John H. Stevens

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John H. Stevens - 1820 to 1900. In the days when most thought Minnesota would always be an untamed, wild wasteland, Stevens took charge and broke through that barrier. He moved to the almost unoccupied West Bank of the Mississippi in 1849-1850, and through his development of agriculture, his writing and speech-making, and his ability to inspire others he did the following:

1. Founded the City of Minneapolis by encouraging settlement, and leading the move to name the city and Hennepin county, plat outlines and streets, set up the court and judicial system, establish the first school system, establish the first agricultural society. All of these initial actions taking place in his home, formerly located near St. Anthony Falls. John H. Stevens House is now located in Minnehaha Falls Park, where it represents the first act of historic preservation in the State of Minnesota.

2. Established agriculture as a leading force in the state's economy by his agricultural experimentation on the West Bank, an area formerly believed to be too cold and too poor in soil to support agriculture. He displayed astonishing successes, such as a 17-foot stalk of corn, at an exposition in 1854, the start of the State Fair. Through his writing, he encouraged farmers to share their successes in agricultural experimentation, thereby learning which species did particularly well in Minnesota.

When he arrived in Minnesota, there were 157 small farms providing food for their owners and a few others in a state with a population of 5,354. Food was imported via the Mississippi River. By 1880, thanks largely to his continuing efforts, there were 92,000 farms in the State, and Minnesota was the wheat capital of the world, with a population of 781,000.
~Lynette Crane, Minneapolis, MN


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