St. Croix Riverway
Time and the River: A History of the Saint Croix
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"The New Land": Settlement and the Development of Agriculture in the St. Croix Valley

The Upper Middle West of the United States has been blessed with an amazing waterway system. From the Great Lakes to the mighty Mississippi River and all its tributaries as well as numerous fresh water lakes and streams, there were ample water resources to whet the appetites of farmers and manufacturers. "In an earlier, more confident time," wrote economists Brian Page and Richard Walker, "the Midwest was commonly held up as an example to the modern world of the true path to capitalist growth: a potent mix of agricultural extension agent, railroads, and heavy industry." Agricultural settlement here went hand in hand with industrial development. While some settlers came with no greater expectation than to acquire a piece of land to farm for their families, the St. Croix Valley had already been connected to a national and even international market through the fur trade and logging industry. This connection to the larger world, in many ways, acted as the lure for potential pioneer settlers. Lumbering and business interests needed the products farmers produced. As the timber frontier pushed further up river lumber companies left vacant, unproductive, and often tax delinquent lands that needed to be disposed of. Businesses in the old lumber towns needed new customers to replace the retreating world of the lumberjack. Farmers eagerly filled this void.

Throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, northern manufacturing centers exploited the region's raw materials and also created a demand for its agricultural products. The industrial revolution, in turn, made farming the great expanse of land in the Midwest and the St. Croix Valley more efficient and profitable. Farmers, businessmen, and financiers worked in mutual support to transform the St. Croix River Valley from a remote frontier into an accessible, settled land. The St. Croix Valley was an integral part of the Midwestern and national economy from its earliest days of settlement. [1]

sketch of St. Croix Falls
Figure 26. The disputed site of St. Croix Falls in 1848 from an oil painting by Henry Lewis. The dispute between William Hungerford and Caleb Cushing retarded the development of the site—which was probably a good thing.

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Last Updated: 17-Oct-2002