Minnesota History

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The following important dates in the history of Minnesota affected political jurisdictions, record keeping, and family movements.

1686– 1762: The French established a chain of forts and small settlements in the area of Minnesota.

1763–1819: The area was controlled by British fur traders of the Northwest Company.

1783: Great Britain grants eastern portions of Minnesota to the United States.

1787–1800: Part of Northwest Territory

1800– 1809: Part of Indiana Territory

1803: The United States obtains the western portion of the area through the Louisiana Purchase.

1805: The U.S. purchased land for Fort Snelling

1809–1818: Part of Illinois Territory

1818: Thenorthern part of Minnesota ceded by British

1820: The U.S. Army establishes Fort Snelling at its permanent location near the future site of St. Paul. It becomes a nucleus of settlement. Mississippi River steamboats reach Fort Snelling in 1823.

1818–1836: The area that is now Minnesota is in Michigan Territory.

1836: All of Minnesota is in Wisconsin Territory.

1837: Sioux and Chippewa Indians sell their claim to the St. Croix Valley, opening the way to major white settlements in eastern Minnesota.

1840: Some Minnesota residents are listed in the 1840 territorial censuses of Wisconsin and Iowa.

1847: Chippewa Indians cede land

1849: (March 3,) Congress creates Minnesota Territory.

1852: (July 23,) Sioux Indians turned over all their land in Iowa and most of their land in Minnesota to U.S.

1851–1855: The Indians give up their rights to millions of acres of land west of the Mississippi River.

1854-1855:  Chippewa Indians cede land

1857:  Spirit Lake Massacre (Iowa)

1854: Large scale immigration begins when the railroad reaches the Mississippi River.

1858: (May 11,) Minnesota gains statehood.

1861–1865: The Civil War and Indian wars involve 22,000 men.

1862:  Sioux Indians led by Chief Little Crow killed about one thousand white settlers. The Sioux were subdued and forced to give up their lands and move into the Dakotas.

1862: Dakota Conflict (See the "Military Records" section of this outline for details.)

1863: (August 18,) Chief Little Crow led Sioux uprising in Minnesota Indians defeated by Henry Sibley at Wood Lake Sept. 23

1863:  Chippewa Indians cede land

1866:  Chippewa Indians cede land

1889: Indians ceded land

1870–1890: Rapid settlement as homesteaders— many immigrants from Germany, Sweden, and Norway—move into western and southwestern Minnesota.

1917–1918:  More than half a million men between age 18 and 45 register with the Selective Service; about 75,000 enter the service in World War I

1930s: Many Mexican Americans arrive.

1941–1945: More than 6,000 Minnesota soldiers lose their lives in World War II.

1970s: Arrival of refugees from southeast Asia

State Histories

Two sources for studying the history of Minnesota are:

  • Folwell, William Watts. A History of Minnesota. Four Volumes. Saint Paul, Minneota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1921–1930. (Family History Library book 977.6 H2f; film 1036196 items2–5.) This history focuses on firsts in the state: first white men, first commerce, and so on. Volume 4 has a cumulative index.
  • Blegen, Theodore C. Minnesota: A History of the State. 2d ed. [Minneapolis, Minnesota]: University of Minnesota Press, 1975. ( Family History Library book 977.6 H2bt.) This is a concise history with an extensive bibliography and index.

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of area families. The United States Research Outline (30972) "History" section cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories that include local histories of Minnesota. For statewide bibliographies of local histories, see:

  • Brook, Michael. Reference Guide to Minnesota History: A Subject Bibliography of Books, Pamphlets, and Articles in English. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1974. (Family History Library book 977.6 A3b.)
  • Brook, Michael. A Supplement to Reference Guide to Minnesota History: A Subject Bibliography, 1970–1980. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1983. (Family History Library book 977.6 A3b supp..) The original bibliography and this supplement are arranged by subjects. There is an index to authors and subjects but not to titles.

For other information, see the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under: