Northfield Dam

Northfield, Minnesota 





had about 8000 year-round residents and 4500 college students attending either St. Olaf or the "other" place in town, Carleton College. The town is a classic midwestern town with a walking downtown filled with 19th century buildings, and tree lined streets with quiet sub-divisons. For 14 years we only locked our doors when leaving town. The town was founded in the 1850s by settlers from the Northeast, especially western New York. They quickly built a lyceum, founded a college (Carleton), and built a series of churches, including one on which I've written a book and several articles. It is a class ic example of a 19th century rural gothic church (built 1865). Recently Hallmark, Inc. used the church as a model for one of its china buildings in their "Snow Village" series. The founder of Northfield, John Wesley North was financially hurt in the Panic of 1857 and after the Civil War he became one of the founders of Riverside, CA. He is buried in Riverside. As the old "Northeastern" settlers moved on in the 1870s Norwegian migration to Minnesota increased. Many settled outside Northfield in an area known as "Norway Valley." They, too, founded a college in Northfield (St. Olaf).

The Canon River powered early mills which made Northfield a prosperous town. By 1876 when Jesse James, Cole Younger and the rest of their gang tried to rob the Northfield National Bank, the buildings surrounding Bridge Square were stone or brick. The bank robbery was a complete disaster for the gang, and a bright moment in history for the town. Today the bank site is a museum interpreting both the raid and the general history of Northfield. (I used to be on its board).  Northfield became an education center, and is also known for being the home of Ole Rolvaag (who wrote "Giants in the Earth" and taught at St. Olaf). Thorstein Veblen, the economist who wrote "The Theory of the Leisure Class" grew up nearby and attended Carleton. Northfielders (and most Minnesotans) do a lot with music and theater and love libraries. You would too, if you lived where there could be 100 inches of snow a year!

View from Holland Hall