Friday, July 25, 2008

Minnehapolis - "City of the Falls"

Years ago I researched the meaning of the name Minneapolis at the Minnesota Historical Society. Now thanks to Google Books you can see for yourself... The name Minneapolis comes from a combination of "minnehaha" meaning waterfall and "polis" meaning city.

Source #1
An interview with Daniel L. Payne, who at that time was working on the St. Anthony Express, was published shortly before the death of Payne a few years ago. In this interview Payne said that during a meeting called a the office of Col. John H. Stevens, to see if a better name than Albion could be found, Colonel Stevens suggested that Minnehaha be compounded with the Greek word polis in some way. [George D.] Bowman suggested dropping "ha" from the combination, making the name Minnehapolis. Payne advised dropping the other "ha", leaving Minnepolis. The conference ended by taking "hah" from Minnehaha and attaching polis. Minneapolis was the result. The combination of polis with Minnehaha was no doubt first suggested by Charles Hoag and seconded by Colonel Stevens; but the exact way in which the combination was made was probably as stated by Payne. Bowman advocated the name so persistently that it was finally adopted.
Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Volume X. Part 1. (1905), p. 262

Source #2
The name of a place is so important that the manner in which our city was christened ought to be known to everyone. In the beginning, not to be outdone by St. Paul and St. Anthony, the citizens on the west side of the river called their settlement "All Saints," and so it was known to travelers. Possibly it seemed to some of the residents that there was too much saintliness. At any rate discontent arose over this name, and various artful schemers tried to better it. "Albion," "Lowell" and other names were suggested in vain. Finally Charles Hoag, one of the crowd at the St. Anthony jewelry store club, wrote the editor of the Express the following letter:
Minnehapolis, opposite St. Anthony, Nov. 5, 1852.

Mr Bowman: We are accustomed on this side of the river to regard your paper as a sort of exponent of public sentiment and as a proper medium of public expression. My purpose in writing this letter is to suggest a remedy for the anomalous condition we occupy of dwelling in the place selected by the constituted authorities of Hennepin County, as the county seat, which yet bears no name unless the miserable misnomer "All Saints" shall be considered so thrust upon us that the unanimous determination of the inhabitants cannot throw it off. It is a name that is applicable to no more than two persons in the vicinity of the falls and of doubtful application even to them.

The name I propose is Minnehapolis—derived from Minnehaha, "laughing water," with the Greek affix "polis," a city, meaning "laughing water city" or "city of the falls." You perceive that I spell it with an "h" which is silent in the pronunciation.

The name has been favorably received by many of the inhabitants to whom it has been proposed, and unless a better can be suggested, it is hoped that his attempt to christen our place will not prove as abortive as those heretofore named. I am aware other names have been proposed such as Lowell, Brooklyn, Addiesville, etc., but until some one is decided upon we intend to call ourselves—Minnehapolis

From that time forward all other names were forgotten and Minneapolis, dropping its silent letter in spelling, became famous for its beautiful name as for its useful products.
Ernest Dudley Parsons (1913) The Story of Minneapolis, pp. 52-53 [bold emphasis added] (photo p. 173)

Source #3
You remember that John Stevens, "The Father of Minneapolis," came in 1849, and in two years a settlement began to grow about his house, for which, of course, people wanted a name. Goodhue, the editor of the first St. Paul paper, said that everything in Minnesota was named after a saint, and so, as the names were almost all used up they ought to call this one "All Saints." Though no one liked it then, the name stuck for quite a while, as a nickname will. Afterward they tried calling it Lowell, then Albion, and finally Charles Hoag thought of Minnehapolis, spelled with an "h," which name at once pleased everybody and has been the name ever since. We often hear people say "what's in a name?", but perhaps there is a good deal, for the little town began to grow and grew so fast that before many years it had outstripped all the older ones. As the fur trade grew less and the lumber and wheat trades greater, and after the railroads came, it wasn't important to be the head of navigation, and very much more important to have the great water power, which was a cause, of course, for the mills.
Hester McLean Pollock (1917) Our Minnesota, pp. 157-158.

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