This month in Minnesota history

Nov. 1

1841: Father Lucien Galtier dedicates his log church to “St. Paul, the apostle of nations.” This name is deemed superior to “Pig’s Eye,” the community’s previous moniker, and St. Paul is incorporated as a town on this date in 1849. The log structure later serves as the first school of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and in 1856 its logs are dismantled, numbered, and hauled up the hill to the St. Joseph’s Academy construction site. Unfortunately, the plan to rebuild the chapel as a historic site had not been communicated to the workmen, who use the logs to warm themselves and their coffee.

1849: The legislature establishes funding for the territory’s public schools. By decree of the Northwest Ordinance, one section in each township had been set aside to support a school, and in Minnesota these lands are not sold for short-term cash but are rented out to provide a steady and longterm cash flow. Martin McLeod authored the bill, which Territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey would consider his administration’s most important piece of legislation.

1976: The first issue of the Circle newsletter is published by the Minneapolis American Indian Center. Containing stories about the lives and values of American Indians in the metro area, the newsletter would become a newspaper in March 1980 with a grant from the Dayton Hudson Foundation.

Nov. 2

1869: Measuring one-third of a township, tiny Manomin County is abolished and transferred to Anoka County. Known as Manomin Township until 1879, the territory is now the town of Fridley.

1948: Hubert H. Humphrey wins Minnesota’s race for US Senate. During three consecutive terms he supports a medicare bill, a nuclear test ban treaty, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

1993: Sharon Sayles Belton is elected mayor of Minneapolis. She is the first African American and the first woman to hold the office. Having previously worked for the State Department of Corrections and as assistant director of the Minnesota Program for Victims of Sexual Assault, Belton would tout a family-centered platform and administer numerous successful community programs, including the annual youthoriented event, “Dancin’ in the Streets.”

Nov. 3

1831: The one and only Ignatius Donnelly is born in Philadelphia. He would arrive in Minnesota in 1857 and build a mansion at Nininger, near Hastings. He would also serve as first lieutenant governor of the state and as a representative in the legislature and congress. An author on various topics, Donnelly opposed business monopolies in the weekly paper Anti-Monopolist; attested that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays in The Great Cryptogram; advanced the then-outlandish theory that a giant comet had once struck the earth in Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel; and argued for the existence of Plato’s fabled island in Atlantis: The Antediluvian World.

1895: A fire begins in a flour mill and destroys the town of Walcott, in Rice County. Walcott had prospered for nearly 50 years, but the community decides not to rebuild.

1908: Bronislav “Bronko” Nagurski is born in Ontario. In 1929 he would be named All-American as both defense tackle and offensive fullback for the Gophers, the only player to be named All-American for two positions in the same year. He would later play for the Chicago Bears football team and perform as a professional wrestler. After his retirement from sports he would operate a service station in his hometown, International Falls.

1959: The Wilson & Company packinghouse strike begins in Albert Lea. Lasting 109 days, it receives national attention.

1989: The Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team plays its first game, losing to the Seattle Supersonics 106-94.

1992: Lawyer Alan Page is elected associate justice of the state supreme court, the first African American to so serve. Normally judges are appointed by the governor, but unusual circumstances led to a direct election. Voters undoubtedly recalled Page’s career with the Minnesota Vikings and his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as his work as assistant attorney general.

1998: Former professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura wins the gubernatorial election. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican candidates split much of the vote, and Reform Party candidate Ventura, who had been mayor of Brooklyn Park and host of a radio talk show on KSTP in the Twin Cities, takes the prize. Ventura would later switch his affiliation to the Independence Party of Minnesota, and his administration would focus on education and tax reform.

Nov. 4

1850: Fort Gaines is renamed Fort Ripley in honor of Eleazar Ripley, a general in the War of 1812. The fort would be abandoned in 1878, but the National Guard’s Camp Ripley preserves the name.

1864: The steamboat John Rumsey explodes near the lower levee in St. Paul, killing seven of the crew. Explosions, usually caused by excessive steam pressure, were a common occurrence on Mississippi riverboats.

1994: President Bill Clinton visits Duluth to stump for DFL candidates.

1997: Through a ballot initiative led by Progressive Minnesota, voters limit the amount of money city officials can spend on professional sports facilities. This spending cap defeats a proposal for a new taxpayer-funded stadium for the Twins.

Nov. 5

1862: The military commission headed by Henry H. Sibley completes its trial of Dakota warriors accused of participating in the U.S. – Dakota War earlier that year. Of the 392 prisoners, 307 are sentenced to death and 16 to prison. President Abraham Lincoln would commute many of these sentences.

1875: Suffrage is extended to women in elections pertaining to schools. Women would not earn the right to vote in every election until 1919.

1903: The Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Emil Oberhoffer, presents its first concert. The orchestra would replicate the concert in 1927, with Henri Verbrugghen conducting, and in 1993, as the Minnesota Orchestra, directed by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski.

1905: Minneapolis saloons close their doors for “dry Sunday,” and no liquor is available for purchase within the city limits.

1975: As hundreds gather in Mankato to commemorate the Dakota who were executed there, eagles gather in the sky above them. Many interpret this as a sign of healing between the Dakota and the people of the U.S.

1991: Choua Lee is elected to the St. Paul City School Board, the first Hmong person elected to a public position in the U.S. After serving one term she declines reelection.

2002: Norm Coleman is elected to the U.S. Senate for Minnesota. He had been elected as the Democratic mayor of St. Paul in 1992; he then then joined the Republican Party in 1996 before being elected as senator. He would go on to lose his senate reelection campaign in 2008 to Al Franken.

2002: Norm Coleman is elected U.S. Senator, defeating Walter Mondale by two percentage points. Mondale is a replacement candidate for Paul Wellstone, who was killed in a plane crash on October 25, 2002.

2002: Republican Tim Pawlenty is elected as the thirty-ninth Governor of Minnesota. He had previously served two terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives and would go on to serve two terms as governor and serve as co-chair of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Nov. 6

1854: Thirty-one individuals form the Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company, St. Paul’s first volunteer fire-fighting force.

1860: On the same day that Minnesota votes for Abraham Lincoln for president, a horse race in Freeborn County determines the county seat. Albert Lea and Itasca had both been vying for the honor, and corruption and vote buying ran rampant. Adding to the excitement, an Albert Lea racehorse, Old Tom, had been put up to run a race against Itasca’s best. The businessmen of Itasca had secretly bought an Iowa racehorse named Fly, the plan being to encourage Albert Lea’s folks to bet on Old Tom, win their money, and then buy votes for Itasca. Old Tom won the race, and Itasca lost its money and the county seat.

1874: St. Olaf College is incorporated, growing out of the Reverend Julius Muus’s preparatory school in Holden. Classes begin on November 6, 1875.

1887: The Virginia Street Church (Swedenborgian), designed by architect Cass Gilbert, is dedicated in St. Paul.

Nov. 7

1885: The steamer Algoma wrecks on Isle Royale, killing nearly 50 passengers.

1889: Northfield illuminates its streets by installing 67 electric lights.

1905: Horace Austin, sixth governor of the state, dies in Minneapolis. He was born on October 15, 1831, in Canterbury, Connecticut. After serving as judge in Minnesota’s sixth district, in 1869 Austin would win the governor’s seat over Democrat George L. Otis. As governor, Austin would establish a state board of health, divide the state into three Congressional districts, and initiate a geological and natural history survey supervised by the state university.

Nov. 8

1890: The Grand Opera House in Minneapolis hosts the first American performance of the English translation of Donizetti’s opera Anna Bolena.

1898: The Kensington rune stone is discovered on Olof Ohman’s farm, near Alexandria. The stone tells of a group of Vikings who traveled to Minnesota in 1362, but its authenticity has long been the subject of debate.

1926: The old Mendota bridge to Fort Snelling opens and is dedicated to the men of the 151st Field Artillery who had been killed in World War I.

1932: Minnesota citizens are allowed to vote for all nine of the state’s congressional seats because the legislature had failed to reapportion the districts following the census of 1930.

Source:, from The Minnesota Book of Days (Minnesota Historical Society Press). This Month in Minnesota History for November will continue in next week’s edition of Hometown Focus.

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