Working on the River

Guide Creation Information

Guide Author Dr. Joyce Jacobson
District Winona Area Public Schools ISD 861
Date Created May 2012
Guide Description This guide uses primary resources to help students understand, visualize and evaluate the economic and transportation opportunities provided by the many rivers in Minnesota. Personal accounts from three early settlers help learners uncover the impact and use of the river systems. It is designed to provide an extension to my educator's guide "Crossing the Rivers."

Guide Characteristics

Title of Main Academic Standard used in Guide Minnesota DRAFT K-12 Academic Standards in Social Studies, February 21, 2012
Grade Level 3
Learning Level Introductory
National Holiday/Special Occasion (optional)  
Source Format Emphasized Photographs, maps, journals, documents
Geographic Region Emphasized (optional) Rivers in Minnesota
Other Minnesota Reflections Guide(s) Related to this Guide (optional) "Crossing the River" by Dr. Joyce Jacobson; "Exploring Pioneer Life in Minnesota" by Terri Haakenson and Joyce Baumann; "Early Life in the Duluth Harbor" by Joyce Baumann and Terri Haakenson; "Fort Snelling" by Terri Haakenson

Main Standard Emphasized in Guide

Standard Title Minnesota DRAFT K-12 Academic Standards in Social Studies, February 21, 2012
Category Grade 3
Strand History
Sub-strand Historical Thinking Skills
Standard Historical inquiry is a process in which multiple sources and different kinds of historical evidence are analyzed to draw conclusions about how and why things happened in the past.
Benchmark 1: standard number
Benchmark 1: text Examine historical records, maps, and artifacts to answer basic questions about times and events in history, both ancient and more recent.
Benchmark 2: standard number
Benchmark 2: text Compare and contrast two different accounts of an event.
Benchmark 3: standard number  
Benchmark 3: text  

Another Standard Emphasized in Guide (optional)

Standard Title English Language Arts
Category Grade 3
Strand Reading Information Texts
Standard Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text
Benchmark 1: standard number
Benchmark 1: text Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
Benchmark 2: standard number
Benchmark 2: text Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur.)
Benchmark 3: standard number  
Benchmark 3: text  

Additional Standards and/or Skills (reading, math, media literacy, interdisciplinary)

Reading: standard number  
Reading: standard text  
Math: standard number  
Math: standard text  
Media Literacy: standard number
Media Literacy: standard text Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Interdisciplinary Connection Physical Science

Minnesota Reflections Search Strategy

Things to Think About  
Keywords River trade, fur trade, American Indians, steamboat, lumber, gristmill, barge
Other ideas (to assist with discovery) Search any years in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Be sure to explore thumbnails, technical language, (in item description) and transcripts (text from handwritten documents) to aid discovery.
Challenges to finding resources on this standard Documentation prior to 1850 is scanty. Documentation of contemporary river use is not available in Minnesota Reflections but may be searched through a variety of contemporary resources.

Information about barge traffic and river conditions along the lower Mississippi is readily available. Search online editions of river town newspapers.

Minnesota Reflections Top Picks

Title Date created Description Format Reference URL
Message from the Governor of the Territory of Minnesota, to the first Legislative Assembly: September 4, 1849 September 4, 1849 Alexander Ramsey explained many searchable facets of progress towards statehood. Teachers can present significant information to students. Students can use the search box to search independently and share their discoveries about steamboats, fur trade, etc. Click on "View Image & Text" for useful transcripts. Speeches
View of James J. Hill's warehouse on Upper Mississippi River, St. Paul 1869 Introduce river use with this photo of riverboats and storage warehouses. Discuss why these warehouses were placed near the river. Black-and-white photographs
Journal of Randolph M. Probstfield 1873-1876 Moorhead, Minnesota 1873-76 This is the first page of the second volume of a farmer's journal. Probstfield writes of expenses on his farm, weather, and prices. Students can search for entries on the river. Diaries
Journal of Randolph M. Probstfield 1873-1876 Moorhead Minnesota 1873-76 This is page 19 in Probstfield's second journal and refers to his travels up the Buffalo River. Where does he travel and what does he use the river for? Diaries
Atlas of Dodge County Minnesota 1905 On this page of the 1905 Dodge County Atlas is a biography of an early settler. The author documents his use of an 1849 map purchased in Philadelphia. He was interested in settling in the "green" section of Minnesota. Students can learn about his trials and concerns. The transcript, found below the page image in the Description section, is helpful. Plats (maps)
The Word Carrier of Santee Normal Training School (Santee, Nebraska), 1917-09 – 1917-10 1915-11 and 1915-12 This page contains a biography of Mary Riggs, a missionary woman. Students can trace the route she took from New York to western Minnesota on a map as they read this brief colorful account and then compare it to 1873 and 1905 settlers above. Newspapers
Map of Traverse des Sioux, Minnesota 1855? What did early maps look like? Compare this map to a contemporary map of the Minnesota River. This hand-drawn map shows the village of the Traverse des Sioux and a major crossing site for this river. Maps
Catching fish and cord wood on Red River, Moorhead, Minnesota 1879-1882 The river helped people work. Point out the fishing stringer and the rope stretching across the river used to stop the cord wood. Notice the rail cars ready to move the wood to storage. Stereographs
Paddlewheel steamboat J.B. Bassett Anoka, Minnesota 1880 This is a photo of a paddlewheel cook boat used to support the log drives on the rivers. Black-and-white photographs
Steamboat "Pluck" at the Levee, Moorhead, Minnesota 1879 Two barges are tied up on the banks of the Red River. What is on the load? Have students find the landing and trace their passage down river. Negative (photographic)
Pickwick Mill and Mill Pond, Pickwick, Minnesota 1890-1900 Show students the mill situated on the river and explain significance of this water source. Black-and-white photographs
Steamer Keenora at Old Baudette docks, Baudette, Minnesota 1905-17 Passengers on cargo steamers were able to ride a streamlined, more comfortable vessel. Negatives (photographic)
Wannagan on a log drive on the Otter Tail River, Height of Land Township, Minnesota 1910 Log drives were supported by the cook boat and river rats. Ask students why the cook boat was needed. Black-and-white photographs
An illustrated historical atlas of the state of Minnesota 1874 This atlas offers a table of contents. Use a scavenger hunt format to direct students to locate information on different river cities, names or portraits of settlers and lumber barons. Maps
Cold Spring Granite Company main plant and Sauk River dam, Stearns County 1930? New uses and control of the rivers were created when dams were built. Students can use this photo to help them design their own model dams. Black-and-white photographs
Barge unloading grain at dock, Ortonville, Minnesota 1910? River traffic increases as need for products increases. Black-and-white photographs
Aerial Lift Bridge: View from Garfield Avenue, Duluth, Minnesota 1973 Sticks of lumber waiting processing and shipping in Duluth. Slides (photographs)
Aerial Lift Bridge: View with harbor grain elevators, Duluth, Minnesota 1980 Shipping grain on the river and across the great lakes. What other products do barges haul? Color photographs

Specific Minnesota Reflections Collection(s) to Consider (optional)

Helpful Tips (optional)

Students need background knowledge on the river systems in both the United States and in Minnesota to contextualize this study. Contemporary maps are available on MapQuest and other sites. It would be helpful to equip students with a black line map of the Minnesota river system.

Ideas for Lesson Plans Using this Guide (optional)

Expanded Activity: Have students search current newspapers and Minnesota travel material for information on river commerce.

This guide allows students to gather information on how early Minnesota settlers used the river to establish residency and a livelihood. The rest of the sources illustrate uses of the river.

  1. Start by demonstrating how to use keywords to search a text such as the 1848 Minnesota Governor's document.
  2. The pioneer experiences of three different settlers offer an opportunity to practice keyword searches. Assign each settler to different student groups.
  3. Collect data in note form or on a timeline.
  4. Share information about each settler and construct compare/contrast graphic organizers.

Alternative: Make a picture and date timeline for each settler and hang in a staggered form to illustrate the different decades.

Students will enjoy designing and building dams across any water flow you can create to illustrate the increased productivity achieved by a managed river system!

Other Online Collections that Help Teach this Standard (optional)

History of Inland Water Transportation in Minnesota