Minnesota History

Historic Facts & Overview of Minnesota History

Take a peek at Minnesota history. Discover an overview of Minnesota's rich history, heritage, historic events, and culture.

The "Land of 10,000 Lakes," Minnesota got its nickname because there are more than 12,000 lakes throughout the state. Its name comes from the Dakota (Sioux) word for the Minnesota River's "sky-tinted waters." The Minnesota Territory was formed in 1849 from what had been part of the Northwest Territory, and Minnesota joined the Union in 1858. The state flower is the pink and white lady's slipper, and the capital is St. Paul.


Overview of Minnesota History and Heritage

Native American Sioux and Chippewa Indians lived in Minnesota when French fur-traders landed in Two Harbors in 1660. Following the visits of several French explorers, fur traders, and missionaries, including Jacques Marquette, Louis Joliet, and sieur de la Salle, the region was claimed for Louis XIV by Daniel Greysolon, sieur Duluth, in 1679. He claimed the entire region for France.

Spain receives Louisiana Territory (includes Minnesota west of the Mississippi River) from France in compensation for its loss of Florida during the Seven Years War. However, Spain did little to explore or settle the region and France continued fur trading. At the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, Great Britain wins claim to what is now eastern North America (east of the Mississippi River) and Canada, including eastern Minnesota.

The end of the Revolutionary War in 1787 the US acquired eastern Minnesota from Great Britain and 20 years later bought the western part from France in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Much of the region was explored by US Army Lt. Zebulon M. Pike before the northern strip of Minnesota bordering Canada was ceded by Britain in 1818. All of Minnesota was now owned by the United States.

In 1824 Fort St. Anthony was built where the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers meet. Fort St. Anthony completed. Name changed to Fort Snelling in Honor of Colonel Josiah Snelling's work. Fort Snelling became a place of industry and growth rather than just a military post. In 1837, Land-cession treaties negotiated with the Dakota Indians and the Chippewa Indians for United States rights to a portion of land between the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers. This new land stimulates the lumber industry in Minnesota. Loggers and farmers settled the first small towns of Minnesota, including St. Paul, St. Anthony (Minneapolis), and Stillwater.

Minnesota belonged to many territories before it became its own on March 3, 1849. with present day eastern and southern boundaries set. The population amounts to less than 4000 people, not including persons of pure Native-American heritage. Law provides for free public schools to be open to all people between four and twenty-one years of age. Minnesota Historical Society formed to collect, publish, and educate people about Minnesota history. Soon afterward, at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota with the Dakota Indians whereby the Dakota ceded their lands east of the Red River, Lake Traverse, and the Big Dakota River and south of a boundary line between the Dakota and Chippewa in 1825. In return the Dakota received $1,665,000 US, $1,360,000 of which was set into a trust fund, of which the interest would be distributed to chiefs partly in cash, partly in supplies, and partly in education and civilization funds

Minnesota became the 32nd state admitted to the Union of the United States of America. State on May 11, 1858 with St. Paul as the state capital and the seal adopted by the Minnesota Legislature. The Civil War began two years later and Minnesota became the first state to offer troops for the Union armies. Minnesota volunteers one thousand men for service in the Union Army. Minnesota eventually provides 24,000 men for service in the Union Army for fighting in the Civil War or the Indian Outbreak. During this time, the Indians angry from lack of food went to war against Minnesota. With many of the men gone to fight for the Union, federal troops had to come help stop the war.

During the late 1800s, industrial development rapidly took place. Wheat farms were started in southern Minnesota and Minneapolis became one of the world's leading flour centers. Railroads expanded and their advertisements brought thousands of immigrants from Europe to settle the state. Iron ore was discovered and shipped from the Vermilion Range and the Mesabi Range. Duluth became a great port city and the Mayo Clinic, a general medical center that would become one of the world's leading medical research centers, was founded.

In 1917, The United States of America enters World War I. 118,497 men from Minnesota serve in the war. The following year, a huge forest fire killed more than 400 people and destroyed $25 million in property. Minnesotans formed the Farmer-Labor party to help farmers and factory workers.

The Great Depression left 70% of ironworkers without jobs. Farm income fell. State and federal governments helped people to keep their farms and provide them with jobs. World War II (1939-1945) helped the economy to recover from the Depression. Factories were busy making parts for airplanes, weapons and ships. World War II ends with 6,255 American servicemen from Minnesota giving their lives for their country.

Industry expanded and changed after the war. Some of these industries are electronic equipment, computers, chemicals, and heavy machinery. The iron ore industry changed and began to develop taconite ore. Farms decreased and many people moved to the cities.

The last American military personnel leave Vietnam with the evacuation of the United States embassy in Saigon, completely ending American involvement in Vietnam and the Vietnam War. 1,053 Minnesotans gave their lives over the course of the war.

In 1991 when Operation Desert Storm occurs with there were approximately 11,000 Minnesotans in uniform helping to defeat Iraq and liberate Kuwait. The Minnesota Twins win the World Series. A record-breaking snowstorm hits Minnesota on November 1 depositing twenty-four inches of snow in twenty-four hours.

Recently, Minnesota's state government has also made changes. Laws were passed favoring industry and protecting the environment from pollution. Districts were changed to provide the city equal representation in state legislature. Education received an increase in financial aid and beginning in 1987 families could choose which schools they wanted their children to attend.

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