Source Of The Mississippi
( Originally Published 1900 )
It was in Minnesota, in 1862, that the terrible Indian uprising occurred in which the Sioux, exasperated by the encroachments of the whites, attacked the western frontier settlements in August, and in less than two days massacred eight hundred people. The troops were sent as soon as possible, attacked and defeated them in two battles, and thirty-eight of the Indians were executed on one scaffold at Mankato, on the Minnesota River southwest of Minneapolis, in December. The State of Minnesota is said to contain fully ten thousand lakes of all sizes, the largest being Red Lake in the northern wilderness, having an area of three hundred and forty square miles. The surface of the State rises into what is known as the Itascan plateau in the northern central part at generally about seventeen hundred and fifty feet elevation. From this plateau four rivers flow out in various directions—the one on the Western Minnesota boundary, the Red River of the North, draining the western slope towards Lake Winnipeg and finally to Hudson Bay ; the Rainy River, draining the northern slope also through Lake Winnipeg to Hudson Bay ; the St. Louis River, flowing eastward to form the head of Lake Superior, and going thence to the Atlantic; and the Mississippi River, flowing southward to seek the Gulf of Mexico. Schoolcraft, the Indian ethnologist and explorer, named this Itascan plateau, and the tittle lake in its heart, where the Mississippi takes its rise, about two hundred miles north-northwest of Minneapolis, though the roundabout course of the river from its source to that city is a much longer distance, flowing nearly a thousand miles. There was a good deal of discussion as to whether this lake was really the head of the great river, as the lake received several small streams, but Schoolcraft settled the dispute, and named the lake Itasca, from a contraction of the Latin words veritas caput, the " true head." Its elevation is about sixteen hundred feet, being surrounded by pine-clad hills rising a hundred feet higher. Out of Itasca Lake the " Father of Waters " flows with a breadth of about twelve feet, and a depth ordinarily of less than two feet. It goes at first northerly, and then makes a grand curve through a long chain of lakes, describing a large semicircle to the eastward, and finally south-west, before it becomes settled as to direction, and takes its southeast course towards the Falls of St. Anthony, and onward in its grand progress to the Gulf.