HISTORY OF EDEN PRAIRIE
A brief history overview of Eden Prairie compiled by our Founding President, Helen Holden Anderson
Eden Prairie is situated on the Minnesota River, which forms its entire southern boundary. The City is 36 square miles. The face of the country is mainly rolling and hilly. This is the character of the northern and middle portions. The name, however, arose from the southern portion, which consists of a prairie.
The town was named in 1853 by Mrs. Elizabeth F. Ellet who gave it the name Eden, in expressing her admiration of this beautiful prairie. It has many lakes and some marshes. The lakes are characterized by the usual gravelly shores and high banks that render the lakes of the county so beautiful. It is watered by several small streams. Mill Creek, the largest, rises in Minnetonka, flows across the town from north to south, through Staring Lake, and empties into the Minnesota River. The whole township is fertile and well-adapted to grain. At one time it produced more wheat than any other town in Hennepin County. In the northern, or brush-land portion of the town, the soil is dark loam with clay subsoil. The prairie has deeper and richer soil. Heavy timber is found in the extreme northwest and southwest and lighter on the hilly land. Eden Prairie is a farming town and contains no village (at that time).
Elizabeth F. Ellet
The town was first settled in 1852, by John McKenzie, David Livingston, Alexander Gould, Hiram Abbott, Samuel Mitchell Sr., and sons, R. Neill, Aaron Gould, and others.
Mr. Abbott made the first claim on the northern part of the prairie, immediately after the treaty, with the purchase of land, was made with the Dahkotas, in 1851.
Mr. McKenzie’s claim was in the southern part of the town near the river, on sections 34 and 35. In company with Alexander Wilkin, the secretary of the territory, and others, he platted a village and called it Hennepin. This was on the Minnesota River, at his claim.
A hotel, store, and a few residences were built. It was at one time the chief shipping point for grain, which was taken in the small steamers that plied up and down the Minnesota River. Like many a projected city of the West, it failed to flourish and was abandoned.
On the 27th of May, 1858, only a few days subsequent to the organization of the town, a fearful Indian battle was fought, which was witnessed by several of the settlers. It took place between the old enemies, the Sioux and Chippewas, near Murphy’s ferry in the southern part of town. The Chippewas wished to avenge a murder, committed the fall previous near Crow Wing by the Sioux. In furtherance of their plan, the Chippewas formed an ambush among the hills on the north side of the ferry. The Sioux were encamped on the south side. The Chippewas numbered about two hundred warriors, the Sioux only sixty or seventy. The Chippewas therefore counted on the easy victory. The contest began at early dawn by a detachment of Chippewas firing upon a fishing party of Sioux, who had unsuspectingly crossed to the north side. This roused the Sioux camp and they took possession of the ferry so promptly, as to cross and come on the Chippewas at the banks of Big Creek and get into cover in their near vicinity before they could be repelled. The Chippewa’s finding their ambush a failure, made several attempts to dislodge their foes by strong detachments, but without success. The Sioux, though inferior in numbers, fought with characteristic vigor and desperation, and about 10 o’clock in the morning completely routed the Chippewas. The number killed is not known but by noonday, a young Chief of the Chippewas fell and his body was horribly mutilated by Wau-ma-nung, Chief of the Sioux. Phillip Collins, who was an eye witness, states that the Sioux Chief cut the heart from his fallen foe and drank its blood, then after taking the scalp, cut off the head and carried it on a pole to the Sioux camp near Shakopee. Then the victory was celebrated by the scalp dance, lasting several days, characterized by their usual barbaritie. The body of the young Chief was burned.
Previous to the State organization, Hiram Abbott was appointed Justice of the Peace, and William Collins, Constable, in 1854, under the territorial government. These were the only officers previous to the town organization.
The township was organized in 1858, and the first town meeting held on the eleventh of May, in the old school house. The following officers were elected: Supervisors - Aaron Gould, Chairman; Robert Anderson and William O. Collins. Clerk, William H. Rouse. Colllector, A.K. Miller. Assessor, William J. Jarrett. Overseer of Poor, John Keely. Justices, William O. Collins and James Gamble. Constables, A.K. Miller and Arch Anderson. The total expense for the first year was $55.04.
The Town Officers for 1880 were: Supervisors, William Hurlbut, Chairman; William Andrews and Aaron S. Neill. Clerk, William O. Collins. Assessor, George N. Gibbs. Treasurer, Sheldon Smith.
The first school house was built in 1854. It was built of tamarac logs and finished with basswood lumber. In size it was 18 x 24 feet. This was the second school house built in Hennepin County. Miss Sarah Clark taught during the summer of 1854 , which was the opening term of the school. This old house, which long served as school house, church, and town hall, was torn down in 1873, and in its stead was built the present structure. It is a neat frame building, 20 x 30 feet, on the east line of section 20, district number 56. The town sustains schools in four entire districts and forms part of two joint districts with Minnetonka, all furnished with substantial school houses.
The earliest report of religious instruction is of the preaching of Rev. Gideon H. Pond, in the spring of 1854, at the house of Hiram Abbott. Meetings were afterward held at the house of J. Staring, and later, in the old log house. The Rev. Edward Eggleston preached in the school house several times during the early part of his ministry. Three churches are now sustained in the town. The Methodist Episcopal, United Presbyterian, and Episcopal. The first effort toward the establishment of a Methodist society was forming of a class by Rev. J.E. Bell. He was soon succeeded by Rev. Mr. Stephenson. For several years the society was small, but gained numerical strength with the development of the town. In 1871 a church was built in section 21, near the site of the old school house. The society now numbers about sixty members and has a flourishing Sunday School. The United Presbyterian Church was organized in 1858 by Rev. Alex McHatton, a missionary, who remained about two years. Several changes occurred during the next few years. Rev. A.B. Cloeman was stationed here in 1868. He was the first stated pastor and remained until 1871, when he was succeeded by Rev. J. L Whitley, who remained three years. Rev. James Rogers was stationed here in 1874 and remained until 1878, when he was succeeded by Rev. S.T. Herron.
Episcopal, St. John’s Church. The first organization of this society was in 1864. It was, however, re-organized in 1873, in consequence of the failure of recored the first organization. The church is a very neat wooden structure, 22 x 34 feet. It was originally built in Chanhassen, Carver County, about the year of 1860, and in 1868 was moved to its present location on section 27. The first pastor was Rev. John Fitch.
A grist mill, on section 26, on Mill Creek, is the only establishment of the kind in the town. It was built by Dr. Nathan Stanton in 1861, and began to run in 1862. Isacc Crow bought the mill the next year, and operated it until his death which occurred in 1872. James Till bought it from the heirs, and sold it in 1878 to J. Balme. It has two runs of stone, and has used water power wholly until three years. Low water has since compelled the partial use of steam.
Stores, Hotels, etc.
The first store in town was built by Howe & Dunn, at the proposed village of Hennepin in 1854. In the same year a building was erected near the mill, for the double purpose of store and hotel, by Mr. Dudley. The property soon passed into the hands of A.I. Apgar. He kept open the hotel but closed the store, and it continued this way until it was destroyed in 1867. A small store was also opened in the fall of 1880 at the station, by Jacob Rankins. A post office was established in 1854, with J. Staring as the first postmaster. Mr. Staring held the office for fourteen years. He son, M.S. Staring, carried the mail to and from Bloomington. This was six miles distant, and the nearest point on the stage line. He made weekly trips for eighteen months, and received for his services for the entire time, twelve dollars.
The Minneapolis & St. Louis railroad enters the town on the north, near the northwest corner of section 3, and passes out at the southwest, through section 30. The depot is situated near the middle of town, on section 17. A second post office is located near the depot, called Washburn. The track of this road was laid and the station built in November, 1871. The first agent was R.O. Reed, who continued until June 16, 1872. Another railroad, the Hastings & Dakota Cut Off, passes through the northwestern part of town built in 1880.