History of SouthEast Community Organization
Before European settlers arrived, SECO was inhabited by Native American peoples. Sacred burial mounds from about about two thousand years ago are up the street in Dayton's Bluff's Mounds Park. At least one mound exists within our boundaries near what is now Highway 61 and Lower Afton Road.
In 1842, a territorial battle between the Dakota and Ojibwe people spread to the area. The exact details and long history are not fully known, but to revenge a raid by the Dakotas, some Ojibwe people sought to attack Kaposia, a settlement located in an area now known as South St. Paul. Two Dakota women were killed as they gardened. A group of Dakota, alerted by the gunfire, chased after the Ojibwe group and defeated them. This conflict has given the creek that flows from a lake in Maplewood to Pigs Eye Lake and the surrounding neighborhood its name: Battle Creek.
The first European settlers came to the area with the American Fur Company, settling around 1838 on Pigs Eye Lake. These traders, with names like Turpin, Gammelle, Balland, Morin, LeClaire, Labosinier, Mosseau, Chevalier and others, build cabins and small farms on the edge of the lake. Most spoke French. They were often absent, but when present they traded and grew produce for the increasing population in Fort Snelling and St. Paul. By the middle of the century, there were about 40 families residing there. As as the fur trade slowed, many of these families dispersed to other areas, while new settlers continued to spread throughout the area.
By 1857, a mill had been finished. The most desirable plots were occupied by 1856. In 1858, Mclean Township was formed. Many farmers and tradesman occupied the space. However, the mill closed in 1875 because of the high price of timber. This is the time when railroads came to Minnesota and the structure of the St. Paul to come started to appear. Early tax records and city meetings for Mclean Township indicate that the town was well-organized, with officers named each year. The first school was created in 1860 from a building previously used as a saloon, with Miss Maria Christian as the first teacher. A second school was created on the farm of David Fish; the first schoolhouse built for the purpose of educating youth was created in 1875.
The biographical information on these early settlers reveals the realities of life in the time. Stories of the "great men" of the area indicate the area's earliest residents came from distant lands like Prussia, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland and Poland. Some residents came from New York, Massachusetts or Wisconsin. They previously worked in diverse fields like mining, farming or the armed forces. These listings name husbands and wives as well as the number of children and grandparents in each household. A stark reminder about mortality darkens these passages: each passage mentions the number of children born to each family and the number living, indicating a high childhood mortality rate.
Our area was fully annexed into the city of St. Paul by 1887, and our neighborhoods started to emerge. The Conway area was named for Charles R. Conway, a journalist who drifted west, through Minnesota and on to Los Angeles, where he managed a newspaper during the Civil War. Conway, who owned a lot of land in St. Paul, can be seen in many photographs still in the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society.
Many farmers enjoyed the plots of land around the rich area surrounding Battle Creek, as mentioned above. Through a 1925 land donation and a slow acquisition of land by the city, Battle Creek Park became a 846-acre regional public park. It later became famous for a massive ski jump, now only in memories and historical society photographs.
Burlington Heights was created when some St. Paul and Boston developers purchased land and created streets and home lots around the nearby Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad. The neighborhood was originally promoted in the 1880s as a railroad suburb of exclusive homes, protected from the weather, and perhaps from other people, by its height and numerous trees. A year later, in 1887, trains ran six times a day from downtown St. Paul to the station between the hills and the lake. The area soon became known for the name of the train station, Highwood.
The Eastview neighborhood name largely came from the location in relation to St. Paul as well as the name of the border road, once East Avenue, which is now known as McKnight Road. A series of plats named Eastview subdivided the area in the mid-1950s.
*MHS: Photos from the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society
For more info about the history St. Paul, including this area, see the following texts/resources which helped to create this history.
- Anne J. Aby, Editor, The North Start State: A Minnesota History Reader. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002.
- Theodore C. Blegen, Minnesota: A History of the State. University of Minnesota Press, 1975.
- Donald L. Empson, The Street Where You Live. University of Minnesota Press, 2006.
- Norman K. Risjord, A Popular History of Minnesota Minnesota. Historical Society Press, 2005.
- Mary Lethert Wingerd, Claiming the City: Politics, Faith and the Power of Place in St. Paul. Cornell University Press, 2001.
- Edward D. Neill, History of Ramsey County and the City of St. Paul, including the Explorers and Pioneers of Minnesota North Star Publishing Company, 1881.