notorious that many whites had been there and examined the quarry long before he came to the country. The designation, therefore, is clearly improper and unjust. The Sioux term for the stone is Eyan-sha (red stone), by which I conceive it should be known and classified."
In my opinion the greatest achievement of the first Legislature was the incorporation of the Historical Society of Minnesota. It established beyond question that we had citizens, at that early day, of thought and culture. One would naturally suppose that the first legislative body of an extreme frontier territory Mould be engaged principally with saw logs, peltries, town-sites and other things material; but in this instance we find an expression of the highest intellectual prevision - the desire to record historical events for posterity, even before their happening; and what affords even greater satisfaction to the present citizens of Minnesota is that from the conception of this grand idea there have never been men wanting to appreciate its advantages and carry it out. As a result our State now possesses its greatest intellectual and moral treasure in a library of historical knowledge of sixty-three thousand volumes, which is steadily increasing, a valuable museum of curiosities and a gallery of historical paintings.
This Legislature recommended a device for a great seal. It represented an Indian family with lodge and canoe, encamped, a single, white man visiting them, and receiving from them the calumet of peace. The design did not meet with general approval, and nothing came of it. The next winter Governor Ramsey and the delegate to Congress prepared a seal for the Territory, the design of which was the Falls of St. Anthony in the distance, a farmer plowing land, his gun and powder horn leaning against a newly-cut stump, a mounted Indian, surprised at the sight of the plow, lance in hand, fleeing toward the setting sun, with the Latin motto, "Quae sursum volo videre," I wish to see what is above. A blunder was made by the engraver in substituting the word "Quo" for "Quae" in the motto, which destroyed its meaning. Some time after it was changed to the French motto, "L'Etoile du Nord," Star of the North, and thus remains until the present time.
While speaking of seals I will state that the seal of the Supreme Court was established when the first term of the court convened in 1858. The design adopted was a female figure representing the Goddess of Liberty holding the evenly balanced scales of justice in one hand and a sword in the other, with the somewhat hackneyed motto, "Fiat justitia ruat coelum," let justice be done if the heavens fall. I remember that soon after it appeared some one asked one of the judges what the new motto meant, and he jocularly answered, "Those who fie at justice will rue it when we seal 'em."
The seal was changed to the same device as that of the State, with the same motto and the words, "Seal of the Supreme Court, State of Minnesota."
When the first Legislature convened the Governor, on the second day of the session - September 4, 1849 - delivered his message. It was a well-timed document, and admirably expressed to attract attention to the new Territory. After congratulating the members upon the enviable position they occupied as pioneers of a great prospective civilization, which would carry the American name and American institutions, by the force of superior intelligence, labor and energy, to untold results, he, among other things, said:
"I would advise you, therefore, that your legislation should be such as will guard equally the rights of labor and the rights of property, without running into ultraisms on either hand; as will recognize no social distinctions except those which merit and knowledge, religion and morals unavoidably create; as will suppress crime, encourage virtue; give free scope to enterprise and industry; as will promptly and without delay administer to and supply all the legitimate wants of the people - laws, in a word, in the proclamation of which will be kept steadily in view the truth, that this Territory is designed to be a great State, rivaling in population, wealth and energy her sisters of the Union, and that consequently all laws not merely local in their objects should be framed for the future as well as the present. * * * *
"Our Territory, judging from the experience of the few months since public attention was called to its many advantages, will settle rapidly. Nature has done much for us. Our productive soil and salubrious climate will bring thousands of immigrants within our borders; it is of the utmost moment that the foundation of our legislation should be healthful and solid. A knowledge of this fact will encourage tens of thousands of others to settle in our midst, and it may not be long ere we may with truth be recognized throughout the political and the moral world as indeed the 'Polar Star' of the republican galaxy. * * * *
"No portion of the earth's surface perhaps combines so many favorable features for the settler as this Territory; watered by the two greatest rivers of our continent, the Missouri sweeping its entire western border, the Mississippi and Lake Superior making its eastern frontier, and whilst the States of Wisconsin and Iowa limit us on the south the possessions of the Hudson Bay Company present the only barrier to our domain on the extreme north; in all embracing an area of 166,000 square miles, a country sufficiently extensive to admit of the erection of four States of the largest class, each enjoying; in abundance most of the elements of future greatness. Its soil is of the most productive character, yet our northern latitude saves us from malaria and death, which in other climes are so often attendant on a liberal soil. Our people, under the healthful and bracing influences of this northern climate, will never sink into littleness, but continue to possess the vigor and the energy to make the most of their natural advantages."
This message, while not in the least exaggerating the actual situation, was well calculated to attract immigration to this region. It was written in a year of great activity in that line. Gold had been discovered in California, and the thoughts of the pioneer were attracted in that direction, and it needed extraordinary attractions to divert the stream to any other point. It was extensively quoted in the eastern papers, and much commented upon, and succeeded beyond all expectations in awakening-interest in the Northwest. It was particularly attractive in Maine, where the people were experienced in lumbering, and many of them flocked to the valley of the St. Croix and the Falls of St. Anthony and inaugurated the lumbering business which has since grown to such immense proportions. The St. Croix, the Rum and the upper Mississippi rivers, with their tributaries, soon responded to the music of the woodsman's axe. Saw mills were erected, and Minnesota was soon recognized among the great lumber producing regions.
Although immigration continued to be quite rapid during the years 1850-54,it was not until about the year 1855 that it acquired a volume that was particularly noticeable. The reader must remember that Minnesota was on the extreme border of America and that it represented to the immigrant only those attractions incident to a new territory possessing the general advantages of good climate, good soil and good government as far as developed. There was no gold, no silver, or other special inducements. The only way of reaching it was by land on wheels, or by the navigable rivers. There was not a railroad west of Chicago. To give an idea of the rush that came in 1855 I quote from the History of St. Paul by J. Fletcher Williams, for many years secretary of the Minnesota Historical Society, published in 1876. Speaking of the immigration of 1855, he says:"Navigation opened on April 17, the old favorite, 'War Eagle.' leading the van with eight hundred and fourteen passengers. The papers chronicled the immigration that spring as unprecedented. Seven boats arrived in one day, each having brought to Minnesota from two hundred to six hundred passengers. Most of these came through Saint Paul and diverged hence to other parts of the Territory. It was estimated by the packet company that they brought thirty thousand immigrants into Minnesota that season. Certainly 1855, '56 and '57 were the three great years of immigration in our Territorial days. Nothing like it has ever been seen."
In the early fifties the Mississippi up to and even for a long distance above the Falls of St. Anthony was navigable for steamboats. A fine boat, the "Ans. Northrup," once penetrated as far as the Falls of Pokegama, where she was dismantled and her machinery transported to the Red River of the North, and four or five boats regularly navigated the stream above the falls.
The Minnesota river, during all the period of our early history, and far into the sixties, was navigable for large steamers up to Mankato, and in one instance a steamboat carrying a large cargo of Indian goods was taken by Culver and Farrington, Indian traders, as far as the Yellow Medicine river and into that river, so that the goods were delivered at the agency situated a few miles above its mouth. I mention this fact because a wonderful change has taken place in the watercourses and lakes of the State in the past twenty odd years, which I propose to account for on the only theory that seems to me to meet the conditions. Up to about twenty years ago, as soon as the ice went out of the Minnesota river in the spring, it would rise until it overran its banks and covered the bottoms for miles on each side of its channel, and would continue capable of carrying large steamers until late in August. Since that time it has rarely been out of its banks, and navigation of its waters has entirely ceased. The same phenomenon is observable in relation to many of our lakes; hundreds of the smaller ones have entirely dried up, and most of the larger ones have become reduced in depth several feet. The rainfall has not been lessened, but if anything has increased. My explanation of the change is, that in the advance of civilization the water sheds or basins of these rivers and lakes having been plowed up, the rainfall which formerly found its way quickly into the streams and lakes over the hard natural surface is now absorbed into the soft and receptive ground, and is returned by evaporation. This change is generally attributed to the destruction of forests, but in this case that cause has not progressed sufficiently to have produced the result, and our streams do not rise in mountains.
The trend of immigration toward Minnesota encouraged the organization of transportation companies by boat and stage for passengers and freight, and by 1856 it was one of the liveliest communities to be found anywhere, and curious as it may seem, this era of prosperity was the cause of Minnesota's first great calamity.
The object of the immigrant is, always, the betterment of his condition. He leaves old communities, where competition in all branches of industry is great, in the hope of "getting in on the ground floor," as we used to say, when he arrived in a new country, and every American, and in fact everybody else, wants to get rich by head work instead of hand work, if he can. The bulk of the immigration that first came to Minnesota remained in the cities; there was no agriculture worthy of the name. I may say that we had nothing at all to sell, and everything we needed, to buy. I can remember that as late as 1853, and even after, we imported hay in bales from Dubuque to feed the horses of St. Paul when there were millions of tons of it growing in the Minnesota valley, within a few miles of the city.
In the progress of emigration to the West the Territories have always presented the greatest attractions. The settler expects to have a better choice of lands, and at original government prices. Society and politics are both in the formative condition, and very few emigrants omit the latter consideration from their hopes and expectations. In fact political preferment is a leading motive with many of them.
Under the influence of this great rush of immigration it was very natural that the prevailing idea should be that lands would greatly increase in value in the near future, and everybody became a speculator. Towns and cities sprang into existence like mushrooms in a night. Scarcely any one was to be seen without a town-site map in his hands, the advantages and beauties of which fictitious metropolis he was ready to present in the most eloquent terms. Everything useful was neglected, and speculation was rampant. There were no banks of issue, and all the money that was in the country was borrowed in the East. In order to make borrowing easy, the law placed no restrictions on the rate of interest, and the usual terms were three per cent per month, with the condition that if the principal was not paid at maturity the interest should be increased to five per cent per month. Everybody was in debt on these ruinous terms, which, of course, could not last long before the inevitable explosion. The price of lands, and especially town lots, increased rapidly, and attained fabulous rates; in fact some real property in St. Paul sold in 1856 for more money than it has brought at any time since.
THE PANIC OF 1857.
The bubble burst by the announcement of the failure of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company, which reached St. Paul August 24, 1857. The failure of this financial institution precipitated a panic all over the country. It happened just on the recurrence of the twenty year period which has marked the pecuniary disasters of the country, beginning with 1837. Its effects on Minnesota were extremely disastrous. The eastern creditors demanded their money, and the Minnesota debtors paid as long as a dollar remained in the country, when all means of borrowing more being cut off a most remarkable condition of things resulted. Cities like St. Paul and St. Anthony, having a population of several thousands each, were absolutely without money to carry on the necessary commercial functions. A temporary remedy was soon discovered, by every merchant and shopkeeper issuing tickets marked "good for one dollar at my store," and every fractional part of a dollar down to five cents. This device tided the people for a while, but scarcely any business establishment in the Territory weathered the storm, and many people who had considered themselves beyond the chance of disaster were left without resources of any kind and hopelessly bankrupt. The distress was great and universal, but it was bravely met, and finally overcome.
Dreadful as this affliction was to almost every one in the Territory, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It compelled the people to abandon speculation and seek honest labor in the cultivation of the soil and the development of the splendid resources that generous nature had bestowed upon the country. Farms were opened by the thousands, everybody went to work, and in ten or a dozen years Minnesota had a surplus of forty millions of bushels of wheat with which to supply the hungry world.
All the lands of Minnesota were the property of the United States, and title to them could only be obtained through the regular methods of pre-emption, town-site entry, public sales or private entries. One event occurred on August 14, 1848, which illustrates so clearly the way in which western men protect their rights that I will relate it. The recognized price of public lands was one dollar and a quarter per acre, and all pioneer settlers were willing to pay that sum, but when a public sale was made any one could bid whatever he was willing to pay. Under the administration of President Polk a public sale of lands was ordered to be made at the land office at St. Croix Falls of lands lying partly in Minnesota and partly in Wisconsin. The lands advertised for sale included those embraced in St. Paul and St. Anthony. The settlers selected Henry H. Sibley as their trustee to buy their lands for them, to be conveyed to them subsequently. It was a high offense under the United States laws to do any act that would tend to prevent persons bidding at the sales. Mr. Sibley appeared at the sale, and bid off every tract of land that was occupied by an actual settler at the price of $1.25 per acre. The General, in a paper he read before the Historical Society, says of this affair:"I was selected by the actual settlers to bid off portions of the land for them, and when the hour for business arrived my seat was universally surrounded by a number of men with huge bludgeons. What was meant by the proceeding I could, of course, only surmise, but I would not have envied the fate of the individual who would have ventured to bid against me."
It has always been assumed in the far West, and I think justly, that the pioneers who first settle the land and give it value should enjoy every advantage that flows from such priority, and the violation of laws that impede such opportunity is a very venial offense. So universal was the confidence reposed in Mr. Sibley that many of the French settlers, the title to whose lands became vested in him by his purchase at this sale, insisted that they should remain in him, and he found it quite difficult in many cases to get them to accept deeds from him.
THE FIRST NEWSPAPER.
Although the first message of the Governor went a great way in introducing Minnesota to the world, she was particularly fortunate in the establishment of her first newspapers. The Stillwater convention of 1848, of which I have spoken, first suggested to Dr. A. Randall, who was an attache of Dr. Owen's geological corps, then engaged in a survey of this region by order of the government, the necessity of a newspaper for the new Territory. He was possessed of the means and enterprise to accomplish the then rather difficult undertaking, and was promised ample support by leading men of the Territory. He returned to his home in Cincinnati in the fall of 1848, intending to purchase the plant and start the paper that year, but the navigation of the rivers closed earlier than usual, and he was foiled in his attempt. He, however, set up his press in Cincinnati, and got out a number or two of his paper there. It was then called the "Minnesota Register," and appeared as of the date of April 27, 1849, and as printed in Saint Paul. It was in fact printed in Cincinnati about two weeks earlier. It contained valuable articles from the pens of Henry H. Sibley and Henry M. Rice. These articles, added to Dr. Randall's extensive knowledge of the country, made the first issue a great local success. It was the first Minnesota paper ever published, and bears date just one day ahead of the Pioneer, subsequently published by James M. Goodhue, which was actually printed in the Territory. Dr. Randall did not carry out his intention, but was caught in the California vortex, and did not return to Minnesota.
James M. Goodhue, of Lancaster, Wisconsin, who was editing the Wisconsin Herald, when he heard of the organization of the new Territory, immediately decided to start a paper in St. Paul, and as soon as navigation opened in the spring of 1849 he came up with his press and type. He met with many difficulties and obstructions, necessarily incident to such a venture in a new place, but he succeeded in issuing the first number of his paper April 28, 1849. His first inclination was to call his paper the "Epistle of St. Paul," but on sober reflection he was convinced that the name might shock the religious sensibilities of the community, especially as he did not possess many of the attributes of our patron saint, and he decided to call it "The Minnesota Pioneer."
In his first issue he speaks of his establishment of that day as follows: "We print and issue this number of the Pioneer in a building through which out-of-doors is visible by more than five hundred apertures; and as for our type, it is not safe from being pied on the galleys by the wind." The rest can be imagined.
Mr. Goodhue was just the man to be the editor of the first paper of a frontier territory. He was energetic, enterprising, brilliant, bold and belligerent. He conducted the Pioneer with great success and advantage to the Territory until the year 1851, when he published an article on Judge Cooper, censuring him for absenteeism, which is a very good specimen of the editorial style of that day. He called the Judge "a sot," "a brute," "an ass," "a profligate vagabond," and closed his article in the following language: "Feeling some resentment for the wrongs our Territory has so long suffered by these men, pressing upon us like a dispensation of wrath-a judgment-a curse-a plague, unequaled since Egypt went lousey, we sat down to write this article with some bitterness, but our very gall is honey to what they deserve."
In those fighting days such an article could not fail to produce a personal collision. A brother of Judge Cooper resented the attack, and in the encounter between them Goodhue was badly stabbed and Cooper was shot. Neither wound proved fatal at the time, but it was always asserted by the friends of each combatant, and generally believed, that they both died from the effect of these wounds.
The original Minnesota Pioneer still lives in the Pioneer Press of to-day, which is published in St. Paul. It has been continued under several names and edited by different men, but has never been extinguished or lost its relation of lineal descent from the original Pioneer.
Nothing tends to show the phenomenal growth of Minnesota more than the fact that this first newspaper, issued in 1849, has been followed by the publication of five hundred and seventy-nine papers, which is the number now issued in the State according to the last official list obtainable. They appear daily, weekly and monthly, in nearly all written languages, English, French, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Bohemian, and one in Icelandic, published in Lyon county, Minnesota.
With the first great increase in immigration business was necessarily enlarged, and banking facilities became a necessity. Dr. Charles W. Borup, a Danish gentleman who was engaged in the fur trade at Lake Superior as an agent for the American Fur Company, and Mr. Charles H. Oakes, a native of Vermont, came to Saint Paul and established a bank in 1853. They were brothers-in-law, having married sisters. They did a private banking business under the name of Borup & Oakes, which adapted itself to the needs of the community, including real estate, and almost any other kind of venture that offered. The house of Borup & Oakes was the first banking establishment in Minnesota, and weathered all the financial storms that swept over the Territory in its early history. They were followed by Truman M. Smith, but he went down in the panic of 1857-58. Then came Bidwell's Exchange Bank, followed by C. H. Parker and A. Vance Brown. Mackubin & Edgerton opened a bank in 1854, which was the ancestor of the present Second National Bank, and always legitimate. I think Erastus S. Edgerton may justly be said to have been the most successful banker of all that were early engaged in the business. An enumeration of the banks and bankers which succeeded each other in these early times would be more appropriate in a narrative of the localities where they operated than in a general history of the State. It is sufficient to say that nearly if not all of them succumbed to the financial disasters in 1857-58, and there was no banking worthy of the name until the passage of the banking law of July 26, 1858. But this act was a mere makeshift to meet a financial emergency, and it was not based upon sound financial principles. It allowed the organization of banks and the issue of circulating bank notes upon securities that were capable of being fraudulently over-valued by misrepresentation, and, as a matter of course, advantage was taken of the laxity of the provisions of the law, and securities which had no intrinsic value in fact, were made available as the foundation of bank issues, with the inevitable result of disaster.
Another method of furnishing the community with a circulating medium was resorted to by a law of July 23, 1858. The State Auditor was authorized to issue his warrant for any indebtedness which the State owed to any person in small sums, and the warrants were made to resemble bank notes, and bore twelve per cent interest. The credit of the State was not sufficiently well established in the public confidence to make these warrants, which were known as "State scrip," worth much over sixty-five or seventy cents on the dollar. They were taken by the money-changers at that valuation, and when the State made its first loan of $250,000 they were all redeemed in gold at par, with interest at twelve per cent.
In this uncertain way the financial interests of the Territory were cared for until the breaking out of the Civil War and the establishment of the National and State systems, which still exist.
Another evidence of the growth of the State may be found in the fact that at the present time the State has within its limits banks in good standing as follows: State banks, one hundred and seventy-two in number, with a paid in capital stock of $6,736,800 and sixty-seven National banks with a capital stock paid in of $11,220,000. This statement does not include either the surplus or the undivided profits of these banks, nor the capital employed by private banking concerns which do not fall under the supervision of the State, which latter item can safely be estimated at $2,000,000.
THE FUR TRADE.
The first legitimate business of the Territory was the fur trade and the carrying business resulting therefrom. Prior to the year 1842 the Northwestern Fur Company occupied the territory which is now Minnesota. In 1842 it sold out to, and was merged into, the American Fur Company, which was owned by P. Choteau & Company. This company had trading stations at Prairie du Chien and Mendota, Henry H. Sibley being their chief factor at the latter. The goods imported into the Red river settlements and the furs exported therefrom all came and went through the difficult and circuitous route by way of Hudson bay. This route was only navigable for about two months in the year on account of the ice. The catch of furs and buffalo robes in that region was practically monopolized by the Hudson Bay Company. The American Fur Company soon became well established in the Northwest. In 1844 this company sent Mr. Norman W. Kittson from the "Mendota outfit" to establish a trading post at Pembina, just south of the British possessions, with the design of diverting some of the fur trade of that region in the direction of the navigable waters of the Mississippi. The company, through Mr. Kittson, invested some $2,000 in furs at Pembina and had them transported to Mendota in six Pembina carts, which returned loaded with merchandise of the character needed by the people of that distant region. This venture was the beginning of the fur trade with the Red River country, but did not prove a financial success. It entailed a loss of about $600, and similar results attended the next two years' operations, but the trade increased, notwithstanding the desperate efforts of the Hudson Bay Company to obstruct it. This company had enjoyed a monopoly of the trade without any outside interference for so long that it looked upon this new enterprise as a direct attack on its vested rights. But Mr. Kittson had faith in being able in the near future to work up a paying trade, and he persevered. By the year 1850 the business had so far increased as to involve a consumption of goods to the extent of $10,000, with a return of furs to the amount of $15,000. Five years later the goods sent to Pembina amounted in value to $24,000 and the return of furs to $40,000. In 1851 the firm of Forbes & Kittson was organized and also the "St. Paul outfit," to carry on the supply business. When St. Paul became of some importance, in 1849, the terminus and supply depot was removed to that point, and the trade rapidly increased in magnitude, making St. Paul one of the largest fur markets in America, second only to St. Louis. The trade of the latter city consisted mostly of buffalo robes, which was always regarded as a distinct branch of the business in contrast with that of fine furs. In the early days the Indians and a few professional trappers were about all who caught fur animals, but as the country became more settled the squatters added to their incomes by such trapping as their environment afforded. This increased the market at St. Paul by the addition of all Minnesota, which then included both of the Dakotas and Northern Wisconsin.
The extent and value of this trade can better be understood by a statement of the increase of the number of carts engaged in it between 1844 and 1858. In the first year mentioned six carts performed all the required service, and in 1858 six hundred carts came from Pembina to St. Paul. After the year 1858 the number of carts engaged in the traffic fell off, as a steamer had been put in operation on the Red river. This reduced the land transportation to 216 miles, which had formerly been 448 miles - J. C. & H. C. Burbank having established a line of freight trains connecting with the steamer. In 1867, when the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad reached St. Cloud, the caravans of carts ceased their annual visits to St. Paul. St. Cloud then became the terminus of the traffic until the increase of freight lines and the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad to the Red river drove these most primitive of all transportation vehicles out of business. Another cause of the decrease in the fur trade was the imposition of a duty of twenty five per cent on all dressed skins, which included buffalo robes, and from that time on robes that formerly came to St. Paul from the British possessions were diverted to Montreal.
The extent and value of this trade to Minnesota, which was then in its infancy, can easily be judged by a brief statement of its growth, in 1844 it amounted to $1,400 and in 1863 to $250,000. All the money paid out for these furs, and large sums besides, would be expended in St. Paul for merchandise in the shape of groceries liquors, dry goods, blankets, household utensils, guns and ammunition, and in fact every article demanded by the needs of a primitive people. Even threshers and mowers were included, which were taken apart and loaded on the return carts. This trade was the pioneer of the great commercial activity which now prevails.
I cannot permit this opportunity to pass without describing the Red river cart, and the picturesque people who used it, as their like will never be seen again. The inhabitants of the Pembina country were principally Chippewa half-breeds, with an occasional white man - prominently Joseph Rolette, of whom I shall hereafter speak, as the man who vetoed the capital removal bill, by running away with it in 1857. Their principal business was hunting the buffalo in connection with small farming, and defending themselves against the invasions of their hereditary enemies, the Sioux. They were a bold, free race, skilled in the arts of war, fine horsemen and good fighters.
The Red river cart was a home invention. It was made entirely of wood and rawhide. It moved upon two wheels, of about a diameter of five feet six inches, with shafts for one animal, horse or ox, generally the latter. The wheels were without tires, and their tread about three and a half or four inches wide. They would carry a load of six to eight hundred pounds, which would be protected by canvas covers. They were especially adapted to the condition of the country, which was largely interspersed with swamps and sloughs, which were impassable for any other character of vehicle. Their lightness, the width of the surface presented by the wheel and the careful steps of the educated animal which drew them, enabled them to go where anything else would flounder. The trail which they left upon the prairie was deeply cut, and remained for many years after they were abandoned.
When a brigade of them was ready to leave Pembina for St. Paul it would be manned by one driver for four carts, the train being arranged in single file with each animal tied to the cart before it, so that one driver could attend to that number of carts. Their speed was about fifteen miles a day, which made the trip last about a month. When night overtook them they formed a circular corral with their carts, the shafts pointing inward, with the camp in the center, which made a strong fort in case of attack. The animals were allowed to graze on the outside, but were carefully watched to prevent a stampede. When they reached St. Paul they went into camp near some lake, and were a great source of interest to all the new comers. During their stay the town would be thronged with the men, who were dressed in varicolored costumes, always including the sash of Pembina, a beautiful girdle, giving them a most picturesque appearance. The only truthful representation of these curious people that has been preserved is found in two full length portraits of Joe Rollette, one in the gallery of the Minnesota Historical Society and the other on the walls of the Minnesota Club in St. Paul, both of which are the gifts of a very dear friend of the original.
During the progress of this peculiar traffic many people not connected with the established fur companies engaged in the Indian trade, prominently the firm of Culver & Farrington, Louis Roberts and Nathan Myrick. I remember that Mr. John Farrington, of the above named firm, made an improvement in the construction of the Red river cart, by putting an iron box in the hub of the wheel, which prevented the loud squeaking noise they formerly made, and so facilitated their movements that they carried a thousand pounds as easily as they had before carried eight hundred.
The early fur trade in the Northwest, carried on by canoes and these rails, was very appropriately called by one of our first historians of Minnesota "The heroic age of American commerce."
One of the principal sources of subsistence of these frontier people in their long journeys through uninhabited regions was pemmican. This food was especially adapted to extreme northern countries, where, in the winter, it was sometimes impossible to make fires to cook with, and the means of transportation was by dog-trains, as it was equally good for man and beast. It was invented among the Hudson Bay people many years ago, and undoubtedly from necessity. It was made in this way: The meat of the buffalo, without the fat, was thoroughly boiled and then picked into shreds or very small pieces. A sack was made of buffalo skin, with the hair on the outside, which would hold about ninety pounds of meat. A hole was then dug in the ground of sufficient size to hold the sack. It was filled with the meat thus prepared, which was packed and pounded until it was as hard as it could be made. A kettle of boiling hot buffalo fat, in a fluid state, was then pound into it, until it was thoroughly permeated, every interstice from center to circumference being filled, until it became a solid mass, perfectly impervious to the air, and as well preserved against decomposition as if it had been enclosed in an hermetically sealed glass jar. This made a most nutritious preparation of animal food, all ready for use by both man and dog. An analysis of this compound proved it to possess more nutriment to the pound weight than any other substance ever manufactured, and with a winter camp appetite it was a very palatable dish. Its great superiority over any other kind of food was the fact that it required no preparation and its portability.
TRANSPORTATION AND EXPRESS.
With the increase of trade and business naturally came the need of greater transportation facilities, and the men to furnish them were not wanting. John C. Burbank, of St. Paul, may be said to have been the pioneer in that line, although several minor lines of stages and ventures in the livery business preceded his efforts. The firms of Willoughby & Powers, Allen & Chase, M. O. Walker & Company (of Chicago) and others were early engaged in this work. In 1854 the Northwestern Express Company was organized by Burbank & Whitney, and in 1856 Captain Russell Blakeley succeeded Mr. Whitney, and the express business became well established in Minnesota. In 1858-59 Mr. Burbank got the mail contract down the river, and established an express line from St. Paul to Galena, in connection with the American Express Company, whose lines extended to Galena as its western terminus. Steamboats were used in summer and stages in winter. In the fall of 1859 the Minnesota Stage Company was formed, by a consolidation of the Burbank interests with those of Allen & Chase, and the line extended up the Mississippi to Saint Anthony and Crow Wing. Other lines and interests were purchased and united, and in the spring of 1860 Col. John L. Merriam became a member of the firm, and for more than seven years Messrs. Burbank, Blakeley & Merriam constituted the firm and carried on the express and stage business in Minnesota. The business increased rapidly, and in 1865 this firm worked over seven hundred horses and employed two hundred men.
During this staging period the railroads from the East centered in Chicago, and gradually reached the Mississippi river from that point; first at Rock Island, next at Dunleith, opposite Dubuque, then at Prairie du Chien, next at Prairie La Crosse, each advance carrying them nearer Minnesota. The Prairie du Chien extension was carried across the river at McGregor in Iowa, and thence up through Iowa and Southern Minnesota to Minneapolis and Saint Paul. In 1872 the Saint Paul and Chicago railroad was finished from St. Paul down the west bank of the Mississippi to Winona, and was purchased by the Milwaukee and St. Paul Company, and by that company was, in 1873, extended still further down the river to La Crescent, opposite LaCrosse, which completed the connection with the east era trains. This road was popularly known as the "River road." Various other railroads were soon completed, covering the needs of the settled part of the State, and the principal stage lines either withdrew to the westward or gave up their business.
The growth in the carrying line has since been immense throughout the State, and may be judged when I say that there are now five strong daily lines to Chicago: The Burlington, the Omaha, the Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Central and the Chicago-Great Western, and three transcontinental lines departing daily for the Pacific coast, the Northern Pacific, the Great Northern and the Sault Ste. Marie, connecting with the Canadian Pacific. Besides these prominent trains, there are innumerable lesser ones connecting with nearly every part of the State. More passenger trains arrive at, and depart from the St. Paul Union Depot than at any other point in the State. They aggregate one hundred and four in and the same number out every day. Many - perhaps the most - of these trains also go to Minneapolis. The freight trains passing these points are, of course, less regular in their movements than the scheduled passenger trains, but their number is great and their cargoes of incalculable value.
A large portion of Minnesota is covered with exceptionally fine timber. The northern section, traversed by the Mississippi and its numerous branches, the St. Croix, the St. Louis and other streams, was covered with a growth of white and Norway pine of great value, and a large area of its central western portion with hard timber. At a very early day in the history of our State these forests attracted the attention of lumbermen from different parts of the country, principally from Maine, who erected sawmills at the Falls of St. Anthony, Stillwater and other points, and began the cutting of logs to supply them. Nearly all the streams were navigable for logs, or were easily made so, and thus one of the great industries of the State had its beginning. Quite an amount of lumber was manufactured at Minneapolis in the fifties, but no official record of the amounts was kept until 1870. An estimate of the standing pine in the State was made by the United States government for the census of 1880, which was designed to include all the standing pine on the streams leading into the Mississippi, the Rainy Lake river, the St. Croix and the head of Lake Superior; in fact, the whole State. The estimate was 10,000,000,000 feet. When this estimate was made it was accepted by the best informed lumbermen as approximately correct. The mills at Minneapolis and above, in the St. Croix valley, and in what was called the Duluth district, were cutting about 500,000,000 feet a year. It was expected that there would be a gradual increase in the consumption of lumber made by Minnesota mills, and it was therefore estimated that in about fifteen years all the white pine in the State would be cut into lumber and sold, but such has not proved to be the case, although the production has rapidly increased, as was expected. But this difference between the estimate and the result is not of much consequence, as there is nothing more unreliable than an estimate of standing timber, and especially is such the case when covering a large area of country. Since 1880 the production of lumber in the State has increased from year to year, until it is at the present time fully 1,629,110,000 feet of pine logs every year. The cut made by the Minneapolis mills alone in 1898 was 469,701,000 feet, with a corresponding amount of laths and shingles. But this pace cannot be kept up much longer, and apprehensions of the entire destruction of the forests of the State are becoming quite prevalent among the people. These fears have resulted in the organization of associations for the promotion of scientific forestry and the establishment of large forest reserves near the headwaters of our streams, which are to serve also the purpose of national parks. In assigning a cause for the lowering of our streams, and the drying up of many of our lakes, in a former part of this work, I attribute it to the plowing up of their valleys and watersheds, and not to the destruction of the forests, because I do not think that the latter reason has sufficiently progressed to produce the result, although it is well known that the destruction of growing limber about the headwaters of streams operates disastrously upon the volume of their waters and the regularity of its flow. Minnesota is the best watered State in the Union, and every precaution should be taken to maintain this advantage. From the extent of the interest displayed in the direction of forest reserves, and their scientific administration, we have every reason to hope for speedy and final success. The State and Interstate Parks already established will be noticed hereafter.
The growth of the religious element of a new country is always one of its interesting features, and I will endeavor to give a short account of the progress made in this line in Minnesota from the mission period, which was directed more particularly to the Christianizing of the Indians. I will begin with the first structure ever erected in the State designed for religious purposes. It was a very small beginning for the prodigious results that have followed it. I speak of the little log "Chapel of Saint Paul," built by the Reverend Lucian Galtier, in October, 1841, in what is now the city of Saint Paul.
Father Galtier was a French priest of the Church of Rome. He was sent by the ecclesiastic authorities of Dubuque to the Upper Mississippi country, and arrived at Fort Snelling in April, 1840, and settled at St. Peters (now Mendota), where he soon tired of inaction, and sought a larger field among the settlers who had found homes further down the river, in the neighborhood of the present St. Paul. He decided that he could facilitate his labors by erecting a church at some point accessible to his parishioners. Here he found Joseph Rondo, Edward Phelan, Vetal Guerin, Pierre Bottineau, the Gervais brothers, and a few others. The settlers encouraged the idea of building a church, and a question of much importance arose as to where it should be placed. I will let the good father tell his own story as to the selection of a site. In an account of this matter, which he prepared for Bishop Grace in 1864, he says:"Three different points were offered, one called La Pointe Basse, or Point La Claire (now Pig's Eye), but I objected because that locality was the very extreme end of the new settlement, and, in high water, was exposed to inundation. The idea of building a church which might at any day be swept down the river to St. Louis did not please me. Two miles and a half further up on his elevated claim (now the southern point of Dayton's Bluff) Mr. Charles Mouseau offered me an acre of his ground, but the place did not suit my purpose. I was truly looking ahead, thinking of the future as well as the present. Steamboats could not stop there; the bank was too steep, the place on the summit of the hill too restricted, and communication difficult with the other parts of the settlement up and down the river.
"After mature reflection I resolved to put up the church at the nearest possible point to the cave (meaning the celebrated Carver's cave under Dayton's bluff), because it would be more convenient for me to cross the river there when coming from St. Peters, and because it would be also the nearest point to the head of navigation outside of the reservation line. Mr. B. Gervais and Mr. Vetal Guerin, two good, quiet farmers, had the only spot which appeared likely to answer, the purpose. They consented jointly to give me the ground necessary for a church site, a garden and a small graveyard. I accepted the extreme eastern part of Mr. Vetal's claim and the extreme west of Mr. Gervais'. Accordingly, in the month of October, 1841, logs were prepared and a church erected, so poor that it well reminded one of the stable of Bethlehem. It was destined, how ever, to be the nucleus of a great city. On the first day of November, in the same year, I blessed the new basilica and dedicated it to St. Paul, the apostle of nations. I expressed a wish at the same time that the settlement would be known by the same name, and my desire was obtained. I had, previously to this time, fixed my residence at St. Peters, and as the name of Paul is generally connected with that of Peter, and the gentiles being well represented at the new place in the persons of Indians, I called it St. Paul. The name, 'Saint Paul,' applied to a town or city seemed appropriate. The monosyllable is short, sounds well, and is understood by all denominations of Christians. When Mr. Vetal was married I published the bans as those of a resident of St. Paul. A Mr. Jackson put up a store, and a grocery was opened at the foot of Gervais' claim. This soon brought steamboats to land there. Thenceforth the place was known as 'Saint Paul Landing,' and later on as Saint Paul."
The chapel was a small log structure, one story high, one door, and no windows in front, with two windows on each side and one in the rear end. It had on the front gable end a large wooden cross, which projected above the peak of the roof some six or eight feet. It occupied a conspicuous position on the top of the high bluff overlooking the Mississippi, some six or eight hundred feet below the point where the Wabasha street bridge now spans the river, I think between Minnesota and Cedar streets. The region thus named was formerly known by the appellation of "Pig's Eye." The State owes Father Galtier a debt of gratitude for having changed it, as it seems impossible that the capital city could ever have attained its present majestic proportions, numerous and cultivated population, and many other advantages and attractions under the handicap of such a name.
In the first New Year's address ever printed in Minnesota, on January 1, 1850, supposed to be by Editor Goodhue, the following lines appeared:
"Pig's Eye, converted thou shalt be, like Saul: Arise, and be, henceforth, SAINT PAUL."
Father Galtier died February 21, 1SGG.
The Chapel of Saint Paul, after having been the first to greet all newcomers by way of the Mississippi for fifteen years, was taken down in 1866.
The next representative of the Catholic Church to come to Minnesota was the Reverend Augustin Ravoux, who arrived in the fall of 1811. He went up the St. Peter's river to Traverse des Sioux, where he commenced the study of the Sioux language. Soon after he went to Little Rock, on the Saint Peter's, and thence to Lac qui Parle. After the removal of Father Galtier to Keokuk, in Iowa, he had under his charge Mendota, St. Paul, Lake Pepin and St. Croix until the second day of July, 1851, when the Right Reverend Bishop Cretin came to St. Paul and assumed charge of church matters in Minnesota. Father Ravoux is still living in Saint Paul, at the advanced age of eighty-four years. His venerable and priestly form may often be seen upon the streets, in excellent health.
At the time of the coming of Father Galtier the country on the east side of the Mississippi in what is now Minnesota was under the direct jurisdiction of the Bishop of Milwaukee, and the part lying west of the river was in the diocese of Dubuque.
The growth of the church kept up with the rapid settlement of the country. In August, 1859, the Rt. Rev. Thomas L. Grace succeeded Bishop Cretin as Bishop of Saint Paul, and was himself succeeded by the Rt. Rev. John Ireland, in July, 1884. So important had Minnesota become to the Catholic Church in America that in May of 1888 the See of St. Paul was raised to metropolitan dignity and Archbishop Ireland was made its first Archbishop, which high office he now holds.
I will not attempt even a short biography of Archbishop Ireland, as a somewhat extended sketch appears elsewhere iii this volume. His fame is world-wide; he is a churchman, statesman, diplomat, orator, citizen and patriot, in each of which capacities he excels. He has carried the fame of Minnesota to all parts of the world where the church is known, and has demonstrated to the Pope in Rome, to the Catholics in France, and to the Protestants in America that there can be perfect consistency and harmony between Catholicism and Republican government. A history of Minnesota without a fitting tribute to Archbishop John Ireland would be incomplete indeed.
The representatives of the Protestant faith have not been behind their Catholic brethren in providing religious facilities for their adherent s. They followed immigration closely, and sometimes accompanied it. Scarcely would an aggregation of people congregate at any one point in sufficient numbers to gain the name of a village, or a settlement, before a minister would be called and a church erected. The church went hand in hand with the schoolhouse, and in many instances one building answered for both purposes. There came Lutherans from Germany and Scandinavia, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Calvinists, Universalists, Unitarians and every sect into which Protestantism is divided from New England and other eastern States. They all found room and encouragement, and dwelt in harmony. I can safely say that few western States have been peopled by such law abiding, industrious, moral and religious inhabitants as were the first settlers of Minnesota. There was nothing to attract the ruffianly element, no gold, silver, or other mines; the chief industry being peaceful agriculture. So free from all disturbing or dangerous elements did we consider our Territory that I have on several occasions taken a wagon loaded with specie amounting to nearly one hundred thousand dollars from Saint Paul to the Indian agencies at the Redwood and Yellow Medicine rivers, a distance of two hundred miles, through a very sparsely settled country, without any guard, except myself and driver, with possibly an Indian picked up on the road, when I was entitled to a squad of dragoons for the asking.
In the early days the Episcopal Church in Minnesota was within the diocese of Wisconsin, and its functions administered by the venerable Bishop Kemper, who occasionally made us a visit, but in 1859 the church had expanded to such an extent that the State was organized into a separate diocese, and the Rev. Henry B. Whipple, then rector of a church in Chicago, was elected Bishop of Minnesota, and still retains that high office. Bishop Whipple, by his energy, learning, goodness and universal popularity, has built up his church in this State to a standard surpassed by none in the respect in which it is held and the influence for good which it exerts. The official duties of the Bishop have been so enlarged by the growth of his church as to necessitate the appointment of a Bishop coadjutor to assist him in their performance; which latter office is filled by the Rev. Mahlon N. Gilbert, who is especially well qualified for the position.
It would be impossible, in a brief history like this, to go very deeply or particularly into the growth of the religious element of the State. A general presentation of the subject in two grand divisions, Catholic and Protestant, is enough. Suffice it to say that every sect and subdivision of the latter has its representative in the State, with the one exception of Mormonism, if that can be classified as a Protestant church. There are enough of them to recall the answer of the French traveler in America, when asked of his opinion of the Americans. He said: "They are a most remarkable people; they have invented three hundred religions and only one sauce." No matter how their creeds may be criticised their joint efforts, Catholic and Protestant, have filled the State with religious, charitable, benevolent and educational institutions to an extent rarely witnessed out of it, so that if a Minnesotan goes wrong he can blame no one but himself.
In the year 1857, on the third of March, the Congress of the United States made an extensive grant of lands to the Territory to aid in the construction of railroads. It consisted of every alternate section of land designated by odd numbers for six sections in width on each side of the roads specified, and their branches. The grant mapped out a complete system of roads for the Territory, and provided that the land granted for each road should be applied exclusively to such road and no other purpose whatever. The lines designated in the granting act were as follows:
From Stillwater, by the way of St. Paul and St. Anthony, to a point between the foot of Big Stone lake and the mouth of the Sioux Wood river, with a branch, via St. Cloud and Crow Wing, to the navigable waters of the Red River of the North, at such point as the Legislature of the Territory may determine.
From Saint Paul and from Saint Anthony via Minneapolis to a convenient point of junction west of the Mississippi to the southern boundary of the Territory in the direction of the mouth of the Big Sioux river, with a branch via Faribault to the north line of the State of Iowa, west of range sixteen.
From Winona via St. Peter to a point on the Big Sioux river south of the Forty-fifth parallel of North Latitude.
Also from La Crescent via Target Lake, up the valley of the Root river, to a point east of range seventeen.
The Territory or future State was authorized to sell one hundred and twenty sections of this land whenever twenty continuous miles of any of the roads or branches was completed; the land so sold to be contiguous to the completed road. The right of way or roadbed of any of the subsidized roads was also granted through any of the government lands. The roads were all to be completed within ten years, and if any of them were not finished by that time the lands applicable to the unfinished portions were to revert to the government. The lands granted by this act amounted to about 4,500,000 acres. An act was subsequently passed on March second, 1865, increasing the grant to ten sections to the mile. Various other grants were made at different times, but they do not bear upon the subject I am about to present.
This grant came at a time of great financial depression, and when the Territory was about to change its dependent condition for that of a sovereign State in the Union. It was greeted as a means of relief that might lift the Territory out of its financial troubles, and insure its immediate prosperity. The people did not take into consideration the fact that the lands embraced in the grant, although as good as any in the world, were remote from the habitation of man, lying in a country absolutely bankrupt, and possessed no present value whatever. Nor did they consider that the whole country was laboring under such financial depression that all public enterprises were paralyzed, but such was, unfortunately, the monetary and business condition.
February 23, 1857, an act had passed the Congress of the United States authorizing the people of Minnesota to form a Constitution preparatory to becoming a State in the Union. Gen. Willis A. Gorman, who was then Governor of the Territory, called a special session of the Legislature to take into consideration measures to carry out the land grant and enabling acts. The extra session convened on April 27. In the meantime Governor Gorman's term of office had expired, and Samuel Medary, of Ohio, had been appointed as his successor, and had assumed the duties of his office. He opened the extra session with an appropriate message. The extra session adjourned on the 23rd of May, and in accordance with the provisions of the enabling' act of Congress an election was held on the first Monday in June for delegates to a Constitutional Convention, which was to assemble at the capitol on the second Monday in July. The Constitutional Convention is an event in the history of Minnesota sufficiently important and unique to entitle it to special treatment, which will be given hereafter.
An act was passed at the extra session May 19, 1857, by which the grant of lands made to the Territory was formally accepted "upon the terms, conditions and restrictions" contained in the granting act.
On the 22nd of May, at the extra session, an act was passed to execute the trust created by the Land Grant Act, by which a number of railroad companies were incorporated to construct roads on the lines indicated by the act of Congress, and to aid in the building of these roads, and the lands applicable to each was granted to it. The companies were to receive title to the lands as the construction progressed, as provided in the granting act. They also had conferred upon them powers to issue bonds in the discretion of the directors, and to mortgage their roads and franchises to secure them.
These railroad companies were organized upon the hope that the aid extended to them by the grants of land would enable them to raise money sufficient to build their roads. They had nothing of their own, and no security but the roads and lands upon which to negotiate loans. The times, and the novel idea of building railroads in unpeopled countries were all against them, and, of course, nothing could be done.
The Constitutional Convention met and framed an instrument for the fundamental law of the new State which was very conservative, and, among other things, contained the following clause, which was enacted in Section Five of Article Nine: "For the purpose of defraying extraordinary expenses the State may contract debts, but such debts shall never, in the aggregate, exceed two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. And another clause found in Section Ten, which is as follows: "The credit of the State shall never be given or loaned in aid of any individual, association or corporation."
It was the intention of the framers of the Constitution to prevent the Legislature from ever using the credit or funds of the State in aid of any private enterprise, and these provisions effectually accomplished that end.
The people were deeply disappointed when they became convinced that the roads could not be built with the aid that Congress had extended, and as this work was also looked upon as the only hope of financial relief the ease became a desperate one, which could only be remedied by the most extreme measures. The promoters of the railroads soon discovered one, in an amendment of the section of the Constitution which prohibited the credit of the State being given or loaned to anyone, and at the first session of the first Legislature, which convened on December third, 1857, an act was passed proposing such amendment to be submitted to the people for ratification. The importance of this amendment and its effect and consequences upon the future of the State demands that I give it nearly in full. It changed section ten as it was originally passed, and made it read as follows:"SECTION 10. The credit of the State shall never be given or loaned in aid of any individual, association or corporation, except that for the purpose of expediting the construction of the lines of railroads, in aid of which the Congress of the United States has granted lands to the Territory of Minnesota, the Governor shall cause to lie issued and delivered to each of the companies in which said grants are vested by the Legislative Assembly of Minnesota the special bonds of the State, bearing an interest of seven per cent per annum, payable semi-annually in the city of New York as a loan of public credit, to an amount not exceeding twelve hundred and fifty thousand dollars, or an aggregate amount to all of said companies not exceeding five millions of dollars, in manner following, to-wit."
The amendment then prescribed that whenever ten miles of railroad was graded so as to be ready for the superstructure it should receive $100,000 of the bonds, and when ten miles should be completed, with the cars running, the company so completing should receive another $100,000 of the bonds, until each company had received its quota. The bonds were to be denominated "State Railroad Bonds," for the payment of which the faith and credit of the State was to be pledged. The railroad companies were to pay the principal and interest of the bonds, and to secure such payment they were to pledge the net profits of their respective roads, and to convey to the State the first two hundred and forty sections of land they received; and to deliver to the State treasurer an amount of their first mortgage bonds equal to the amount of bonds received by them from the State, and mortgage to the State their roads and franchises. This was all the security the companies could give, but the underlying difficulty was, that it had no value whatever. There were no roads, no net, or other profits. The lands had no value whatever except such as lay in the future, which was dependent on the construction of the roads and the settlement of the country. The bonds of the companies, of course, possessed only such value as the property they represented, which was nothing, and the mortgages were of the same character. The whole scheme was based upon hopes, to which the slightest application of sober reasoning would have pronounced impossible of fulfillment. But the country was hungry and willing to seize upon anything that offered a semblance or shadow of relief.
The proposed amendment was to be submitted to the people for adoption or rejection at an election to be held April 15, 1858. In order to fully comprehend the condition of the public mind, it should be known that the Constitution, with all the safeguards that I have mentioned, had only been in force since October 13th, 1857, a period of about six months, and had been carried by a vote of 30,055 for, to 571 against its adoption.
The campaign preceding the election was a very active one. The railroad people flooded the State with speakers, documents, pictures, glee clubs singing songs of the delights of "Riding on the rail," and every conceivable artifice was resorted to carry the amendment. It was carried by a vote of 25,023 in favor of its passage to 6,733 against.
To give an idea of the intense feeling that was exhibited in this election it is only necessary to state that at the city of Winona there were 1,102 votes cast in favor of the amendment and only one vote against it. This negative vote, to his eternal honor be it said, was cast by Thomas Wilson, afterwards Chief Justice of the State, and now a resident of St. Paul.
In the execution of the requirements of the amendment the railroad companies claimed that they could issue first mortgage bonds on their properties to an indefinite amount and exchange them with the State for its bonds, bond for bond, but the Governor, who was Hon. Henry H. Sibley, construed the amendment to mean that the first mortgage bonds of the companies which the State was to receive must be an exclusive first lien on the lands and franchises of the company. He therefore declined to issue the bonds of the State unless his views were adopted. The Minnesota and Pacific Railroad company, one of the land grant corporations, applied to the Supreme Court of the State for a writ of mandamus to compel the Governor to issue the bonds. The case was heard and two members of the court, holding the views of the applicants, the writ was issued. I was a member of the court at that time, but entertaining opposite views from the majority, I filed a dissenting opinion. Any one sufficiently interested in the question can find the case reported in Volume Two, of the Minnesota Reports, at page thirteen. This decision was only to be advisory, as the courts have no power to coerce the Executive.
The railroad companies entered into contracts for grading their roads, and a sufficient amount of grading was done to entitle them to about $2,300,000 of the bonds, which were issued accordingly, and went into the hands of the contractors to pay for the work done. It, however, soon became apparent that no completed railroad would ever result from this scheme, even if the whole five million of bonds were issued. What should have been known before was made clear when any of these State bonds were put on the market. The credit of the State was worthless, and the bonds were valueless. The people became as anxious to shake off the incubus of debt they had imposed upon their infant State as they had been to rush into it.
Governor Sibley, in his message delivered to the second Legislature in December, 1859, said, in speaking of this issue of bonds: "I regret to be obliged to state that the measure has proved a failure, and has by no means accomplished what was hoped for it, either in providing means for the issue of a safe currency or of aiding the companies in the completion of the roads."
At the election held on November 6, 1860, the Constitution was again amended, by expunging from it the amendment of 1858, authorizing the issue of the State Railroad Bonds and prohibiting any further issue of them. An amendment was also made to Section II. of Article IX. of the Constitution, at the same time, by providing that no law levying a tax, or making any other provisions for the payment of interest or principal of the bonds already issued, should take effect or be in force until it had been submitted to the people and adopted by a majority of the electors.
It was very proper to prohibit the issuance of any more of the bonds, but the provision requiring a vote of the people before those already out could be paid was practically repudiation, and the State labored under that damaging stigma for over twenty years. Attempts were made to obtain the sanction of the people for the payment of these bonds, but they were defeated, until it became unpleasant to admit that one was a resident of Minnesota. Whenever the name of Minnesota was heard on the floor of Congress as an applicant for favors, or even for justice, it was met by the charge of repudiation. This was an era in our history very much to be regretted, but the State grew steadily in material wealth.
On March 2, 1881, the Legislature passed an act the general purpose of which was to adjust, with the consent of the holders, the outstanding bonds, at the rate of fifty cents on the dollar, and contained the curious provision that the Supreme Court should decide whether it must first be submitted to the people in order to be valid or not, and if the Supreme Court should not so decide, then an equal number of the Judges of the District Court should act. The Supreme Court Judges declined to act, and the Governor called upon the District Court Judges to assume the duty. Before any action was taken by the latter the Attorney General applied to the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition to prevent them from taking any action. The case was most elaborately discussed, and the opinion of the Supreme Court was delivered by Chief Justice Gilfillan, which is most exhaustive and convincing. The Court holds that the act of 1881 is void by conferring upon the judiciary legislative power, and that the amendment to the Constitution providing that no bonds should be paid unless the law authorizing such payment was first submitted to and adopted by the people was void, as being repugnant to the clause in the Constitution of the United States that no State shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts. With these impediments to a just settlement of this question removed, the State was at liberty to make such arrangements with its bond creditors as was satisfactory. John S. Pillsbury was Governor of the State at that time. He was a man of superior intelligence and unbending integrity, and had always been in favor of paying the bonds and removing the stain from the honor of the State; finding his hands free, it did not take him long to arrange the whole matter satisfactorily, and to the approval of all the parties interested. The debt was paid by the issue of new bonds at the rate of fifty per cent of the principal and interest of the outstanding ones, and the surrender of the latter. This adjustment ended a transaction that was conceived and executed in folly, and was only prevented from eventuating in crime by the persistent efforts of our most honorable and thoughtful citizens throughout the State. The transaction has often been called by those who advocated repudiation, "An old Territorial fraud," but there was nothing in it but a bad bargain, made under the extraordinary pressure of financial difficulties.
THE FIRST RAILROAD ACTUALLY BUILT.
To the State was restored all the lands and franchises of the various companies by means of foreclosure, and on March 8,1861,was passed an act to facilitate the construction of the Minnesota and Pacific railroad, by which act the old railroad was rehabilitated, and required to construct and put in operation its road from St. Paul to St. Anthony on or before the first day of January, 1862. The company was required to deposit with the Governor $10,000 as an earnest of good faith. Work was soon commenced, and the first ten miles constructed as required. This was the first railroad ever built and operated in Minnesota. The first locomotive engine was brought up the river on a barge and landed at the St. Paul end of the track in the latter part of October, 1861. This pioneer locomotive was called the "William Crooks" after a distinguished civil engineer of that name, who was very active and instrumental in the building of the road. The first ten miles of road cost more energy and brain work than all the rest of the vast system that has succeeded it. It was the initial step in what is now known as the Great Northern Railway, a road that spans the continent from St. Paul to the Pacific, and reflects upon its enterprising builders all the credit due to the pioneer.
It was not long before the Northern Pacific Railroad company was incorporated by act of Congress, passed on July 2, 1864. This road was to extend from the head of Lake Superior to Puget sound on a line north of the forty-fifth degree of North Latitude, with a branch via the valley of the Columbia river to Portland, Oregon. The company had a grant of twenty alternate sections in the States through which it passed. It was commenced shortly after its incorporation, but met with financial disaster, and was sold under foreclosure of a mortgage, and underwent many trials and tribulations, until it was finally completed September 8, 1883, and has been in successful operation ever since. As the Northern Pacific has its eastern terminus and general offices in St. Paul, it is essentially a Minnesota road. The same may be said of the Great Northern, although both are transcontinental roads.
From the small beginning of railroad construction in 1862 has grown thirty-seven distinct railroad corporations, operating in the State of Minnesota six thousand and sixty-two and sixty-nine one-hundredths miles of main tracks, according to the official reports of 1898, with quite a substantial addition in course of construction. These various lines cover and render accessible nearly every city, town and village in the State.
The method of taxation adopted by the State of railroad property is a very wise and just one. It imposes a tax of three per cent upon the gross earnings of the roads, which, in 1896, yielded the comfortable sum of $1,037,194.40, the gross earnings of all amounting to $36,918,741.71. This plan of taxation gives the State a direct interest in the prosperity of the roads, as its taxes are increased when business is good, and the roads are relieved from oppressive taxation in time of business depression.
The grading which was done, and for which the bonds of the State were issued, was, as a general thing, utilized in the final construction of the roads.
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