Before there was a village called Palisade, there was just Lee’s Hill, so named because the property with a rise was owned by a Mr. Lee. It was also known as Blueberry hill to some folks, because, well, I think you can guess why. H.S. McKinley built a store on that hill in 1910, when the railroad arrived, the first building in what would become the village.
The Tri-State Land Company, an affiliate of the Soo Line Railroad, bought 40 acres from Mr. Lee to plat the village. A railroad official dubbed the village Palisade because it sat on a high bank along the Mississippi. The village incorporated in 1910, or maybe in 1922; I’ve seen both dates.
With twice daily train service, the new village attracted a couple of hotels. Logging cleared much of the land, some of which was converted for dairy farms. Palisade’s population peaked around 500 people in those early years, most of them Finns, Danes, and Swedes.
The railroad bridge that was completed in 1910 over the Mississippi River was lower than height of the smokestacks for some steamboats, like the Oriole, which had to put hinges on its stacks, so they could be lowered when the boat passed under the bridge.
Palisade got smaller when logging ended and with the beginning of the Great Depression. The smaller community still managed to party. The Palisade Community Fair was an annual event that included a canoe race on the Mississippi. The fair buildings were destroyed by the floods of 1948 and 1950. The 1950 flood was especially severe: the whole town was cut off by water; the only way to enter or leave town was by boat.
Palisade today remains a small town with a largely farm-based economy, although that nearly changed. In 2010, plans were announced to build a plasma arc gasification plant at Palisade. The plan was controversial from the start and construction now seems unlikely to ever begin.
Exploring the Area
Berglund Park (510 Marconi St.) is right next to the Mississippi River and is pleasant place to watch the river flow or to have a picnic.
Where to Sleep
Camping. Berglund Park Campground has nine sites in a compact prairie next to the river; it can feel cozy if other campers are around.
Where to Eat
The Palisade Café (210 Main St.; 218.845.2214) is a friendly small-town café where the food is affordable and prepared with care. You can sit at the antique oak lunch counter and enjoy standard breakfast mains like pancakes and omelets; lunch is mostly sandwiches and wraps; cash only.
Next stop downriver: Aitkin.
Next stop upriver: Sandy Lake.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2015