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Deerwood archeologist discusses Crow Wing State Park history

Clement H. Beaulieu took over operations of the American Fur Co. in 1847 in what is now Crow Wing State Park and built a stately mansion in the former frontier village. The Greek Revival structure was returned to its original location and is being restored according to officials. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 2
Jim Cummings2 / 2

Days gone by will be the topic du jour at a free Brainerd History Week program at Crow Wing State Park at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11.

Friends of Old Crow Wing and Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union are sponsors of the program, which will feature Jim Cummings, an archeologist.

"I was going to talk about the geography of the area, including the plants and animal life, and the transportation routes—that is the rivers—leading to the area's utilization by humans and fame," said Cummings, a Deerwood resident.

Cummings is the consulting archaeologist for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and archaeologist for McFarlane Consulting, a St. Paul-based cultural resource management company.

According to the state park's website, the fur trade-era brought the voyageurs of the Northwest and American Fur companies. Not long after, traders established posts along the Mississippi and Crow Wing rivers and a branch of the Red River Trail brought ox carts through the area.

"It's sort of a progressive discussion of the culture around Crow Wing and about the town and some of the personalities in the town, culminating with Clement Beaulieu," he said of the event.

Cummings has a Master of Arts in archeology and cultural resource management from St. Cloud State University. The former high school history teacher and museum director taught anthropology classes and field schools at Central Lakes College and SCSU, respectively.

Beaulieu took over operations of the American Fur Co. in 1847 in what is now Crow Wing State Park and built a stately mansion in the former frontier village. The Greek Revival structure was returned to its original location and is being restored, according to officials.

"And I'll even talk about his house that is still there as a historic artifact, and Hole-in-the-Day the Younger's presence in Crow Wing and leading up to his assassination," said Cummings, who retired from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, parks and trails division.

The American Indian who was born in 1825 was a prominent chief of the Ojibwe of Minnesota. He was shot and killed in 1868 by about a dozen Ojibwe men while on his way to argue against the planned removal of the Ojibwe to a reservation at White Earth, according to historians.

"Allen Morrison, the first citizen of Crow Wing, established a post below the southern mouth of the Crow Wing River in 1823. Missionaries came to teach the Indians and build mission churches. The cemeteries remind us of the once-thriving community," according to park officials.

"The diversity of people that were at this location and interacting is what makes this state park interesting, and the town that was there was kind of ahead of its time," Crow Wing State Park Manager Barry Osborne said.

Saturday's program is open to the public at no charge, but a vehicle permit is required to enter Crow Wing State Park. The cost of a daily vehicle permit is $7 while a year-round vehicle permit, which allows entrance to all Minnesota state parks for a year from purchase date, costs $35.

"There are some discounts, like if you have handicap (license) plates or some paperwork that says there is a handicap ... and then we also have the (military) service-connected disabled veterans who are able to get a free annual vehicle permit," Osborne said.

To participate in the Brainerd History Week program at the Crow Wing State Park, meet on the lawn of the vacant Clement H. Beaulieu in the park at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11.

"Basically, the house was considered almost a mansion back then. Mr. Beaulieu was a prominent businessman. He was involved with the fur trade early on. He had plans for townsite development and plotted a lot of the area for town development," Osborne said.

For more information, call Crow Wing State Park at 218-825-3075.