Video of the
History of St Croix Falls
Early History of St. Croix Falls
St Croix Falls was settled by people of European heritage beginning in 1838. Click below to read more….
St Croix Falls was settled by people of European heritage beginning in 1838. It has three sites on the State and National Registers of Historic Places: the 1882 Cushing Land Agency (Baker Building); the 1882 Thomas Thomas Thompson House; and the 1917 St Croix Falls Civic Auditorium.
It should be noted that Native people have inhabited the St Croix Valley for the past 700 years. In 1800, Indian tribes firmly controlled the middle of the continent, and white men feared to travel into these lands. Dakota and Ojibwe lived on the land now called Minnesota and Wisconsin before the European settlement, and they are still here.
In 1838 the United States Congress ratified the 1837 Land Cession Treaties with the Dakota and Ojibwe (Chippewa) Indians. This coincided with the collapse of the fur trade. This treaty opened the St Croix River Valley for permanent settlement and the harvesting of the rich, virgin pine forest. The St Croix River has been a trade route linking Lake Super to the Mississippi River.
The river that made this valley also brought the men who lived its history. It carried the canoes of the Native Americans who fished and wandered on its banks, and lured the white trappers and traders who noted in their journals and letters the beauty of this deep, swift-running river. Later it brought the Eastern money-men who bought up land and river rights for speculation; and it gave passage to the settlers who flocked here after the mid-nineteenth century to farm the rolling land.
The river was transportation, supply line, and communication in those days before the railroad and highway; a fluid trail that connected these towns with the outside world. The river also brought the lumbermen to the northern pines, and it floated countless millions of pine logs down to their voracious sawmills.
The river was blockaded by big log jams in 1865, 1877, 1883, and again in the infamous 1886 log jam. Iconic photographs of these log jams were taken by local photographer, S.C. Sargent (Sanford Church), who had a photography studio in Taylors Falls.
In 1878, the Taylors Falls Reporter lamented that “ruin and stagnation” were being forced upon the St Croix River by the loggers monopolizing the river thoroughfare. The sawmill at Marine, the last one to survive above the Stillwater boom, was forced out of business after the gigantic jam of 1883, when the narrow been at the Dalles held back millions of feet of logs for 57 days.
It was clear to the prosperous, enterprising lumbermen at Stillwater that their headlong race to strip the pine forests in the north would be hampered unless they built a dam to regulate the flow of logs and the level of water in the river. Their answer was Nevers Dam. The end of Nevers Dam came in the floods of May, 1954, when sections of the structure were washed away. Since it was unusable and a potential hazard on the river, it’s owner, Northern States Power Co., had it torn down by a wrecking crew in the fall of 1955. Huge bonfires on the shores consumed the wooden remnants.
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On October 27th, The St. Croix Falls Historical Society and the St. Croix Falls Public Library hosted a presentation of research by Haley Prochnow on the Silverbrook Mansion and its time as the St. Croix Valley Country Club. The 1895 mansion that used to stand within present-day Interstate Park, served as a country club for residents of St. Paul’s Rondo Community in the 1950s and 1960s. This program provides a detailed look at this time period, the owners Annabelle and James Rideaux, as well as, the property’s construction to its demolition in 1974.
Please check back later for future events.