First Settlers to Shingle Creek

August 20, 2021

John Ware Dow and his wife Susan came from Maine, where he had been a circuit preacher for the Methodist Church. He resigned his duties there and came to St. Anthony in 1850. John went up the river from the ferry crossing above the St. Anthony Falls and took a claim in what is still known as Camden Place. At the age of 53, He and his wife, Susan, settled on their land claim March 26, 1852 and built their log house. Their log house was erected about where 44th and Humboldt Ave North is today.

John Campbell Bohanon and his wife, Lucretia, left Calais, Maine, by train and then by river to St. Anthony in 1851. John staked his claim on what is now 7th and Nicollet. He went logging for the winter, and when he returned, someone had jumped his claim. Young men who worked in logging camps earned $15 a month and their keep. They would be away for months at a time. Having lost his claim on March 27, 1852, John Bohanon slug his axe over his shoulder, walked north along the river to what is now known as Camden and staked a 160 acre claim. The soil was rich and heavily wooded. They had to clear an area to build their pioneer home, which was located at what is now 43rd and DuPont. In 1853, the taxes for 160 acres were $3.67. John Bohanon complained about taxes being so high as, “after all, Minnesota wasn’t even a state yet and what were you getting for your tax money.”

The stream that flowed across the property of John C. Bohanon was called Bohanon Creek. Rufus Farnham also came from the state of Main to St. Anthony in 1849. He arrived at Camden Place in 1853 and built a shingle mill in the creek where it emptied into the Mississippi River. By the fall of 1853, more families had claimed land in this area and said they lived “near the Shingle Mill Creek”.

The first flour mill near the mouth of Shingle Creek was established by David Morgan. The mill was two stories high and 30 by 40 feet. It was a 100 barrel a day capacity. There were two runs of stones. A damn was built at the mouth of the creek. The flour mill burned down August 16, 1890. It was not the flour mill, however, that made this area one of the leading wards of the city, it was sawmills. When sawmills were abandoned down below the falls and replaced by flour mills, sawmills moved north along the river. They furnished employment for thousands of men and turned out millions of feet of lumber. By 1908 there were only five sawmills left as far north as 42nd Ave, and by 1`916, Northern Pine Saw Mill at 32nd Ave North was the only one remaining.

It was not until 1860, after a little settlement had been made on the banks of Shingle Creek, that the settlers of the district decided to organize and elect township officers. The township was organized with the name Crystal Lake Township, and at the first township election, just 55 votes were cast.

In January 1863, the first school in the area was established. It was Hennepin County School District No. 2, the first in the county outside the then small village of Minneapolis. The schoolhouse was a claim shanty reached by a plank from the other side of the creek, and located where 44th and Dupont Avenues are today. Seventeen year old Mary Smith was the first school teacher of twelve pupils. Indians in the vicinity often looked in the door and window of this small schoolhouse, which complicated Miss Smith’s role as a teacher.

A large one-room schoolhouse replaced the old claim shanty in 1867. It was erected where the tennis courts now stand at Webber Park. Known as “The Red Schoolhouse” of Hennepin County, it became part of the Minneapolis School System when Shingle Creek became part of Minneapolis in 1887. It was sold for $60 and torn down I 1889. The first portion of Hamilton grade school was erected in 1889. It was located at 44th and Girard North with eight rooms, and was the third school in the vicinity of Shingle Creek.


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