Established October 21, 1849, this county was named in honor of Alexander Ramsey, the first governor of Minnesota Territory. He was born near Harrisburg, Pa., September 8, 1815; studied at Lafayette College; was admitted to the practice of law in 1839; was a Whig member of Congress from Pennsylvania, 1843 to 1847; was appointed, by President Taylor, April 2, 1849, as governor of this Territory; arrived in St. Paul, May 27; and commenced his official duties here June 1, 1849. He continued in this office to May IS, 1853. In 1851 Governor Ramsey negotiated important treaties with the Sioux at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota, and in 1863 with the Ojibways where the Pembina trail crossed the Red Lake river, by these treaties opening to settlement the greater part of southern and western Minnesota. He was the second mayor of St. Paul in 1855. After the admission of Minnesota as a state, he was elected its second governor, and held this office from January 2, 1860, to July 10, 1863, during the very trying times of the civil war and the Sioux war. Being in Washington on business for the state when the news of the fall of Fort Sumter was received, he at once tendered to President Lincoln a regiment of one thousand men from Minnesota, this being the first offer of armed support to the government. Ramsey was United States senator, 1863 to 1875; and secretary of war, in the cabinet of President Hayes, 1879 to 1881. He was president of the Minnesota Historical Society, 1849-63, and from 1891 until his death in St. Paul, April 22, 1903. The Minnesota legislature has provided that his statue will be placed in the Statuary Hall of the national capitol, being one of the two in this state thus honored.
When this county was first established in 1849, as one of the nine counties into which the new territory was originally divided, it reached north to Mille Lacs and to the upper Mississippi in the present Aitkin county. In 1857, with the formation of Anoka, Isanti, Mille Lacs, and Aitkin counties, Ramsey retained only a small part of its former area and became the smallest county of Minnesota. Its county seat, St. Paul, has been continuously the capital of the territory and state.
Information of the origins of names has been gathered in "A History of the City of St. Paul and of the County of Ramsey," by John Fletcher Williams, published in 1876 as Volume IV of the Minnesota Historical Society Collections, 475 pages; "History of Ramsey County and the City of St. Paul," 1881, 650 pages; "Fifty Years in the Northwest," by William H. C. Folsom, 1888, having pages 532-590 for this county; and "History of St. Paul," edited by Gen. C. C. Andrews, 1890, 603 pages, with biographical sketches, 217 pages, by R. I. Holcombe.
BALD EAGLE is a village on the southern shore of Bald Eagle lake, in White Bear township, consisting largely of summer homes and also having permanent residents. The lake was so named because "a small island near the center was the home of several bald eagles at the time of the government surveys."
GLADSTONE, a village and junction of the Northern Pacific and Soo railways, in New Canada, was named in honor of William Ewart Gladstone (b. 1809, d. 1898), the eminent British statesman, for whom villages are also named in New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, and other states. Hazel Park, a railway station nearly four miles northeast from the Union station in St. Paul, "was so named because it was located in the midst of a dense hazel shrubbery." (Stennett, Place Names of the Chicago and Northwestern Railways, 1908, p. 178.)
HIGHWOOD is a railway station in the southeast part of the area of St. Paul, having the same name with villages in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Illinois.
McLEAN township, organized in April, 1858, was named in honor of Nathaniel McLean, who in 1853 settled on its sections 3 and 4, close east of Dayton's bluff adjoining the Mississippi. He was born in Morris county, N. J., May 16, 1787; came to St. Paul in 1849; was the Sioux agent at Fort Snelling, 1849-53; and died in St. Paul, April 11, 1871. This former township was annexed to the city of St. Paul in 1887.
MERRIAM PARK, a large residential district in the western part of St. Paul, was named for Hon. John L. Merriam (b. 1825, d. 1895) and his son. Governor William R. Merriam, who with others were the original proprietors of this addition to the city.
MOUNDS VIEW township, organized May 11, 1858, has a tract of hills of morainic drift extending from south to north about three miles through its central part, affording a fine panoramic view from their northern and highest points, which are about 200 feet above the surrounding country.
NEW BRIGHTON, a railway village of Mounds View, having stockyards and meat-packing business, was named from Brighton, Mass., which formerly was an important cattle market with abattoirs, now a suburban district of Boston.
NEW CANADA township, also at first called Little Canada, organized May 11, 1858, was named in compliment for its French Canadian settlers.
NORTH ST. PAUL, a railway village in New Canada, adjoining Silver lake, was at first named Castle, in honor of Captain Henry Anson Castle (b. 1841, d. 1916), of St. Paul, by whom it was founded in 1887, the next year after the Wisconsin Central railroad was built there.
RESERVE township, organized May 11, 1858, had been until 1853 a part of the Fort Snelling military reserve. The north line of this reservation east of the river, surveyed in 1839, as noted in the chapter of Hennepin county, coincided nearly with the north line of this township, and with the present Iglehart avenue of St. Paul. In 1887, with the enlargement of St. Paul to the present area, this township became a suburban part of the city, but much of it yet is a farming district.
RIVERVIEW, formerly called West St. Paul or simply the West Side, being the part of the city on the western (but here really the southern) side of the Mississippi, received this name February 15, 1918, by action of the city council. Its high river bluffs, in part known as Cherokee Heights, give very extensive and grand views of this valley. The petition for the change to the name Riverview bore 3,434 signatures, while SO opposing it preferred that the new name should be South Side.
ROSE township, organized May 11, 1858, was named in honor of Isaac Rose, who settled here in the summer of 1843, purchasing 170 acres of land, which included the site of Macalester College. He was born in New Jersey, in 1802; was a land agent, selecting farms for immigrants; died at Traverse des Sioux, Minn., in February, 1871.
ST. ANTHONY PARK, the most northwestern part of St. Paul, includes a residential area of nearly two square miles, adjoining the Minnesota Agricultural College and Experimental Farm, departments of the State University, with the State Fair Ground, which are in Rose township. The name was applied to additions of the city area, in allusion to the former city of St. Anthony, now the east part of Minneapolis, bordering the west side of St. Anthony Park. Both refer to St. Anthony falls of the Mississippi, named by Father Hennepin in 1680 after his patron saint.
ST. PAUL, the county seat and the capital of Minnesota, first settled by Pierre Parrant in 1838, received its name from a little Catholic chapel built in 1841 under the direction of Father Lucian Galtier, who in the preceding year had come to Mendota, near Fort Snelling. The history of the building and naming of the chapel, with the adoption of the name for the village and city, was written in part as follows by Galtier in 1864, at the request of Bishop Grace.
"In 1841, in the month of October, logs were prepared and a church erected, so poor that it would well remind one of the stable at Bethlehem. It was destined, however, to be the nucleus of a great city. On the 1st day of November, in the same year, I blessed the new basilica, and dedicated it to 'Saint Paul, the apostle of nations.' I expressed a wish, at the same time, that the settlement would be known by the same name, and my desire was obtained. I had, previously to this time, fixed my residence at Saint Peter's [Mendota], and as the name of Paul is generally connected with that of Peter, and the gentiles being well represented in the new place in the persons of the Indians, I called it Saint Paul. The name 'Saint Paul,' applied to a town or city, seemed appropriate. The monosyllable is short, sounds well, and is understood by all denominations of Christians. . . . Thenceforth the place was known as 'Saint Paul Landing,' and, later on, as 'Saint Paul.'" (History of the City of St. Paul, by Williams, 1876, pages 111-112.)
Lucian Galtier was born in France in 1811, and died at Prairie du Chien, Wis., February 21, 1866. He studied theology in his native land; came to the United States in 1838, with a band of missionaries; was ordained a priest at Dubuque, Iowa, in 1840, and the same year settled at Mendota. In 1844 he removed to Keokuk, Iowa, and four years later returned to France. Afterward he again came to America, and resided at Prairie du Chien until his death.
St. Paul was organized as a village or town November 1, 1849, and was incorporated as a city March 4, 1854, then having an area of 2,560 acres, or four square miles. It received a new city charter March 6, 1868, when its area was 5.45 square miles, to which about seven square miles were added February 29, 1872, and again three square miles March 6, 1873. West St. Paul, now Riverside, which had belonged to Dakota county, was annexed November 16, 1874, by proclamation of the popular vote ratifying the legislative act of March 5, 1874, whereby the total area of the city was increased to 20 square miles. Further large annexations, March 4, 1885, and February 8, 1887, adding the former McLean and Reserve townships, extended St. Paul to its present area, 55.44 square miles, which is very nearly the same as the area of Minneapolis.
Prof. A. W. Williamson, in his list of geographic names in this state received from the Sioux, wrote: "Imnizha ska,---imnizha, ledge; ska, white; the Dakota name of St. Paul, given on account of the white sandstone cropping out in the bluffs." In the simplest words, this Sioux name means "White Rock."
As a familiar sobriquet, St. Paul is often called "the Saintly City;" Minneapolis similarly is "the Mill City" or "the Flour City;" and the two are very widely known as "the Twin Cities."
A few districts of St. Paul have been noted in the preceding lift, namely Merriam Park, Riverview, and St. Anthony Park; and the railway stations of Hazel Park and Highwood, likewise before noted, also are in St. Paul. This city has numerous other residential or partially mercantile and manufacturing districts, which may properly be briefly mentioned here, in advance of more definite notice in a later chapter, which will treat especially of the streets, avenues, and parks. Several districts designated as parks, however, are wholly or partly occupied by residences, this being the case with each of the districts called parks in the following list.
Dayton's bluff, at the east side of the Mississippi in the southeast part of St. Paul, has a large residence district on the plateau extending backward from its top. The name commemorates Lyman Dayton, a former landowner there for whom a village and township in Hennepin county were named. On the edge of the southern and highest part of the bluff, in Mounds Park, is a series of seven large aboriginal mounds, 4 to 18 feet high, from which a magnificent prospect is obtained, overlooking the river and the central part of the city. Dayton was born in Southington, Conn., August 25, 1810, and died in St. Paul, October 20, 1865. He came to Minnesota in 1849, settling in this city, and invested largely in real estate; was the projector and president of the Lake Superior and Mississippi railroad.
Arlington Hills and Phalen Park are northeastern districts, the second being named from Phalen lake and creek, for Edward Phelan (whose name was variously spelled), one of his successive land claims, in the earliest years of St. Paul, having been on this creek.
Como Park, the largest public park of the city, with adjoining residences, incloses Lake Como, named by Henry McKenty in 1856 for the widely famed Lake Como adjoining the south side of the Alps in Italy. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1821, settled in St. Paul at the age of thirty years, dealt largely in city lots and farm lands, and died in this city August 10, 1869.
Lexington Park is a western central district, named from Lexington, Mass., where the first battle of the Revolutionary War was fought, April 19, 1775.
Farther northwest and southwest, respectively, are the districts of Hamline and Macalester Park, having the Methodist Hamline University and the Presbyterian Macalester College, named in honor of Bishop Leonidas Lent Hamline (b. 1797, d. 1865), of Ohio, and Charles Macalester (b. 1798, d. 1873), of Philadelphia, a generous donor to this college.
In and near Groveland Park, a district at the west side of the city, bordering on the Mississippi, are three large Catholic institutions, St. Paul Seminary, St. Thomas College and St. Catherine's College.
St. Anthony Hill, often called simply the Hill district, comprises a large residential area on a broad plateau that was crossed by the earliest road leading from the central part of St. Paul to the Falls of St. Anthony and the city of this name, which in 1872 was united with Minneapolis.
At Seven Corners, close southwest from the business center of St. Paul, streets radiate in seven directions, with buildings on the intervening corners of the city blocks.
WEST ST. PAUL, which had been incorporated as a city in Dakota county, March 22, 1858, returned to township government in 1862, but was annexed to Ramsey county in 1874, becoming a ward of the city of St. Paul, and was renamed Riverview in 1918, as before noted.
WHITE BEAR township, organized May 11, 1858, and its village, which was incorporated in 1881, received the name of the large White Bear lake, "from an old Indian legend, in which they suppose it to be possessed with the spirit of a white bear, which was about to spring on the wife of one of their young braves, but was shot by him, and its spirit had haunted the island and lake since and had mysteriously disposed of several of their braves. The island, which they named Spirit island, is located near its northwestern shore and has about fifty-four acres of land, covered with quite a heavy growth of timber." (History of this county, 1881, p. 281.) It is now commonly called Manitou island, its original Ojibway name.
William H. C. Folsom, in his "Fifty Years in the Northwest" (1888, on its page 545), wrote of the Dakota or Sioux name, as follows: "The Indians called this a grizzly, polar, or white bear, and named an adjacent locality [now a village on the northeastern shore, in Washington county] 'Mah-to-me-di,' or 'M'de, i. e., Mahto, gray polar bear, and M'de, lake. It is not probable, however, that a polar bear ever reached this spot, and a visit from a grizzly is nearly as improbable. Indian legends are very frequently made to order by those who succeed them as owners of the soil."
Pike island, on the Dakota county side of the Mississippi at the mouth of the Minnesota river, adjoining the former Reserve township (now the most southwestern part of St. Paul), was named in honor of Zebulon Montgomery Pike, who in 1805 there purchased from the Dakotas or Sioux, for the United States, a large tract as a military reserve, on which Fort Snelling (at first called Fort St. Anthony) was built in 1820-24.
Beside the center of St. Paul, at the foot of the bluff of Riverview, are Harriet and Raspberry islands of the Mississippi. Harriet island, containing 28 acres, donated to this city by Dr. Justus Ohage, May 26, 1900, is used as a public playground, bathing place, and zoological park. It was named very long ago in honor of Harriet E. Bishop, who was born in Vergennes, Vt., January 1, 1817, and died in St. Paul, August 8, 1883. She came to St. Paul in 1847, to open the first permanent school in this city. Through her influence a Sunday school also was soon organized, and in the next year a public building was erected to accommodate the school, preaching services, etc. She was the author of "Floral Home, or First Years of Minnesota" (1857), and other books.
The little Cozy lake, in Como park, adjoins Lake Como.
Rice creek, the outlet of White Bear and Bald Eagle lakes, flows through shallow lakes having much wild rice in Centerville township, Anoka county, thence passing into Mounds View, and reaching the Mississippi in Fridley, Anoka county, a few miles north of Minneapolis. Hon. Henry M. Rice, of St. Paul, was an early landowner and summer resident near the lower course of this creek, in Fridley township, the stream being named in his honor, as noted in the chapter for that county.
Shadow Falls creek, a very little stream, is named for its cascade in springtime or after any heavy rains, on its descent to the great river, close north of the St. Paul Seminary. Finn's glen, having a similar brooklet, is about a mile farther south, named for William Finn, the first permanent settler in Reserve township.
Trout brook, flowing through St. Paul, which was tributary to Phalen creek just before their united waters reached the Mississippi, is the outlet of McCarron lake, in Rose township. John E. McCarron, a farmer who lived beside this lake, was born in 1839; came there in 1849; served in the Fourth Minnesota regiment in the civil war; and died in St. Paul, March 27, 1897.
Phalen creek and lake have been previously noted for the northeastern district and public park of St. Paul adjoining this lake, which was the original source of the city water supply. Northward a series of lakes has been added to that first source, partly by artificial channels, including Spoon lake, named for its outline, Gervais, Fitzhugh (or Kohlman), Bass, Vadnais, Lambert, Pleasant, and Charles lakes. Long and Deep lakes, and Wilkinson and Otter lakes, reaching to the north line of the county.
Gervais lake commemorates Benjamin Gervais, a pioneer French Canadian farmer, who was born at Riviere du Loup, Canada, July 15, 1786, and died here in January 1876. He settled on the Red river in the Selkirk Colony in 1812; came to Fort Snelling in 1827; and when settlers were ordered to leave the military reservation, in 1838, he opened a farm in the central part of the present area of St. Paul. In 1844 he removed to this lake, being the first settler in the area of New Canada.
Vadnais lake was named "for John Vadnais, who made a claim on its banks as early as 1846;" Lambert lake, for Louis Lambert, who purchased a part of its island; and Wilkinson lake, for "Ross Wilkinson, who first took up a claim on its shores."
Pig's Eye lake and marsh, on the alluvial bottomland of the Mississippi about two miles southeast from Dayton's bluff and the Indian Mounds, were named in allusion to Pierre Parrant, a whiskey dealer, before mentioned as the first settler in St. Paul, who about the year 1842 removed to the vicinity of that lake. He had a defective eye, whence he received this nickname, applied also to the village of St. Paul at its beginning, until displaced by the present name in 1841. Pig's Eye lake had been previously called Grand Marais, meaning the Great marsh, by the early French fur traders and vo3'ageurs. (History of Saint Paul, by Williams, 1876, pages 64-88.)
Battle creek, named for the battle of Kaposia in 1842, between the Ojibways and Sioux, flows into Pig's Eye lake from the high land east of the river valley. Another great ravine there, having numerous tall white pines, is named Pine Cooley, from a French word, coulee, meaning a ravine or run. (History by Williams, pages 122-125.)
Kaposia, the Sioux or Dakota village of the successive hereditary chiefs named Little Crow, early located on the east bank of the Mississippi near the Grand Marais, where Pike saw it in 1805 and Long in 1817, was several times changed in place, being even removed to the vicinity of the mouth of Phalen creek or near the site of the union depot in St. Paul, as known by the narratives of Cass and Schoolcraft at this village in 1820, Long and Keating in 1823, and Latrobe in 1833. Again in 1835 it was near the Grand Marais, as noted by Featherstonhaugh. After the treaty at Washington in 1837, by which the Sioux ceded their lands east of the Mississippi here, the Kaposia band had their village at its west side, occupying a part of South Park, a suburb of South St. Paul in Dakota county, which was its site at the time of the battle. The approach of the Ojibways for the attack, and the course of their retreat, were by way of these ravines of Battle creek and Pine Cooley.
The name Kaposia, changed from Kapozha in the Dakota language, means light or swift of foot in running, as defined by Williamson in his list of Sioux geographic names, before cited for the city of St. Paul. Little Crow's band had received this name, which thence was applied to their village, "in honor of their skill in the favorite game of lacrosse."
The following lakes remain to be noticed in this county.
Beaver lake is about two miles east from the south end of Lake Phalen.
New Canada has Silver lake, adjoining North St. Paul, and Savage lake in sections 6 and 7, the latter being so named because "the Indians frequented its shores in large numbers."
White Bear township, with its numerous lakes before noted, has also Birch, Black, Poplar, Sucker, and Gilfillan lakes, the last being named in honor of Charles D. Gilfillan, of St. Paul.
The north line of Rose township crosses Lake Owasso, formerly called Big Bass lake, and Lake Josephine. The first of these names is nearly like "the bluebird, the Owaissa," in Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha." For the companion lakes Josephine and Johanna, the latter lying in Mounds View township, Judge Bazille states that the surname McKenty may be added, these names being in honor respectively of the daughter and wife of Henry McKenty, by whom Lake Como was named.
Other lakes in Mounds View are Turtle, Maryland (formerly Snail), Grass, Island, Valentine, Long, and Silver lakes. Marsden and Round lakes have been drained.
The Mounds View hills, in the township named for them, are the highest points in the county.
The Arlington hills, in a district of St. Paul platted with that name, are merely an undulating and somewhat prominently rolling tract of morainic drift. St. Anthony hill, another district in this city, is an extensive plateau about 225 to 240 feet above the Mississippi. Dayton's bluff and Cherokee heights, respectively east and west or south of this river in St. Paul, are parts of the prolonged series of river bluffs which bound the valley on each side, rising from its bottomlands to the general level of the adjoining country.
Carvers' cave, in the lower part of Dayton's bluff, was named for Captain Jonathan Carver, who there on May 1, 1767, received a deed written by himself and signed by two Sioux chiefs, granting to him and his heirs a large tract of land in the present states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. This cave was well known to the Sioux or Dakota people, whose name for it, as noted by Carver, was "Wakon-teebe, that is, the Dwelling of the Great Spirit."
A biographic sketch of Carver is given in the chapter for the county bearing his name. All the vast inheritance that had been claimed for his heirs and others, under the Sioux deed, was denied and annulled in 1821-1825 by the United States Congress. Long afterward Carver's lake, which is in the edge of Washington county, five miles southeast from Carver's cave and the Mound Park, was named for one of his descendants who settled as a farmer beside it.
Fountain cave, about four miles farther up the Mississippi, at the base of its bluff in the southwest part of St. Paul, was discovered in 1811. Major Long explored and described it in 1817, giving to it this name because a brook runs through the cavern and issues, like a fountain, at its mouth. Cass and Schoolcraft examined it in 1820, but erroneously called it Carver's cave.
A map and description of a glacial lake, lying mostly within the area of St. Paul, are presented by the present writer in the Bulletin of the Geological Society of America (vol. VIII, 1897, pages 183-196). Its deposits form nearly level sand and gravel plains and plateaus, 260 to 225 feet above the river, extending from near the State Agricultural College eastward to the northwest end of Lake Como, thence southward past Hamline University, with a narrow connection southeast to another wide expanse in the Hill district or plateau crossed by Summit avenue. The length of the glacial Lake Hamline was thus about six miles, with maximum widths exceeding one mile.