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Wabasha in Wabasha County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Minnesota Territory 1849-1858 / Wabasha County Takes Shape

 
 
Minnesota Territory 1849-1858 (<i>marker side 1</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, July 18, 2012
1. Minnesota Territory 1849-1858 (marker side 1)
Inscription.  
Minnesota Territory 1849-1858
(marker side 1)

On March 3, 1849, during his last hours in office. President James K. Polk signed a bill adding a new name to the American political landscape — Minnesota Territory. A vast land, it stretched from the St. Croix River and Lake Superior on the east to the Missouri River on the west, and north to the Canadian border. Totaling more than 166,000 square miles, Minnesota Territory was divided into nine counties: Wabashaw, Dakotah, Washington, Ramsey, Benton, Itasca, Wahnahta, Mahkahta, and Pembina.

In those feverish years of American expansion, pressure built to organize the lands along the upper Mississippi River. Iowa and Wisconsin had already entered the Union and were rapidly filling with settlers. The story of frontier settlement was soon to be repeated in Minnesota, as a thin stream of farmers, lumbermen and land speculators turned into a tidal wave.

The same places being claimed and named by these settlers and Washington politicians had been the homelands, hunting grounds, and burial places of Indian people for thousands of years. And
Marker detail (<i>side 1</i>): Original Minnesota Counties image. Click for full size.
2. Marker detail (side 1): Original Minnesota Counties
since the later 1600s, small numbers of Europeans and Americans had lived here together with Native people, trading furs and goods, making families, and creating new traditions.

In 1849 that world of relatively peaceful coexistence was about to collapse, sometimes with brutal force. During the territorial years, Dakota and Ojibwe people signed treaties that ceded nearly all of their lands in Minnesota to the U.S. government in exchange for money, promises, and reservations.

Meanwhile settlements such as St. Paul, Stillwater, and St. Anthony mushroomed into cities. Farms and towns spread across the prairies. The booming population, which had grown from less than 5,000 settlers in 1849 to more than 100,000, clamored for statehood. It was granted in 1858, just nine short years after the creation of the territory.

Wabasha County Takes Shape
(marker side 2)

When Minnesota's territorial legislators laid out county boundaries in 1849, they divided the sparsely settled territory into just nine counties. Wabashaw County, as it was then spelled, spanned the entire width of the vast territory.

Older than the county that took its name is the town of Wabasha, the county seat. Founded in 1843, it lay upriver from the village of Dakota chief Wapashaw, the last of three hereditary chiefs of the same name whose band occupied the
Wabasha County Takes Shape (<i>marker side 2</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, July 18, 2012
3. Wabasha County Takes Shape (marker side 2)
country below Lake Pepin. Tradition holds that the name, meaning "red leaf or cap," was given to the first chief Wapashaw when he returned from a trip to Canada in the late 1700s, where he had received gifts of an English flag and soldier’s uniform with red cap.

A few white settlers had put down roots along the Mississippi River as early as the 1830s. However, the whole of southern Minnesota Territory did not officially open to settlers until several years after 1851, when treaties with the Dakota were negotiated. That did not stop the flood of immigrants who rushed to claim this Indian land. By steamboat and covered wagon they came, traveling from eastern states to build new homes and plant crops. In just ten years, from 1850 to 1860, the population grew from only 243 white and mixed-blood residents in all of Wabashaw County to nearly 5,000 people living in a much smaller area.

The move to statehood in 1857 had spurred a heated debate about what shape the new state would take. In the end, those arguing for a long north-south shape won out over an east-west orientation. By then, Wabasha County's boundaries had been redrawn several times, carving dozens of counties from its original expanse. What remained lay to the east bordering the Mississippi — a place of small farms and picturesque river towns.
 
Erected 2001 by
Marker detail (<i>side 2</i>): Wabasha County image. Click for full size.
4. Marker detail (side 2): Wabasha County
Minnesota Historical Society.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Native AmericansSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Minnesota Historical Society series list.
 
Location. 44° 22.801′ N, 92° 1.803′ W. Marker is in Wabasha, Minnesota, in Wabasha County. Marker is on 3rd Street East just east of Jefferson Avenue, on the right when traveling east. Marker is located beside the sidewalk in a small triangular park, one block north of the old Wabasha County Courthouse. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 625 Jefferson Avenue, Wabasha MN 55981, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Grace Memorial Episcopal Church (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Veterans Memorial (approx. 0.2 miles away); Wapahasha I / Wapahasha II / Wapahasha III (approx. 0.3 miles away); The Bridge (approx. 0.4 miles away); a different marker also named Veterans Memorial (approx. 2.9 miles away in Wisconsin); Lake Pepin (approx. 4.3 miles away); a different marker also named Lake Pepin (approx. 4.4 miles away); The River of Rafts (approx. 4.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Wabasha.
 
Regarding Minnesota Territory 1849-1858 / Wabasha County Takes Shape. This is a two-sided
Minnesota Territory 1849-1858 (<i>marker side 1</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, July 18, 2012
5. Minnesota Territory 1849-1858 (marker side 1)
(looking east along 3rd Street East)
marker: side (1) "Minnesota Territory 1849-1858", and side (2) "Wabasha County Takes Shape."
 
Also see . . .  Wabasha County History. The city of Wabasha is the county seat and also Minnesota's first and longest continuously inhabited River town. Wabasha was first settled in 1826, becoming an officially recognized city in 1830 with the Prairie du Chien Treaty. This makes Wabasha the oldest city in Minnesota. (Submitted on January 8, 2021, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
Wabasha County Takes Shape (<i>marker side 2</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, July 18, 2012
6. Wabasha County Takes Shape (marker side 2)
(looking west • Jefferson Avenue in background)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 8, 2021. It was originally submitted on January 7, 2021, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 46 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on January 8, 2021, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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Feb. 25, 2021