Saturday, October 5, 2013

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 5

October 5, 1898 – The Battle of Sugar Point, or the Battle of Leech Lake, was fought on [this date] between the 3rd U.S. Infantry and members of the Pillager Band of Chippewa Indians in a failed attempt to apprehend Pillager Ojibwe Bugonaygeshig ("Old Bug" or "Hole-In-The-Day"), as the result of a dispute with Indian Service officials on the Leech Lake Reservation in Cass County, Minnesota.”

The marker reads:

Sugar Point Battle

When a Federal Marshall with about 100 troops of the Third Infantry tried to arrest the Chippewa Chief Bugonaygeshig at Sugar Point opposite here on the Northeast shore of the lake a sharp fight occurred October 5, 1898. The whites lost 7 killed and 16 wounded and the arrest was never accomplished.

Friday, October 4, 2013

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 4

October 4, 1894 – The Anoka City Council unanimously passed a resolution to close every cigar store on Sundays.

Broad Axe; “
Minnesota In Brief, Interesting Events Of The Week In Minnesota. Important Occurrences in the North”; October 11, 1894.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 3

October 3, 1998 – “Cynthia Haisley, 43, a mother of two and native of Missouri, was found beaten to death under a bridge in northwest Rochester on [this date]. Haisley, who was homeless, had been living under the bridge, possibly with several other people. She had also frequented the Dorothy Day Center and Salvation Army in Rochester. Law enforcement officials believe there are witnesses that have information that could assist in solving this case.”

Cynthia Haisley

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 2

October 2, 1900The St. Paul Dispatch ran a photograph of all the automobiles owned by city residents: two cars and two trucks.”

The St. Paul Dispatch; “Mass Meeting of the Automobiles of St. Paul”; Oct. 2, 1900; p. 1.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Tales of Minnesota Geographic Names

Do you ever wonder where the name of a town, county or river came from?

Minnesota has many unusual geographic names; some named after people, some based on traditional Native American names, words or stories, and some just plain huh?

Take the small town of Nowthen in Anoka County. “Nowthen, the first post office of Burns Township started June 5, 1876. Jim Hare (first postmaster) was credited in naming the Nowthen Post Office. History says that Hare wrote to Washington requesting a Post Office in Burns Township. The Post Office Department indicated that they could not approve the Burns Post Office because there was already Burnstown Township Post Office in Southern Minnesota. The department suggested asked Hare for suggestions for a new name. Jim Hare sent a letter to the department with several suggested names. At the end of his letter he stated "nowthen" and signed it. Not knowing the Hare often started and ended his sentences with "nowthen", the department thought it was a pretty good name and named Burns Township's Post Office the Nowthen Post Office.

Even after the Nowthen Post Office closed in July 31, 1894 the residents still referred to the area around the Post Office as Nowthen.”1

Nowthen sign2

In Minnesota, we know that some geographical names come from Native American names, words or stories, e.g., Bemidji, the name of an Ojibwe chief, or Kandiyohi and Koochiching Counties, which are from the Dakota and Ojibwe languages respectively. Would you have guessed that Thief River Falls was one of them?

“According to Native American legend, the name thief or robber was applied to [Thief River] because of conflict between the Dakota and the Ojibwe. The Dakota occupied the territory first but were driven out by the Ojibwe. However, not all the Dakota left their homes. Those who stayed built a high embankment around their village. When the Cree and Assiniboine informed the Ojibwe of the Dakota village’s existence, the Ojibwe destroyed the village and its denizens. The Ojibwe then named the nearby lake and its river Ke-moj-ake-se-be, or Secret Earth River. The French mispronounced it Ke-mod-ske, or Stealing Earth; and it was finally translated into Thief River on explorer Joseph Nicollet’s map in 1839. Other legends refer to a maiden who leaped into the river after her lover was killed and a Dakota warrior who lived alone, robbing and pillaging for several years.”3

Thief River Falls water tower4

When I first saw that Thief River Falls was the “Home of the Prowlers,” I immediately pictured an actual prowler, dressed all in black with a ski mask and flashlight, playing off the Thief River name. Turns out I wasn't too far off, and yet totally wrong.

According to information I received from Thief River Falls High School:

“In the late 1800’s there was an amateur baseball team by the name of the ‘Thieves.’ So when the school started and a nickname was needed they didn't want the school children to be named the same. They took a less offensive or subservient name and the ‘Prowler’ name became attached to the school.

The first annual had a sketch of a man with a hood on creeping around a house with the title of the annual as the Prowler. A sketch in later years used a man with a mask over ½ of his face as the Prowler. It wasn't until 1920 that the school started to associate the mascot Prowler with a cat.

First graduating class was in 1904.”


Many geographical places in Minnesota are named after people, e.g., Beltrami County was named for explorer Giacomo Constantino Beltrami and the City of Ramsey in Anoka County and Ramsey County were named after Alexander Ramsey, the first governor of Minnesota Territory. But those are historically significant names; I’m much more curious about the simple, not famous names. Like who was Ada named for?

Ada is the county seat of Norman County in northwest Minn. Founded in 1874, the town was “named in honor of a daughter of William H. Fisher, of St. Paul, then attorney and superintendent of the St. Paul and Pacific railroad, under whose superintendency this line of the Red river valley was constructed. Ada Nelson Fisher died at the age of six years, in 1880, but this prosperous and beautiful village and the county perpetuate her name and memory.”5

Ada Welcome Sign6

Do you know how the towns where your family lived got their names?

LLet me help you find out what parts of Minnesota history your family played a role in.

Discover your roots and watch the branches of your family tree begin to grow.

For more information on my Family History Research services, visit and click on Family History Research in the left-hand column.


2Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain Oct. 1, 2013, as long as acknowledgement included.  

3; p. 22


5Upham, Warren; Minnesota Geographic Names, Their Origin and Historic Significance; Minnesota Historical Society (St. Paul, Minn., 1969); p. 381.


On This Date in Minnesota History: October 1

October 1, 1926 – Northwest Airlines was incorporated in 1926 as Northwest Airways. The company began service on [this date] as an airmail carrier between the Twin Cities and Chicago. Passenger service was inaugurated in July 1927. Northwest expanded its service through the Dakotas and Montana to Spokane and Seattle, Washington, in 1928-1933. The company was reincorporated as Northwest Airlines, Inc. in 1934.”

Northwest Airlines

Monday, September 30, 2013

On This Date in Minnesota History: September 30

September 30, 1889 – St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn., opened its doors on this date.1 It was founded by a local Franciscan religious community, the Sisters of Saint Francis led by Mother Alfred Moes, with encouragement from Dr. William Worrall Mayo. Today it is one of two hospitals operated by the Mayo Clinic.2


St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

On This Date in Minnesota History: September 29

September 29, 1838 – “The steamboat Ariel lands an exploring party at Stillwater including Illinois entrepreneurs David Hone and Lewis Judd. These men, sent on an expedition from Marine Settlement in Illinois, had been exploring the St. Croix River to choose a potential millsite. After disembarking at Stillwater, Hone and Judd pole a flatboat upriver and eventually stake a claim at the site of today’s Marine on St. Croix.”

David Hone