Minnesota Fiddlers

      When Minnesota was made a territory in 1849 there were only two cities: Saint Paul, Stillwater (which were incorporated as cities on the same day in 1848) and one township: Saint Anthony (on the northern shore of the waterfalls that Father Hennepin had named)

      Native Americans outnumbered whites 5:1.

      Slavery was a major issue in American politics and both sides were seeking more states with which to bolster their votes in the house and senate. A slave by the name of Dredd Scott, who had been brought by his master to work at Fort Snelling, was now at the center of a court case in St Louis, Missouri.  Now that Minnesota was a territory, pressure was on to make it a state, and an anti-slavery state at that, but first land rights had to be negotiated from the local natives, specifically the southern prairie lands currently occupied by the Dakota Sioux. In 1851 the Treaties of Mendota, and Traverse Sioux, were concluded which dictated that the Dakota would be confined to a strip of land north and south of the Minnesota River [1]. 

      The Chiefs that signed the treaties accepted that their people would not be able to hunt and gather as they had for centuries, but instead they would have to learn to farm and herd cattle like the whites.  After these treaties, the prairies of Minnesota were open for settlement, and a flood of immigrants came. By 1857 there were over 1000 steam boat arrivals in St. Paul [2].



by Walter Sigtermans

Statehood

      It was also in 1857 that the railroad came to Minnesota (albeit only from Stillwater to St.Paul) but it helped in bringing yet more settlers to the Minnesota Territory where, it was said, there was good farmland to be found.  Cities were being established all along the rivers:

Winona - 1851
St. Peter – 1853
New Ulm – 1854 (German immigrants from Ulm)

Northfield - 1855
Faribault – 1855 (Named for the French trader Jean-Baptiste Faribault)

Rochester - 1855 (a stagecoach stop between Saint Paul, Minnesota, and Dubuque, Iowa.)
Hutchinson – 1855 (Founded by the Hutchinson Family Singers)
New Prague – 1856 (Bohemian immigrants from Prague)
Minneapolis - 1856

St Cloud - 1856
Oliver’s Grove – 1857 (later renamed to Hastings)
Red Wing – 1857

Shakopee - 1857 (Un-incorporated 1861, Re-incorporated again in 1870)
Mankato – May 11, 1858 (the same day that Minnesota became the 32 state in the Union).

      When Minnesota was granted statehood the whites outnumbered the Native Americans 5:1

      The St. Peter Courier June 26, 1857 published a song, called “Lily of the West.”   This tune, with alterations, was republished by the Minnesota Republican of Minneapolis and St Anthony on Feb 26, 1858 – and was then titled “Beauty of the West”.  It is an immigrant song that remained quite popular, in Minnesota as it was still being sung in 1936 [3].

Click
here to see the sheet music for “Beauty of the West”
Click
here to listen to an mp3 of “Beauty of the West”


      Most of the immigrants were Irish or German, as you might deduce from the names of the newly created towns.  The great flood of Scandinavians had not yet begun.  In honour of the German immigrants of the 1850’s we have this little ditty which was composed in 1830 and was probably being played in many German households:

Click
here to see the sheet music for “Buy a Broom”
Click
here to listen to an mp3 of “Buy a Broom”