and the map of Minnesota
It was said that the legendary frontiersman
Pierre Bottineau traveled every foot of Minnesota and the Northwest.
Accordingly, his life and legacy fall into their clearest perspective
through the locations he crossed on his journey into history. Selected
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Bottineau, age 38
spoke every language in the region from French, English, Sioux,
Chippewa, Cree, Mandan, and Winnibago. Experienced in all
the particulars of frontier and savage life, he was equally
proficient as a hunter, trapper, boatman, guide, and businessman.
He could build a house, fashion a boat or plow a field with
equal facility. Fully six feet tall and straight as a grenadier
with clean piercing black eyes, he was of attractive appearance,
despite swarthy complexion due to his Indian blood. He was
naturally of manly instincts and gentlemanly deportment, polite,
agreeable and of a kindly disposition, always true to his
word and his fellowman." source
Pierre Bottineau was born in 1817
in a hunting camp on the buffalo trail near Grand Forks. Despite
being technically within the United States, the Red River Valley
was part of a British trading colony that encompassed present-day
northern Minnesota, eastern North Dakota and southern Manitoba,
Canada. Pierre's father, Charles Bottineau, was a French-Canadian
Protestant who worked as a voyageur, a ranger in the employ
of the fur companies. His mother, Margaret Ahdik Songab (Clear-Sky),
was a half-Sioux Ojibwe of the Lake of the Woods band.
Pierre's birthright was
that of total outsider, making his lifelong civic accomplishments
are all the more striking. The Métis (MEH-tee, French
for "mixed", referring to their inter-racial origins),
who formed their own subculture in the Northwest, were often regarded
with antipathy by both sides of their bloodline. Whites associated
them with Indians, and Indians with whites. While both sides relied
on the Métis to cohere trading interests, they also tended
to keep them at the fringes of society.
The Métis ranged
the sparsely-populated prairies and forests of the Northwest, subsiding
through hunting, trapping and trade. They also ran the ox-cart caravans
vital in transporting people and goods between the fur-rich borderlands
to the north and the commercial towns below St. Anthony Falls that
were connected to the eastern states via the Mississippi River.
The Métis were famously hearty and independent. Some Métis, including Pierre
Bottineau, determinedly became Americans. Others resisted the domesticated
values of settlement. A Métis movement for nationhood would eventually
run afoul of federal forces, and the Métis holdouts, like the Indian
nations, were displaced, hunted and coerced into assimilation by
the American and Canadian governments in the latter half of the
Reared into an itinerant
hunting and trapping life in the Red River Valley, Pierre and his
brothers were trained to survive the harshest, most remote conditions.
To be a voyageur was to be everything and nothing at the
same time. The profession was akin to the teamster, except that
the voyageur often had no team to carry his burden and no road to
follow between the far-flung outposts of the fur companies. Voyageurs escorted emigrants into the interior of the fur country and carried
game, crops, pelts, trade goods, supplies and news – everything
that needed to be transported – sometimes by canoe, sometimes
by ox cart or sled, sometimes on horseback and often on their own
backs. They trapped and hunted and traded with Indian bands, reckoning
their way through uninterrupted wilderness, in all seasons, at the
bidding of company agents who wielded nearly absolute authority.
The voyageurs lived unsettled lives on the margins of civilization.
Over two centuries between the establishment of the European fur
trade in North America and the settlement of the Northwest Territory,
a handful among them gained prominence either as hunters, trappers,
traders or bandits. But most were wage laborers enjoying neither
wealth nor influence. Voyageurs, and especially the proud but pedigree-less
Métis among them, had freedom over their persons and mastery of
the elements as their chief rewards in life.
And life in their situation tended to be harsh and abbreviated.
Pierre Bottineau’s father died of the occupational hazard
of exposure at age 48. He would have been considered an old man
in that time and place. Pierre was taken in by Alard LeCompte, another
storied voyageur of the Red River Valley. Pierre, 15 at the time,
began to accompany LeCompte in delivering messages and escorting
migrants to American trading centers along the Upper Mississippi,
ranging as far as Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. back
traders with ox carts, 1860
Pierre Bottineau's youth
was spent in the Red River trading colony, also called the Selkirk
Colony after the British lord who established it in Winnipeg on
behalf of the Hudson Bay Company in 1812. The British military had
wrested control of the fur-rich Upper Mississippi Valley from the
United States that year. Though much of the territory was returned
to the Americans in the 1815 Treaty of Ghent, British and Canadian
traders retained practical control through their unchallenged presence.
Yet it was not war among
nations that most affected the fortunes of the colony, but war between
the Hudson Bay Company and its rival trading operation, the North
West Companies. When Lord Selkirk established his trading colony
deep in what they considered their turf, agents of the North West
Companies began a campaign of harassment against the Hudson Bay
Company employees that erupted in violence in 1816.
That year Pierre's father,
Charles, along with several Métis from his wife's tribal
band, was ordered by his employers at the North West Companies to
take part in a bloody attack on a Hudson Bay Company village. He
refused and was later arrested. The trading companies effectively
controlled the Canadian government, and the conflict between them
led predictably to judicial stalemate. Charles Bottineau, along
with many other hunters, voyageurs and would-be militants
on both sides, was released during a series of show trials. Such
highly-expert employees were scarce, and no good end was seen in
having them stuck in jail.
The Northwest frontier, with its abundant
resources and harsh winters, was a proving ground for trading networks,
governance and development. Settlements often failed because they
could not provide food and security, nor cohere the interests of
local Indians and the various European pioneers who populated them.
The "Pemmican War" of 1816 so sapped the finances of the
two trading giants in Canada that they were forced to merge in 1821,
and the Selkirk colony never achieved the prosperity in agriculture
that was planned to encourage greater development for Canada. Soon
the Americans, aided by the success of Fort Snelling in Minnesota,
began to assert their control of the Upper Mississippi and Red River
Valleys. Voyageurs like the young Pierre Bottineau found
increasing work in guiding emigrants from southern Canada into America.
In 1837, Pierre and members of his family, along with many remaining
Selkirkers, came in from the prairie to settle in the Fort Snelling
military reservation. back to map
Fort Snelling, Minnesota
Snelling was built as America's gateway to the Northwest
fur trade. By denying non-citizens commercial access to
vital waterways, the fort supported American competition
with the Selkirk trading colony in Winnipeg, which had operated
unchecked in U.S. territory.
The Louisiana Purchase
of 1803 and subsequent expedition of Louis and Clark unleashed America's
westward expansion. In 1805, the U.S. military sent Lieutenant Zebulon
Montgomery Pike up the Mississippi River to bring to heel the British
and Canadian traders that continued to operate in U.S. territory.
While Pike had some success in negotiating treaties to acquire strategic
land from the Dakota Sioux (most significantly the future site of
Fort Snelling), his efforts to establish American control of the
Upper Mississippi had less success. Overcome by the harsh Minnesota
winter for which his expedition was unprepared, Pike and his men
survived only by sheltering with British traders.
American ventures into the territory halted for a time when it fell
into British hands during the 1812 War. It took the German immigrant
Jacob Astor and his American Fur Company to revive the U.S. effort
to re-enforce sovereignty. In a challenge to the British-owned Hudson
Bay Company and the Canadian North West Companies, both of which
continued to trap and trade south of the Canadian border, Astor
sent American traders into Minnesota in 1819, backed by an Army
detachment led by Col. Josiah Snelling.
When it was established in 1819, Fort Snelling (as it was later
named) constituted the northernmost U.S. outpost on the Mississippi
River, a foothold deep in the frontier. Col. Snelling built an impressive
diamond-shaped stockade of stone and heavy timber. He cleared hundreds
of acres of land for planting, built roads to link local points
of interest, and set up a grist mill upstream of the fortress at
St. Anthony Falls. Advantageously located on a high bluff with
a commanding view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota
Rivers, the fort quickly became a burgeoning center in the Indian
trade and a way-stop for exploration. British trade operations quickly
folded in the area.
H. Sibley, 1862
boss was the man who seems to be in the middle of every critical
event of Minnesota's formative years, Henry Hastings Sibley.
They remained friends and associates. Pierre, like Henry,
is one of Minnesota's ubiquitous influences. The two of them
are always in the crowd somewhere, making things happen. Pierre's
Métis heritage kept him a little further back in the
crowd than some, however." source
Pierre Bottineau first
visited Fort Snelling in 1834, aged 17 but already a veteran voyageur
of the territory. There he saw conditions he had never encountered.
First was the impressive planning of the American effort there and
the prosperity it provided. Built of stone, the American fort was
not the ragged outpost typical of garrisons guarding the territory's trade operations. The U.S. Army was determinedly making room for development
– clearing land, planting crops, building roads, improving
river landing sites and beginning a robust millworks upriver at
St. Anthony falls.
The thoughtful planning, solid construction
and ultimate success of Fort Snelling signaled the fortunes of the
Twin Cities community that would grow up around it. Compared to
the Red River Valley, where Bottineau was raised amid bitter conflicts
between hegemonic trading companies, the development in and around
Fort Snelling must have indicated clearly that the Americans, by
building a strong federal presence to protect and regulate trade,
offered better prospects for success.
Second was the pronounced difference in the American traders' regard
for the Métis. Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company,
looking to establish itself quickly in the Northwest wilderness, permitted
non-whites to advance within the operation. Like the French before
them, the British traders in Canada treated the Métis disdainfully,
with few exceptions relegating them to the grunt-work while promoting
Europeans to management positions. Bottineau moved his family, along
with many other families from the troubled Selkirk trading colony
in Winnipeg, to Fort Snelling in 1837.
Bottineau’s abilities quickly brought him in contact with
Henry Sibley, then the ambitious head of the American Fur Company
operation at Mendota, which was thriving under the protection of
nearby Fort Snelling. Choosing the young Bottineau to guide missions
of logistical and economic importance, Sibley opened doors that
led to opportunities for Bottineau as a government and railroad
contractor and, through Sibley’s social network, as a land
speculator. With the aid of Bottineau, who spoke nearly every Indian
language in the territory and knew his way around the wilderness
like few others, Sibley was able to deliver treaties, commercial
deals and development plans that propelled Minnesota to statehood
and himself to the office of governor.
The U.S. Army removed the collection of whites and Métis
who had squatted on the Fort Snelling reservation in 1839 after
tensions with local Indians mounted. Most, including Bottineau and
his family, drifted to a good portage just downriver. This rough
encampment, known mainly as the local source of moonshine whiskey,
would become the city of St. Paul. back to
St. Paul, Minnesota
view of St. Paul in 1851 includes Baptist Hill, site of Pierre
Bottineau's former claim, now Lowertown.
Returning in 1840 from a
season of buffalo hunting in the Red River valley, Pierre Bottineau
found his fellow squatters evicted from the Fort Snelling reservation.
He joined them downriver at St. Paul, holding down a quarter-section
of land in the scrappy young town. His claim would eventually become
the heart of Lowertown. He acquired more land, cleared it, and tried
his hand at farming when not engaged in expeditions for the American
Fur Company and the officers of Fort Snelling. Raising crops was
not all he found well within his capabilities; he also started the
prodigious enterprise of fathering 24 (some accounts say 28) children.
This husbandry must have changed the outlook of the voyageur,
implanting in him both the need for a secure base and the desire
to rise above the rough-and-tumble outpost mentality. At the time
St. Paul was a wild town, a large mud field full of rowdy soldiers
from the nearby fort and whatever spilled off the steamboats looking
for a good time after weeks on the river. Bottineau also remained
drawn by opportunity beyond the settled landscape. He had attracted
educated and industrious friends in St. Paul, and along with them
he started purchasing land above the St. Anthony Falls, site of
Fort Snelling's grist mill.
Bottineau quit St. Paul after six years. Some accounts say that
after consolidating his claims at St. Anthony and moving his family,
he sold his 100 prime acres of downtown St. Paul for $300. One account
says he traded the land for a dog and a cow. back
St. Anthony, Minnesota
Anthony Falls, 1842 (top). By 1852 (bottom), the town of St.
Anthony had overlain the rustic scenery.
In 1842, Pierre Bottineau
began an operation running Mackinaw transport boats upriver from
St. Anthony Falls, the site of Fort Snelling's millworks. There,
atop the falls, which provided immense power for local industry
and marked the northernmost navigable point for Mississippi River
steamboats, he made two purchases of riverbank land, apparently
paying less than $200 for both. By 1846 he consolidated these claims
into a 320-acre tract. Then the canny frontiersman, who had never
seen a city, had his land platted to enlarge the growing village
of St. Anthony. “Bottineau’s Addition” would become
the Bottineau neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis, home to many
generations of immigrants.
Now in his early 30s, Bottineau had become a leading citizen. When
the Minnesota Territory was organized in 1849, he was appointed
Supervisor of Roads for Ramsey County, which at that time included
St. Anthony. His home was the popular gathering place for other
local leaders, well-heeled travelers, incoming settlers and Métis
ox-cart drivers alike.
In the mid-1850’s, the Upper Mississippi opened to settlement.
St. Anthony Falls powered a lumber industry that would soon become
the world’s largest. It was said that Bottineau both made
a fortune selling parcels of his St. Anthony land and was cheated
of thousands of dollars by unscrupulous purchasers. It was also
said that he lost his claim to Nicollet Island in a hand of poker.
Contemporary records and accounts describe Bottineau more as a man
of means than wealth, suggesting both a mercurial nature and an
inbred lack of fanciness. No matter the size his St. Anthony "take,"
Bottineau's entrepreneurship there established him as a central
figure in the territory’s settlement and put him on the path
to becoming a career town builder. back to
Elk River, Minnesota
In 1849, Pierre Bottineau took over
the trading post at Elk River, at the time a day’s ride from
his home in St. Anthony. Like Fort Snelling, the Elk River trading
post was situated on a bluff at the intersection of two rivers.
The area was a source of hardwood and, like St. Anthony, water power.
Bottineau also opened an inn there in 1850 and held these investments
long enough to participate in founding the nearby town of Orono.
Bottineau’s talent for knowing where to situate development
in the northwestern frontier would make him an indispensable guide
for the trading companies, the U.S. military and, later, the railroad
builders. Hunter, farmer, trader, government contractor, proprietor
and land speculator, Bottineau’s enterprise would have kept
most men tied down. But Bottineau never tired of the ranging life.
He continued to spend much of his time trekking across the Minnesota
Territory and the Northwest, guiding expeditions through the Dakotas,
Idaho and Montana. By the 1850s he had become a celebrity adventure
guide, leading wealthy tourists into the wilderness on hunting trips
from his base in the boomtown of St. Anthony. These trips led to
massive investment, building both the lore and the business networks
of the Minnesota territory. back to map
frame house near Osseo
was a veritable mansion (top, City
of Osseo) compared
with the crude homes typical of early settlement (bottom,
treaty delegation, 1858
In 1851, with the signing
of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, the Dakota Indian lands west
of the Mississippi River opened to white settlement. Even before
the treaty’s signing, Bottineau ran a trading post and an
inn at Elk River, a way-stop on an Indian migratory path.
In 1852, commuting in
the company of friends between the trading post and his home above
the St. Anthony falls, Pierre Bottineau happened upon a beautiful
clearing at the edge of a forest in what is now the Osseo and Maple
Grove border. The small group, all influential land-holders in St.
Paul and St. Anthony, agreed to make claims of this land. In 1854
Bottineau erected the area’s first frame house, instantly
establishing him as a leading citizen amid the scattered log cabins
and sod huts in the area. Once cleared by settlers, the surrounding
lands proved excellent farming for vegetables, flowers and potatoes.
in the northwest approach to the towns of St. Anthony and St. Paul
(at the time these two towns, with populations approaching 1,000
each, could have been called the Twin Cities, with Minneapolis as
yet a minor neighbor) led to rapid settlement that would, in the
next few years, expand along the trade paths to the game-rich lands
of the Red River Valley. His abilities to speak several Indian languages
and throw a good party served him well as a rustic diplomat in Minnesota,
especially in the Northwest Corridor, where traveling bands of Indians
and white settlers often found themselves in disagreements over
grazing rights and access to the land. For his frequent intervention
in disputes between Indians and settlers, he came to be called "the
walking peace pipe." An interpreter and witness to several
Indian treaties in Minnesota, he once accompanied local Ojibwe to
Washington, D.C., as a translator during a treaty negotiation.
Until the incorporation
of Osseo and Maple Grove, maps bore the name "Bottineau's Prairie"
when describing the tracts that make up their common boundary. The
old Indian path and trading route that connected the area to Minneapolis,
and which was eventually developed into County Road 81, was long
called the Bottineau Road.
As exploration and settlement
proceeded west from the foothold of the Twin Cities area, Bottineau
was sought out by fur traders, the army, the railroad builders and
generations of western settlers because of his exceptional talent
for traversing the often harsh and forbidding wilderness. When the
ox-cart trails were buried in snow and the rivers froze, when sweeping
brush fires and clouds of black flies altered the geography, when
bands of aggrieved Indians sought revenge on the trade routes and
open plains, Bottineau knew the way through. His eye for locating
development along providential corridors cannot be over-estimated
in the calculus of the state’s rapid settlement. back
and Wahpeton, North Dakota
In 1849, when Pierre Bottineau took
over the trading post in Elk River, an estimated 4,000 non-Indians
lived in Minnesota. Then followed the fastest 10-year population
growth rate experienced by any state in the history of the country.
By 1860, the population neared 175,000 – a 4,500-percent increase.
Even when Bottineau moved into his
prairie home in Osseo in 1854, things were still relatively quiet.
Most pioneers pushing into the former Sioux lands west of the Mississippi
River were Upper Mississippi locals, whites and Métis from
the ramshackle trading post days.
with covered wagon, c. 1880
But by the spring of 1855,
Congress had ratified the major treaties that ceded Sioux land in
Minnesota to the United States. Now a flood of new faces began to
arrive from the eastern states, Midwest and Europe, each looking
for a share of the nation's "manifest destiny." The steamboat
berths in St. Paul saw outrageous traffic. The hotels filled, and
hoards of emigrants slept their first Minnesota night in the city's
muddy streets. The initial offering of settlement land was confined
to a million acres located in the southeastern corner of the Minnesota
Territory, largely speculated by advance men who waited to turn
over parcels at great markups. Not to be deterred by boundaries,
the pioneers of the day swarmed over the prized farming land beyond.
the end of 1857, an estimated 700 towns were platted in the Minnesota
Territory, capable of receiving 1.5 million people (Minnesota's
population hit that figure about 1895, the year of Bottineau's death).
year 1857, however, held some tough surprises for the prime movers
of western settlement, both locally and nationally. On January 1,
Pierre and his brother Charles Bottineau left St. Anthony as guides
for an expedition to site a town at the junction of the Bois des
Sioux and Otter Tail Rivers, headwaters of the Red River of the
North, which flows into Winnipeg through the Bottineaus' early stomping
grounds. The backers of the 10-member expedition envisioned a second
Chicago rising there, controlling a modernized era of trade with
St. Cloud the expedition encountered the worst Minnesota blizzard
in memory. Snow buried the ox-cart trails and made progress painfully
slow, even for the famed voyageur. Navigation was virtually
impossible except by instinct. Miraculously, none of the party died
on the 200-mile journey. But the oxen bearing the supplies had to
be put down or killed for meat along the way. The men slowly ran
through their provisions and were saved from starvation by the chance
sighting of buffalo and Pierre's ability to fell two of them in
blinding snow. They arrived at the intended site after 27 days of
frozen hell. The exhausted party set up camp and endured the rest
of the winter, only to be flooded out by a rapid spring melt.
of the Northern Pacific Railroad, 1869. Pierre Bottineau is
seated, far right, cradling a rifle.
The men persisted,
platting the townsite that would become Breckenridge, Minnesota,
and another townsite across the Red River that would become Wahpeton,
North Dakota. By the time they had finished this work, news of the
Panic of 1857, then the nation's worst-ever financial crisis, had
made its way west. "Townsite fever" was at an end in Minnesota.
Nonetheless, the rapid spread of settlers through the territory
had its intended effect. Minnesota attained statehood the next year,
1858, with Breckenridge on its western border and Wahpeton consigned
to the newly-created Dakota territory.
In 1862, seven tribes
of Sioux Indians, starving and tired of waiting in vain for remuneration
for the millions of acres of land they had bartered away, attacked
several villages across western Minnesota, killing 500 settlers
and U.S. soldiers. Pierre Bottineau happened to be at Fort Abercrombie,
near Breckenridge, when the Indians laid siege. The wily frontiersman
snuck out of the fort under cover of night, crossing the Leaf Hills
to Sauk Center and alerting troops who mounted the decisive counter-attack
against the Sioux. The uprising demoralized the settlement movement
for a time. Thousands of settlers reportedly fled Minnesota, their
worst fears about the dangers of the frontier confirmed.
But that same year, Congress
passed the Homestead Act, granting 160 free acres to anyone who
could erect a permanent dwelling and farm the land for five years.
Those who could raise $200 could purchase their 160 acres after
living on the land for six months. The act proved a great relief
valve for social pressures amid the Civil War and economic stagnation
lingering from the 1857 crash. It drew 75,000 new emigrants to Minnesota
within three years. This meant new life for the railroads and more
than a decade of employment for Pierre Bottineau as guide for expeditions
to negotiate Indian treaties, plan new rail lines, establish new
forts, and otherwise show the way west.
In 1869, Bottineau was the celebrity
guide for a 70-member expedition headlined by railroad magnates,
government leaders and journalists. The ostensible purpose was to
plot the route of the Northern Pacific Railroad from Duluth westward,
though a good bit of public relations was accomplished as well.
Escorted by a squad of federal soldiers, the expedition traveled
from St. Cloud to the Missouri River near Bismarck, North Dakota,
and back. Outbound, the group passed though Breckenridge, which
it agreed would make a great whistle stop.
Train at Breckenridge, 1873.
The party exchanged rifle
fire with Sioux warriors one dark night on the prairie, but the
over-riding message of the blue-ribbon expedition was clear: the
northern prairies were safe for settlement. The pitch was heard
back east. The allure of unbounded opportunity overcame the many
physical and economic risks of life on the frontier. People continued
to come and townsites continued to boom, served by new railroads
and networks of forts.
In 1871, the St. Paul
and Pacific Railroad reached Breckenridge, providing the first rail
link between the Twin Cities and the Red River Valley.
so, the fortunes of the Breckenridge-Wahpeton area (current combined
population 16,000) somehow failed to overtake those of Chicago (metro
population 9.5 million). back to map
Red Lake Falls, Minnesota
Bottineau in his later years
Pierre Bottineau spent
his youth hunting and trapping in the Red River Valley of northwestern
Minnesota under the tutelage of his French-Canadian father, a voyageur
in the employ of the Canadian trading companies that operated freely
in the area before the Americans were able to assert their control.
His father had been embroiled in the Pemmican War of 1816, a series
of skirmishes between two of the largest trading companies in Canada.
The internecine conflict had diminished Canadian influence in the
area, while American control of trade routes grew with the success
of Fort Snelling. By the 1860's, the Red River Valley was being
settled in a way that was beyond the dreams of the founders of the
Selkirk trading colony in Winnipeg, who had tried, with little effect,
to introduce agriculture to the region. The place had simply been
too remote, and the mix of white and Indian interests too volatile,
during the period of Canadian control of the trade routes in the
American fur country.
Thanks in no small part
to the services of Pierre Bottineau, the veteran expeditionary guide,
and interpreter, rail was mitigating the distance between farm and
market. It was also diminishing the role of the ox cart caravans
that had moved people and goods through the corridor for a hundred
years. In 1863, Bottineau helped negotiate the sale of 11 million
acres of key Red River Valley land by the Pembina and Red Lake Ojibwe
to the United States. This accession meant U.S. control of the prime
Red River crossing into Canada and the West. In 1869, Bottineau
guided a much-ballyhooed expedition to explore routes through the
area for the Northern Pacific Railroad. By the 1870s, Bottineau
no doubt saw that his native frontier was closing, and he was motivated
to claim its fertile heart before it could be over-run by opportunists
from distant parts.
In May, 1876, Bottineau led 119 families
from St. Paul into the Red River Valley. Like Bottineau, most of
these families were of French-Canadian descent, early settlers of
Ramsey and Hennepin Counties. The wagon train wound its way up the
Northwest Corridor from the Twin Cities, passed through St. Cloud
and then the dozens of outlying settlements strung out along the
ox-cart trails. At Crookston the Bottineau party turned north and
east, arriving 17 days after its departure at the cradle of the
Red Lake and Clearwater Rivers. Bottineau's Ojibwe ancestors had
occupied the area 200 years before. A French trading post had started
operating nearby in 1798. Yet the wave of American homesteading
had ignored this place, which contained some of the most fertile
soil in the world.
shop in Red LakeFalls, c. 1900
There the Bottineau party
set up the towns of Red Lake Falls and Gentilly. At first times
were tough. Tales were told of living all winter on a barrel of
flour and jack rabbits. But the area soon flourished. In 1878, Bottineau
traveled into Canada and recruited yet more settlers.
It was in Red Lake Falls,
within 50 miles of his birthplace at Grand Forks, that the famous
ranger Pierre Bottineau more or less retired, though he was said
to have been as strong and active at 65 as he was at 30. In 1879,
influential Minnesotans secured him a Congressional pension of $50
per month in recognition for his long service. He sat on the village
council of Red Lake Falls from 1882-1887 and was elected its president
in 1885. He remained active in regional affairs and was involved
in another land treaty with the Pembina Ojibwe in 1889.
Bottineau died in 1895, aged 78, vigorous
to the last. It was said he took ill while on a moose hunt near
Thief River Falls. He was eulogized across the state as the last
of the breed of hearty frontiersman that put Minnesota on the map.
A memorial to Bottineau stands in the cemetery at Red Lake Falls.
back to map
historic buildings (foreground) were combined with a new addition
to create the Pierre Bottineau branch library in Minneapolis
St. Anthony, the seminal
Minnesota town that Pierre Bottineau helped found in the wilderness
of the Fort Snelling military reservation in the mid-1840's, was
absorbed by Minneapolis in 1872. Bottineau's original land holdings
became the Bottineau neighborhood, home to several generations of
immigrants as the modern city developed. The frontiersman's legacy
is well remembered in Minneapolis, where a school, park and branch
library also bear his name. back to map
Maple Grove, Minnesota
Pierre Bottineau's pioneering
claim in the lands northwest of Minneapolis was an important step
in the growth of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. "Bottineau's
Prairie" was located on the border of what is now the Cities
of Maple Grove and Osseo. Maple Grove celebrates this connection
annually with its Pierre Bottineau Parade, a fixture of the Maple
Grove Days summer festival. back to map
Pierre Bottineau memorial,
Bottineau, North Dakota
Bottineau, North Dakota
A city and county along
North Dakota's border with Canada were named Bottineau to honor
the frontiersman's contributions, largely at the behest of the railroad
companies that so benefited from his services. The town hall features
a memorial statue of Bottineau, replete with a fur hat, backwoodsman's
hide coat, and a rifle. back to map