307 in the township
Grey Cloud Island has a long history of human habitation. The island has dozens of mounds, and archaeological surveys have also found evidence of villages that date roughly to the early Woodland period (about 2100 years ago). In the early 1830s, Medicine Bottle led a small group of Dakota from Kaposia and built a village on the island, but they had to move to comply with the Treaty of 1837.
Fur trader Hazen Mooers and his son-in-law Andrew Robertson, moved into the houses abandoned by the Dakota. Robertson named the island after his mother-in-law, Margaret Aird Mooers, aka Marpiyahotawin (Grey Cloud Woman); she was the granddaughter of the famed Dakota leader Wabasha.
Joseph Renshaw Brown built a house on the southern end of the island in 1838. He set up a dairy farm, grew wheat and veggies, had a trading post, supplied wood to steamboats, and served as Justice of the Peace, presumably in his spare time. But he didn’t stop there. Brown also made a decent amount of money selling whiskey to the soldiers at Fort Snelling and would later play a role in the founding of Stillwater before helping to write the state constitution and serving as Indian agent.
A small community grew on the island, many of them former voyageurs with Dakota wives. Grey Cloud City was platted in 1856 but there were few takers and the 1857 economic panic pretty much finished it off. It is still largely rural today, even after Cottage Grove annexed the southern part of the island in the early 1980s.
Exploring the Area
Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific & Natural Area (110th St.; 651.259.5800) covers over 200 acres of sand dunes that rise 50 to 100 feet above the river bank. The trails wind up and down across the dunes and through some minor ecosystem changes; the area is popular with hikers and birders. Bring a hat and sunscreen.
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.
See the Twin Cities Overview for tips on festivals, getting around, and more.
Heading downriver? Check out Cottage Grove.
Heading upriver? Check out St. Paul Park.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2013
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