1902 Encyclopedia > Minnesota

Minnesota




MINNESOTA, one of the north-western States of the American Union, extending from 43° 30' N. lat. to the British Possessions (about 49° N. lat.), and from Wisconsin and Lake Superior on the east to Dakota on the west, between the meridians of 89° 39' and 97° 5' W. long. Its area, including half of the lakes, straits, and rivers along its boundaries, except Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods, amounts to 83,365 square miles.

The surface of Minnesota is diversified by few elevations of any great height. In general it is an undulating plain, breaking in some sections into rolling prairie, and traversed by belts of timber. It has an average elevation above sea-level of about 1000 feet. The watershed of the north (which determines the course of the three great continental river systems) and that of the west are not ridges or hills, but elevations whose inclination is almost insensible. The southern and central portions of the State are chiefly rolling prairie, the upper part of which is crossed from N.W. to S.E. by the forest belt known as the Big Woods,— a stretch of deciduous forest trees with an area of about 5000 square miles. North of the 47th parallel, the great Minnesota pine belt reaches from Lake Superior to the confines of the Red River valley, including the region of the headwaters of the Mississippi and its upper tributaries, as well as those of the Superior streams. North of the pine region there is but a stunted growth of tamarack and dwarf pine. In the north-east are found the rugged ele-vations of the granite uplift of the shores of Lake Superior, rising to a considerable height; while in the north-west the surface slopes away to the level prairie reaches of the Red River valley. The surface elevation of the State varies from 800 to 2000 feet above sea-level. A short line of hills in the north-east reaches the latter altitude, while only the valleys of the Red River, the Mississippi, and the Minnesota fall below the former.

Geology and Soil.—The geology has not yet been mapped out with the precision attained in other States. The great central zone, from Lake Superior to the south-western extremity of the State, is occupied by granitic and metamorphic rocks, succeeded, in the south-east, by nar-rower bands of later formation. Within the great Azoic area lies the central watershed of the continent, from which the St Lawrence system sends its waters towards the Atlantic, the Mississippi towards the Gulf of Mexico, and the Red River of the North to Hudson's Bay. These primordial rocks carry back the geologic history of Minnesota to pre-Silurian times. They form in the north-east, in the neighbourhood of Lake Superior, an extremely rough and hilly country, but as they reach the central and south-western portions of the State they for the most part disappear beneath the surface drift. This central belt is succeeded, on the south and east, by a stretch of sandstone, partially the true red Potsdam and partially a similar but lighter-coloured stratum, which some have proposed to designate the St Croix Sandstone. Isolated beds of sand-stone are found in various parts of the State. The north-western corner, stretching east from the Red River valley, is believed to be Cretaceous; but the great depth of drift and alluvium, disturbed by no large rivers, prevents a positive conclusion. The Lower Magnesian limestone underlies the extreme south-eastern portion of the State, and extends along the west side of the Mississippi to a point a little below St Paul; thence it takes a course almost semicircular, and finally passes out of the State at the south-western boundary. The Trenton limestone occupies a large field in the south and south-east; it comes to the surface in long irregular bands, and an island of it underlies the cities of Minneapolis and St Paul with the adjacent districts. The Galena limestone, the Masquoketa shales, the Niagara limestone, and the rocks of the Devonian age in turn prevail in the other counties of the south and east; while the existence of the St Peter sandstone would scarcely be known but for its outcropping along the bluffs of the Mississippi, and at the famous waterfall of Minnehaha. From these various formations numerous kinds of stone valuable for building purposes are obtained. The grey granite of St Cloud is extremely hard and enduring. The Lower Magnesian furnishes two especially handsome building stones,—the pink limestone known as Kasota stone, and the cream-coloured stone of Red Wing, both easily worked, and hardening by exposure to atmospheric changes. Naturally, from its location underneath the principal cities of the State, the Trenton limestone is the most widely used. Sand suitable for glass-making, and argillaceous deposits abound. The clays which make up so large a portion of the sur-face drift of the State are almost wholly of glacial origin. Overlying the deposits of sand, gravel, boulders, and clay is, in most portions of the State, a sandy loam, very finely divided, rich in organic matter, deep brown or black in colour, and of the greatest fertility. It is this soil which has given to the State its reputation for productiveness. Its depth varies from 2 to 5 feet in various parts of the State, and it has been described by Dr Owen as "excellent in quality, rich as well in organic matter as in those mineral salts which give rapidity to the growth of plants, while it has that durability which enables it to sustain a long succession of crops."

Rivers and Lakes.—The State holds a unique place in the great water systems of the continent. The Mississippi, which takes its rise north of the centre of the state in Lake Itaska and its contri-butory lakelets, leaves the state limits a great river, half a mile wide, and from 5 to 20 feet deep. It drains with its tributaries all the southern and central portions and a large area of the northern part of the State. It is navigable as far as St Paul, and at Minneapolis the falls of St Anthony afford unrivalled facilities for manufacturing, Of the many affluents of the Mis-sissippi the most important is the Minnesota, which after a course of about 440 miles flows into the main stream at Fort Snelling, 3 miles above St Paul. The source of the Minnesota is but 1 mile from Lake Traverse, the origin of the Red River of the North, and it is navigable during the high-water season for about 238 miles. Its principal tributaries are the Blue Earth, Chippewa, Redwood, Lac qui Parle, and Pomme de Terre. The Bed Biver system drains the north-western part of the State, and its waters finally pass into Hudson's Bay, as also do those from the country drained by streams flowing to the Rainy Lake river and the lakes along the northern boundary line. East of this lies the region tributary to Lake Superior and the St Lawrence system. This comprises an area within the State estimated at 9000 square miles. Its principal river is the St Louis. There are altogether about 2796 miles of navigable water in Minnesota.

The number of lakes is estimated at seven thousand. They are of all sizes, and are found chiefly in the northern two-thirds of the State. They have been classified geologically into glacial or drift lakes, fluviatile or river lakes, occupying basins on river courses, and lakes having rock basins either scooped out by the action of glaciers or formed by the relative position of different geological formations. By far the greater number give evidence of glacial action in their origin. They abound over the region most deeply covered by the surface drift, and are especially prevalent in morainic districts, forming the southern fringe of the lacustrine area of North America. With the melting of the ice-sheet wdiich once overspread Minnesota its innumerable lakes came into existence ; and the gentle acclivity of its slopes, precluding rapid erosive action, has tended to give permanence to the depressions constituting their basins. The census returns give 4160 square miles of water surface within the State. Most of the lakes are exceedingly picturesque, in their sur-roundings. Forests skirt their shores, which are seldom marshy ; and their waters, abounding in various kinds of fish, are clear and eool. Besides the sanitary advantages afforded by the lakes, as supplying places for recreation and delightful summer resorts, they affect the climate to some extent, tempering the extremes com-monly experienced in northern latitudes. The fact that many of the lakes are gradually drying up must be explained by agricul-tural operations. The largest lakes, exclusive of Superior, lying wholly or in part in Minnesota are as follows :—Lake of the Woods, 612 square miles ; Red, 342; Mille Lacs, 198; Leech, 194; Rainy, 146; Winnibigoshish, 78; and Vermilion, 63.

Flora and Fauna.—The flora and fauna present no marked differences from those of other States in the same latitude. In a partial list of the birds of Minnesota, two hundred and eighty-one species are enumerated. Of winter birds fifty-two species have been classified, twenty-three of them being permanent residents.





Climate.—The State lies so far north as to have a low mean annual temperature, and so far inland as to have the characteristic continental climate. Its elevation above sea-level gives an agree-able rarefaction to the atmosphere, and makes the prevalence of fogs and damp weather unknown. Between June and January there is an annual variation from the summer heat of southern Ohio to the winter cold of Montreal. The winter, usually com-mencing in November, and continuing till near the end of March, is not a period of intense continued cold, but is subject to consider-able variations. As a rule, the comparative dryness of the atmo-sphere neutralizes the severest effect of excessive cold. The snowfall is extremely light during most of the winter, but as spring approaches precipitation becomes greater, and there are frequently heavy snowfalls in February and March. The change from winter to summer is rapid, vegetation sometimes seeming to leap into full and active growth within the space of a few weeks. The summer months bring days of intense heat, but, with comparatively rare exceptions, the nights are delieiously eooL Hot days and cool nights make the ideal weather for a good wheat crop ; and the forcing heats of summer produce in luxuriant growth the vegetable life which belongs to the middle States. The Smithsonian chart assigns to Minnesota an average temperature for the hottest week in summer of from 85° to 90°, and for the coldest week in winter from 10° to 20° below zero. The mean annual average, for all below 47° of latitude, it gives as 40°. Observations at St Paul, extending over a period of more than thirty-five years, show the following mean temperatures:—spring, 45°'6 ; summer, 70°'6 ; autumn, 40°'9 ; winter, 16°'l; average, 44°'6. The average annual rainfall is about 25'5 inches. While this is not large, it is so distributed as best to subserve the purposes of vegetable growth. No moisture is lost in superfluous spring and autumn rains, or in the cold and non-producing part of the year, the precipitation, which in winter is less than 2 inches, increasing to about 12 for the sum-mer. To the season of vegetable growth belong 70 per cent, of the yearly measures of heat, 76 percent, of the rainfall, and 76 percent, of the atmospheric humidity. The prevailing winds are from the south or south-east. In 1880 rain or snow fell on 150 days, and in 1881 on 167. It is evident that the causes which mitigate the actual severity of the climate as felt, wdiich produce so large a number of clear days, and which forbid the continued presence of a large amount of moisture in the atmosphere, are those wdiich render a climate healthful in the highest degree. Minnesota has been for many years a favourite resort for invalids. The curative properties of its climate are especially marked in the case of pulmonary complaints.

Agriculture.—The leading industry of the State is agriculture. The character of the surface soil varies in different parts of the State with the character of the underlying strata. The fertile land comprises about three-fourths of the entire area of the State. The drift soil proper of the south ana centre, including the Minnesota valley and the greater part of that of the Mississippi, contains silica and calcareous matter, and is interspersed with alluvial river bottoms. The limestone soil, in wdiich there is a large calcareous element, lies chiefly on the western slope of the Mississippi. The Bed River valley consists of an argillaceous mould, rich in organic deposits. Around Lake Superior, wherever arable land is to be found, it is marked by a rich trap soil. North of the central fertile area, and in the neighbourhood of the sources of the Mississippi, is much swampy land, susceptible of easy drainage, with a large tract of sand and other drift detritus, unfavourable to production. Maize and potatoes flourish, and the uplands, which support hardwood ridges, are suited to general agriculture. To the extreme north the surface, while indicating mineral wealth, is utterly unfit, except in occasional isolated areas, for purposes of tillage.

Wheat has hitherto been the staple product of the State. Soil and climate are such as to ensure a large average yield, while the superior quality of the grain has given it a wide reputation. The other cereals are also cultivated with success. The tendency to diversify agriculture, especially in the southern part of the State, has been stimulated by several partial failures of the wheat crop, the locust invasions, and the competition of the farther north-west.

The area of the State includes 39,791,265 acres surveyed, 10,968,575 acres not surveyed, and 2,700,000 acres of lake surface. The total sales of public and railroad lands in 1879 and 1880 were not far from 4,000,000 acres. It is estimated that the aggregate of lands yet undisposed of, three-fourths of which may be profitably cultivated, is nearly 20,000,000 acres, exclusive of the lands belong-ing to the State. White Earth Indian reservation has thirty-six townships of prairie and timber land ; and Red Lake reservation contains 3,200,000 acres.

Forestry.—A special census bulletin estimates the amount of merchantable white pine standing, May 31, 1880, as amounting in all to 6,100,000,000 feet. The entire cut for the census year 1880 was 540,997,000 feet. Of hardwood forest 3,840,000 acres remain, capable of yielding 57,600,000 cords of wood.

Every encouragement is afforded, both by the railway corpora-tions and the State, to tree-planting on the prairies. A quarter section is given to any one who will plant and keep in good condi-tion 40 acres of timber for eight years. In 1880 there were planted 25,331 acres of trees, exclusive of those bordering highways and the windbreaks along the railroad lines.
Manufactures.—The manufactures of Minnesota are yet in their infancy. The abundant water-power of the State, its proximity to the coal-fields of Iowa, its superior transportation facilities, and the large demand for manufactured commodities are, however, rapidly developing this branch of industry. The most important industries are the manufacture of flour and that of lumber. The former natu-rally established itself in a State of immense wheat yield a.ndabundant water-power. It received its greatest stimulus from the invention and adoption of the middlings purifying process, which produces the highest grade of flour, and to which the hard spring wheat of Minnesota is especially adapted. Among other manufacturing industries actively prosecuted are the making of brick, pottery, stoneware, and agricultural implements, and also meat-packing.

Commerce.—The geographical position of Minnesota gives it ex-tensive commercial interests. Two continental waterways terminate within the State. The Mississippi affords continuous navigation to European ports during eight months of the year. From Duluth numerous lines of vessels traverse the chain of great lakes, and transport the products of the west to the eastern seaboard. Three great transcontinental railway lines are connected more or less directly with the railroad system of the State. Twelve lines of rail-way from every part of Minnesota converge at the contiguous cities of St Paul and Minneapolis, and three great trunk lines from these centres to Chicago secure the advantages of a lively competition.

Education. — The common school system is supported by land grants, a local tax, and a State tax. The superintendent of in-struction is appointed by the governor. County superintendents are chosen by popular vote. Common school districts have boards of three trustees each. Six directors are appointed for independent districts. The permanent fund in 1881 was $4,850,000, and the current fund $260,835. The State university, located at Minnea-polis, is governed by a board of regents, consisting of the governor of the State, the superintendent of public instruction, the president of the university, and six others ; both sexes are admitted, and tuition is free. The State supports three normal schools. Forty-two academies and six colleges are sustained by denominational or private enterprise.
Administration.—The departments of Government are, as in all the States, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. The State contains seventy-eight counties, of which some are still subject to change of boundary. From these are elected by districts forty-seven senators and one hundred and three members of the House of Representatives. The State officers are a governor, lieutenant-governor, secretary of state, treasurer, and attorney-general, all elected by the ueople. The term of office is two years.

The governor has power to veto separate items of a money bill. The judiciary is elective, and the term of office seven years. The State requirements for citizenship are residence in the United States one year, in the State four months, and in the election district ten days preceding an election. Women are allowed to vote for school officers and upon questions relating to the management of schools, and are also eligible to such offices. No county can con-tain more than 400 square miles. The legislature meets biennially. Extra sessions may be called, but no session can exceed sixty days in length. Under the last apportionment the State is entitled to live representatives in the national Congress.

The annual valuation of property for 1882, as equalized by the State board, gives the personal property as $79,219,445, the real estate $242,938,170. This represents a total actual value of not far from $750,000,000.

While Minnesota was still a Territory, but after it had adopted a State constitution, an amendment was added to the constitution j authorizing the issue of a large amount of bonds in aid of railway construction. Shortly afterwards, the comjianies having failed to fulfil their contracts and defaulted payment, the State foreclosed i its mortgage on the lands, franchises, &c., of the roads, and turned them over to other companies. By another amendment to the constitution, the payment of the bonds was made contingent upon the result of a popular vote. Several proposals having failed to receive this sanction, the necessity for it was removed in 1881 by a decision of the supreme court, declaring the amendment uncon-stitutional. The legislature immediately met, accepted a plan of settlement proposed by the bondholders themselves, and over $4,000,000 worth of new bonds were issued in exchange for the old. Eor the payment of the principal and interest of these the people have voted (November 1882) to set aside as a sinking fund the proceeds of 500,000 acres of land belonging to the State internal improvement fund, the deficit to be paid out of the tax on railroad earnings. These bonds include all the State debt except about $200,000. A tax of 3 per cent, imposed on the gross earnings of all railroads within the State will soon meet all expenses except provision for educational, penal, and charitable institutions.





Population. — The population of the State was 6077 at the census of 1850, 172,023 in 1860, 439,706 in 1870, and 780,773 (419,149 males and 361,624 females) in 1880. According to the last census 299,800 whites had been born in the State; and of the 267,676 foreign-born inhabitants of the State 107,770 came from Scandina-vian countries and 68,277 from the United Kingdom and the British colonies, while 77,505 acknowdedge the German as their native tongue. The increase of population in the State for the last decade of years alone was 75 per cent. The most important uities are St Paul, the capital, and Minneapolis, with 41,473 and 46,887 inhabit-ants respectively in 1880; Winona had 10,208 and Stillwater 9055.

History.—Missionary efforts and the trading spirit first induced white men to venture as far into the unexplored north-west as the boundaries of what is now the State of Minnesota. The earliest accounts of its natural features and native tribes appear in the Jesuit writings. The "Relations" of 1670-71 allude to the Sioux orDakotas. In 1678 a company was formed for trading with this tribe. Du Luth was leader of this expedition, and later on went from Lake Superior to the Mississippi by canoe. But the first pub-lished account is that of Louis Hennepin, a Recollect monk, who, in 1680, visited the falls of St Anthony, and gave them their name, from that of his patron saint. For a century the only visitants of the wild region were a few missionaries, and a number of fur traders who found the profit of the journey to more than counter-balance its perils and hardships. To the latter CIPSS belong Perrot, who reached the Mississippi by way of the Fox and Wisconsin in 1684, and founded at Lake Pepin the first trading post in the State, and Le Sueur, a Canadian, who ascended the great river from its mouth, and established another post above Lake Pepin. Captain John Carver, the explorer of the country of the upper Mississippi, visited the falls of St Anthony in 1766, being the first British tra-veller who reached the spot. On March 20, 1804, Upper Louisiana was organized, consisting of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, and a large portion of Minnesota. From this time onwards the progress of explo-ration was rapid, and settlement followed in its train. The first really extensive exploration of any large part of what is now Minnesota was made between 1817 and 1823, by Major S. H. Long, of the United States engineer corps, in command of a Government expedition. About the same time the Red River received its first visitant. Thomas Douglas, earl of Selkirk, an Englishman of eccentric character, went, in 1817, to what is now Winnipeg, by way of York river. Having been struck with the agricultural possibilities of the region about the Red River of the North, he induced a colony of Swiss farmers to settle there. These were dis-appointed in the country, and unused to the severity of the climate, so that they finally removed to the vicinity of St Paul and con-tributed to the earliest development of the agricultural in-dustry of the State. In 1821 Colonel Snelling built, at the junction of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, a stronghold which he named Fort St Anthony. The name was changed to Fort Snelling in his honour, in 1824, and the fort is still an important post as a base of supplies for the newer north-west. The first steamboat made its appearance at the head of navigation in 1823. The settlement of St Paul, one of the oldest towns as well as the capital, is commonly dated from 1846, at which time there were a few shanties on its site. Population now began to arrive in constantly increasing numbers, and on March 3, 1849, a bill passed Congress for organizing the Territory. It was proposed at one time to name it Itasca, but the name Minnesota, meaning, "sky-tinted water," and originally applied to the river bearing that title, was finally retained. The western boundary of the territory was fixed at the Missouri river. The population was but 4057, the largest town had but a few hundred inhabitants, and a large part of the soil of the State still belonged to the Indians. But progress now began in earnest. A constitution was adopted in 1857, and on May 11, 1858, Minnesota was admitted as a State, with a population, according to the last Territorial census, of 150,037.

One of the first acts of the new State was the issue of the rail-road bonds noticed above. Soon after came the civil war. Within two months of Lincoln's first call for troops the first Minnesota regiment, over one thousand strong, was mustered into service. By August of 1862 ten regiments had been called for and furnished. In all, the State supplied to the armies of the Union 25,052 men, or about one-seventh of its entire population at the outbreak of the war.

In the meantime there occurred, in 1862, the horrible outbreak known as the Sioux massacre. Settlements were cut off, isolated settlers murdered, and even a strong post like Fort Ridgely was attacked. The outbreak spread over a large portion of the State; several severe engagements were fought; and it was not until the State had a tnoroughly equipped military force ready for the cam-paign that the Indians begun to flee or to give themselves up. By this time over 700 persons had been murdered, 200, chiefly women, taken captive ; eighteen counties were ravaged, and 30,000 people were homeless. The property loss was not less than $3,000,000.

During these local and national disturbances the material prosperity of the State was unabated. Notwithstanding the heavy cost of the civil war and the Sioux massacre, the census of 1865 showed a population of 250,099. Railroad construction began to be energetically carried forward; in 1870 329 miles were made and 1096 miles were in operation; a road to Lake Superior was completed, and the Northern Pacific was fairly under way. In 1873-76, and to some extent in 1877, successive visitations of locusts destroyed the crops of the south-western counties. The sufferers were relieved by the State, and no repetition of the scourge has since been experienced. (J. G. P.)




Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries