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Checking the maps

November 6, 2009 - Deb Gau
Recently, my mom checked out a copy of “Minnesota On the Map: A Historical Atlas” from the library, and I’ve been paging through it. Basically, it’s a collection of maps from the 18th century to today that show Minnesota. A lot of focus is given to the Twin Cities, but I’ve been getting a kick out of the local details I see on some of the maps. A Swede Prairie Township plat even gets its own two-page spread as an illustration of turn-of-the-century farm life.

For me, it’s especially fun to compare maps and see how things have changed over time. For example, some of the older maps show Lake Benton as being twice the size of Lake Shetek. (Evidence of severe drought, or sketchy mapmaking? You decide.) Another map shows that 'Luverne’ was once spelled ‘Louverne.’

My favorite was a pair of Minnesota maps on following page spreads, one from the late 1850s, and the other from the 1870s. In the first map, Redwood County is a giant triangle where present-day Lyon, Lincoln, Yellow Medicine and Lac Qui Parle counties would be. Turn the page, and we see how in only a few years the triangle has been broken up into the modern county boundaries.

At that point, Mom broke in: “You know, it’s amazing that you know all those counties just by looking at them.” Too much time with the maps, perhaps.


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