Minneapolis History: A Brief (but Thorough) Historical Timeline

Updated March 28, 2022
No Comments

As the largest city in Minnesota, Minneapolis has a population of roughly 440,000 people and welcomes thousands of visitors each year. With four major professional sports teams playing in Minneapolis, the world-renowned Guthrie Theater, and 180 stunning parks, it’s no surprise why Minneapolis is one of the most popular cities in the region.

However, Minneapolis didn’t sprout overnight. It took centuries for this beautiful city to grow into what it is today. Let’s dive in to some Minneapolis history and explore the timeline that brought us here today.

The Origin: Sioux and Ojibwe Peoples Inhabit the Region

Before settlers expanded west, Native American peoples occupied present-day Minnesota. The Dakota Sioux tribe had long occupied Minnesota when the Ojibwe (Chippewa) people began moving into the area. The ancestors of the Ojibwe people originally lived in the northeastern part of North America and along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Tribal warfare caused the Ojibwe to migrate westward.

This migration caused conflict between the Dakota Sioux and Ojibwe tribes. Ultimately, the Dakota migrated down to the prairies and river valleys in modern-day south and west Minnesota, while the Ojibwe people occupied the east-central area and northern forests.

Both tribes cultivated the land in their communities. Dakota women played an essential role and farmed, made clothes, made maple syrup, and processed animal hides. Men fished, hunted, and harvested crops to provide food for the community.

Bigos CTA graphic

Even though there was periodic conflict between the two tribes, they were far more often at peace. Dakota Sioux and Ojibwe people often hunted and created family units together until they were forced onto reservations by eventual European settlers.

To view the Native land in what is now the Midwest region of the US, check out this interactive map.

Early Settlement: 1680 – 1872

In 1680, Father Louis Hennepin, a Franciscan missionary, visited the area. He named the rushing waterfall in the Mississippi River “St. Anthony Falls.” St. Anthony Falls was a critical hydroelectric power source for grinding flour that got sent to the military fort, Fort Snelling, beginning in 1819. Fort Snelling is now a state park in modern-day St. Paul.

Eventually, settlers began occupying land on the west side of the Mississippi River in 1849. The village of St. Anthony developed on the eastern side of the waterfall.

The village of Minneapolis (the west side) was incorporated in 1856, and St. Anthony (the east side) became a city in 1860. The two cities combined as Minneapolis in 1872.

  • Fun Fact: The name “Minneapolis” was derived from the Sioux word “minne,” meaning “water,” and the Greek word “polis” for “city.”

Fort Snelling in Minneapolis history

The Industrial Age: 1867 – 1919

Minneapolis experienced early economic growth as a lumber and flour-milling center, thanks to water power from St. Anthony Falls. In 1867, a railroad was built that connected Minneapolis to Chicago. The railroad was essential for maximizing trade exports.

By 1870, Minneapolis was the top producer of flour in the entire country. There were about 34 flour mills in the city at the time. Other profitable industries included:

  • Paper mills
  • Cotton, wool, and wood-planing mills
  • Iron foundry
  • Railroad engineering

The last Minneapolis lumber mill closed in 1919, and flour milling continued on as the leading industry. Ultimately, much of the export flour trade shifted to Buffalo, New York, but Minneapolis still hosted the headquarters for the two largest milling companies: General Mills and Pillsbury.

General Mills Corporate Headquarters and Sign in Minneapolis history

A Growing City: 1920 – 1960

The population of Minneapolis grew exponentially, reaching its peak of 521,718 people in 1950. After 1950, the population declined slightly and stabilized by the end of the century. During the mid-20th century, the entire country experienced “suburbanization” after World War II, and Minneapolis was included.

Even though the population of Minneapolis stabilized, the surrounding metropolitan area experienced rapid growth. In fact, Richfield, a suburb just south of Minneapolis, grew by 363% from 1940 to 1950! Other fast-growing suburbs during this period were:

The Civil Rights Movement and the American Indian Movement were underway in the 1950s and 60s. Hubert Humphry was the mayor of Minneapolis at the time, (he went on to become Vice President to Lyndon B. Johnson) and he helped lead numerous civil rights and anti-discriminatory policies.

Minneapolis also experienced a period of “urban renewal” during the 1950s and 60s. Unfortunately, many historical buildings were demolished during this time in favor of more modern buildings. The outcry from local citizens eventually resulted in more careful attention paid to the city’s historical sites. Historical sites that were saved include:

The Gold Medal Flour Sign in minneapolis history

A Modern Metropolis: Present Day

Today, Minneapolis is still the most populated city in the state, and one of the bigger cities in the entire country. Industries such as health care, financial, publishing, graphic and performing arts, transportation, retail, and more all thrive in Minneapolis.

Downtown Minneapolis features a unique setup called The Skyway. The Skyway is a system of enclosed pedestrian walkways that connect between multiple buildings downtown. Residents and visitors alike love visiting the Stone Arch Bridge, Mill City Museum, and the Chain of Lakes. Not to mention, Minneapolis has a thriving food scene.

Professional sports teams play at US Bank Stadium (The Vikings), Target Field (The Twins), and Target Center (The Timberwolves). Could you tell by those names that Target is also headquartered in Minneapolis?

Overall, Minneapolis continues to rank high on numerous “Best Places to Live” lists. With beautiful nature spread throughout the city and a bustling, yet friendly energy, Minneapolis has grown into a wonderful city.

Minneapolis, Minnesota Skyline seen from above by Drone in Spring

Be a Part of History: Call Minneapolis Home

Whether you dream of living in the center of all the action or in a quiet neighborhood by one of the local lakes, there’s a place for you in Minneapolis. You’ll love taking in everything the city has to offer during all four seasons, as Minnesotans love getting out and taking advantage of our beautiful state.

Bigos Management is proud to offer high-quality apartments with reliable management throughout Minneapolis and the entire Twin Cities metro. Explore our available apartments and make Minneapolis your home today!

Check out our Properties     
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Skip to toolbar