Five fast facts about Coldwater’s storied past

By Kate Havelin

Permission granted for MRF use in 2014.
Copyright 2014 Linda L. Brown.

See history come alive at Coldwater Spring on Saturday, September 13, 9 AM to noon. Costumed re-enactors from La Compagnie HSP will be at the park to show what life was like in the 1830s.

5. More than 100 people lived at Camp Coldwater in the 1830s. Coldwater is considered Minnesota’s first American settlement. An 1837 census showed three blacksmith shops, stables, and a stone building that served as trading post, hotel, and school. 

4. “Brats, dolts and dunderheads” -– that’s what teacher Peter Garrioch called his students at Coldwater’s Baker school. The school didn’t last long.

3. A Multicultural village -- People came to Coldwater to trade, work, or get protection from soldiers at nearby Fort Snelling. Coldwater residents raised cattle and chopped wood for the fort, worked as blacksmiths or translators, or traded animal pelts they’d hunted and skinned. European fur traders married Dakota and Ojibwe women and soon, Coldwater was home to families of mixed European, Native American and African descent. One family, for example, was Swedish, Ojibwe, and African.

2. The end of an era -- By 1840, the army burned down Camp Coldwater homes to force residents to move east across the river. Coldwater residents went on to settle in what would become St. Paul, Minneapolis, and St. Anthony. 

1. Coldwater’s latest chapter –-Come see living history and the latest blooms in Coldwater’s prairie woodland. Kids can do a simple craft and earn their Junior Ranger badges and everyone can try scavenger hunts and explore a park that blends history and nature. Our Second Saturday Trading Post is free and open to all. No reservations; just show up, ready to play in the park. The Mississippi River Fund and National Park Service host Second Saturdays, which run through Oct 11. For details, visit