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Minnesota 101: Everything You Wanted to Know About Minnesota and Were Going to Ask Anyway

Minnesota 101: Everything You Wanted to Know About Minnesota and Were Going to Ask Anyway

by Kristal Leebrick, Ruth Weleczki, Katie Dohman, Amanda Fretheim Gates, Tim Lehnert

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From Native Americans, the fur trade, and French exploration to British rule and Independence, and the largest mass execution in U.S. history to profiles of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garrison Keillor, HHH, SPAM, and Betty Crocker, no book is more comprehensive. No book is more fun.
Well-known Minnesotans weigh in on one of the nation’s


From Native Americans, the fur trade, and French exploration to British rule and Independence, and the largest mass execution in U.S. history to profiles of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garrison Keillor, HHH, SPAM, and Betty Crocker, no book is more comprehensive. No book is more fun.
Well-known Minnesotans weigh in on one of the nation’s most livable states. Crime historian Paul Maccabee spills the beans on gangsters in Minnesota, Howard Mohr tells us five ways even you can talk like a Minnesotan, Annette Atkins gives up the five things that make Minnesota Minnesota, and celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern dishes on hotdish and other favorites. From great parks, Minnesota shorthand, and outstanding theater to Nobel Prize winners, astronauts, and Minnesota“nice,” it’s all here.
Whether you're a lifelong resident or a first-time visitor to the Gopher State, there is no more complete book about Minnesota. If you love Minnesota, you'll love Minnesota 101.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"I read this book from cover to cover. I simply believe that every Minnesotan should read it, because what's inside this book is inside all of us—from the way we speak, to the jokes we tell, to the foods we bring to church."  —Marshall Independent

"The pages practically turn themselves and contain some of the most entertaining tidbits of Minnesota Trivia ever gathered between two book covers. It is a fascinating treasure trove."  —Star Gazette

"Too bad I didn't have this book a year ago. It's a quick guide to the state with more than 10,000 lakes (11,842 if you are counting). And it has some pretty good information for newcomers and for longtime residents who just don't know as much about the great state of Minnesota as they think."  —Faribault Daily News

Marshall Independent
I read this book from cover to cover. I simply believe that every Minnesotan should read it, because what's inside this book is inside all of us—from the way we speak, to the jokes we tell, to the foods we bring to church.

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MacIntyrePurcell Publishing, Inc
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Minnesota 101

Everything You Wanted to Know About Minnesota and Were Going to Ask Anyway

By Kristal Leebrick, Ruth Weleczki, Kate Dohman, Amanda Fretheim Gates, Tim Lehnert, John McIntyre

MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc.

Copyright © 2014 MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-926916-04-0


Hail! Minnesota

The music and original stanzas for Hail! Minnesota! were written and revised by two students at the University of Minnesota in 1904 and 1905. "Hail! Minnesota" composed by Truman Rickard was first performed on Class Day. In 1905, a second verse written by Arthur Upson, an editor at the campus newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, was added.

The official University of Minnesota song was adopted as the state song in 1945. Older generations of Minnesota children were taught the song in school, but many younger Minnesotans are unaware of it. "Hail! Minnesota" is being promoted again in schools.

Minnesota, hail to thee!
Hail to thee, our state so dear
Thy light shall ever be
A beacon bright and clear.
Thy son and daughters true
Will proclaim thee near and far
They shall guard thy fame and adore thy name
Thou shalt be their Northern Star.

Like the stream that bends to sea,
Like the pine that seeks the blue
Minnesota, still for thee
Thy sons are strong and true!
From the woods and waters fair
From the prairies waving far
At thy call they throng
with their shout and song
Hailing thee their Northern Star!



A Timeline

2 billion years ago: The Iron Range starts to form as iron-rich minerals collect at the bottom of the inland sea that covers Minnesota.

1.1 billion to 550 million years ago: The crust of North America splits, creating a valley running from Lake Superior to Kansas. Minnesota is on the coast of the continent, near the equator, and plants and marine life thrive in the warm, shallow waters.

2 million years ago: The Ice Age sets in, with ice retreating and returning, flattening the land.

12,500 years ago: The most recent Ice Age ends. Glaciers melt into lakes and rivers. Spruce forests arise in open land. Giant bison, woolly mammoths, and beavers the size of large black bears roam the region.

11,000 to 9,000 years ago: People begin moving into the area, probably in pursuit of game. Hunted into extinction or unable to adapt to the warmer, drier climate, giant forms of life recede along with the glaciers.

Late 1650s: French explorers Radisson and Groseilliers meet the Dakota, whom they call "Buffalo People."

The Fall of the Dakota

The roots of the largest mass execution in U.S. history were sown with treaties signed in 1825 and 1851. After the War of 1812, the U.S. wanted to assert control over the Upper Mississippi Valley, which was inhabited by Indian tribes.

The U.S. negotiated three treaties with the Dakota-Sioux tribes. The treaty of 1825, as well as two signed in 1851, traded land for food and gold, and confined the tribes to a reservation, essentially a strip of land 20 miles wide in the Minnesota River Valley, stretching from the Yellow Medicine River to Lake Traverse. The Dakota-Sioux were supposed to get annuity payments of $68,000 for 50 years. The U.S. government didn't pay the tribes directly, however; treaty money went to Indian agents, who distributed it to the tribes. Oftentimes, these agents encouraged confusion, sometimes keeping the money as well as selling food supplies that were supposed to be part of the deal to white settlers.

Between 1849 and 1856, great tracts of land were opened for white settlement and the region's population grew 20-fold. Instead of outnumbering the white population by 2-1, the Indians now found themselves outnumbered almost 10 to 1. Moreover, when white settlers started moving onto reservation land, the government redrew the boundaries to the Indians' disadvantage.

Like many such wars, the Dakota conflict was fueled by confusion, double-dealing, misunderstanding, and smouldering resentment. The annuity payments were invariably late, much of the food was spoiled or stolen, and in 1862, with the U.S. embroiled in the Civil War, rumors began to spread that the payments might never come, as Washington was losing ground to the South. The Indians' geographic purview was ever narrowed, and hunger and hardship increased.

Treaty payments did finally arrive in St. Paul on Aug. 16, 1862, but by then it was too late. Dakota-Sioux warriors had killed four settlers that day, robbing them of their food. In the six weeks that followed, more than 600 American settlers were killed in a series of raids. By late September, the U.S. Army had, in response, forced the surrender of the Sioux.

Two months later, 303 Dakota-Sioux warriors were convicted by military tribunal of murder and rape. President Lincoln reviewed the trial transcripts and commuted the sentence of 264 Sioux (one was later granted clemency), but still sent 38 men to the gallows.

The execution date was set for Dec. 25, but President Lincoln is said to have held off the hangings until after Christmas to avoid dampening people's spirits. On a single scaffold platform at 10 a.m. on Dec. 26, 1862, in Mankato, 38 Dakota-Sioux warriors were executed by hanging, making it the largest mass execution in American history.

The remaining convicted Indians would stay in jail until later the following year, when they were removed to an Illinois prison for four years. More than one-third would die before their release. During this time there were also more than 1,700 Dakota women, children, and elderly men being held in an internment camp on Pike Island near Fort Snelling. They were subsequently removed by steamboat to drought-stricken Crow Creek in Dakota Territory, and eventually relocated to Nebraska's Niobrara Reservation. In early 1863, US Congress declared all previous treaties with the Dakota null and void, and began the groundwork necessary to expel the Dakota people entirely from Minnesota.

Late 1660s: Europe becomes aware of Minnesota through Claude Allouez's maps of Lake Superior.

1671: Sieur de La Salle asserts France's claim to territory around the Great Lakes.

1673: Explorers Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette are dispatched from Quebec and are the first Europeans to explore the "Mechassipi," later known as the Mississippi.

1680: Father Louis Hennepin discovers and names the Falls of St. Anthony (located on the Mississippi in what is now Minneapolis).

1763: Treaty of Paris results in Great Britain assuming control of much of North America east of the Mississippi with Spain retaining control of lands west of the Mississippi.

1783: The newly formed United States now controls Minnesota's eastern half.

1803: The Louisiana Purchase transfers land from France to the new United States government. The land acquired includes the western portion of what is now Minnesota.

1805-06: Zebulon M. Pike, on behalf of President Jefferson, takes formal possession of Minnesota for the United States.

1818: The U.S. and Britain establish Minnesota's northern boundary at the 49th parallel.

1819: Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Leavenworth establishes a military post where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet.


Henry Hastings Sibley, the First Governor of Minnesota

Minnesota's first governor was Detroit-born fur trader Henry Hastings Sibley (1811-1891). Sibley, the well-educated son of a Michigan Supreme Court judge, had a love for the outdoors and, as an 18-year-old, he sought and found adventure in the fur trade.

At first, Sibley served as a clerk in his home state, but by 1834 the 23-year-old Sibley was named head of the American Fur Company's Sioux Outfit at Fort Snelling. In 1836, he built the first stone house in Minnesota, near the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. The area, which lies just east of what is now Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, is named Mendota (Dakota for "where the waters meet") and was a center for fur trading with the Dakota Indians. Sibley built a respectable reputation among the Dakota, who dubbed him "Walker in Pines."

Sibley was more than just a businessman; he sought to transform the rugged outback of Minnesota into a full-fledged part of the Union. Minnesota was recognized as its own territory in 1849, with Alexander Ramsey serving as territorial governor. Sibley and others pressed for statehood status, and in 1858 Sibley defeated Ramsey to become Minnesota's first state governor. Ramsey assumed the governorship in 1860, but Sibley remained as the state's military commander.

Sibley was instrumental in crafting the Minnesota state constitution, and the stone house served as the first "governor's mansion." The one-time fur man also had great influence over the state seal, land grants for schools, and other public missions. His most lasting contribution, however, is the state's name. Sibley argued against calling the state "Itasca" (which later became the name of the county that comprises the headwaters of the Mississippi), arguing instead for "Minnesota," from a Dakota word meaning "sky-tinted waters."

After his political career ended, Sibley remained in St. Paul, where he was a prominent businessman, head of the Minnesota Historical Society and president of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. The Sibley House Historical Site is located in Mendota.

1820: Fort St. Anthony is built and later renamed Fort Snelling, after Colonel Josiah Snelling.

1820: First tornado is reported in Minnesota.

1823: First Mississippi steamboat (the Virginia) reaches Fort Snelling from St. Louis.

1825: A treaty establishes a line between the Sioux and the Ojibwe and runs in a south-easterly direction across what is now the state of Minnesota.

1835: Severe storms on the Great Lakes; 19 shipwrecks, 254 dead.

1836: New Wisconsin Territory is established and includes all of Minnesota.

1838: New Iowa Territory includes western part of Minnesota.

1849: Minnesota becomes a separate territory. Pennsylvania Whig Alexander Ramsey becomes the first territorial governor.

1850: First census counts 6,077 people in Minnesota.

1851: Two treaties with the Sioux turn land over to the U.S., opening up territory west of the Mississippi. University of Minnesota chartered.

1852: Hennepin County is created with Minneapolis as its seat.

1857: White settlers at Spirit Lake are massacred by Dakota upset over an 1851 treaty.

1858: Minnesota admitted to Union on May 11. It is the 32nd state. Henry H. Sibley is elected governor, defeating Alexander Ramsey.

1867: Minneapolis is incorporated as a city.

1870: March blizzard in southwest Minnesota drops 16 inches of snow, marking the first use of the word "blizzard," a boxing term meaning a flurry of punches, to describe weather events. The U.S. Signal Corps Weather Service would begin to use the term in 1876.

1872: Charles Alfred Pillsbury starts the Pillsbury Company which goes on to operate the largest flour mills in the world.

1878: Congress spends more than $100,000 upgrading Fort Snelling; the post serves as headquarters and supply depot for smaller posts to the west.

1880s: Iron ore mining becomes a major industry.

1881: Fire destroys the Capitol building in St. Paul.

1886: Tornado strikes St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids, killing 72 and injuring 213.

1889: William W. Mayo and his two sons establish the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

1890: Iron ore deposits are discovered in Mesabi Range. Minnesota's population hits 1.3 million, up from 781,000 just 10 years earlier.

1892: The state legislature offers a $500 reward for the return of five-year-old Mamie Schwartz, abducted from St. Paul in a highly publicized case. The police find her the next year — alive — in Superior, WI.



Crime historian Paul Maccabee, author of John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks' Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul, 1920-1936 (Minnesota Historical Society Press), spent 12 years fighting the US Justice Department to obtain more than 100,000 pages of FBI files, wiretaps and prison records on Minnesota's most notorious criminals. He has been featured in the History Channel's TV documentary, "Crime Wave," and in three A&E cable TV documentaries on 1930s crime history.

Bank robbers, kidnappers, bootleggers, mob assassins — during the 1930s, they all enjoyed safe haven in the Prohibition saloons and brothels of St. Paul, thanks to hospitality established by corrupt Police Chief John J. "The Big Fellow" O'Connor. Infamous gangsters from "Babyface" Nelson and Al Capone to "Machine Gun Kelly" and Katherine "Ma" Barker vacationed in the Gopher State, but the five most infamous gangsters to call Minnesota their home are:

1. John Dillinger. America's most notorious bank robber, jail escapee, murderer, and folk hero; named Public Enemy No. 1 by J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI. Romanced his girlfriend Evelyn "Billie" Frechette in St. Paul in March 1934 under the alias Carl Hellman, leading to a spectacular shootout with the FBI at the Lincoln Court Apartments. His escape from St. Paul led the Society of American Magicians to give Dillinger its Harry Houdini Award. His favorite pastime in St. Paul? Watching Walt Disney movies like Three Little Pigs at the Grand Avenue Theater which is still in business today.

2. Homer Van Meter. Bank robber, machine gunner, and pal of John Dillinger who was spectacularly slain in an August 1934 shootout with St. Paul police just a block from the Minnesota state Capitol. The white straw hat Van Meter wore during the shootout disappeared for a half-century, then was rediscovered — and is now on exhibit at the St. Paul Police Department headquarters, with little bits of Van Meter's blood and brains still attached near the bullet holes.

3. Isadore "Kid Cann" Blumenfeld. Minnesota's own Rumanian-born Godfather — society bootlegger, tax cheat, gangland- fixer, convicted white slaver, accused-but-never-convicted of three murders, and arch nemesis of Minneapolis Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey. His nickname, "Kid Cann," was bequeathed to him either as a fighter's moniker from the boxing ring, or because whenever shooting started, he hid in the bathroom behind the "Cann."

4. Alvin "Creepy" Karpis. Bank robber, kidnapper, jewel thief, prison escapee, and safe blower. When doctors discovered the teenage Karpis had a heart condition, they advised the shipping clerk to take up a less stressful line of work; Karpis became one of the most successful criminals in American history. He met the love of his life, gun moll Delores Delaney, while hiding out in St. Paul. He also found time to mastermind the 1933 kidnapping of businessman William Hamm for a $100,000 ransom and the 1934 abduction of banker Edward Bremer for $200,000.

5. Edna "The Kissing Bandit" Murray, a.k.a. "Rabbits." Holdup artist, gun moll and liquor hijacker, renowned for escaping repeatedly from prison in Missouri by scaling the walls like "a rabbit." Edna earned her "Kissing Bandit" nickname from forcing trucks filled with valuables to stop on the highway, and locking lips with the driver who — paralyzed by her smooch — would be immobilized while her gang stole the cargo.

1894: Forest fire destroys Hinckley and Sandstone, killing 418 people.

1896: F. Scott Fitzgerald is born in St. Paul.

1905: Minnesota State Capitol building, constructed at a cost of $4.5 million, opens.

1911: State abolishes the death penalty.

1914: Carl Wickman and Andrew Anderson open the first bus line between Hibbing and Alice, which will become Greyhound Lines Inc.

1918: Forest fire in Carlton and St. Louis counties kills more than 400 people and destroys more than $25 million in property.

1918-19: 2,700 Minnesotans die from the flu.

1918: The Farmer-Labor Party is formed.

1919: A Minneapolis factory turns out the country's first armored car.

1919: Minnesota ratifies the 19th Amendment, granting women the vote.

1920: A second flu epidemic kills 1,700 Minnesotans.

1922: University of Minnesota's educational radio station, WLB, is the first licensed in the state. A year later, WDGY is the first commercial radio station to broadcast from Minneapolis.

1927: 25-year-old Minnesotan Charles Lindbergh completes the first solo flight across the Atlantic, flying Long Island to Le Bourget Field in Paris, France, aboard the Spirit of St. Louis.

A Night at the Fair

The Minnesota State Fair is not so much a mere event as it is a happening. For 12 frenzied days in late August and early September, nearly 1.8 million normally reserved Minnesotans (and guests) give over to excess. They party, they drink, they eat almost anything (and that anything is almost always on a stick), They meander half-hurriedly about the 340-plus acre grounds with no purpose, and no intention of having one. It is play time, and the seriousness of the oncoming autumn (and winter) is pushed briefly away.

The Great Minnesota get-together represents a confluence of barkers, hucksters, and carnies, with princesses, farmers and city folk. It's as if a year's worth of living must be compressed into 10 days. Children and parents from around the state save and plan and scheme a way to get to the fabled fairgrounds, located halfway between the downtown areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul.


Excerpted from Minnesota 101 by Kristal Leebrick, Ruth Weleczki, Kate Dohman, Amanda Fretheim Gates, Tim Lehnert, John McIntyre. Copyright © 2014 MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc.. Excerpted by permission of MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jan Matthews is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for national consumer and trade publications.

Katie Dohman is a freelance writer and editor who has contributed to such publications as Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Mpls.St.Paul Weddings, and Maui No Ka Oi Magazine. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. Amanda Fretheim Gates is a writer who has contributed to such publications as Meetings: Minnesota's Hospitality Journal, Twin Cities Living, and Where Twin Cities magazine. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Kristal Leebrick is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to the Twin Cities Daily Planet. She has written several history books for children and biographies as well of NASCAR racers Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ruth Weleczki is a writer and editor who has worked for such publications as the Utne Reader, St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Twin Cities Reader. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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