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A Tale of Native Americans and the Mississippi River by Cleo Gib

A Tale of Native Americans and the Mississippi River by
Article Posted: 02/16/2016
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A Tale of Native Americans and the Mississippi River


As the third most populous county in the state of Minnesota, Dakota County lies just southeast of Minneapolis-St. Paul and within the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington Metropolitan Statistical Area defined by the U.S. Government Census Bureau. The major cities in the county are Hastings, the county seat and ironically located partly in neighboring Washington County, Lakeville, and Eagan, the largest city in Dakota County. Lakeville has the distinction of being one of the fastest growing cities in Minnesota and also where there are many Lakeville, MN, lots for sale. The county’s name is derived from the Dakota Sioux Indian tribes who settled in the area from northern Minnesota in 1750.

The establishment of the Minnesota Territory in 1849 set the stage for expansion of pioneer settlers into what was then known as the Northwest Territory, and was further encouraged once the U.S. Government purchased land from the Dakota people through the 1851 Treaties of Mendota and Traverse des Sioux. Being bordered by the Minnesota River on the north and west and Mississippi River on the north and east, the county's history was tied to the confluence of these two rivers, both of which were tactically important for the country’s expansion. In fact, the name of one of the county’s oldest cities, Mendota, comes from the Dakota language, meaning mouth or junction of one river with another.

Dakota County was founded in 1849 as one of the original nine counties created by the Minnesota Territory Legislature and, therefore, existed before Minnesota became a state in 1858. Predating European settlement in the area in the 1800s, Nicholas Perrot, a French fur trader, proclaimed possession of Native American lands for his country in 1869, including those of the Dakotas, without the consent of any of these tribes. Eventually, the lands that he claimed west of the Mississippi River, including the current state of Minnesota, were annexed from France through the Louisiana Purchase in 1805.

The Dakota County seat was first established in the settlement of Kaposia in 1853, which today is within the limits of the city of South St. Paul. By 1854, the county seat was moved to Mendota, which was directly across the river from Fort Snelling, and was the first European settlement in Minnesota. In 1857, the county seat was moved again to Hastings, where it currently exists. With the systematic removal of the Native American tribes from their homelands, larger numbers of settlers began to arrive in the region around the mid-1850s. This action dramatically increased the territory’s population, and subsequently resulted in statehood for Minnesota in 1858, nine years after Dakota County was formed.

Hastings would become the hub for transportation, communication, and commerce in the county throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century. Being located on the Mississippi River and confluence of the St. Croix and Vermillion Rivers, the city had ample water power, which led to the growth of the lumber and milling industries. Around the same time, another Dakota County city began to thrive. The town of South St. Paul, just a few miles to the north, had become the largest stockyards in the world, at least until Chicago took over that title. Like Chicago, South St. Paul benefitted from its location on a major waterway, thus encouraging ranchers to bring their cattle for shipping to downstream ports.

By the mid-20th century, population growth began to shift toward the western part of the county, due to population pressures pushing south from Minneapolis and Bloomington, and driven by the completion of Interstate Highways to the area.  Expansion into the cities of Burnsville, Apple Valley, Eagan, and Lakeville brought over 200,000 people into Dakota County by the end of the 20th century. Today, this area is the most populous in the county and has become a suburban enclave to the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. With towns such as Lakeville seeing explosive growth, it’s no wonder that there are considerable Lakeville, MN, lots for sale and that people are continuing to flock to this area. 

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