|The land of the Twin Cities is dramatically
stunning in its scenery. The area is studded with lakes and high river
bluffs. As the glaciers that once covered the area pulled back at the end
of the last ice age, they dragged out the soft areas and left huge
geological landmarks. In certain places, the evidence is still visible. Of
course, the most obvious examples are the many lakes, more than 25 in the
seven-county metro area.
Twin Cities Early On
The Twin Cities area lies at the confluence of two rivers, the Mississippi, which begins in northern Minnesota, and the Minnesota River, which flows south of the metro area. The first modern people to live here were the Dakota, and their story is a large part of the region. The area was a special place for these Native Americans, and the ceremonies of old are still enacted for special occasions. The waters of Lake Minnetonka, St. Anthony Falls, Minnehaha Creek and Minnehaha Falls (that empties into the Mississippi) and the bluffs over the Mississippi are just some of the particular spots that they hold sacred. You can still visit burial mounds overlooking the river at Mounds Park in St. Paul.
Perhaps the first white man to discover the enchantment of the area was Father Louis Hennepin, a French missionary. In 1680, he came upon St. Anthony Falls, the only falls on the entire length of the Mississippi River. The county of Hennepin, which comprises Minneapolis and then some, is named after him. You will also find Hennepin Avenue, a major downtown artery, and many other local spots named after this early explorer.
In 1820, soldiers at Fort Snelling constructed a sawmill and flour mill at the site of St. Anthony Falls. By the 1840s, there were two distinct villages in the area of the falls, St. Anthony on the East bank of the river, and the village of Minneapolis on the West bank. In 1867, Minneapolis formed a city charter, and in 1872, the two villages were combined to form one city, connected by a suspension bridge. Pillsbury, General Mills, and Cargill all started in Minneapolis, harnessing the power of the river to mill the grain from the area into flour. The grain was plentiful because the area had attracted a lot of immigrant farmers, many Germans and Scandinavians who were reminded of their rugged homeland.
Father Lucien Galtier is credited with saving the city from the fate of being named Pig's Eye. He was a missionary who promoted the name St. Paul, after his favorite patron saint. In 1841, the name was officially changed to St. Paul. In 1849 Minnesota was named a territory, and St. Paul was designated the capitol. It was incorporated as a city in 1854, when the official city seal was created.
The Twin Cities were separated by just a few miles of river, but St. Paul was the furthest point north on the Mississippi that big river cargo boats could navigate. This is one reason that the two cities stayed distinct. Today, there are three locks that enable travel upriver to Minneapolis, but the trip is still time-consuming for such a short distance.
The area enjoyed peace and growing prosperity for the white settlers in the years to follow. They plowed up the prairie and tamed the grasses that had grown up to six feet tall. The towns of Minneapolis and St. Paul continued to thrive, and in their growth, came ever closer to one another. The vision of James J. Hill, who built the Great Northern railroad from the Twin Cities to Winnipeg in Canada, as well as the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis and his great mansion in St. Paul, helped move the area ahead of the times.
Hubert H. Humphrey, for whom the Metrodome is named, rose to political
prominence as he fought the corruption that had started with the
gangsters. He was first Minneapolis City Attorney, then mayor of
Minneapolis, then a Senator, and finally was Vice President under
President Johnson. Another Minnesotan rose to the second highest office in
the land, Walter Mondale under President Jimmy Carter.