Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Groups Fought For Control of County Land

A few days ago, I was listening to a program, a history of Sherburne County, when several of the battles between Native American groups were mentioned.  It occurred to me that more places in Sherburne County ought to be named after the many Native American battles that took place in the county. According to the lecture, and with a bit of research, I learned that because there are several rivers joining the Mississippi River in Sherburne County, the area became a valuable territory for trade among Native American groups.  And the Dakota and Ojibway groups continuously fought over control of this land.

According to Herb Murphy’s book Historical Sketches from Baldwin Township and the Surrounding Area, as early as 1750 at the Battle of Kathio, Dakota and Ojibway men fought over control of the territory around the confluence of the Rum River and the Mississippi.  Before the battle, the Ojibway had managed to bargain with white traders and acquired more rifles than their Dakota counterparts.  The Dakota, using only bow and arrow were easily defeated.  Eight years later, at the Battle of Mille Lacs Lake the Ojibway were able to convincingly defeat the Dakota.  After this battle the Ojibway controlled the Rum River Valley in the northeast section of Sherburne County.

In 1772 and again in 1773, just fourteen years after the Battle a Mille Lacs Lake, the two groups fought once again.  This time, the fight was over control of the confluence of the Elk River and the Mississippi.  Before the battles, some historians described the Mississippi River as being covered with canoes filled with Dakota warriors. 

Finally, in 1839, near Anoka and Round Lake, Dakota warriors staged an early morning attack against an Ojibway village.  Many of the Ojibway men had left the camp on a hunting expedition before the attack.  In a brief skirmish, over 70 Ojibway, mostly women and children, were killed.  There were also 17 Dakota killed in the attack.

As a highway for trade and travel, there is no doubt the Mississippi River is important.  It is no surprise that control of the area where so many rivers join the Mississippi is viciously contested.  It is no surprise the dominant Native American groups in the area would continuously battle over control.  With both the Rum River and the Elk River joining the Mississippi, it seems appropriate that Sherburne County is the site of so many battles for control of the upper Mississippi River.

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