Manitoba History: A Glance to the South: Recent Work on Minnesota’s History
by Francis M. Carroll
Manitobans probably know less about Minnesota than they do about Florida, Arizona, or California. This was not always the case. During much of the nineteenth century and part of the twentieth, Manitoba was closely tied to Minnesota in many ways. The most obvious link, of course, was transportation. The Red River was a more convenient route to the outside world than either the Hudson Bay or the Rainy River. Even after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, passenger travel to eastern Canada was just as convenient through Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Chicago. Similarly, the emergence of the automobile sent people south through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan on their way east. All this has now changed. The over-night train to Minneapolis has been replaced by the “red-eye special” to Toronto. The completion of the Trans-Canada Highway has tended to keep people north of Lake Superior rather than south along Highway 2. Holidays in the United States are more likely to be in Tucson or Los Angeles, or quick shop-ping trips to Fargo or Grand Forks. Minnesota, once the main artery for the province, has become more distant than the Bahamas.
Despite this growing distance, however, the history of Manitoba and Minnesota remains linked. There are too many crossovers for it to be otherwise: prairie and forest, fur trade and garrisons, railways and rivers, mining and wheat, new immigrants and old stock establishments. There is some logic in the joining of the reprints from 1875 and 1880 Harper’s articles in the pamphlet entitled Minnesota and Manitoba 100 Years Ago.  Much of what happened in Manitoba becomes clearer when looked at through the history of Minnesota. And history there is aplenty. The last decade has been one of exciting developments and active publishing in Minnesota history, and the results are of much interest for Manitoban and western Canadian historians.
Nowhere is the cross-border link more obvious than in Where Two Worlds Meet: The Great Lakes Fur Trade by Carolyn Gilman.  The book is a Minnesota Historical Society exhibition catalogue with a brief, informative introduction and very detailed descriptions of the 236 items featured, all written by Ms Gilman. The title refers to the meeting of the Indians and the White fur traders, and just as the artifacts described and illustrated represent the latest archeological discoveries, the text represents the latest anthropological views on Indian-White interaction. The emphasis is on the exchange of ideas and lifestyles as well as on goods. The Indians, Ms Gilman suggests, changed the Whites as well as the Whites the Indians, and both thought they were getting something for nothing. A French fur trader in 1609 is quoted as saying that they got the precious pelts “for Beades, Knives ... Hatchets, [and other] trifles” while a Montagnais Indian is recorded as saying in 1634, “The English have no sense; they give us twenty knives like this for one Beaver skin.”  Although the “Introduction” is not a history of the fur trade it is a useful outline of the pattern that evolved. There was a phase where the Europeans were largely passive and confined to the coastal areas; a second phase where the Europeans moved inland and took over the transportation aspect of the trade; and a final phase where the Europeans moved into the hunting grounds and in some cases took over the trapping themselves, thus displacing the Indians and generating increasingly bad relations. Up until the last phase, the trading was as much symbolic as material, Gilman says, honour and status being affirmed as well as material goods exchanged.
The artifacts in the exhibit are beautiful and fascinating. There are 24 colour plates as well as many black and white photographs, prints, and maps. They represent archeological discoveries in the Great Lakes basin, and they are assembled from museums and collections throughout North America. Many of the artifacts, as perhaps one might expect, come from the joint Canadian-American underwater discoveries of the 1960s which were so interestingly described by Robert C. Wheeler, Alan R. Woolworth, and Douglas A. Birk, all of the Minnesota Historical Society staff, and Walter A. Kenyon, of the Royal Ontario Museum, in their book, Voices from the Rapids.  Woolworth, who is the Society’s chief archeologist, also provides an excellent appendix for Where Two Worlds Meet entitled “The Great Carrying Place: Grand Portage.” He was actively involved in the underwater project along the border routes as well as in the excavations at Grand Portage. Birk, also an archeologist for the Society, has included a very useful essay on “The La Verendryes.” Bruce M. White, a Society editor, has described the observations of a group of Indians in Europe in 1848 in an appendix entitled “Parisian Women’s Dogs.” He uses these reactions to White society as a springboard for a discussion of cross-cultural relations between the two societies.
The cross-border links became increasingly elaborate as the fur trade entered the third phase. Chronologically, this phase of the fur trade included the 1820s and 1830s, by which time also the political boundaries had become increasingly a consideration. Thus, the growing use of the Red River route to the Mississippi (rather than the Hudson Bay or Lake Superior) tied the Selkirk settlement, Fort Garry, and to some extent all of western British North America to the fortunes of Minnesota. Rhoda Gilman, Carolyn Gilman, and Deborah Stultz, all of the Minnesota Historical Society staff, have put together a very useful little book which explores this topic, The Red River Trails: Oxcart Routes Between St. Paul and the Selkirk Settlement, 1820-1870.  The first chapter, largely written by Rhoda Gilman, is an excellent history of the origins, development, and economic intricacies of the trails. While the author draws heavily on the writings of John P. Pritchett and Alvin C. Gluek, as well as an abundance of manuscript material, the chapter goes well beyond the earlier writings and maps of Grace Lee Nute and Willoughby M. Babcock.  In short, the author has integrated the current scholarship and available manuscript sources for a comprehensive history of the trails. The next six chapters, prepared by Carolyn Gilman and Deborah Stultz, might be compared to a scholarly travel guide, going through the trails from one landmark to another. These descriptions are accompanied by meticulous maps (which also show contemporary towns and sites) so that it would be possible to take this book and search out the old trails. In this respect the book is similar to Grover Singley’s Tracing Minnesota’s Old Government Roads. 
What is interesting to note is that there were actually several Red River trails. The Manitoba Trail from Fort Garry to Pembina kept close to the west bank of the river. The main route of the North Dakota Trail went inland some miles from the river to the coteau marking the watershed and the edge of the Great Plains. This route continued south paralleling the river and then angled east to cross the Red either at Fort Abercrombie or at Breckenridge. The Minnesota Valley Trail headed south, crossed the height of land, and descended into the valley of the St. Peter’s (Minnesota) River. A variety of alternate routes, north or south of the river, took the traveler into Mendota, across from Fort Snelling at the confluence of the St. Peter’s and the Mississippi. These three trails constituted the earliest oxcart route systematically used. The Woods Trail, which was the eastern most route, was opened by Peter Garrioch in 1844 to avoid the hostile Dakota Indians who were obstructing traffic late that year on the main routes. The Middle Trail evolved along several routes, but it effectively left Fort Abercrombie or Breckenridge, crossed the Red and proceeded south-east to join the Mississippi at St. Cloud or Sauk Rapids. The final leg was called the Metropolitan Trail, and it proceeded down the east bank of the Mississippi into St. Paul or Fort Snelling. The book is significant and, inasmuch as this was the main route in or out of the Red River settlement from about 1820 until the era of the steamboat and the railway, it drives right to the heart of mid-nineteenth century Manitoba history.
Perhaps no one was more instrumental in reshaping the trade and transportation patterns between Fort Garry and St. Paul than James J. Hill, the subject of Albro Martin’s brilliant biography, James J. Hill and the Opening of the Northwest.  Martin, who is at the Harvard Graduate School of Business, is also the author of a prize-winning book on railroad regulation in the United States at the turn of the century. This book is based largely on the Hill papers, but also uses the papers of other railway companies, numerous individuals, and the Public Archives of Canada. In terms of scholarship, the book is impeccable and goes well beyond Joseph G. Pyle’s The Life of James J. Hill or the relevant chapters of Pierre Berton’s The National Dream and The Last Spike.  Of course, the main themes of the book are the building of the Great Northern Railway, Hill’s struggle to hold on to it, and the opening up of the northern tier of the United States. Of equally great interest, however, is the Canadian dimension of Hill’s enterprises. Beginning with his origins in Rockwood, Ontario and his arrival in the frontier town of St. Paul in 1856, Hill remained within a circle of Canadian and border affairs. Within a few years in St. Paul, Hill became a shipping agent, among other things. That job took him in two directions. It taught him something about the railway business by handling the freight for the railways operating out of Chicago and Milwaukee, and it taught him about the Red River valley and the peculiarities of trade between Fort Garry and St. Paul. By 1869 Hill was handling the business of Norman Kittson, a Canadian-born fur trader who had run an independent fort at Pembina (Kittson’s widowed grandmother had married Alexander Henry) and who was by then a major figure in, and former mayor of, St. Paul. Kittson and Donald Smith, governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada, had attempted to run a steamboat business on the Red River for the Bay’s interest. Hill took over the merchandising and eventually the steamboats, finally joining forces with Kittson to form the Red River Transportation Company.
All of these activities forged a working relationship between Hill, Kittson, and Smith and developed in them a heightened awareness of the need for efficient transportation along the Red River, and what that would mean for the development of the west. When the panic and depression of 1873 brought the partially constructed St. Paul and Pacific Railway to bankruptcy, these three men took the initiative. Smith’s cousin, George Stephen, president of the Bank of Montreal, was enlisted together with a British banker in New York, John S. Kennedy. As a result of incredibly complex financial maneuvering, this group bought out the Dutch bond-holders, took over the failing railway (“two streaks of rust and a right of way”) in 1878, and by November had completed track to the border, linking Fort Garry and St. Paul by rail. One is tempted to say the rest is history. The events that flowed from this were profound. The fortune made in Minnesota enabled Smith and Stephen, and to a lesser extent Hill, Kittson, and Kennedy to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. For political reasons, the newly-named St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway was prohibited from playing the role that Hill had originally envisioned as being the link between eastern Canadian railways and the Canadian Pacific in the west. Indeed, relations between the old partners, while never broken, were strained considerably, when later the Canadian Pacific bought half interest in the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault St. Marie (Soo) Railroad which cut through Hill’s territory in Minnesota and did link the east and west extremities of the CPR by a line in the United States. However, by the end of the 1880s Stephen and Smith, disenchanted with political events in Canada, backed Hill and the “blessed old railway” in the building of the Great Northern. The wheel had gone full circle.
Amherst H. Wilder, although by no means as closely linked to Canadian affairs as Hill, was nevertheless part of the Red River trade network. Wilder moved to St. Paul in 1859 at the age of 31 and joined the firm of his cousins, James C. and Henry C. Burbank, dealing in wholesale groceries, supplies and shipping. The following year Wilder and the Burbanks obtained an interest in the stage coach and express line business, serving all parts of Minnesota which then had roads. This included Fort Garry, and they obtained contracts with the Hudson’s Bay Company through their contact with Sir George Simpson. The operation of the first steamboat on the Red River in 1859, the Anson Northup, clearly affected the Burbank-Wilder enterprise with the result that they bought the vessel and ran it for two years before selling out to Hudson’s Bay interests (Smith and Kittson). Meanwhile the Sioux Uprising of 1862, while seriously crippling settlement in western Minnesota, opened the door to a prosperous business in supplying military expeditions and outposts beyond the Mississippi, the Minnesota, and the Red Rivers. Wilder became one of the major suppliers for government contracts for both the United States Army and the Indians. The result of this prosperous trade was that Wilder built up a substantial fortune which he invested in such other enterprises as railroads, mining, banking, utilities, and real estate; his interests ran as far west as Montana and as far east as Superior, Wisconsin.
All of this story is described in detail by Merrill E. Jarchow in his book, Amherst H. Wilder and His Enduring Legacy to St. Paul.  Jarchow was for years Dean of Men at Carleton College, during which time he wrote relatively little. However, since his retirement in 1967 he has published five books, this being his most recent. In fact, structurally this is almost two books. The first half deals with the life and career of Wilder, and the second two hundred pages focus on Wilder’s widow, daughter and his unusual will. When Wilder died in 1894 he left a complicated will. His wife and only daughter were to be provided for, but the residue of the fortune was to be put in trust to be used “as a benefit to my fellow citizens of St. Paul, where I have so long resided.”  Thus the Amherst H. Wilder Charity became one of the early and major philanthropic foundations in Minnesota. All was not easy, however, in that the will was contested by the daughter’s husband and by several other would-be claimants. Eventually the administration of the Charity was set up and funds were disbursed for the assistance of the “worthy poor” in St. Paul. Interestingly enough, one of the first projects begun in 1911 was a day nursery for the children of working mothers, a particular interest of the daughter. By 1914 it had been so successful that a new building was constructed for day-care. The Wilder Free Baths were also opened in 1914 (an important service in an age where bath tubs and hot water were not always accessible to the poor), and by 1917 the Lincoln Health Center started operations. Gradually a host of services were provided out of the Charity’s funds: dispensaries, infirmaries, low income housing, senior citizens’ housing, children’s centers, health centers, camps, community centers, and housing for minorities. Over the years, right to the present, an evolving board of trustees and a staff have worked out new operations to assist the people of St. Paul as the needs of the city have changed.
Both the Hill and the Wilder biographies are economic studies, among other things, that focus largely on aspects of the western frontier of Minnesota. For the last hundred years one of the critically important sectors of the Minnesota economy has been the iron ore mining industry in the north eastern part of the state. Rather surprisingly, this whole subject has been somewhat neglected by historians. Biographies have been the best secondary sources, such as Hal Bridges’s Iron Millionaire: Life of Charlemagne Tower or the outdated and journalistic account of Paul De Kruif, Seven Iron Men, or still more generally, the biographies of John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, or J. P. Morgan.  With David P. Walker’s Iron Frontier: The Discovery and Early Development of Minnesota’s Three Ranges, the topic has finally been given the kind of expert attention it deserves.  Walker, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa and a business history specialist, has written a massively researched and clearly told story of the Minnesota mines from the late nineteenth century to roughly World War I.
The history of each range involves a pattern of exploration, prospecting, land acquisition, initial mining operations, railroad and loading dock construction, Great Lakes shipping, and the marketing of new grades of iron ore to the iron and steel industry in the east. Such an elaborate process was enormously capital intensive and almost of necessity involved a degree of financial overextension by the original entrepreneurs. The original developers of the Vermillion Range, Charlemagne Tower and his son, ultimately sold out in 1887 to larger capitalists like the Rockefeller brothers, Marshall Field, and Cyrus H. McCormick. On the Mesabi Range the Merritt brothers of Duluth, having borrowed extensively from John D. Rockefeller to build the railroad segment of their iron empire, were caught by the panic and depression of 1893 and ultimately lost control of their holdings to Rockefeller, who in turn sold substantial interests to Carnegie and Morgan. All of this has left a residue of bitterness in Minnesota that the big eastern interests (the “robber barons”) had ruthlessly squeezed out the local entrepreneurs. While not defending the eastern capitalists, in this case Rockefeller particularly, Walker attempts to show how such extraordinary outlays of capital were beyond the capacity of most local Minnesota businessmen. The complex marketing process, together with the industry’s vulnerability to economic depression, especially in 1893, meant inevitably that local interests became indebted to eastern capitalists who in turn took control at some crisis stage in order to protect their own investment. Even so, the giants did not control all of the mines. Numerous smaller independent mines were developed quite successfully. The richest single operation, the Mahoning Mine of Hibbing, had been owned by two lumbermen, Ammi W. Wright and Charles H. Davis, who sold out in order to get the capital to expand their logging activities elsewhere. The Mahoning Mine was ultimately acquired by James J. Hill largely through the urging of his son Louis. In 1897 Hill bought from the Canadian Pacific the Duluth and Winnipeg Railway after the latter had gone into receivership. The Duluth and Winnipeg had track that ran from Duluth to Deer River and its acquisition would enable Hill to extend the Great Northern rail system from Duluth to Crookston in order to link up with its main line to Seattle. However, the Duluth and Winnipeg also had access to a logging spur that ran north east from the little junction of Swan River onto the Mesabi Range. By 1899 Hill bought the spur, the Mahoning Mine, and the timber rights, with the result that he became a major figure in the mining industry. Other independent entrepreneurs, several from Duluth, developed the Cuyuna Range in north central Minnesota. What Walker seems to suggest in this regard is that the local people could operate their own mines so long as they did not attempt to control an integrated empire with railroads, loading docks, and ships. Hill was something of an exception because he already owned a profitable railroad that produced a steady flow of cash to finance the mining. Walker’s book is a major contribution to Minnesota history.
Unfortunately, no similar book exists for the history of the forest industry in Minnesota. In fact, historians have not neglected the lumber frontier to the degree they have the mining, but still no comprehensive integrated history of the industry exists. Agnes M. Larson’s History of the White Pine Industry in Minnesota is still the standard work, although it is almost thirty-five years old and is not based sufficiently on archival materials which are now available.  The Weyerhaeuser and Laird-Norton stories have been admirably told in Ralph W. Hidy, et al., Timber and Men and in Fred W. Kohlmeyer’s Timber Roots, but even these families are only part of the lumber industry.  As a partial result, forest history for Minnesota remains strongly influenced by amateur historians. What is meant here by amateur is someone who is not trained as a historian or is not professionally engaged as a historian. Local history certainly remains an area in which amateur historians continue to function with great success, and that is seen in several of the books to be discussed here.
One such noteworthy book is Tall Timber: A Pictorial History of Logging in the Upper Midwest by Tom Bacig and Fred Thompson.  Thompson has had a variety of experience, but is primarily a photographer while Bacig teaches English at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and is committed to many environmental activities. The book is primarily a beautiful collection of more than 150 photographs set up in an 8½” by 11” format and printed in a lovely sepia ink which gives each page a soft brown and white finish. The photographs range as far back as 1858, but are predominantly from the turn of the century. They show all aspects of logging operations: cutting, skidding, lumberjack camp life, log drives, lumber towns, saw mills, and logging railways. The authors have consulted a wide variety of historical collections (ten libraries or historical societies and one private company), although one might query why they omitted the collections of the St. Louis County Historical Society or the Carlton County Historical Society, both of which have logging exhibits and photograph collections. The book compares favourably with Donald MacKay’s The Lumberjacks, a pictorial study of Canadian logging, and to Richard L. William’s The Loggers and Ralph W. Andrew’s Glory Days of Logging, both of which illustrate West Coast timber operations.  Previously, the only equivalent volumes have been the three paperback books of J. C. Ryan, a retired forest ranger, Early Loggers in Minnesota, I, II, and III. 
Tall Timber provides a handsome hardbound collection of photographs. The text bears mentioning for it is here that the reader is made aware that the authors do not have the impersonal objectivity of professional historians. There is an interesting ambivalence about the subject which is very personal. On the one hand they are caught up in the colour and epic dimension of the story of logging in the mid-west. One passage is reminiscent of the lyric quality of Pare Lorentz’s classic film, The River:
On the other hand, the ecologist and environmentalist in the two authors are deeply offended by the systematic cutting of the great white pine forests. The text is cast in terms of the struggle between man and the environment. They start in the prehistoric past with the recession of the ice-age and move on to the “Rise of Man”:
By the end of the book the authors are less concerned with logging history and more preoccupied with the meaning of life.
Another amateur historian, Frank A. King, staysa little closer to the topic in his book, Minnesota Logging Railroads,  King was until his recent retirement, the Senior Industrial Engineer for the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway, the railway that was the subject of his first book. This volume features 395 illustrations of locomotives and equipment produced on an 8½" by 11" format with black and white prints. While the visual impression is the main strength of the book, the text is also very good. King has amassed an encyclopedic amount of detail about logging railways which, given the nature of the state’s economy, were very important.
The introduction of logging railways in Minnesota by the J. M. Paine Company at Carlton in 1886 marked a significant turning point in the lumber industry. The increasing importance of the railways was that they freed logging operations from the constraints of the environmentstreams and rivers to move logs out of the woods, and ice and snow to move logs in the woods. The disadvantage of the logging railway was that it increased capital costs in what had previously been a labour-intensive rather than a capital-intensive industry (unlike mining). Typically, the lumber camp blacksmith could make all of the equipment needed for logging operations except the saws and ax heads. This meant that substantial profits could be made by relatively small family-owned companies. Those profits need not have been plowed back into the lumber business, and in fact much of the development of Minnesota was done with capital generated initially by the lumber business. However, the shift to logging railways began the movement of all sorts of heavy machinery which, in the end, favoured the larger companies with greater capital resources. King is not specifically preoccupied with the significance of these changes, but he illustrates and describes them very fully: larger more elaborate logging railways operating all year round; specialized locomotives such as the Shay, the Climax, and the Heisler (all small, slow, high-powered engines); the Decker and the McGiffert self-propelled steam loader; and the steam tractor. Altogether, there were forty logging railways in Minnesota with approximately 5,000 miles of track. Most of these railways went out of business with the decline of the lumber industry, though a few were absorbed by larger trunk lines. Only one railway remains in service, the Duluth and Northeastern, operating out of Cloquet, and although it is now all diesel-powered, it was, until the mid-1960s, one of the only all-steam railways in the United States.  Of particular interest to Canadian readers are King’s photographs and information concerning the Duluth and Winnipeg, bought by James J. Hill from the Canadian Pacific in 1897, and the Duluth, Virginia and Rainy Lake Railway, which was acquired by the Canadian Northern and was eventually reorganized as the Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific. This is a book for railway buffs, it is fair to say, but it also has a great deal to offer forest historians as well.
Just as amateur historians seem to do well with local history rather than with national affairs, so local memoirs or autobiographies can find a ready audience and describe a meaningful experience that might be lost on a national scale. Over the past decade several outstanding books have been published describing a writer’s youth in Minnesota. One such book is Ralph L. Henry’s St. Croix Boyhood which was first serialized in The Stillwater Gazette. The work recounts his experiences growing up on a farm in Washington County just a few miles north of Point Douglas, a small triangle of land on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border formed by the confluence of the Mississippi and the St. Croix Rivers.  Equally pleasurable is Charles A. Lindbergh’s Boyhood on the Upper Mississippi.  This book was made out of a series of letters that Lindbergh wrote to Russell W. Fridley, the Director of the Minnesota Historical Society following the Society’s restoration and opening of the old Lindbergh home at Little Falls. A third volume and one that also sheds some light on an aspect of forest history is Walter O’Meara’s We Made it Through the Winter: A Memoir of Northern Minnesota Boyhood.  Each of these books is expertly done, but O’Meara’s stands out as the work of a trained writer. He is a man who has had a rich and interesting life. He worked in the lumber camps, served in World War I, took a degree in journalism and worked briefly as a reporter, was chief of the planning staff of the Office of Strategic Services in World War II, and was director of media publicity for Adlai Stevenson in 1956. However, for most of his adult life he has had two careerssuccessful advertising executive and author of fifteen books of history, biography, and fiction. Two of the most notable of these volumes are The Trees Went Forth, an account of life in the Minnesota lumber camps, and The Savage Country, the life of Alexander Henry the Younger. 
O’Meara describes the origins of Cloquet’s layout, the five sawmills, the lumberyards and the river, and the people. Cloquet was and still is a strongly ethnic town and, in the late nineteenth century was very much influenced by French-Canadians from Quebec. As he points out, “a roster of North West Company canoemen ... is reminiscent of a list of Cloquet’s French-Canadian families in 1906: Bouche, Beaupre, Roy, ... Paul-Joseph, Loisel, Chartier, Bernier, LaVasseur, LaTulip, Brouseau, de la Rushe, Cyrette, ... LeFleur, Chapados.”  Services in O’Meara’s Catholic Church had been given in French one Sunday and English the next. But there were Swedes and Norwegians and Finns in good number too, all with fascinating names and customs. O’Meara’s own family, filled with a good share of characters and eccentrics, was famine Irish who had settled near Ingersoll, Ontario and followed the lumber trade to Wisconsin and Minnesota. But throughout the book he keeps coming back to the fact that this was a lumber town:
Autumn in Cloquet was more than simply a return to school, the haze of forest fires, and hunting season. It was a time to dig in for winter, filling the root cellar, the apple barrel, the kegs of sauerkraut and lutefisk, of preserving fruit and piling up firewood. What made all of this special in Cloquet was that with the first snowfall many of the men, including his father, would begin leaving for the logging camps. By Christmas and until spring most of the men would be gone from the town. With the melting of the snow the camps broke up and the men began returning. When the ice went out on the St. Louis River (the “Great Root Beer River”), the logs cut during the winter were driven down to the mills. The town would be filled, O’Meara recounts vividly, with lumberjacks, log drivers, and many fresh stories of life in the camps. The five sawmills would start up and the whine of the saw blades, the smoke from the burners, and the smell of newly-cut white pine would dominate the town again. Summer, O’Meara recalls, was something for a northern Tom Sawyerrunning barefoot, swimming in the river, playing on the log booms, the 4th of July celebrations, berry picking in August, visits from cousins, long, hot days. By late August there was a chill in the evening air and geese overhead. The autumn cycle was about to begin again. It is a charming book, wrought by a true craftsman.
The books already examined represent historical writings that are essentially conventional in either their subject matter or their methodology. It is gratifying to note that current writing on Minnesota history has also generated some studies which are in some ways unconventional or innovative or which explore topics which would not have been likely a few years ago. One book that might not have been in the 1960s or earlier is Women of Minnesota, a collection of fourteen biographical essays edited by Barbara Stuhler and Gretchen Kreuter and written by eighteen authors.  There is also a single essay on three sisters from Northfield, all of whom earned Ph.D. degrees and one of whom, Agnes M. Larson, was mentioned earlier in this review as the author of the basic study of the forest industry in Minnesota. Another essay surveys women members of the state legislature, and the final chapter gives brief biographies of 108 Minnesota women. The editors state in their introduction that women have generally been “invisible” in Minnesota historical writing, that their book is overtly “feminist” in that they want to broadcast the story of “women achievers” in the history of the state. These essays, therefore, describe the lives and careers of women pioneers, early educators, abolitionist editors, writers, social workers, politicians, philanthropists, and academicsall of whom are outstanding in some way. The result is a very impressive list of high achievers. The result is also a generally unvarnished look at very complex people. The authors in no way attempt to white-wash their subjects, however remarkable they may be in their own particular area of distinction. One cannot help taking some comfort from the fact that these people reflect the prejudices of their times as fully as their male counterparts. Several of the women subjects of these essays have had full-length biographies written about them, and after reading the book one concludes that perhaps several more could be more satisfactorily examined in a deeper study. The same might be said about some of 108 women listed in the last chapter. One would like to know more about the prize-winning novelists Martha Ostenso and Margaret Culkin Banning, or about the distinguished historian and manuscript curator, Grace Lee Nute, or about the first American woman Ambassador Eugenie Moore Anderson. Certainly if one comes away from this book demanding more, the editors have succeeded in their objective of making important women more visible.
One noticeable trend in popular history during the last few years has been to publish books that have been predominantly collections of photographs on some historical theme. Several books have been published recently that are based on the photo-graphs taken by the Farm Security Administration, a United States federal government “New Deal” agency. These photographs are the well-known pictures of the dust bowl, the share croppers and the migrant workers of the I930s. The most famous of these books is probably In This Proud Land: America 1935-1943 As Seen in the FSA Photographs, but others come to mind, such as that of Arthur Rothstein, one of the FSA photographers, The Depression Years, F. Jack Hurley’s Portrait of a Decade: Roy Stryker and the Development of Documentary Photography in the Thirties, and Carolyn Kinder Carr’s Ohio: A Photographic Portrait, 1935-1941, Farm Security Administration Photographs.  The latter book is a catalogue for an exhibit of FSA photographs exclusively focused on Ohio. Minnesota has not had any equivalent visual study of this decade. However, J. Jerome Tweton, a historian at the University of North Dakota, has published a book in this genre, Depression: Minnesota in the Thirties.  It is largely a collection of forty-four dramatic 8½" x 11", black and white photographs of Minnesota during the Great Depression, and illustrating both the depth of poverty caused by the economic collapse and also the social strife the collapse generated. Tweton has provided an elaborate text to accompany the pictures, and it serves to explain many of the specific photographs printed, and to give something of a history of the social, economic, and political conditions in Minnesota in the 1930s. Particularly interesting are the pictures and descriptions of the Minneapolis truck driver’s strike in 1934 and the American Gas Machine Company strike in Albert Lea in 1937. Useful also are the analyses of Minnesota politics with the emergence of the successful Floyd B. Olson as the Farmer-Labor governor of the state, the collapse of the Farmer-Labor party into wrangling after Olson’s untimely death in 1936, and the revival of the Republican party under the boyish Harold E. Stassen in 1938. Altogether the book is a useful contribution to the historical literature of the 1930s. One major criticism is Tweton’s failure to document any of the facts, statistics, or even the quotations in the text. He does include a bibliographical essay, but that is no help in identifying specific quotations. A second matter that might be raised deals with the photographs used in the book, as excellent as they are. All of them come from the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society (although the book is not published by them). One wonders why the author might not have used some of the 1400 Farm Security Administration photographs of conditions in the state taken during the period. They are as good as the ones Tweton used, and because of their reputation and all of the other books now using them, have something of a life of their own.
Another area of research that has developed in the last few years is environmental history. It can be said that this is simply a section of forest history, although typically forest history has been largely concerned with the industrial dimensions of lumber production, with the growth of forestry management, and with the evolution of the conservation movement. Environmental history might be said to be more concerned with the natural history of the forest and particularly with its preservation. A good example of the first, although it does not fall strictly within the confines of this review, is a book edited by Susan L. Flader and published by the University of Minnesota Press and the Forest History Society, The Great Lakes Forest: An Environmental and Social History.  A book with more conventional methodology, but focused on environmental protection and preservation, is R. Newell Searle’s Saving Quetico-Superior: A Land Set Apart, a volume that deservedly won the Forest History Society’s Book Award for 1979.  Searle’s book describes the struggle “to secure and preserve for posterity the primeval qualities of those large natural areas” (the Superior National Forest and the Quetico Provincial Park which are adjacent to each other on the Minnesota-Ontario border between Pigeon River and Rainy Lake). The word struggle is deliberately used because that definitely characterizes the history of the area. One of the strongest features of the book is the evenhanded approach of the author who describes sympathetically the people who wanted to open up and exploit the government-owned wilderness lands for timber cutting, hydro-electric power, or tourist purposes. These were largely local people whose options for earning a living were fairly limited and who saw the Superior National Forest as their only resource. There are no villains in this book, although clearly the preservationists are the heroes.
The story of “saving” the wilderness is long, complex, and ongoing. The Minnesota state forestry commissioner declared 500,000 acres of forest reserve in 1902, and this area, along with further additions, was established as the Superior National Forest by Theodore Roosevelt in 1909. It should be kept in mind that a National Forest is an area reserved by the government for managed timber cutting (that would now be called sustained yield forest management); it is not a park, and much of the subsequent difficulty in this situation grew out of this fact (indeed, the National Park Service was not created until 1916). Despite these considerations, National Forests were used for recreational purposes, and in 1919 the Forest Service had landscape architect study the area with the result that a plan was put forward to preserve the wilderness quality of the lake country by restricting travel to canoes and boats. The idea of a roadless wilderness area was promoted by the Izaak Walton League various environmentalists with cottages in the area and some southern Minnesota interests, but it was fought by many local residents who wanted to encourage automobile tourism and by the government foresters who wanted fire roads. The Department of Agriculture’s compromise solution was to limit road building, but not exclude it altogether The controversy did shape the battle lines, however so that when lumber interests in Fort Frances and International Falls wanted to flood forest land by building hydro-electric dams, the environmentalists. were ready and were ultimately able to push legislation through Congress (the Shipstead-Newton Bill 1930) which established federal protection for the Superior Forest that went beyond that for other National Forests. But this arrangement was jeopardised after World War II when bush pilots began flying large numbers of tourists to resorts under conditions that seriously eroded the quality of the wilderness area. This was met in part by the environmentalists and Congress through legislation (the Blatnik-Thye Bill, 1948) and in part by the courts. In the 1960s new legislation created the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, but threats to the area persist, currently through overuse. The numbers of users has grown from 50,000 in 1953 to 103,000 in 1969 to 171,000 in 1976. Searle asks what many others have also queried anxiously, can any semblance of a wilderness area be maintained with that volume of traffic?
There is an interesting Canadian dimension to this story, that Searle touches to only a limited degree. He states in his introduction that the Canadian part in all of this “is worthy of a book itself,” and one might hope that such a book would be written with the degree of skill and meticulousness that Searle has exhibited. Searle does touch on the fact that Quetico is an Ontario Provincial Park, and unlike Superior, not under federal jurisdiction. Therefore the sort of international park that some Americans hoped to see created by a treaty, and subject to uniform rules, was impossible because the province would not consider turning the land over to the federal government. There was also concern in Ontario that Quetico might simply become more fishing area for Chicago businessmen without much Canadian use. Nevertheless, the idea of a joint international venture was supported by Clifford Sifton and John W. Dafoe and several other prominent Canadians. After considerable lobbying and many conversations, led by the environmentalists, the Ontario government agreed in 1960 to a Quetico-Superior International Advisory Body which has been able to frame a uniform policy without reaching the state-to-state level of a treaty agreement. Searle’s book is thoughtful and impressive.
Immigration history, like forest history, is not new. Having enjoyed something of a peak in the 1930s and 1940s, immigration history, or ethnic studies as it might more properly be called, is now undergoing something of a revival which has been encouraged by the widespread popular interest in “roots” and in an increased respectability of ethnic origins. Both methodology and focus are changed in the newer studies. Improved methods of statistical data collection and analysis and a new look at ethnicity, assimilation, and nativism have been particularly helpful in providing students with a clearer view of the immigrant experience. Yet one methodological obstacle that remains difficult to overcome in studying immigration history is the language barrier. A scholar will generally find it difficult to master one immigrant language, let alone two or more. This problem has made it difficult for any one historian to make very meaningful generalizations about immigration. Minnesota, which has a particularly rich ethnic history, has not avoided this lack of comprehensive overview. They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups goes a long way to filling that vacuum through collective scholarship as well as incorporating the new techniques and focus of current immigration studies.  Although edited by the late June Drenning Holmquist, then the Minnesota Historical Society’s Assistant Director for Publications and Research, the book and the project that preceded it were really the idea of Carlton C. Qualey, the retired Chairman of the History Department of Carleton College and a distinguished immigration historian. The first phase of the enterprise, called the Minnesota Ethnic History Project, involved the collection of statistical data for the period up to 1930 and the basic research for all of the various ethnic groups. The second phase involved the co-ordination and assembly of data from 1930 to 1981. Both the Minnesota legislature and private foundations provided more than one hundred thou-sand dollars to finance the eight-year study that resulted in the book. It was a massive project. The book itself utilized the skills of twenty-seven historians who wrote thirty-two chapters that focused on some sixty-one ethnic groups in the state. “We regard this book as a beginning,” Ms Holmquist wrote modestly. “It is not, and was never intended to be, an exhaustive treatment of Minnesota’s ethnic history.” It is, however, hard not to think of this volume as the culmination of all the new scholarly techniques and the union of all the specialized linguistic and research skills of the historical profession, with a result that really transcends all previous Minnesota immigration studies.
They Chose Minnesota is far too large and diverse a book to allow for a meaningful brief summary. Several things might be said about it, however. First, there is an excellent introductory chapter which discusses the general pattern of American immigration history and the peculiar Minnesota circumstances. Second, the statistical material is quite enormous, and it is presented not only in table and charts, but also for the larger immigrant groups, in maps of the state that block out the concentrations of populations such as the Germans, Norwegians, Swedes. In some cases there are several such maps for different time periods. The book is divided into four sections, the first dealing with North Americans, including Indians, Blacks, Mexican-Americans, and, most perceptively, Old-Stock Americans.-These are groups that would not have been included in older immigration studies. The second and third sections are devoted to Europeans and the fourth section to Middle Easterners and Asians. Each chapter is elaborately documented, so that the reader can easily trace sources or find other works on the subject. Canadian readers would unquestionably be fascinated by the chapters describing French Canadian and British Canadian immigration. The first French Canadians were Franco-Manitobans involved in the fur trade and the Red River transportation system. Their settlement tended to be in the western part of the state and along the river valleys down to St. Paul. Many prominent figures in the early history of the state were from this group. However, the largest number of French Canadians followed the lumber trade out from Quebec, and settled in the forested areas of northern Minnesota. The number of French Canadians reached a high point of 11,062 in 1910. English Canadians also played an important part in the development of the state, as the careers of James J. Hill and Norman Kittson might suggest. Here again many of the early English-Canadian immigrants to Minnesota came by the way of the Red River route (Minnesota’s first Swiss settlers were disgruntled families from the Selkirk settlement in 1821), but the large numbers came from eastern Canadafarmers from Ontario and Prince Edward Island and lumbermen from New Brunswick. The English Canadian population reached its highest number in 1910 at 35,515 and by 1920 some 87,092 Minnesotans claimed English Canadian extraction. All of this made a strong impact on the cultural and ethnic life of the state, dotting the countryside with curling rinks, Canadian Clubs, and Dominion Day celebrations. The character of Minnesota was probably more profoundly influenced by the Scandinavian immigration of the nineteenth century than by any other single group with the possible exception of the Old-Stock Americans or more specifically, the New England Yankees. Those groups together with the Germans might be seen to be the central figures of the book although the state has also been much enriched by the southern and eastern Europeans. They Chose Minnesota is an important book. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully executed, it will be a model of ethnic studies for years to come.
After examining all of these special studies of aspects of Minnesota history, it is useful to turn to a general survey of the history of the state. Minnesota: A History was written by William E. Lass, a Professor of History at Mankato State University whose most recent book is Minnesota’s Boundary with Canada: Its Evolution since 1783, and it was one of a series of state histories produced for the Bicentennial through the financing of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the administration of the American Association for State and Local History.  There are two standard works on Minnesota: William Watts Folwell’s four volume A History of Minnesota (published between 1921 and 1930) and Theordore C. Blegen’ Minnesota: A History of the State (published in 1963).  Folwell’s volumes are massive and even Blegen’s one volume text ran to 597 pages. Lass, therefore undertook a formidable project to attempt to deal with Minnesota from the Vikings to the present in 215 pages. To a considerable degree he has succeeded, but he has done so by writing an extended essay on Minnesota, perhaps like W. L. Morton’s The Canadian Identity, rather than a proper history. Like Morton, Lass has given an interpretive overview on a very large topic. One may complain of things left out, but the main themes are all there and further more Lass has insightful observations about the significance of Minnesota’s past. Lass places Minnesota’s origins firmly in the fur trade and the French English controversy, and European centre from Lake Superior, the Mississippi, and the Red River. A with much of western Canada, the fur trade in Minnesota preceded settlement. However, a major difference grew out of the circumstances of the War of 1812, when the Canadian fur traders and the Indians controlled most of the Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota territory during the war. As a defensive measure against British forces, the Hudson’s Bay Company, as well as the Indians, Fort Snelling was built in 1819 at the confluence of the Mississippi and the St. Peters (Minnesota) Rivers. It was one of series of forts built in the upper midwest and as far as Minnesota was concerned was the beginning of chain of smaller forts and military roads that ultimately opened up the territory, not to mention the settlements of the Red.
Lass identifies and examines at some length the farming frontier, the lumber frontier, and the mining frontier, all of which were vital to the building of the economy and the population of the state Although he discusses it, he does not identify a such the fur trade frontier which preceded the other three, and to some extent laid the ground work for them by creating during the 1830s and 1840s the kinds of commercial centers along the Mississippi that would facilitate both agricultural and lumber marketing. Nor does he devote much space to what might be called the transportation frontier. Commercial traffic was flourishing on the Mississippi below St. Anthony Falls by the 1840s and persists to this day. The importance of the Red River trails is the subject of one of the books in this review. Minnesota was in the late nineteenth century the terminus of two transcontinental railways (the predecessors of the current Burlington Northern), and was served by five regionals and numerous local lines Finally, from the opening of the iron mines, Duluth has served as a major deep water portfor man) years the nation’s leading port in terms of tonnage. The decline of production in the iron mines was paralleled by the opening of the Seaway system with the result that Duluth was able to expand as a major grain terminal. What Lass does show very well is the complexity of Minnesota’s history: its social, economic, and political patterns, part farmland and part shield, part urban and part rural, part radical and part conservative. Clearly Lass feels that there is something special about Minnesotans from Oliver Kelley and Ignatious Donnelly to Hubert H. Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy. Certainly both in terms of ethnic diversity and political traditions, Lass would have us believe that Minnesota is unusual for an American state.
State and local history in the United States has unquestionably undergone a revival in public interest that is unprecedented. Minnesota has shared in that revival of interest, as the books reviewed here suggest. But it is also clear that the Minnesota Historical Society has had a major role in stimulating this interest, sustaining it, and channeling it along constructive paths. Over half of the thirteen books examined here were published by the Historical Society, which maintains a very active programme of original and reprint volumes, of pamphlets and teaching aids, of microfilms and prints, and of scholarly material and children’s magazines. In fact, their general catalogue lists over two hundred titles. The Society also publishes the quarterly journal Minnesota History which has a national reputation. In addition to publishing, the Minnesota Historical Society carries out numerous functions to encourage and administer historical activities throughout the state. It maintains a large library, functions as the State Archive and principal manuscript collection, operates a substantial Educational Division, oversees much of the archeological activity in the state, and conducts an annual conference and several other activities. The Society manages twenty-four historic sites across the state from historic old Fort Snelling in St. Paul to the Lower Sioux Agency Interpretive Center in Redwood Falls to the recently opened Forest History Center in Grand Rapids. Many of these sites are rather large operations with various activities related to their theme. The Society also provides something of a consultative service for county historical groups to assist them in organization, fund raising, programme planning, and museum development. Many of those county groups have made great progress during the last decade. Few, however, could have been as successful as the St. Louis County Historical Society in Duluth. In 1973 the beautiful old Union Depot in Duluth was restored and converted to a Heritage and Arts Center. This provided exciting new space for several organizations, including the St. Louis County Historical Society and the Lake Superior Museum of Transportation, which must be one of the finest railway museums in North America. Two incredible displays in the Museum are the first locomotive in the state in 1861, the William Crooks (on loan from the Minnesota Historical Society) from the St. Paul and Pacific, and the first engine from the Northern Pacific, the 1870 Minnetonka. All of this is very spectacular and it conveys the distinct impression, reinforced by the quality of books recently published, that interest in the history of Minnesota and the local areas of the state is very lively indeed. It also reveals the historical societies and museums carrying out very active programmes which, like many of the books on Minnesota, are of direct relevance to Manitoban and western Canadian history.
4. Robert C. Wheeler, Walter A. Kenyon, Alan R. Woolworth, and Douglas A. Birk, Voices from the Rapids: An Underwater Search for Fur Trade Artifacts, 1960-77 (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1975).
5. Rhoda R. Gilman, Carolyn Gilman, and Deborah M. Stultz, The Red River Trails: Oxcart Routes Between St. Paul and the Selkirk Settlement, 1820-1870 (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1979). For an earlier review of The Red River Trails see Manitoba History, number 2 (1981), 39.
6. John Perry Pritchett, The Red River Valley, 1811-1849: A Regional Study (New Haven: Yale University Press and The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1942); Alvin C. Gluek, jr., Minnesota and the Manifest Destiny of the Canadian Northwest (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965); Grace Lee Nute, “The Red River Trails,” Minnesota History, vol. 6, no. 3 (September, 1925), 278-282; and Willoughby M. Babcock, “Gateway to the Northwest: St. Paul and the Nobles Expedition of 185.9,” Minnesota History, vol. 36, no. 5 (June, 1957), 249-262.
9. Joseph Gilpin Pyle, The Life of James J. Hill, two vols. (Toronto: McClelland, Goodrich and Stewart, 1916-17); Pierre Berton, The National Dream: The Great Railway, 1871-1881 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, Ltd., 1970), pp. 302-336; and Pierre Berton, The Last Spike: The Great Railway, 1881-1885 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, Ltd., 1971), pp. 32-49.
10. Martin’s book is to some extent supplemented by a recent study of George Stephen; see Heather Gilbert, The Life of Lord Mount Stephen, two vols. (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1965 and 1977). It is particularly to be lamented that the untimely death of W. L. Morton prevented the completion of his projected two volume biography of Donald Smith. This work would have completed scholarly studies of the three principal figures in the Minnesota railway and the two major figures in the Canadian Pacific. There are no worthy biographies of either Norman Kittson or John S. Kennedy. Although somewhat out of date, two books that put the Northern Pacific Railroad in the context of Canadian-American affairs, if not in the context of the St. Paul and Pacific-Great Northern operations, are: Leonard Bertram Irwin, Pacific Railways and Nationalism in the Canadian-American Northwest, 1845-1873 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968 [first published in 19391); and James Blaine Hedges, Henry Villard and the Railways of the Northwest (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1930). William J. Wilgus, The Railway Interrelations of the United States and Canada (New Haven: Yale University Press and The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1937) is generally disappointing on these subjects.
16. Ralph W. Hidy, Frank Ernest Hill and Allan Nevins, Timber and Men: The Weyerhaeuser Story (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1963); and Fred W. Kohlmeyer, Timber Roots: The Laird, Norton Story, 1855-1905 (Winona: Winona County Historical Society, Inc., 1972).
18. Donald MacKay, The Lumberjacks (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Ltd., 1978); Richard L. Williams, The Loggers (Alexandria: Time-Life Books, 1976); and Ralph W. Andrews, Glory Days of Logging (New York: Bonanza Books, n.d.).
22. Frank A. King, Minnesota Logging Railroads: A Pictorial History of the Era When White Pine and the Logging Railroad Reigned Supreme (San Marino: Golden West Books, 1981). The topic has also been written about, although without pictures, in J. C. Ryan, “Minnesota Logging Railroads,” Minnesota History, vol. 27, no. 4 (December, 1946), 300-308; and much of the corporate history of these railways can also be found in Richard S. Prosser, Rails to the North Star: One Hundred Years of Railroad Evolution in Minnesota (Minneapolis: Dillon Press, 1966).
31. Roy Emerson Stryker and Nancy Wood, In This Proud Land: America 1935-1943 As Seen in the FSA Photographs (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975); F. Jack Hurley, Portrait of a Decade: Roy Stryker and the Development of Documentary Photography in the Thirties (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1972); Carolyn Kinder Carr, Ohio: A Photographic Portrait 1935-1941, Farm Security Administration Photographs (Akron: Akron Art Institute, 1980).
34. R. Newell Searle, Saving Quetico-Superior: A Land Set Apart (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1977). Also see, R. Newell Searle, “Autos or Canoes? Wilderness Controversy in the Superior National Forest,” Journal of Forest History, vol. 22, no. 2 (April, 1978), 68-77.
35. June Drenning Holmquist (ed.), They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1981). Consult also the older volume, Marcus Lee Hansen and John Bartlet Brebner, The Mingling of the Canadian and American Peoples (New Haven: Yale University Press andThe Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1940).
36. William E. Lass, Minnesota: A History (New York: W. W. Norton and Company the American Association for State and Local History, 1977). For a review of Lass’s later book, Minnesota’s Boundary with Canada, see Manitoba History, number 4 (Autumn, 1982), 42-44. Throughout the state during the bicentennial celebrations various local groups produced histories. An excellent example would be Ryck Lydecker and Lawrence J. Sommer (eds.), Duluth, Sketches of the Past: A Bicentennial Collection (Duluth: American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, 1976), a series of twenty-one essays on various aspects of the history of the city of Duluth.
37. William Watts Folwell, A History of Minnesota, four vols. (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1921-30 [reprinted in 1956]); and Theodore C. Blegan, Minnesota: A History of the State (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1963 [revised edition published in 1975]).
Page revised: 27 October 2012