The township of Brooklyn was initially settled by a group of 14 families who moved to the area in 1853. Most were from Adrian, Michigan, which was part of Brooklyn Township at the time, so they took the easy route at a meeting in 1858 by adopting the name of their old township for their new one.
Early businesses included sawmills, a boom house for sorting logs, and an ice harvesting facility. One of the better known early residents was Pierre Bottineau, a former fur trader/voyageur/translator who put down roots long enough for the area to be known as Bottineau’s Prairie.
Most of the early residents were farmers, attracted by the easily tilled loamy soil. While wheat was the crop of choice early on, farmers soon shifted to a wide range of produce to supply the growing city of Minneapolis.
During the Depression, a cottage industry developed pulling “deadheads” from the river bottom. Deadheads were logs that had been cut during the peak logging years but had been lost to the river while being driven to sawmills. The Scherer brothers of Brooklyn township were especially adept. They found a pile of logs buried 20 feet under the river bed that was so plentiful it was nicknamed White Pine Island; it eventually yielded 1½ million board feet of lumber. From 1930 to 1950, some 22 million board feet of lumber was processed from recovered deadheads, and the Scherer brothers were responsible for nearly three-quarters of that total.
Much of the township was incorporated as the city of Brooklyn Park in 1954, which grew from a small town to a busy suburb in one generation as its population increased from 3,065 residents in 1950 to over 75,000 in 2010. The city also counts several thousand community college students among its ranks (Hennepin Technical College and North Hennepin Community College).
Motivated by a plan to allow a developer to discharge waste water into wetlands near his home and into the Mississippi River, Brooklyn Park resident and former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura ran for mayor to stop the plan. He won, serving as mayor from 1991 to 1995; he was elected Governor of Minnesota just four years later. Brooklyn Park was also the childhood home of radio personality Garrison Keillor, whose parents moved there in 1947.
The city has seen increasing cultural and ethnic diversity since the 1980s, with substantial increases in the number of Asian (Hmong, especially) and African American residents.
Exploring the Area
The area’s farming heritage continues today, and you can sample products at one of the many farmers markets that operate during the growing season in July (just kidding! Plants grow in August, too). In Brooklyn Park, the market is in the parking lot at Zane Sports Park (8717 Zane Ave.; 763.493.8154; W 3-7 from late June to late Oct.).
The Mississippi National River and Recreation (651.290.4160) runs for 72 miles through the Twin Cities. While the National Park Service owns very little land along the corridor, it has many programs to help connect people to the river. Visit their website for a complete listing of places to enjoy the river.
Parks along the Mississippi River
- Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park (10360 West River Dr.); no entry free on this side of the river
- River Park (101 83rd Ave. North)
John and Isable Eidem, immigrants from Norway, built a house for their large family (they had 14 children, 9 of whom lived to adulthood) in 1877. The estate of their son, John Jr., is now a living history museum operated by the City of Brooklyn Park as the Eidem Homestead (4345 101st Ave. North; 763.493.4604).
See the Twin Cities Overview for tips on festivals, getting around, and more.
Continuing downriver? Check out Brooklyn Center.
Continuing upriver? Check out Champlin.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2013