EARLY DAYS IN MINNEAPOLIS/
BY DR. WILLIAM E. LEONARD.
Along with the great flood of western immigrants caused by
the discovery of gold in California in 1848, came a fuller tide
of men and women into the Mississippi valley, pioneers of
more substantial type than the hardy adventurers who went
over the Rockies, men who sought homes for their families,
not sudden wealth for themselves. These came into the fertile
prairies of Illinois and Iowa, from New York and New Eng-
land, a generation later than the same class of worthy pioneers
settled northern Ohio and Indiana. From 1848 to 1860 they
streamed up the great river and its tributaries by hundreds
and by thousands, settling in Minnesota and adjoining states
and territories. Some authentic figures of comparison will
make this remarkable influx more evident.
In 1850 the town of St. Anthony was credited with 538 in-
habitants, and there were a half dozen people on the west side.
Only four years later that town had 3,000 citizens, if we in-
clude the 500 then estimated to be on the west side; and on
November 2, 1854, they asked the Legislature for a city char-
ter, "in order to manage their local affairs better," and to
make a better comparison with St. Paul, which then claimed
7,000 inhabitants. This charter was obtained in 1855. The
"wild-cat currency" of '57, and the hard times of the two years
following, checked this rather too rapid growth, but yet there
were over 6,000 people at the Falls when the Civil War broke
out. In 1849, when Minnesota w r as organized as a territory, it
had 4,057 inhabitants, and 6,077 a year later ; after eight years,
in 1857, there were numbered 150,037 souls, and 172,022 three
years later, showing more than 4,000 per cent increase for the
*Read at the monthly meeting of the Executive Council, May 11, 1914.
This paper "was illustrated with about sixty lantern views, loaned by
Edward A. Bromley, photographer and journalist, whose extensive anti-
quarian knowledge of the Twin Cities has also supplied much other aid.
498 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
As typical of the homes these sturdy settlers, built, I may
mention the log cabin by Joseph Dean in 1849, just off the
Shakopee road on the north bank of the Minnesota river. This
11 claim shanty" still stands in most excellent preservation, a
hundred yards from the north end of the Bloomington bridge,
being used as a storehouse for household goods, just as sub-
stantial and dry a receptacle as a bonded warehouse. Mr.
Dean's interests and home were transferred to the city of
Minneapolis, where he became a leading lumberman and citi-
The Falls of St. Anthony were really the pivotal point in
this region, for they promised a splendid water power, waiting
development. Each settler in the new village of St. Anthony
strove to make it the center of commercial activity. There was
the "Upper town," around the site of the Pillsbury mill, and
extending along Main street as far up the river as to Third
avenue north; and the lower or "Cheever town," the region
now recently made part of the larger University campus, in-
cluding Prospect, State, Church, Union, and Harvard streets.
Near the site of the Elliott Hospital of the University, in front
of his hotel, the Cheever House, Mr. William A. Cheever erected
a wooden lookout tower, on the door of which a sign read "Pay
your dime and climb." He was on the stage route up the old
Territorial road, and received many guests and dimes. But the
following event as chronicled in the Minnesota Republican for
Thursday, October 19, 1854, quite cut off Mr. Cheever 's chances
for being the center of the town.
The Regents have consummated the purchase of the Taylor &
George property on the bluff above Cheever's, as a site for the Uni-
versity buildings. They have obtained 25 acres at this point, which
IB universally admitted to be the most beautiful location in the West,
commanding, as it does, a magnificent view of the Falls, river, and
country on the west of the river, and covered with large and stately
oaks. The price paid was $6,000.
Eighteen years later, as a student, I actually surveyed the
old campus with rod and chain and found it to contain twenty-
three acres and a fraction. The "view of the Falls" is not so
good since the apron was put in. Spirit island has disappeared,
and the Great Northern viaduct, the Tenth Avenue bridge, the
Pillsbury dam, and the railway freight bridge just below, have
EARLY DAYS IN MINNEAPOLIS. 499
been built, quite cutting off the outlook up the river. But the
greater University campus, more than five times as large now,
really affords fine river views. The value of this really beau-
tiful site has gone up into several hundred times its original
cost, evidencing the wisdom of those first Regents. Yet I must
confess great sympathy with Dr. Folw.ell's plan once laid be-
fore the Legislature, to set aside on upper Lake Minnetonka
several hundred acres- for all the departments of the Univer-
sity, and thereon to construct such stately buildings as are now
being erected, but far away from the trains and noise of the
city and in ideal setting of suburban beauty.
The St. Anthony Express, the first newspaper at the Falls,
founded in May, 1851, is remarkable for its high note of citi-
zenship in its local items, as for instance: "Let us place Min-
nesota University on a basis equal to that of Yale;" "Keep
litter off the streets, improve your lots with shrubbery and
fence, and build in good taste back from the sidewalk." It
printed a series of "Letters to Young Ladies," after the style
of the modern Ladies' Home Journal.
No story of Minneapolis is complete without prominent
mention of Col. John H. Stevens, who for Franklin Steele and
himself located the first claim dwelling house on the west side of
the river, a modest wooden building which I well remember in
my boyhood, on the hillside some 100 feet from the river, where
the recently discarded Union Station stood. Winding down to
the river in front of his house, from the bridge road, after the
ferry was superseded, was the road up which was hauled most
of the water used for domestic purposes in the town. At any
time during the day could be seen a flat cart backed into the
river, one horse and one or more barrels, to be filled by dipping
with a" pail, completing the outfit. Later from this little shore
line in front of Col. Stevens' house we venturesome boys would
walk out on the logs, backed up from the mill pond below, to
the boom line, some 75 feet. If we slipped and went between
the logs, as we did occasionally, for the whole trick was a for-
bidden one, we might come up between logs and be saved or hit
our heads on one and stay under forever ! - The former expe-
rience was mine, once only. Lower down the river, where the
flour mill raceway now begins, was a shady, unfrequented high
shore, where our fathers used to take us to teach us to swim.
500 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
You know how this Stevens house, well preserved, built in
1849 by Charles Mousseau (whose son is still on the police
force) and Captain John Tapper, the ferryman, was purchased
by the city and hauled by the school children of Minneapolis,
on May 28, 1896, from Sixteenth avenue south and Fourth
street to its present permanent and picturesque resting place
in Minnehaha Park just north of the west end of the bridge
leading to the Soldiers' Home.
Colonel Stevens was always a factor in the growth of the
city and the state, being especially enthusiastic and untiring in
his devotion to intelligent agriculture. A beautiful bronze
statue of him, in his long coat and slouch hat, stands at the
foot of Portland avenue, placed there in his memory by his
daughter, the late Mrs. P. B. Winston.
The Minnesota Republican records that "the Minnesota
mill, Capt. Rollins owner, ground 36 bushels and 29 pounds of
corn into flour in less than one hour." Such was the humble
beginning of the greatest flour industry of the world. When,
as a student in Philadelphia in 1876, 1 told that our city ground
25,000 barrels of wheat flour daily, no one believed me ! Last
year (1913) the Minneapolis production of flour was in round
numbers over 17,000,000 barrels, averaging over 50,000 daily.
Affairs boomed in the new town of ' ' All Saints, ' ' as the west
side was known until Mr. Charles Hoag, November 5, 1852,
devised the combination of Minnehaha, Dakota for "Laughing
Water, ' ' with the Greek affix, ' ' polis, ' ' a city, meaning ' ' Laugh-
ing Water City" or "City of the Falls." This unique and
euphonious name, although objectionably hybrid from a phil-
ological view, has helped to make our city famous ; for it tells,
even without the silent "h," long since dropped, just what
and where it is. The town in Kansas that adopted our name
has by no means the same right to it. Under date of November
2, 1854, we read :
In this promising town there are already built, and in process of
building, fifteen stores, of which ten are open to trade, one hardware,
one book-store, one extensive furniture establishment, one well sup-
plied with carriages and chairs, and the balance pretty well filled with
dry goods and groceries, etc. Minneapolis has also a sawmill, a black-
smith shop, a Government land office, a printing office, a post office,
a land agency and surveyor's office, one physician, three organized
EARLY DAYS IN MINNEAPOLIS. 501
churches with pastors, and about 500 inhabitants, with room for a
good many more. It is directly opposite St. Anthony, and the two
places are in a few weeks to be united by a complete and elegant wire
suspension bridge. When that bridge becomes free and the two towns
are incorporated into one, maybe there will be a city as large as any
This naive prophecy has been fulfilled, but not immediately.
The bridge was not free until after the Civil War, for I myself
later used its tickets, three cents one way or five cents over
and back. The bridge was paid for by stock, the first issue
being for $35,000, sold to the people of the two towns. "Six
dwellings a week or 300 a year," is the rate recorded for the
growth of Minneapolis, November 25, 1854. No wonder they
could afford a bridge !
It is a pity that there is no picture of John Tapper's ferry,
over which, up to January in 1855, all the citizens and the
manufactured supplies for the little town were brought.
There were many delays in completing the bridge. As early
as December 14, 1854, E. H. Conner, the foreman, and the five
or six men employed, first crossed the loose planking. Foot
passengers were thereafter allowed to cross, but in January
the bridge swayed in the wind so violently as to break up the
planking, and it became necessary to place fresh wire guys to
new piers on shore on each side The toll for crossing on these
rather uncertain planks was one dime for each foot passenger
each way. Not until January 23, 1855, was the bridge formally
opened to travel, and the occasion was part of a brilliant cele-
bration and dinner at the St. Charles Hotel.
In the spring of 1855 the census of Hennepin county was
taken as 4,100; and it is recorded, "We have had an east-
ern mail every day for four days. ' ' That spring was evidently
an early one, for we read that Allen Harmon, whose claim was
away out near what is now Twelfth street and Hennepin
avenue, and who gave his name to Harmon Place, "had pota-
toes in bud on the 30th of May, and new potatoes on June 24th. ' '
This new community, largely derived from New England,
was not unmindful of the education of its youth. May 29, 1856,
the Board selected the northwest half of block 77, where the
City Hall now stands, as a site for the Union School House;
and in 1857 this "double brick school house, the best school
502 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
building north of St. Louis," was opened to scholars. It was
built by Robert E. Grimshaw, a contractor who came to Min,-
neapolis two years before, the father of U. S. Marshal "W. H.
Grimshaw, Elwood G. of Deadwood, Mrs. James Hunt of Cali-
fornia, Mrs. George W. Cooley, Mrs. Charles M. Jordan, and
Mrs. A. E. Benjamin of this city. He designed it as an exact
copy of a school building in his home town, Bustleton, a suburb
of Philadelphia. Mr. Grimshaw was responsible for many of
the larger early buildings, including the Harrison Block, at the
corner of Washington and Nicollet avenues, the First National
Bank, and Vogeli's drug store on the opposite corner, which
were recently razed for the Gateway Park, and the four Harri-
son residences, which are still standing.
In my childhood recollections Mr. Grimshaw was notorious
for his leading connection with a debating club, ''The Liberal
League," abhorred by the good church people, but kept much
alive each Sunday afternoon in Harrison's Hall by Mr. Grim-
shaw, S. C. Gale, C. A. Widstrand, 0. C. Merriman, Dr. A. F. El-
liott and others.
That Union School House was my first, and it brings back
many recollections. It seemed to us very palatial. A broad
central hall led through the building to rooms on either side,
cut off from the hall by sliding glass partitions, so that the
four rooms of each floor could be practically thrown into one
for general school exercises. A huge wood-burning stove, long
enough to receive four-feet cordwood, heated each room; and
each stove gave more radiation by having a long, hollow circular
sheet-iron drum above the fire box. This school house, with its
lively assemblage of some 250 children, was the scene of as many
epoch-making events as any of the seventy school buildings in
the present city. We were likewise "Good, bad, and indiffer-
ent," as nowadays.
The second principal, who shall be nameless, was a powerful
man, of a very fiery temper. Two brothers of Scotch descent,
living not far from the school, were to him especially exasperat-
ing by their breaches of discipline. He so far forgot himself
one day as to kick these boys down the stone steps. The boys
went home, nursing their bruises and their temper, and through
their parents moved for the principal's dismissal. He was a
good teacher and disciplinarian, and was kept in his position by
EARLY DAYS IN MINNEAPOLIS. 503
a lenient community because good teachers were scarce. The
boys could not forget and one night in 1864 the Union School
went up in smoke. Shavings saturated with kerosene were
seen burning on each floor, so that there was no doubt as to the
incendiary origin of the fire. The Scotch family suddenly dis-
appeared from the community, and the board had to house their
children in temporary quarters while a new building was being
Although the ambitious citizens of Hennepin county held
their first fair in 1854, a year before the United States gave
them clear title to their claims and enabled them to record a
plat of Minneapolis, the first State Fair was not held until 1860,
being then in the old quadrangle at Fort Snelling. Governor
Lewis Cass of Michigan, whose name was given to nine counties
in as many states and to two towns in Michigan, was the orator
of that occasion. To Fort Snelling we took all eastern visitors
and strangers, where "The Old Lookout" gave a truly magnifi-
cent view of the valleys of the Mississippi and Minnesota. The
removal of that old round wooden platform, in the modernizing
of the Fort in the 90 's, was a distinct scenic loss to the vicinity
of the Twin Cities.
Minnehaha Falls, known as Brown's Falls until made famous
by Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha" in 1855, has done more to
advertise Minneapolis than any other one thing, for no one can
come here without seeing the supposed scene of his legends.
This waterfall and the beautiful Minnehaha Park surrounding
it are one of the most familiar and valuable assets of the city.
The first daily paper at the Falls was The Falls Evening
News. From Volume I, No. 1, September 28, 1857, I select the
following interesting and instructive advertisements in the
separate Minneapolis columns.
"W. D. Washburn, Attorney & Counselor at Law, Cor. of
Helen & Second Sts., Collections, to invest and loan money, enter
and locate lands, pay taxes, examine titles, and attend promptly
to all business entrusted to him." Here follow in full fifteen
references to eastern men and firms outside of the territory and
five in St. Paul and elsewhere, as the humble beginning of the
business and fortune of the future United States senator.
Edwin S. Jones, afterward Judge of Probate and president
of the Hennepin County Bank, has a similar card ; also Cornell
504 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
& Vanderbergh, who became judges, one of the Supreme Court ;
Sherburne & Beebe (the late Judge Franklin Beebe), with some
twenty references ; Henry Hill, Parsons & Morgan, Cushman &
Woods, Carlos Wilcox, etc., all in the real estate and legal lines.
I think it was David Morgan of the above firm, whose funeral
five years later in the old Plymouth Church, at the corner of
Fourth street and Nicollet avenue, was the first I ever attended.
It was an awesome occasion, with a large attendance, for Mr.
Morgan had gone out among the first volunteers in the Indian
outbreak, and was brought home with an arrow through his
C. A. Widstrand, advertising his ' ' Music & Stationery Store, ' '
was an independent and notable figure on the streets of those
days, much beloved by all who knew him.
Thomas Hale Williams, Minneapolis Bookseller and Sta-
tioner, Minnetonka street (next south of the Suspension
Bridge), became, upon the organization of the Minneapolis
Athenaeum two years later, in 1859, its librarian, and was for
years the uncompromising custodian of this really excellent
book collection, the nucleus of our present Public Library. It
may be of interest to note here that the original stockholders in
the Athenaeum, in lieu of their former legal rights given up to
the public, have the privilege of demanding the purchase by
their permanent librarian of any line of books they may see fit,
with the further understanding that the original Athenaeum
Library is always to be kept intact.
To go back to our advertisements : George H. Keith, M. D.,
dentist, was afterward postmaster; commemoration of his wife
was recently very beautifully manifested by her son-in-law,
Mr. E. A. Merrill, in the gift of the Free Baptist church prop-
erty, on Fifteenth street and Nicollet avenue, to the Young
Women's Christian Association. A. L. Bausman, dentist, min-
istered to nearly all the early citizens of prominence, and was
always an important political factor.
C. L. Anderson and W. H. Leonard, my father, physicians,
were partners and friends ; M. R. Greely, M. D., adds to his card
this unique offer, "Surgical operations performed either with
or without the use of chloroform or ether, ' ' an offer that would
not attract nowadays.
On April 5, 1860, the first Plymouth Church building, a
EARLY DAYS IN MINNEAPOLIS. 505
wooden structure of some pretensions, facing Fourth street on
the southeast corner of Nicollet, burned to the ground, having
been set by incendiaries. The fire was thought to be the re-
sult of the church's drastic action in a very stirring temperance
movement. It was late in the afternoon, as I have reason to
remember distinctly, for a certain small boy had been sent to
bed early for punishment and found it a most exciting diversion
to watch the fire from the upper back widow of his Second
street home, just north of Hennepin avenue. As the flames
lighted up the sky, the few intervening buildings were brought
into bold outline, especially the original First Baptist Church, a
brick building facing Third street between Hennepin and Nicol-
let avenues, the most ambitious of the churches of that day.
Plymouth Church was rebuilt larger than before, on the same
site ; and it was removed in the 80 's, to make way for the present
buildings, to Seventh avenue north and Third street, where it is
now a crowded tenement building.
The Plymouth Church quintette in those early years con-
sisted of Harlow A. and S. C. Gale, brothers, Mr. and Mrs. C.
M. Cushman, and Mr. Joseph H. Clark. They were in demand
not only on Sundays, but for many funerals and concerts. Mr.
S. C. Gale, Mrs. Cushman, and her brother, Mr. Clark, still sur-
vive, the latter living in Santa Monica, California.
Kefugees from the Sioux massacre, in 1862, came even to
Minneapolis, more than eighty miles from the scenes of the
slaughter. Scores of the frightened settlers and their families
came, generally in the covered farm wagons or "prairie schoon-
ers" in which they had journeyed forth only a few years before.
On the wagons were all the household goods they could crowd,
with the family ; and behind were such cows, calves, colts, and
dogs, as could travel. Every home was opened to them for the
days of the scare. They flocked into our side of the town from
Bottineau prairie, in Wright county, as the unwooded stretch
from Buffalo to Monticello was called, and from the northern
part of Hennepin county, wild, tired, and hungry. I remember
how our big house served as barracks for a time, even the halls
being occupied by women and children.
It will always be the glory of Minnesota, that she was the
first to respond to the call for troops in the stirring first months
of the Rebellion. But, as elsewhere, the burdens fell doubly
506 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
upon those left behind. Men were actually scarce. It was
impossible to get work done, and women and children were
pressed into the service for unusual labor. Many physicians
went into the army, leaving more than double duty for those
left behind in a community rapidly increasing by immigra-
tion. Dr. Philo L. Hatch used to tell how for one week he
never had an opportunity to sleep in bed, but went from one
call to another, day and night. The mails were never more
eagerly sought. We small boys had the regular duty of going
for letters, and in doing so had to either wade through or skirt
a small frog-pond at the lower end of the present Gateway
Park, where the City Hall stood from 1887 to 1912.
The post office of war times was in various locations around
Bridge Square, at First street and Hennepin avenue, later at
the Pence Opera House corner, and for years in Center Block
(recently razed), in a building known as 216 Nicollet avenue,
owned by R. E. Grimshaw; and later still it occupied the first
floor of the City Hall, until the present Post Office Building
was completed, which again is soon to be succeeded by the
new building now in progress of construction.
Everybody lived ''down town" in those days, for there was
no strictly residence portion of the city. All were neighbors
and friends, greeting each other with a "Good morning," and
going home to dinner (not lunch) at noon, closing their shops
for an hour or so.
The Gale brothers, S. C. and Harlow A., lived near Third
avenue south and Third street, in a white wooden house long
since torn down. Judge E. S. Jones lived on Second ave-
nue north, between First and Second streets,, in a two story
brick dwelling, now a hotel for Icelanders. B. S. Bull lived
across the alley from Judge Jones ; 0. M. Laraway and Thomas
Gardner, over stores on Bridge Square ; J. B. Bassett, in a very
substantial brick dwelling on the river bank in the present
Omaha freight yards. My father, Dr. William H. Leonard, and
Mr. Schuyler Johnson, Mrs. Andrew Binker's father, lived on
the south side of Second street near Hennepin avenue, in build-
ings which are now a hide store and the headquarters of the
Volunteers of America ; and I might recall many other familiar
names of early citizens, whose homes were down on Fifth and
Seventh streets toward the old Court House.
EARLY DAYS IN MINNEAPOLIS. 507
Dr. Alfred E. Ames, whose large and splendid home (for
those days) was on the corner of Fourth street and Eighth
avenue south, had the first greenhouse in the city and employed
William Buckendorf, a young German, as his gardener. In the
very stringent times of 1857, William received a letter from
the old country on which was due fifty cents postage. He
knew it contained money and asked Dr. Ames for the change.
The doctor replied, "William, I know I owe you for several
months' wages besides, but I have not seen half a dollar in
many days. I'll tell you what I'll do, you take this deed to
lot so and so, on Seventh street, next to William Washburn's
house, and see if you can raise some money on it." Just what
William got for a lot, now worth thousands, the story does