Read CHAPTER X - WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO SEE AND EXPECT of Minnesota Its Character and Climate, free online book, by Ledyard Bill, on

It is essential for the invalid, before undertaking a journey to Minnesota, to know the best points, both as regards matters of accommodation and of location. For there is, even in this State, considerable choice for patients; while for tourists, any point offering attractions is the place for them. We shall briefly consider the whole subject, but first with regard to the former class.

The city of St. Paul, an account of which has been previously given, is the most natural place to make the first stop; and it is a bright, cheerful, busy city in which to while away the time. Its location is healthful, as well as beautiful, and invalids may remain there with perhaps as great advantage as at any point in the State, especially in the winter season.


situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, opposite the Falls of St. Anthony, and less than an hour’s ride by rail from St. Paul, with a direct line to Milwaukee, enjoys, at present, the widest celebrity among invalids as a place of resort. This town is on a nearly level plain adjoining the Mississippi River at the Falls of St. Anthony, and possesses a population of thirteen thousand. It is perhaps, par excellence, the most wide-awake and flourishing city in the State; and, while not over a dozen years of age, exhibits, in the elegance and cost of its private dwellings, its spacious stores, its first-class and well-kept hotel, the Nicollet House, its huge factories and thundering machinery driven by that more than Titanic power of the great and wondrous Falls, evidence of a solid prosperity.

Scores of invalids may be found in this town at the hotels and various private boarding-houses, of which there are quite a number.

Many visiting the State for health, leave without that improvement they should have obtained, owing to irregular habits and indulgences, which are directly traceable to their associations, rather than to any objectionable habits they may possess. The temptation, when time hangs heavy on their hands, to join in billiards, euchre, and tea-parties, keeping the mind unduly excited and leading to late hours, is fatal to every benefit derived from the climate. If friends can accompany the invalid, giving society and controlling their life and habits, they thereby insure against these liabilities to a very great extent.

There is much in the vicinity of Minneapolis to interest the visitor. Days may be spent in examining the Falls of St. Anthony, which roar and surge along the rapids, impressing one with an appalling sense of their mighty power.

The suspension bridge, connecting the city with that of St. Anthony on the east bank of the river, is an interesting object. It was erected several years since at an expense of over half a hundred thousand dollars, and is the only bridge of its class on the whole river.

Take the towns of St. Paul and Minneapolis, together with the intervening country, and perhaps no portion of the Union east of the Rocky Mountains, presents so many objects of interest as does this particular region. St. Paul is itself a noble town, and the prospect from its highest elevations quite entertaining; while at the latter city the Falls of St. Anthony are “a sight to behold,” and make up what the town lacks in striking scenery.

The country between the two cities is as pleasing in general outline as any to be found. Of course, it lacks that romantic element so characteristic of New England, yet its general character is more rolling than that of most of the prairie country found in the West.

A drive from either city is “the thing” for the visitor to do. From Minneapolis one of the most charming drives in the world, for its length, can be had. Passing over the suspension bridge to the east side of the river, and down by it to the Silver Cascade and Bridal-veil Falls, which charm from their exquisite beauty, then on to the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers at Fort Snelling, and across by the rope-ferry under the tall battlements of the frowning fort, whose edge is on a line with the towering, perpendicular bluff two hundred feet above your head, round by the road and up to the plain above, and into the inclosure of this old-time fortification, where, leaving your carriage, you proceed to the round tower, or look out of the fort, and on the very pinnacle of both cliff and battlement you may gaze out and over a spectacle more grand and beautiful than anything we know short of the White Hills. Away to the right stretches the valley of the Minnesota River, while before you the “Father of Waters” receives into his embraces the waters of the Minnesota, then, sweeping to the left, rolls slowly and majestically from view behind the companion bluffs of the eastern shore.

Here, from this crowning tower has floated for more than half a century the “star-spangled banner” of our country, giving to the early settler an assurance of protection; proclaiming equality and freedom to all peoples who come hither in search of new homes, and to each and all a sense of increased dignity and importance as they stand underneath its ample folds.

A short distance across the open prairie and up the river toward Minneapolis on the return is the famed


Longfellow’s exquisite picture in words of these falls seems so perfect and complete that we cannot forbear to quote it. He says:

“Sweet Minne-ha-ha like a child at play,
Comes gaily dancing o’er her pebbly way,
’Till reaching with surprise the rocky ledge,
With gleeful laugh bounds from its crested edge.”

And what can we say of them that shall be new or of fresh interest either to those who have read of, or what is better, have seen them? After viewing and listening to their laughing-leap we easily understand the fitness of the name they bear the “Laughing Waters.”

The first sight of the falls is captivating, and there seems little of praise which you could wish to withhold. They are the very antipodes of those of Niagara instead of volume and power inspiring awe, they win your love and enhance your views of the beautiful and good.

The waters

“Flash and gleam among the oak trees,
Laugh and leap into the valley,”

and move gaily and gleefully among the maples, oaks, and vines which line and wreathe its banks; rivalling in song the wild birds that linger in the cool shadows of the embowering trees.

Minnehaha Creek has its rise in Lake Minnetonka, a dozen miles or more distant, where it is quite a diminutive little brook; from thence runs to and through Lakes Calhoun and Harriet, meandering along the surface of the country, till it makes its graceful leap at the falls to the chasm, some forty feet below, then empties into the Mississippi about half-a-mile distant to the eastward. The width of the stream and falls does net much exceed twenty feet.

We lingered long, and reluctantly turned our feet away from this enchanting scene where both real and imaginary heroes and heroines have dwelt, and in the bright waters of which their picturesque encampments have been often mirrored.

St. Anthony opposite Minneapolis is one of the oldest towns in the State, and was, in ante bellum times, quite a fashionable resort for the Southerners. The war ended that, while the latter city gave to it its final coup de grace, and soon after the business set to the west bank of the river.

Its chief object of interest is the State University, which has but just entered upon its career of usefulness.

Tourists will enjoy a few days in and around Minneapolis. It is the centre of a number of attractive objects of natural curiosity. A drive to Lake Calhoun and a day’s sport in fishing is both practicable and pleasant.

We cannot regard the City of St. Anthony as equalling Minneapolis as a place of residence in point of health. Even in the latter city it is important that a home be had as remote from the neighborhood of the Falls as is convenient. Its adaptability to the needs of the invalid consists more in the walks and drives, the ample boarding-house and hotel accommodations, good markets, and cheerful, pleasant society, than in the particular location of the town itself or in the character of the soil on which it is built.

Beyond, and on the line of the St. Paul and Pacific Branch Railroad now owned and operated by the Northern Pacific Railroad the towns of Anoka and St. Cloud, both on the banks of the “great river,” are either more desirable for invalids than most other points in the State within our knowledge, so far as location is concerned. They are high and dry above the river, and possess a soil in and around them of a loose sandy character, for the most part every way favorable to good drainage and dryness. The towns themselves are quite small, yet accommodations might be found for a large number in the aggregate. The hotels offer no special temptation to guests beyond those of the ordinary private family in the way of home comforts and conveniences. The people are kind, intelligent, and obliging to strangers; as, indeed, they are elsewhere in the State. Yet there is always a more hearty and cordial salutation among the inhabitants of towns who are anxious to secure good reputations and thereby enlarge their borders.

There is some hunting and fishing near both of these places, as, indeed, there is at most all points in the interior.

Near St. Cloud are Pleasant, Grand, Briggs, and Rice’s Lakes, where fishing and rowing may be had, while the country eastward of the town affords fair hunting.

It is quite an advantage to any place, from an invalid standpoint, that the surrounding country affords them abundant means whereby the mind may be occupied and kept from crooning over the memories of loved ones far away, or brooding upon their own misfortunes.

On the St. Paul and Pacific Main Line also controlled and owned by the Northern Pacific Road are a number of attractive and healthful places, where ample accommodations may be had for the invalid, and where those who come to construct new homes will find cheap lands and good society.

The chief points are, after passing Minneapolis, Lake Minnetonka, Dassel, Smith Lake, Litchfield, and Wilmar. At the latter place there is a very pretty lake close to the village, with numerous others within a circuit of ten miles, and all are well stocked with fish; and in the spring and fall wild-fowl ducks, geese, swans, and all our migrating birds, frequent them in great numbers. Moose are occasionally seen a few miles west of the town, between it and the Chippewa River in considerable droves. There is a very nice hotel at this point, kept by an obliging host.

At Litchfield, good society and a somewhat larger village is encountered, but with less of sporting and outdoor amusements. Near this place resides the invalid son of Senator Howard of Michigan. He came to the State a confirmed consumptive, having hemorrhages and in that state of “general debility” incident to this disease, but is now in good health, the result of the climate and out-of-door exercise in which he has freely indulged, having taken a farm and rolled up his sleeves, determined to save himself as he has.

It cannot be expected that a brief sojourn in this State will work any marvellous cure. Herein lies one of the principal difficulties. A patient comes to Minnesota, and, having heard much of its power to restore the enfeebled, expects to become strong and well within a few days. They should disabuse their minds of this error before they start from home. The process of restoration with the consumptive is slow, as a rule, though some recover, it is true, very rapidly, yet with the most a year is as little time as can reasonably be expected for climate and exercise to complete a cure. It is better, if the climate is found to agree, to make the State a permanent home. A return to the old climate and occupation in which the disease originated is only to court its reappearance.

Lake Minnetonka, the place first above mentioned, is, however, the point for both pleasure-seekers and invalids who are well enough to “rough it.” An hour’s ride from St. Paul brings you to this, the most lovely of all the lakes in the State, to our thinking. It is really a series of lakes, all bounded by irregular shores; while, in places, occur deep bays and inlets, giving picturesqueness and beauty beyond all ordinary fancyings.

Near the railway station are two hotels (the furthest being the best), where good fare, and at reasonable rates, can be had, with row-boats thrown in, ad libitum. This lake is one of the pleasure resorts for the people of both St. Paul and Minneapolis. Excursion tickets are sold for every train running thither, and many go up simply to enjoy a day’s fishing and sailing.

There is a little steamer running from near the railway station, which is close to the edge of the lake, to the village of Excelsior, six miles distant, near which lives one of the best guides to the fishing grounds of the lake. But a guide is not at all essential to the amateur, or those in simple quest of fun, pleasure, or health, since the fish here are so plentiful that all will have luck, whether they have experience or not.

Near “Round Island,” and off “Spirit Knob,” in this lake, are favorite haunts of the fish, yet the “big ones” are not plentiful now at these points, though their resorts are well known to most of the old fishermen.

To tell of the size and abundance of the fish here will, perhaps, court disbelief; yet we state “what we know,” when we say that a single fisherman starting, with the “guide” before referred to, at eight o’clock in the morning, came to the wharf at noon after rowing a distance of six miles to make port with a catch of about one hundred weight of fish, chiefly pickerel, one of which weighed twelve pounds, and measured near three feet in length. Another and less successful party of two, instead of catching a “big one,” came near being caught by him. It was a funny incident altogether. They were from “down east,” where pickerel don’t weigh over a pound or so, on the average, unless fed on shot after being hauled in, all out of pure regard for the hungry and worried creatures, of course. Well, this party, all enthusiastic and eager, cast the line, when, lo! a monster pickerel gobbled the bait and away he went, carrying the floats under and the fisherman over and into the watery deep, with his heel and head just above water level only. The fish, including the “odd one,” were subsequently pulled in by the man in the boat who is accustomed to “takes.”

Boarding can be had, at the hotels and private houses in the vicinity of the lake, at from seven to ten dollars per week. For the summer season, country life should by all means be the rule. In the inclement portions of the year the towns are most desirable; St. Paul and Minneapolis taking the lead as places of resort, and they are, at these seasons, the most desirable.

In the vicinity of St. Paul there are a number of lakes. The nearest, Lake Como, is a pretty sheet of water, and affords one of the fashionable drives out of the city. It is intended, we believe, in the near future, by the authorities of St. Paul, to incorporate it, with several hundred acres, into a grand park and pleasure-grounds. It should be done.

White Bear Lake, a dozen miles out on the Lake Superior and M. Railroad, is a favorite place with all classes. Its shores are thickly wooded and the fishing rivals that of Minnetonka. There are a score of boats anchored on the shore of this lake awaiting visitors; and the two hotels provide for the needful rest and comfort of guests. This point is second in interest only to that of Minnetonka Lake for both invalids and pleasure-seekers during the summer and fall months.

Up the Minnesota valley, while it is the most attractive in scenery and most fertile in crops, is not quite as desirable for the invalid as the places already named. Though Shakopee, Le Sueur, St. Peter’s, and Madelia are not very objectionable in a sanitary point of view.

Still the valley is sloping, and its villages and towns are, for the most part, situated on the low lands, and cannot have as dry or desirable an atmosphere for patients as some other places. Yet the exceptions noted above are, perhaps, above the average in health so far as location is concerned. If, however, any invalid has relatives or friends living in the State and can find a home among them, then, even if the location was not as good as other points, this would be counterbalanced by other advantages such as come from being among them.

The principle town of this valley is Mankato. This is destined to outstrip many of those places which at present outrank it. It must become the most important railroad centre in the State outside of the capital. Situate in the very heart of the most fertile district, and possessing a population both industrious and enterprising, its future is bright and promising to a high degree. Its location is unfavorable for invalids, and should, as a rule, be avoided by them. Fogs occur here, and the place is low, and soil too rich, and of a generally too wet character to insure the highest health to delicate and enfeebled visitors.

The Falls of Minneopa are near here and are worth a visit from the tourist. Some esteem them as excelling in attractiveness any and all others in the State.

The prairies beyond Mankato, along the St. Paul and Sioux City Railway, afford the best “chicken” shooting that we know of, and much of the hunting for this game is done along the line of this road.

The southeastern section of the State, in which are situated Rochester, Owatonna, and Austin, and other budding cities, is, at present, with the valley of the Minnesota, the great wheat-growing region. But it is not alone in the cultivation of serials that the farmers may become “fore-handed.” The climate is favorable to nearly all of the products of the middle and northern portions of the Union, with some kinds of fruit excepted. Indeed, we found growing in the garden of Horace Thompson, in St. Paul, the southern cotton-plant, which (while the seed had not been planted by ten days as early as it might have been in the spring) was in bloom in August, and by September it had begun to boll, and another fortnight would have easily matured portions of the same. This illustrates in a general way the length and power of the growing season in this State. The climate, so far as crops are concerned, is perhaps a counterpart of New England.

Here, in this southeast section, are the handsome homes and well-filled barns of an industrious and thrifty people. The traveller through this beautiful portion of the State can scarce keep from breaking one of the ten commandments as he witnesses a people so well to do and so happy in the possession of their productive acres.

Here, all immigrants may, by following out to the terminus of the penetrating railways, find cheap and good lands awaiting them, and where just as beautiful homes may be made as in that portion nearer the river now teeming with life and industries but which, a few brief years since, was as desolate and untenanted as are the unbroken prairies to the westward. The prices vary, according to location and character, from five to fifteen dollars per acre, though a majority of the wild lands can be had at from six to eight dollars. The “St. Paul and Sioux City Road” have thousands of acres along their line which they are ready and anxious to dispose of to settlers. The value of these lands is usually doubled the moment they are broken and occupied even with but inferior buildings only so that shelter is obtained. For “new comers,” wishing new lands, this road and that of the “St. Paul and Pacific Main Line Railway,” at Wilmar, and on to the fertile valley of the Red River, afford, in our judgment, the best lands. This latter road, now that it is under the control of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, is destined to play an important part in the settlement and development of that vast region so rich in agricultural wealth lying along the Red, Saskatchawan, and Assiniboine Rivers. It must indeed prove the link which some day, in the near future, will bind the new province of Manitoba and the adjacent country to the northwest of it.

It is, indeed, the intention of the Northern Pacific Road to construct from the point of junction of the St. Paul and Duluth arms, on the Red River, a branch road, northward to Pembina, and it cannot be long ere it will be continued to Hudson’s Bay.

The trade and travel between British America and the States, overland from the present terminal points of the arms from St. Paul of the N.P.R., is quite considerable, giving constant employment, during the summer and fall, to about one thousand ox-teams. Goods from all parts of Europe and the States are obliged for the most part to take this route. The distance overland is about four hundred and fifty miles. It is a singular and picturesque sight to witness one of these trains, whether coming in or departing. They sometimes number a hundred teams, though oftener much less. They are all single ox-teams, the vehicles being two-wheeled. A convenient sort of harness is used on the oxen, not unlike, in style, that on our truck horses. One driver a half-breed usually manages a half-dozen teams by tying the heads of the five to the rear of each cart and then leading the sixth or foremost team by means of a raw-hide rope attached to the animal’s head. One thousand pounds constitutes a load for a strong ox. Thus stoves, flour, implements of agriculture, bales of goods, and even boxes of choice wines from France, marked “For the Bishop of Prince Rupert’s Land, via St. Paul, U.S.A.” Either the body of the church or that of the bishop must be large, judging from the quantity of these wet goods which we saw moving to the frontier.

There is a freshness in Western life that charms one, especially at the first. New scenes, new faces, new customs, new methods of speech, combine to give a delight to this experience of novelty. There is a mental exhilaration that tones the mind to a high pitch of enthusiasm and rich enjoyment, just as there is a marvellous quality in the air to brace the system and strengthen the nervous centres. Who that has gone through this double process of acclimation, as one might call it, does not retain a good impression of their experience in memory, and likewise in physique?

The dialect of the West differs from that of the East in many of the non-essentials, yet, perhaps, enough of variance is observed to make it noticeable and altogether piquant to the wide-awake Yankee, who, in turn, balances the Western “reckoning” by his unique “kalkilations.” But neither are as absurd as the Cockney, who gets off his ridiculous nonsense, as, for example, the following: “Ho Lord, help us to take hold of the horns of the haltar,” etc.

The observant mind can, by keeping eyes and ears open, extract much of information and amusement when travelling anywhere especially through the West where vigorous thought and action are at all times encountered.