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A History of Minneapolis: an Overview by Staff at the Hennepin County Library

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Featuring historical photos and items from the collections of the Hennepin County Library, with contemporary photos from the Phototour of Minneapolis by Chris Gregerson.

Minneapolis Becomes Part of the United States

Previous: Mdewakanton Band of the Dakota Nation
(Part II)

Next: Naming of Minneapolis

From the 1680s forward, the area to include Minneapolis was "on paper" under the European rule of the countries of France, England, and Spain until finally becoming a part of the United States of America in 1784. France's occupation of the area came from the visit made by Father Louis Hennepin in 1680. By the operation of the Franco-Spanish Treaty of 1762, the area of Minnesota west of the Mississippi and south of the Hudson Bay watershed passed from the dominion of France to that of Spain. For the next 40 years it was under the proprietorship of Louisiana. In 1803, after briefly returning to French control, these lands were purchased from France and thereafter called the Louisiana Purchase (this was the area west of the Mississippi including part of the area to become Minneapolis). The area to the east of the Mississippi passed to England at the close of the French and Indian War (1763). This area, including parts of Minnesota (and Minneapolis), became part of the United States after the War of Independence. When the United States accepted the Virginia Colony's deed of cession (1783), the area became the (old) Northwest Territory. Out of this area were later carved the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, and part of Minnesota.

Colonel Josiah Snelling, reproduced from a painting (circa 1810-1830).
Minneapolis Collection, BR1036.

Two men are on a ferryboat on the Mississippi River near Fort Snelling in 1867.
Minneapolis Collection, BR0390.

To demonstrate the western reach of United States' power and the northern reaches of the Louisiana Territory, the U.S. military established Fort Snelling. The Fort Snelling site was formally acquired by Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike from some of the Dakota chiefs in 1805. The land Fort Snelling encompassed took in nearly the complete area of present-day Minneapolis and almost half of the present-day city of St. Paul. The original Fort Snelling, headquartered at the junction of the Minnesota and the Mississippi Rivers, was established in 1819 to meet the rapidly changing conditions in the Northwest Territory. The first commanding officer was Henry Leavenworth; Josiah Snelling replaced Leavenworth in 1820.


  Date Event
1671 France claims the interior of North America
1680 Father Hennepin, while a captive of the Dakota, sees St. Anthony Falls and names it after his patron saint.
1762 France cedes North America west of the Mississippi to Spain.
1763 France cedes North America east of the Mississippi, except New Orleans, to England.
1783 England recognizes United States sovereignty from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River.
1787 The area east of the Mississippi becomes part of the old Northwest Territory.
1803 Lands west of the Mississippi purchased from France (referred to as the Louisiana Purchase).

From timetable compiled by Penny Petersen, 1999

Members of the 45th infantry are making a camp at Fort Snelling in 1908. Baseball bat is lying on the ground at the bottom right.
Minneapolis Collection, BR0367.

The 28th infantry's marching band on parade at Fort Snelling (circa 1890-1910).
Minneapolis Collection, BR0368.

Previous: Mdewakanton Band of the Dakota Nation (Part II)

Next: Naming of Minneapolis