The McGroarty family, the first of many immigrants from Ireland to settle in the area, reached the US in 1848. The family included 24-year old John, Bridget, his wife, their 2-year old son Bryan, and John’s 23-year old brother, William. Their trip from New York City to St. Paul took 4 years, probably because they walked most of the way. When John made his 300-acre claim in 1853, most of his neighbors were Dakota Indians.
In the early years, ethnic groups clustered in different parts of town: Americans along the river, Germans in the north central section, and Irish and French in the west. The Germans and Irish were the most numerous, and they apparently found a rather clever way to compromise on the name of the village, combining the names of an Irish village in County Donegal (Inver) and a German town in Schleswig-Holstein (Grove). Inver Grove Village incorporated in 1909 with just one square mile of land, although the village appeared on township maps as early as the 1880s.
The village had an active community along the Mississippi River from early on, folks who made a living through farming, logging, and fishing. In the early 1900s Joseph Mrozinski made a pretty good living as a commercial fisherman. In the first half of the 20th century, many younger residents commuted to work in the South St. Paul stockyards and packinghouses.
The railroad passed through Inver Grove in 1886 (the Minnesota and North Western Railroad Company was the first to reach town). A railroad swing bridge was built by the South St. Paul Beltline Railroad Company; it was completed in 1894 but became part of Rock Island Railroad a few years later. The railroad employed a lot men in the area; many of them lived in boarding houses in Inver Grove.
The village maintained its own offices for 56 years, until the whole township incorporated as the City of Inver Grove Heights in 1965 (the “Heights” added apparently to give the city a more elevated reputation!). In the last 20 years, the city’s population nearly doubled as the city grew into a mid-sized suburb.
Exploring the Area
The Rock Island Swing Bridge (4465 66th St.; 651.450.2587) dates to 1894 as a double-deck bridge for buggies (and cars later) on top and the South St. Paul Beltline Railroad below. The bridge was closed in 1999 and ten years later most of the bridge, except for the approach from Inver Grove Heights, was demolished. The remaining section has been turned into a pedestrian and bicycle walkway that extends into the river.
Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area (111th St. East at US Highway 52/MN Highway 55; 651.259.5800) preserves 330 acres of mostly undeveloped land along the Mississippi River. This was once the site of the village of Pine Bend where a few settlers lived around a sawmill in the mid-1850s before the community faded out by the 1880s. There are ample opportunities to hike and the Mississippi River Trail passes through the area. There’s an overlook with a good view of Grey Cloud Island and the Mississippi River.
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.
Inver Grove Heights hosts a farmers market on Thursday afternoons (3:30-6:30) from June to October at the north parking lot of the Veterans Memorial Community Center (8055 Barbara Ave.; 651.227.8101).
See the Twin Cities Overview for tips on festivals, getting around, and more.
Heading downriver? Check out Rosemount.
Heading upriver? Check out South St. Paul.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2013