Pierre Bottineau, surveyor, land developer, translator and explorer, played a vital role in the early settlement of Sherburne County and Elk River.
|Pierre Bottineau circa 1855|
Born to a French Canadian father and half-Dakota, half- Ojibway mother, Pierre Bottineau was native to the frontier Minnesota. As he traveled and explored the territory, he helped develop a number of towns. In about 1849, he arrived in the area of Elk River and commissioned the construction of a hotel along the banks of the Mississippi River. The buildings remained in Elk River longer than Bottineau.
Pierre Bottineau originally built a cabin near the mill races on Orono Lake. The second Bottineau structure, built in 1849, housed the carpenter Bottineau hired to build his hotel. In quick order, the hotel, christened the Riverside, opened for service. The carpenter’s cabin served as a small saloon for hotel guests and the increasing population of Elk River. By 1852, the Nickerson family paid $1500 for the property and Pierre Bottineau left the town seeking other adventures. For another forty years, Bottineau continued to work and explore Minnesota and the eastern lands of the Dakotas. He died in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota in 1895.
|1894 Sanborn Map noting Bottineau |
cabin in yellow highlights
The Bottineau carpenter’s cabin remained in place for several decades after Pierre left Elk River. Early maps of Elk River clearly document the location of the cabin. A bird’s eye view of Elk River, published in 1879 shows the cabin sitting next to what was then known as the Elk River House. A Sanborn Map of the community, published in 1894, also notes the location of the cabin. Shortly after the publication of the Sanborn map, the Sherburne County Star News reported the cabin demolition of the cabin so that the hotel could be expanded. “Modern improvements necessitated its removal.”
Although a brief stay in Elk River, and with a limited role in the overall settlement of the community, Pierre Bottineau played a significant role in creating the community of Elk River.