Little Falls in Morrison County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
James Green Park
This riverfront park is named after James Green, a Pennsylvanian, who, with his wife, Isabella, and three children, came here in 1848 from the Selkirk colonies (Winnipeg). Their arrival marked the beginning of permanent settlement at Little Falls.
Green joined Henry Rice and other investors to develop the waterpower at this location. He acquired half-interest in their firm, the Little Falls Mill and Land Company.
Green built a dam and sawmill for the company, but died of cholera in July 1850. The partners then bought out Isabella.
When completed, the company dam blocked the river channel east of Mill Island (also called "Rock Island"). The dam, along with a wing dam extending north from the island, created a millpond. Logs stored in the millpond were cut into lumber, lath, and shingles. Water from the millpond also powered the company sawmill.
One of the first contracts at the mill was to cut shingles for the new United States military outpost (Fort Gaines, later Fort Ripley) established 14 miles north of here in 1849.
Building dams here was a formidable challenge. Mill Island
The first dam crossed only the east channel (behind you). In 1855 a ditch was cut through Mill Island to improve flowage. The severed, southern end of the island became known as "Maple Island."
Plagued with problems, the first dam washed out in 1861. That disaster, together with a failing national economy and the Civil and Indian wars, brought a temporary end to local prosperity.
An 1874 plan called for building a full-channel dam well above Mill Island and a lock on the east side to bypass the dam. The plan was later scrapped.
The first full-channel dam was built at the site of the present dam in 1887. The mid-point of that 830-foot long structure intersected the head of Mill Island. The new dam spurred settlement and industry on both sides of the river, giving rise to the modern community of Little Falls.
The easiest way for early lumbermen to move logs over great distances was to float them down rivers in "log drives." Little Falls witnessed countless log drives between 1834 and 1919.
Managing a log drive was a dangerous and dirty job. The men who did such work were called "river pigs."
Some "river pigs" at Little Falls were teenage boys. Daring men rode rafts of logs through the sluice at the
Logs owned by local companies were sorted from the drives to be milled in Little Falls. The log drives often jammed. The logjam of 1894, one of the world's largest, was seven miles long.
The hydropower at Little Falls initially transferred mechanical energy to nearby mills via ropes and pulleys. Electrical generation began at the dam in 1889. The dam and power plant were upgraded in 1906 and again in 1920. A few years later Little Falls hydro provided electricity to 22 towns in central Minnesota.
In 1923, Minnesota Power & Light, a company formed through the merger of several regional power companies, bought out the Little Falls operation. Today, the Little Falls hydro continues to provide 4.6 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. It is one of 11 hydro facilities operated by Minnesota Power that provide 120 megawatts of electric energy. That's enough power to energize a city the size of Duluth.
Boats & Bridges
The Mississippi was a major canoe route before the first steamboat went upstream here in 1858. An 1870 plan for steamers to make regular runs between Little Falls and Brainerd failed. The growing number of dams, bridges, and log drives on the river disfavored such traffic.
William Sturgis, a developer, opened a ferry north of here in 1857. The
The first bridge at Little Falls was a short-lived structure that crossed the river at Mill Island. Other early bridges include the north railroad trestle, built in 1880, and the first Broadway Avenue bridge, erected in 1884.
For more on Little Falls and Morrison County history contact The Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Parks & Recreational Areas • Settlements & Settlers • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical month for this entry is July 1850.
Location. 45° 58.543′ N, 94° 21.987′ W. Marker is in Little Falls, Minnesota, in Morrison County. Marker is at the James Green Park parking lot at 1st Avenue SE and the east bank of the Mississippi River, south of Broadway. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Little Falls MN 56345, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Harrison & Peterson Building (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Gregerson Building (about 500 feet away); United States Post Office (about 500 feet away); Morrison County Veterans Memorial (about 500 feet away); Victor Building (about 700 feet away); 66 East BroadwayW. Tonn Block (approx. 0.2 miles away); 75 East Broadway (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Little Falls.
Also see . . .
1. Little Falls Self-Guided Historic Walking or Driving Tour. (Submitted on November 7, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Welcome to Little Falls MN. (Submitted on November 7, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Minnesota Power History. (Submitted on November 7, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on December 10, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 7, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 363 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. submitted on November 7, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.