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Bloomington History

Bloomington Convention Center
8200 Humboldt Avenue South
Bloomington MN 55431

Bloomington, Minnesota

You and I will turn back the pages of time to the 1820s, nearly 157 years ago. Let us for a few moments close our eyes and try to imagine how our early ancestors and forefathers lived and survived.

But before we do this, I will give you two words to remember and later we shall discuss their meaning: "Minne" and "Sota".

History is what gives substance to a place. It adds color to our lives and to the world around us. It is more than a land of lakes and rivers and green growing things. It is also a land of millions of evergreen memories that will make your visit, vacation or business trip especially exciting, because you will be a part of its history.

This land was sculpted by the glaciers' seas of ice that came from the north over 10,000 years ago. As they melted, the earth became dimpled with lakes and rivers. Later the Indian became the first visitor to this newly carved land. Hundreds of burial mounds are scattered today near the rivers and lakes. The Dakota Sioux were here to greet the first white men to thisSt. Anthony and marvel at the beauty of the land.

Of course, we know there were no automobiles, airplanes, electric lights, radio, television and the likes of many other modern conveniences.

Modes of transportation were by crudely-fashioned boats, canoes, snowshoes, skis, wagons and horseback -- yes, even by foot.

The visitors came with a rush -- fur trappers, soldiers -- to build Fort Snelling in the 1820s. Then, lumbermen, farmers and grain millers. And finally, we came, drawn by the same promise of a perfect place, the lakes, the rivers, the rustic rolling countryside. History is here with us and still very much alive.

As we turn slowly the pages of history one at a time, Bloomington's early history can be seen by following its most famous street, "Old Shakopee Road". This modern day country highway was originally an Indian trail from Shakopee to Fort Snelling. Later it became a stagecoach route between the same two points. Its crossing of a small stream just below its intersection with Penn Avenue gave birth to the name of Nine Mile Creek. (It was nine miles from this point to Fort Snelling.) This intersection became an early center of influence of the town.

The source of Nine Mile Creek actually starts from two lakes, the outlet of Bryant Lake in Eden Prairie and the outlet of Mud Lake in Edina. The two streams come together in western Bloomington in the area of 86th Street, thus becoming Nine Mile Creek on its way to the Minnesota River.

Old Shakopee Road continues northeastward from this point through former farming areas now used for major league sports facilities, industrial plants, and office buildings. It joins Freeway 494, which continues on past the National Cemetery and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Fort Snelling, the original destination of Bloomington's best known street.

In southwest Bloomington a ferry service across the Minnesota River was developed in 1852 and continues until 1892, when the still-standing Bloomington Ferry Bridge was built.

The "Town of Bloomington" on the "Minnesota" was promoted by land speculators in 1857, but never materialized.

In 1852, a party of settlers came from Bloomington, Illinois, and staked claims near the Minnesota River on the Western prairie.

The dimensions of Bloomington are about nine miles east and west and five miles north and south.

The land along the river was mostly prairie with tall swamp grass. Trees lined the banks of the river and here and there were found a small lake.

Near Bloomington's east side is where the Black Dog Indian Village once stood; now it is the site of the Black Dog electric generating plant.

The Bailiff family in 1854 built a halfway house and an inn at Old Shakopee Road and Penn Avenue, which was a stopping point on the stagecoach line between Shakopee, Minnesota, and Fort Snelling.

Peter Quinn was the first white man to settle and cultivate the soil of this town. He was appointed Indian farmer in accordance with a treaty with the Indians and began his work in 1853.

The Indians gave up their claim to this land in the treaty of 1851. The land was surveyed and opened for pre-emption in 1853.

Sioux Indians were the first residents and many burial mounds remain visible from the north bank overlooking the Minnesota River bluffs as memorials of their early villages.

When the Indians crossed the Minnesota River in going from Little Six's village to Lake Calhoun, they would ford the river at a shallow point about four miles from Bloomington, toward Shakopee. Of course, when the whites came, more convenient means were necessary and a ferry boat was provided and put into use.

The Indians, who were to receive instructions from Peter Quinn, were not always in Bloomington. They were a tribe of Dakota Sioux Indians who had previously lived on the shores of Lakes Harriet and Calhoun. The Indians had been troubled by their enemies, the Chippewas, who had been harassing them. The Dakota wanted to move farther away from them, so they moved to the river.

Along with the red man came two volunteer missionaries who had been ministering to them. They were brothers from Connecticut, Gideon and Samuel Pond, who had come to Minnesota.

Bloomington became a township in 1858, the same year Minnesota became a state. Bloomington was a stopping place for the big four-horse stages that ran from Shakopee and other towns. The stage stopped at Bloomington, Bloomfield, Richfield and Minneapolis.

The river was the medium of trade, too, carrying barge-loads of hay, wood and wheat to market for the townships of early settlers.

About 1897 the stagecoach ceased operation and gave way to the railroad. Because the Oak Grove Presbyterian Church was the only church in Bloomington, the Nine Mile Creek area became the focal point for the settlement of Bloomington.

Until 1870, all supplies and provisions had to be brought to the settlement from Fort Snelling. At that time the Bailiff family built and operated the first store. Soon there were three blacksmith shops and a small flour mill on Nine Mile Creek. It is said the first store was a saloon and doubled as a post office.

When most people think of Bloomington, they think of it as a township. But if you mentioned it to any of the early settlers in the Minneapolis area, they would immediately think of a small community where the Old Shakopee Road crossed the Nine Mile Creek. The road was the only road from Fort Snelling to Mankato, Glencoe and New Ulm. The creek was a good watering place for the horses, as it was halfway between Shakopee and Fort Snelling.

So it was only natural the some comforts and provisions should be provided for the traveler as well as the horses. Consequently, John Bailiff started a hotel there which was patronized by fur traders, interpreters, missionaries, governmental agents, geologists, map makers, surveyors and even an occasional Indian. The hotel was the Halfway House and was joined by another hotel built in 1858.

The town hall (now our museum building) was built in 1892. At the time, the intersection of Old Shakopee Road and Penn Avenue included the Oak Grove Presbyterian Church, the meeting hall, telephone office, the general store, fuel yard and the hotel. The stagecoach disappeared and now the Dan Patch electric train came into being. The grocery store became the meeting place for everyone to talk and wait for the train.

What better intersection could have been chosen when our new city office building was built! The intersection of Old Shakopee Road and Nine Mile Creek has been very important in the development of Bloomington, and it will continue to be.

On the other side of the Minnesota River and to the west is the town of Shakopee in Scott County. Its streets were trod by a succession of visitors, from Indians to fur traders to pioneers. An extensive project is taking place called the Minnesota Valley Restoration, which you will not want to miss. You will be able to see an 1850 pioneer and Indian village with a 100 year old German immigrant farm and an 1880 railroad depot. Also, there is the Pond mission, a mill and the Alexander Faribault fur trading post.

As we thread our historic tour through Hennepin County, named after Father Hennepin, his St. Anthony Falls still flow through downtown Minneapolis where soldiers from Fort Snelling first came to build a sawmill and gristmill in 1821. Plan to visit that magnificent military complex in southeast Minneapolis, Fort Snelling, now carefully restored, is where the first steamboat landed in 1823, followed by the building of the first military post, the first school and the first church in the state.

While visiting historically-famous Bloomington, be sure to include a visit to cascading Minnehaha Falls and remember the beautiful Indian legend.

Explore the fabulous Swedish Institute which memorializes the many immigrants who came to this new land. Take a ride by Lake Harriet on "Old 1300," a fully restored 1908 Electric trolley.

Near the intersection of Lyndale Avenue and Old Shakopee Road was clustered another early settlement. This was Oxboro Heath area, considered to be downtown Bloomington for many years.

The American Legion baseball field was once the Lyndale Airport, from 98th Street to 100th Street.

The other significant cluster of early Bloomington buildings was at the intersection of Cedar Avenue and Old Shakopee Road. There, a general store operated until 1923. From this point, grocery deliveries were made throughout Bloomington by horse-drawn wagon in summer and by bobsleigh in the winter.

Yes, Bloomington was a farming community until after World War II when returning veterans and builders discovered it was a good place to live and raise families. The population explosion is now history.

The township incorporated as a village in 1853 with a population of 12,643.

Twenty-one hundred businesses and industries employ thousands of workers ranging from the unskilled to the highly-trained technicians of the computer age.

Recent years have witnessed the advent of commercial shopping centers, sophisticated industrial parks and the finest in restaurants and motor hotels that turned Bloomington in to a veritable oasis.


Many, many years ago as the Dakota Indian or better know as the Dakota Sioux, started coming into this area on their way westward, they found many lakes and streams. In their day there was no pollution and they were amazed as they traveled from stream to stream and lake to lake to find the water almost crystal clear in each instance.

Because of this precious discovery, from their native tongue came "Minne Sota": Minne for "water" and Sota for "white". Thus, we get "White water", or today we say "MINNESOTA".

History of Minneapolis and Hennepin County

Edited by Atwater & Stevens
1895 Munsell Publishing Company
Chapter LIV
Written by Mrs. Mary Frances Pond


Bloomington, the southern township of the county, is bounded by Richfield, on the north; and Eden Prairie, on the west; while on the south and east, the Minnesota River makes a graceful boundary. The township is divided into two nearly equal portions, by the Nine Mile Creek, which runs in a southeasterly direction, from a few miles east of the western boundary, to the river on the south. The wooded bluffs of the two streams are broken by many brooks of clear, are of great value to those farmers which are devoted to stock raising. There are small lakes; "Bush" Lake, in the northwestern part of the township, is the largest, and is admired for its beauty, and valued for fish and game.

It was the feud of many generations, between Sioux and Chippewas, with its brutal murders, and diabolical barbarities, that made the Re-ya-ta-ton-wan (prairie dwellers), dissatisfied with their old home, near Lakes Harriet and Calhoun. They wanted the Minnesota River between them and their enemies, at the time of the year when "the snow did not show the footprint of the enemy." The officers of the government, in charge of them, thought best to grant their request. No suitable place for the buildings was found on the south side of the river, and, in the spring of 1843, the first house was built in Bloomington, by Mr. G.H. Pond, who was, at the time, farmer for the Indians.

Peter Quinn, farmer for another band, built the same year, and, soon after, buildings were prepared for the blacksmith, employed by the government, with different occupants, whose names are not recorded in Bloomington, until Victor Chatell filled the place, about the year 1847.

The Indians gave up their claim to this land in the treaty of 1851. The land was surveyed and opened for pre-emption in 1853.

Martin McLeod had built a house in 1849, and Joseph Dean, in 1852; the former on the Minnesota Bluff, at what is now the Lyndale Road, and the latter, at the place now called Bloomington Ferry, where the small log house still stands (1894).

Settlers came in fast, in 1853 and 54'. Above the creek, William Chambers, Edwin and Orville Ames (father and son), Martin and Henry Whalon, Augustine and Allen Goodrich, Reuben Gibson, John Bailiff, A.P. Thompson, Thomas and Festus Bagley, E.B. Stanley, Jehu Miller, Joseph Girard; while on the lower prairie, the St. Martin brothers, Joseph Harrison, J.D. Scofield, Robert, Joseph, and William Chadwick, James and Sylvester Dean, Thomas, William, John and Robert Oxborrough, George Cook, J. Mahoney, Davis Newel, and James Brown, were among those who came to make it home.

They were honest, hard-working men, some with families, and some young men, but all came to stay, and yet, less than forty years finds many of the families gone, so entirely, that not even a white stone in the cemetery recalls the name. I think that there are less than twenty of those who received their land title from the government, whose land is now in possession of their families. The township has never been without a school, or religious worship, since the first white man built his house there, in 1843.

A school for his own children, and several others, as would attend, either white or Indians, was kept by some member of Mr. Pond's family, until the school district being organized, rendered it unnecessary.

The records tell us the first district school was kept in 1855, and the first school house finished in 1859. This is the district above the creek.

There are now four good school houses in Bloomington, with an enrollment of more than 190 scholars, and school held for eight to ten months in each district, for the year ending July 1, 1892, at an expense of more than $2,000.

It had been the custom of Rev. G.H. Pond's home, to hold religious services on the Sabbath, in the Dakota language. As the Indians left, and white people settled near by, the custom was varied, by his asking permission to hold services in dwellings, that were central, on the Sabbath. Such requests, were, I think, always granted, and Sabbath services were held once in two weeks, at different homes. In the spring, Rev. Norman McLeod, a brother of Mr. Martin McLeod, suggested, "You should have a chapel here." It had, doubtless, been thought of before, but Mr. Martin McLeod donated four acres of land, to be used for a church and burying ground, and the work of the building was begun. The church was dedicated in January, 1856, free from debt. The graveyard had before that, been needed and, in those early days, the dead were brought from Eden Prairie, and Richfield, as well as from Eagle Creek in Scott County, to be laid away here, from which I infer this to be one of the oldest cemeteries in the rural districts of the country. A Presbyterian church had been organized in the fall of '55. Two of the original members are now members of the church; four others are living, but most are "sleeping".

Mr. Pond preached to the church until he resigned in 1874. The pulpit was filled by different ministers until the fall of 1881, when Rev. A.J. Stead was called to the pastorate, which office he still fills (1893).

The site of the church was found to be inconvenient for the members of the church and congregation who lived above the creek, and, in the spring

Of 1864, land was purchased near the center of the town, and the church moved to that place where it still stands. It was enlarged soon after and a parsonage built near it, in the summer of 1875. Soon after moving the church, the piece of ground on which the church had been built was donated to the town for a cemetery. No great expense has ever been bestowed upon it, but some care and small expenditures of money have added to its beauty, and it is to Bloomington "The city of the beloved dead."

In 1874, a Grange was organized, with twenty charter members. Through the nearly nineteen years it has been an organization of more or less power. One of its important works, as seen by outsiders, was forming a stock company and building a hall, which, from March, 1876, until November, 1892, was used for public gatherings and all "town meetings."

The Grange has, for a number of years, held a township fair, at which special attention was paid to the work of the children by offering special premiums to them for their work.

There is a good library, owned by the organization, to which all members have free access.

The records show that the first town meeting was held in May, 1858, when twenty-five votes were cast. Party spirit has never shown itself very strongly in Bloomington. Of the two "old parties", the Republican is the stronger, although the Alliance and the Prohibition parties have sometimes won a goodly number of votes.

We are not ashamed of our war record. In the spring of 1861 only sixty-two voters were enrolled, but before the close of the war forty-four had gone to fight or die for our country. Of the forty-four I think thirteen died during the service, some in battle, some in prison, and some in camp. Of those who returned. some were weakened by exposure and disease and have been laid away in the graveyard. It is not strange that there was, in the hearts of the people, a desire to have some lasting remembrance of our soldier dead. Which desire resulted in a monument of white bronze, erected in 1890, and unveiled Memorial Day of that year.

Of the public improvements we cannot make much boast. A ferry was started by Joseph Dean and Wm. Chambers in the year 1854, where the St. Paul and Shakopee road crosses the Minnesota River. It was kept by different parties until the year 1888, when the people of Hennepin and Scott Counties rendered it unnecessary. There is also a bridge across the Minnesota, known as Cedar AvenueBridge, connecting with DakotaCounty.

In the spring of 1892, the "Grange Hall" was found too small to accommodate the voters and it was decided to build a town hall, which was ready for use in November of that year, at which time there were 257 voters enrolled.

Florentine Gilbert Standish. A direct descendent of Miles Standish, of Puritan fame, Florentine Gilbert Standish comes from illustrious ancestry. He was born at Benson, Rutland County, Vermont, July 10, 1834. When two years of age, his parents moved to New York State, where he lived until about 14 years old. In 1848, the family again moved, this time coming west, settling in Illinois, about 25 miles from Chicago. Mr. Standish worked there on a farm until he was 22 years old. It was a part of his duties to haul grain to Chicago, and many a load of wheat he disposed of while that western metropolis was still a swampy pioneer city.

In the summer of 1856, with an emigrant wagon and in company with his brother, he came to Minnesota, reaching Bloomington in July, after having been two weeks on the road. From Bloomington he went to Rockford, Wright County, where he remained one year, when he sold out there and returned to the town where he has since lived. Mr. Standish was drafted into the army, in 1862, and furnished a substitute. During the Sioux outbreak, in the same year, he was one of the volunteer company that marched to Fort Ridgely in aid of the terrified settlers. In 1863, on Christmas Day, he was married to Miss Celia Harrison, who had come into the state from Canada, when 12 years old. He settled on his present farm in Bloomington, in 1868, where he has reared a family of four children, two boys and two girls.

Mr. Standish, though, never participating much in political affairs, always performed his duties as a voter, acting always with the Republican party. He is of a quiet, domestic disposition, and "sticks to his farm and home."

EDWARD ROBERT POND. As a son of Gideon H. Pond, the Indian missionary, Edward Robert Pond has had an extensive experience in pioneer life. He first saw the light of day in an Indian village on the banks of Lake Harriet in 1840, having been born on the 17th of March in that year. White children were few and far between in HennepinCounty in those days, and so his earliest playmates were principally youthful Sioux. He learned to speak the Dakota language like a native, an accomplishment very much to his advantage in later years, when he engaged as a teacher among the Indians. He was educated at home and in Minneapolis. In 1863 he went to Dakota, acting as Indian teacher at the Crow Creek agency where he remained for eight years. While engaged in this work he published a Dakota dictionary, for school use, and instructed the savage children, both orally and from books, in their own language. He had a small hand press from which he published pamphlets, New Years' greetings, and with which he did the various kinds of printing necessary in a mission school.

Mr. Pond was married to Mary Frances Hopkins, July 28th, 1864, in Bloomington. They have seven children living, four daughters and three sons. In 1871, he moved with his family on the farm, where they now reside, and on which he has uninterruptedly followed the calling of farmer.

Mr. Pond is Republican in politics and a member of the Presbyterian church, in which he has been an elder for twenty years.

WILLIAM HOWARD WRIGHT. A worthy son of worthy pioneers, William Howard Wright has been one of the most enterprising and successful farmers of Bloomington. He was born, May 28, 1859. in the town where he now lives (1892). His parents came to Bloomington from Maine, in September, 1856, and remained there for a short time. They next moved to Meeker County, Minnesota, but returned to Bloomington, at the end of a year, where the family has since resided.

Mr. Wright is a Democrat, in politics, but has taken no active part in political matters.

He was married to Miss Tressie Hanson, January 1st, 1889, and has one child.

SAMUEL J. FINDLEY. This early pioneer was born at Prairie du Chien, in 1816, and came to Fort Snelling while quite a young man. He worked for Franklin Steele several years, as clerk and bookkeeper, in the latter's store, at the fort. He took several claims, in the neighborhood of St. Anthony, but only retained them for a short time, selling out to Mr. Steele, and others. He was connected, in various ways, with several of the early transfers of real estate, the most important of which was the sale to Pierre Bottineaus, of 160 acres of land, near the Mississippi River, on the east side, between what are now Third and Fourth Avenue, of Northeast Minneapolis. The consideration was $150.

Mr. Findley was married to Margaret Quinn, a daughter of Peter and Louisa Quinn, in 1846. For a number of years thereafter, he kept the ferry, and lived in a house on the east bank of the river, near the new bridge, at the fort. This house has been one of the landmarks of the early times.

He dies on November 8th, 1855, leaving his wife and three children.

The only survivor of these children, at the time of this writing (1892) is Mrs. A.E. Scofield, of Bloomington. With her lives her grandmother, Louisa Quinn, now 93 years of age, and the oldest living pioneer of HennepinCounty. At this great age, and after the many hardships of her early life, she still retains her faculties remarkably well preserved.

MARTIN MCLEOD. The early settlers of HennepinCounty were nearly all men of marked individuality. One of the most interesting characters among these sturdy pioneers, was Martin McLeod, who reached Fort Snelling, in the early spring of 1837, after a perilous journey across country, from a Red River settlement, during which he nearly perished in a "blizzard". He set out from the latter place in a company of four, but he and his guide, Pierre Bottineau, only, reached their destination alive. The other two died on the way.

Mr. McLeod was born in Montreal, Canada, August 20, 1813. His parents came from Edinburgh, Scotland. He was a bright, precocious lad, and was given a liberal education, being a graduate of the college in his native city. He was engaged as a bookkeeper for a wholesale house, in Montreal, for a number of years. But there was a vein of romance in his make-up. As a youth, he yearned for adventure, and this sedentary life was not wholly to his taste. So when, at Buffalo, New York, in 1836, he met General Dickinson, a British officer, who was organizing a party of young men to explore the West, he joined the expedition at once. They set out, in the fall of 1836, and in December, reached their destination, a trading post and settlement, in Lord Selkirk's Territory on the Red River, after a long series of hardships, in which they narrowly escaped death, from cold and starvation. Here the expedition was abandoned, and young McLeod was thus thrown upon his own resources, in the middle of an unusually severe winter, thousands of miles from home, in an unknown country, full of savages.

He remained with the La Fourche Red River Colony, until the end of February, 1837, when he an Irishman, named Richard Hayes, a Polish exite, by the name of Captain J. Parys, and Pierre Bottineau, the guide, set out for St. Peter, in this State, a distance of about 750 miles. In this journey, the little party was overwhelmed by a "blizzard", on the 17th of March, about sixty miles from LakeTraverse, in which Hayes and Parys perished. Mr. McLeod, who had kept a diary of daily events, from the beginning of the expedition in the East, gives a very graphic description of this disaster.

He reached Fort Snelling April 16, 1837, and, although it had been his intention to return home via the Mississippi River and the lakes, H.H. Sibley, who was then stationed at the fort, prevailed upon him to remain.

Mr. McLeod settled down, and never saw his native place again. He acted as bookkeeper and clerk for Sibley, in his trading operations with the Indians, for two or three years, and, later in company with a Mr. Baker, established fur trading posts on his own account. These posts were situated at BigStoneLake, Lake Traverse, Lac qui Parle, RedwoodFalls, Yellow Medicine, and other places. His first attempt as a fur trader, was among the Chippewas on the St. Croix River, but these Indians were too indolent to be successful trappers, and he subsequently carried on all his operations among the Sioux.

In 1840, he was married to Mary Elizabeth Ortley, a beautiful girl of Indian ancestry, on her mother's side. The ceremony took place near Fort Snelling, and was performed by Gideon H. Pond, the Indian missionary. He had six children, four daughters and two sons.

Walter S., John, who died in infancy, Mary E., Jannette L., Isabella M., and L.A., who died in infancy. Jannette L. married R. L. Baillif, and has four boys.

Mr. McLeod was a representative in the Territorial Legislature, at St. Paul, during the winters of 1850 and 1851, and interested himself especially in framing the State school law, of which he was the originator. This law, modified, has been in force ever since.

He held the commission of Lieutenant-Colonel of Militia, under Governor Sibley, and occupied other minor positions of public trust. In 1859, he sold out his fur trading posts, and engaged in the real estate business. He died, November 20th, 1860, being only a little over forty-seven years old.

Before hi death, he purchased considerable land, in BloomingtonTownship, where the family lived, and where nearly all his children were born. In his later years, he met with severe financial reverses, but the increase in the value of the land he owned has placed his children in comfortable circumstances.

Martin McLeod was a man of refined habits of mind and body. He was a diligent reader and his chief pastime, during the lonely winter months passed at the trading posts, was the perusal of his favorite authors.

McLeod County, in this State, took his surname, and MartinCounty, his given name.


WALTER SCOTT MCLEOD. Walter Scott McLeod, the oldest of Martin McLeod's children, was born in Hennepin County, April 16, 1841, and is, therefore, one of the first native born citizens within its boundaries. At the age of eighteen, when his father died, he engaged in farming for himself. He has always been a farmer, and by good management, and thrift, has made farming pay. Like his father, he is a great reader, and a man of intelligence and education, although his facilities for learning have been confined, exclusively, to the common schools. He had passed most of his life on the old homestead, in BloomingtonTownship, a picturesque spot overlooking the Minnesota River, which flows along the foot of the hill on which the house is located, the meadows beyond, and a long stretch of country up and down the river.

Mr. McLeod has always possessed the confidence of his neighbors, whom he has served, in public matters, in various ways. He has been supervisor of the town for fourteen years, nine years chairman of the board of supervisors, and for a long time school director.

Under President Arthur and Cleveland, he was the disbursing agent for the Sioux Indians, the duties of which office he performed with ability, and to the eminent satisfaction of all concerned. Besides his farming operations, Mr. McLeod has also engaged in the real estate business.

Up to the present time (1892), he has remained unmarried. He is a Democrat in politics, and has always voted that ticket. Although Mr. McLeod has spent most of his life on the old farm, he has traveled quite extensively, but always returns with the feeling that there is no place like home.

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