Ball Bluff

Ball Bluff is a corruption of the name of a tall nearby hill, Bald Bluff, which is actually a pile of rubble edged into place a few thousand years ago by glaciers (a moraine); the hill is topped with grass instead of trees, hence its bald appearance. Ball Bluff is another community along the Mississippi that began because someone was attracted to pine trees.

Logging began in the area in the 1870s. Some of the loggers were men who farmed during the warmer months and cut down trees in the winter. In spring, they’d float the cut timber down the Mississippi River to Aitkin where they’d sell it to a lumber mill. With money in hand, they’d walk back home, a trip that took several days.

Ball Bluff ferry, 1926 (Sylvia Hill)

Ball Bluff ferry, 1926 (Sylvia Hill)

The community was served by steamboats from 1870 to 1920 and a busy ferry that began in 1918. The ferry was entirely human-powered: it moved back and forth across the river by tugging on ropes.

After logging faded in importance, Ball Bluff became a farm community. Potatoes were a major crop. Many of the farmers on the east bank of the river were Swedes. In 1915, a group of Swedish socialists built Red Hall to serve as the village’s social center. It was later sold and turned into Ball Bluff Store. Some Finns moved into the area after labor troubles forced them from the Iron Range in the 1910s; most of them settled on the west side of the Mississippi River. They eventually built their own hall for community events that was run by Farmer’s Social and Educational Society.

Ball Bluff got phone service in the early 1920s, from McGregor, but the township soon after decided to build its own system, operating it independently for many years until selling it to the Northland Phone Company. Ball Bluff today is a quiet community that never found a reason to incorporate.

Next stop downriver: Sandy Lake.

Next stop upriver: Jacobson.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2015


By | 2017-09-13T16:36:45+00:00 November 27th, 2015|Minnesota|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dean Klinkenberg, the Mississippi Valley Traveler, is on a mission to explore the rich history, diverse cultures, and varied ecosystems of the Mississippi River Valley, from the Headwaters in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. He is the author of Rock Island Lines, a mystery, and several guidebooks for the Mississippi Valley.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ah, geez. Another pop-up? Yep! But if you sign up for updates, I’ll send you a free, full-color PDF of Small Town Pleasures, your guide to the most interesting small Mississippi River towns. You’ll save five bucks!

This is a limited time offer, so sign up today.

We value your privacy and will never spam you. You will receive updates about new books and offers, site updates, and news from the Mississippi Valley. You can unsubscribe whenever you want.