Did you know that the University of Minnesota straddles TWO cities? University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is located in BOTH Saint Paul and Minneapolis. This is mentioned for a different reason.
Minneapolis and St. Paul. Together, they are known as the Twin Cities. However, they are not identical twins. Both cities are more like fraternal twins. Two cities that are next to each other, but formed differently.
Long before St. Paul (Minnesota’s capital) was founded, there was a military post built nearby, Fort Snelling. Founded in 1819, this fort was built on the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. It was built to establish dominance over the fur trade in the area. When whiskey distillers were banned from the area, one bootlegger, Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant, moved further down river to what is now St. Paul. However, what made St. Paul grow was not whiskey, but steamboats. St. Paul is located about 14 miles south of St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall along the Mississippi River. St. Paul was located at the northernmost navigable point for steamboat transportation. It’s also located around steep bluffs. Steamboat trade flourished because of its location. Steamboats could not go much further north along the Mississippi River. The area was became a major center for trade. St. Paul eventually became a railroad town. St. Paul was the gateway from which people embarked towards the rest of Minnesota. Commerce became a major part of the city’s economy.
The geographic feature that would determines St. Paul’s fate as the northernmost steamboat hub on the Mississippi would also determine where Minneapolis would be located. Like St. Paul, Minneapolis is located close to where Ft. Snelling was constructed. However, Minneapolis’ growth came from St. Anthony Falls. Being the only waterfall on the Mississippi River, St. Anthony was used for water power. Grain mills and saw mills would develop around St. Anthony Falls, thus spurring the growth of Minneapolis. With Minnesota being a major producer of grains and having large timber resources, it is fitting that Minneapolis became a major processor of those resources. This is why General Mills (the makers of many breakfast cereals) has its headquarters in Minneapolis. Actually, St. Anthony and Minneapolis merged in 1872 and became just Minneapolis.
Minneapolis became a milling hub, St. Paul became a transport/commerce hub. Trade, transportation, and industry, all shaped by geography, helped the Twin Cities grow. Ft. Snelling attracted settlers to what is now St. Paul and Minneapolis. St. Paul and Minneapolis share the Mississippi river (both are located across each other along the Mississippi). However, the Mississippi river has meant different things to both cities. For St. Paul, it was about transportation and trade. For Minneapolis, it was about using the river to power industry. Two fraternal twins. Both are next to each other and have played a major role for the state of Minnesota, but in different ways.
(Photo: St. Paul along the Mississippi River)
(Photo: St. Anthony Falls and Minneapolis)
Today, both cities are business hubs of the Upper Midwest. The way they developed came from different geographies though. A tale of fraternal twin cities. And geography has shaped this tale.