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Thursday, March 3, 2016

More than Mist County. Oh, so much more.



Today in The Writer's Almanac:
The Territory of Minnesota was formed on this date in 1849. It was made up of all of what’s now the state of Minnesota, plus that part of the Dakotas that lies east of the Missouri River. The southern and eastern boundaries of the Territory of Minnesota had recently been determined by the establishment of Iowa and Wisconsin as states, in 1846 and 1848, respectively. The northern boundary was much older: that was drawn when it was determined that the 49th Parallel would form the boundary between the United States and Canada in 1818. 
French and British fur traders had been doing business with Native American residents of the area since the 1600s, but the trade had really picked up after the turn of the 19th century. At the time the territory was formed, there were several large and thriving Ojibwe and Dakota Sioux settlements, and only three substantial white settlements: Saint Paul, Saint Anthony, and Stillwater. Each city received its own institution: Saint Paul was named the territorial (and later, state) capital; Saint Anthony — which would soon be absorbed by the new city of Minneapolis — was the proposed site for the University of Minnesota; and Stillwater became home to the territorial prison. 
Once the territory was formed, large numbers of American settlers began moving into the area. Many of them came from the northeastern United States—so many that Minnesota was known as “the New England of the West” for a while. White settlements cropped up all over the territory, and the European American population grew from fewer than 10,000 settlers to more than 150,000 in the 1850s alone. Native Americans’ territory and influence waned as their land was taken over in a series of government treaties. The territorial era came to an end when Minnesota became the 32nd state in 1858.
Memories fade, and then die. But via the Congressional Globe, it is still possible to see Minnesota as the pioneers saw it.  It was embodied in "The Zenith City of the Unsalted Seas," as Kentucky Congressman J. Proctor Knott described a small town on January 27, 1871. His speech on an appropriation for a rail line to Duluth is widely considered the funniest speech ever made in Congress. And that's saying a lot.

Here's the definitive version, from the Minnesota Historical Society.

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