(From “St. Paul Location-Development-Opportunities” by F. C. Miller, Ph. D., Webb Book Publishing Co., St. Paul, Minnesota, 1928)
A welcome waited for the pioneer
To make his home and empire here
Minnesota in its turn, especially after the more eastern states had been settled, offered unusual inducements to those who where willing to venture. Here was a great land of lakes and "laughing water," of forests, of fertile prairie, and fur and game, but occupied, as other states had been, by Indians. By foot and horse and stream men came to explore, to barter, and then to abide and build homes, form a government, and launch a new ship of state.
Routes of approach for the most part followed the Mississippi. Here was the head of navigation, and here centered travel. Men of prominence came as explorers. Men in the employment of prominent business companies established trade relations. These extended on into Canada. The Indians were for the most part friendly and co-operated in such business relations as were maintained.
For the reason, therefore, that here lay an inviting territory that could be most easily reached by the Mississippi and because the site of St. Paul was the terminus of navigation, this city became at once the port or gateway to immigration and business.
In 1850 the population was 1,294. During the navigable season of 1854 as many as five or six hundred passengers are said to have arrived in one day. In May, 1857, twenty-four steamboats were lying at the levee, all crowded with passengers and baggage. In 1850 there were 838 boat arrivals, 216 of which were steamers running on the Minnesota River.
At that time St. Paul had the advantage of being practically situated on these two rivers. This advantage lessened as river transportation waned and railroads made their entrance. Yet in the time of railroad development St. Paul has retained its strategic position. These roads found natural and easy approach from all directions.
There was rapid development. In 1860 the population had reached 10,275. As the numbers increased new industries were established, and it was soon evident that St. Paul would be a large city. In 1870 the imputation had doubled, and in 1880 it had doubled again. In 1900 the population was four times as great as in 1880, and to-day it is estimated to be 87% greater than in 1900.
After viewing this territory Jonathan Carver wrote in 1766 that "mighty kingdoms will emerge from the wilderness and stately palaces and solemn temples with gilded spires reaching to the skies will supplant the crude Indian huts." Some of our buildings approach the realization of the vision. Here, too, now flows from and to the great region that surrounds us a vast stream of the products of the field, the forest, and the mine on the one hand, and of manufactures and commodities on the other. The city and its
hinterland have each contributed to this mutual development.
St. Paul has been called the agricultural capital of the Northwest, but it is a great center of commercial and industrial achievement also.
The number of St. Paul industries increased rapidly. Some of those that became of major importance deserve to be noticed.
The fur-manufacturing industry was a natural one in a new country abounding in many kinds of fur-bearing animals.
General Sibley at Mendota represented the Astor Fur Company and was favorably disposed toward St. Paul. The man, however, who did most to make it a fur center was Henry M. Rice, the factor of a St. Louis fur company. He became an owner of the original site of the city and devoted his whole energy to making the town prosperous. He built facilities for storing furs and did his utmost to bring trade. Rollette and Fischer were also instrumental in bringing fur traffic to St. Paul by providing warehouses and establishing a Red River cart route. As early as 1849 St. Paul had become the terminus of all the Red River fur trade. This industry has continued to grow and to maintain a prominent position among the city's industries.
It is not so easy to account for the presence of the boot and shoe industry. It is perhaps due to the farsightedness of a few St. Paul men who were experts in this business and who saw its great possibilities. The industry prospered and was promoted by several firms of national reputation. Its importance and extent became an asset to the city and contributed substantially to its development.
It was natural that a city so situated should become a wholesale distributing center. In the early years goods brought by river were distributed from St. Paul. As the city grew, merchandise stocks, as might be expected, were carried in the larger center. Here, too, the vision and enterprise of pioneer wholesalers can not be overestimated.
It must not be overlooked that St. Paul was the capital of the state. Here were held the sessions of the state legislature and political and other kinds of conventions. Here, too, the state business was conducted. A state capital, by the very fact that it is a capital, enjoys a trade advantage that other cities do not have.
It is impossible to enumerate the many industries and causes that have contributed to the upbuilding of the city. Not only on account of its geographic location but also on account of the vision and wisdom and energy of its pioneers St. Paul became a city of size and importance. It has been developed and beautified by those who have molded it in the later years.
Here, then, has arisen a city "beautiful for situation” and rich in its tradition, prosperous, and progressive.
Senator William H. Seward, the future Secretary of State of the martyred President, in an address in St. Paul in 1850, said that he could foresee that when the great agricultural regions of the Northwest would begin to pour forth the abundance of their munificent supplies, St. Paul would be the natural center of a vast territory that would minister to the whole world. And so it has come to pass.
Many kinds of business have been attracted to St. Paul. Naturally, as the country about the city developed, the city developed also. The lands have, for the most part, been fertile. Limitless fields of grain have been grown. The dairy industry, also, has developed till Minnesota produces vastly more butter than any other state. Live stock has been raised in great numbers. The shipment of these products has been to this city or through it. In addition to its own market, it has been like a pass in the mountains to other markets.
It is not strange, therefore, that in this vicinity should be located two of the largest packinghouses in the world. It is clear, too, that in so central and natural a distributing point the Ford company would find a great economic advantage in assembling and shipping its products from this city.
As the Mississippi River is improved and traffic renewed, St. Paul will feel again the impetus of that advantage which Nature so generously provided in the days of its founding and which she still offers.
In this chapter we have tried to explain the advantage of the situation of St. Paul and the reasons for the location and development of some of its major industries. In another chapter we shall describe the business of the city at greater length.
Could St. Paul have been more wisely located in this region?
What arc the advantages of its location?
What natural supplier have been tributary to St. Paul?
Make a list of the manufacturing industries which you know.
Try to visit some of these and write about what you see.
Is it easy to secure skilled labor in St. Paul? Why?
What advantages does the capital of a state have?