Father Hennepin was the first white man who penetrated the wilds of Minnesota, and in 1680 he discovered the great falls of the Mississippi River, to which he gave the name of his patron saint, Anthony of Padua. The river just below the falls naturally attracted the attention of the French adventurers who came to trade with the Sioux, Chippewas and Dakotas, and the first white man who tarried and built a house here was a Canadian voyageur, who came in 1838. In 1841 a French priest established the Roman Catholic mission of St. Paul on the bank of the river, and thus the settlement was named. The admirable water-power of the falls, which, with their two miles of rapids, descend seventy-eight feet, afterwards attracted the attention of millers, lumbermen and other manufacturers, and this made the settlement of Minneapolis, ten miles westward and farther up the river, which began in 1849, the name meaning the “city of the waters.” St. Paul grew with rapidity, being encouraged both by steamboat and afterwards by railway traffic; but Minneapolis, though started later, subsequently out-stripped it. The two places, rivals yet friends, have extended towards each other, so as to almost form one large city, and they now have over four hundred thousand inhabitants. These ” Twin Cities” are running a rapid race in prosperity, each independently of the other. St. Paul is rather more of a trading city, while Minneapolis is an emporium of sawmills and the greatest flour-mills in the world. Both are admirably located upon the bluffs rising above the Mississippi. St. Paul is situated upon a series of ornamental semicircular terraces that are very attractive, though in some portions rather circumscribed. Minneapolis is built on a more extensive plan upon an esplanade overlooking the falls, and extending to an island in midstream, and also over upon the opposite northern side of the river. The Falls of St. Anthony is the most powerful waterfall in the United States wholly applied to manufacturing purposes. The entire current of the Mississippi comes down the rapids and over the falls, the latter having a descent of about fifty feet. It is protected by a wall built by the Government across the river, to prevent the wearing away of the sandstone formation, there having been serious inroads made, while the surface is covered with an apron of planks over which the water runs, with sluiceways alongside to shoot logs down. However much Father Hennepin may have admired the beauties of this great cataract, there is no longer anything picturesque about the Falls of St. Anthony. Logs jam the upper river, where the booms catch them for the sawmills, and subterranean channels conduct the water in various directions to the mills, and discharge their foaming streams below. There is no romance in the rumble of flour-rollers and the buzz of saws, but they mean a great deal of profitable business. The force exerted by the falls at low water is estimated at one hundred and thirty-five thousand horse-power.
St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota, and the State is building a magnificent new Capitol, constructed of granite and marble, with a lofty central dome, at a cost exceeding $2,000,000. There is a fine City Hall and many imposing and substantial business edifices. Its especial residence street, Summit Avenue, is upon a high ridge, parallel with and some distance back from the Mississippi, the chief dwelling, a large brownstone mansion, being the home of the leading railroad prince of the Northwest, President James J. Hill of the Great Northern Railroad. Here is also the new and spacious Roman Catholic Seminary of St. Thomas Aquinas. The old military post of Fort Snelling is on the river above St. Paul, near the mouth of Minnesota River. In Minneapolis, the great building is the City Hall, completed in 1896, and having a tower rising three hundred and fifty feet, giving a superb view. The Guaranty Loan Company’s Building is one of the finest office structures in America, with its roof arranged for a garden, where concerts are given. Minneapolis has a widely extended residential section, with hundreds of attractive mansions in ornamental grounds. Near the river bank is the University of Minnesota, having well-equipped buildings and attended by twenty-eight hundred students.
Minneapolis is the greatest flour manufacturing city in the world. Its mills, of which there are some twenty-five, are located along the river near the falls, and have a daily capacity of over sixty thousand barrels, turning out about eighteen millions of barrels annually, which are sent all over the globe. The whole country west and northwest of Minneapolis, including the Red River Valley, the Dakotas and Manitoba, is practically a fertile wheat field, growing the finest grain that is produced in America, and this makes the prosperity of the city. The Pillsbury-Washburn Flour Mills Company are the leading millers. The great Pillsbury A mill, which turns out ten thousand seven hundred barrels a day, is the world’s champion flour-mill. It is a marvel of the economical manufacture, the railway cars coming in laden with wheat, being quickly emptied, and then filled with loaded flour-barrels and sacks for shipment. Machinery does practically everything from the shovelling of wheat out of the car to the packing of the barrel or sack with the product. This huge mill stands in relation to the flour trade as Niagara does to waterfalls. The other great Minneapolis industry is the lumber trade. Minnesota is well timbered, a belt of fine forests, chiefly pine, stretching across it, known as the Coteau des Bois, or ” Big Woods,” an elevated plateau with a rolling surface, having thousands of lakes scattered through it, fed by springs, while their outlets go into streams feeding the Mississippi, down which the logs are floated to the booms above the falls. The extensive saw-mills will cut over four hundred and fifty millions of feet of lumber in a year. Thus the flour and lumber have become the chief articles of export from Minneapolis.
There are several pleasant lakes in the neighbor-hood, which are popular resorts of the people of the “‘Twin Cities,’ the largest and most famous being Minnetonka, the Indian name meaning the “Big Water.” It is a pretty lake, at nearly a thousand feet elevation,; with low, winding and tree-clad shores, having little islets dotted over its surface, and myriads of indented bays and jutting peninsulas which extend its shore line to over a hundred miles, though the extreme length of the lake is barely `seventeen miles. There are many attractive places on the shores and islands, and large steamers ply on its bosom. From this lake the discharge is through the Minnehaha River, and its Minnehaha Falls, the “Laughing ` Water,” poetically praised by Longfellow in Hiawatha. The beautiful glen in which this graceful cataract is found has been made a park. The falls are about fifty feet high, and a critical observer has recorded that there is ” only wanting a little more water to be one of the most picturesque cascades in the country.” Below the Minnehaha Falls is another on a smaller scale, which the people thereabout have nicknamed the “Minnegiggle.”