Anoka County history: Anoka County’s Indian heritage

by Tom Ward

When I’m out in the woods hunting, I often think about 100 or 1,000 years ago, if an Indian stood on the same spot I am standing on — which I am certain one would have.

I visited last week with Will Ridge’s wife, Gina, at a friend’s funeral.

Among other things, we talked about the Indian mound near the Ridge family home on Lake George.

When Will’s brother Louie was in the seventh grade, I’d guess in 1935, he wrote a short paper on the mound.

A copy of that paper is in the files at the Anoka County History Center.

In the paper he writes, “About 1800, the Sioux and Chippewa Indians were very unfriendly and had been having many small battles….

“At Lake George] a horrible battle took place which was practically a massacre.

“The Chippewa band was nearly wiped out.

“The loss was so great that the remaining men were unable to carry their dead back to their burial ground.

“The custom was to bury the braves in shallow grave….

“Because there were so many killed, it was impossible to bury them in the accustomed way, so the bodies were piled up with their belongings and the dirt was piled over them.

“This Indian mound stands by our cottage at Lake George.

“In the summer or 1885 of 1886, a party of young people was camping on the island at Lake George.

“They had been told about the Indian mound on the mainland.

“Only two were interested enough to investigate.

“It was our grandfather, William Greenwald and Mary Woodbury, now Mrs. Irving Caswell.”

It’s unclear from Louie’s account what battle he is writing about, but Albert Goodrich, in his 1905 book “History of Anoka County” writes extensively about a battle between Dakota and Chippewa on the shores of Lake George in 1854.

There are several other burial mounds throughout the county, but they are hard to find because they have been worn or plowed down.

Through the efforts of the Minnesota Historical Society, this particular mound, and other in the state, have become state property so they may be preserved.

Will Ridge tells me that a group of Ojibway held a large ceremony at the mound around 1995.

In 1965, when I owned a Chrysler dealership in Anoka, Chrysler sent a new regional manager to Minneapolis.

Soon after, he moved his family here and he called me and asked if he brought his two little boys out if I would take them out in the country and show them some Indians and their teepees. He was serious.

By the way, there is a road in Champlin that some still call Indian Mound Road, which is now part of Elm Creek Park.

And one final note, as I wrote last week, this history is close to many of us, it wasn’t that long ago.

Editor’s note: Tom Ward a member of the Anoka County Historical Society Board of Directors.

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