Due to the Territorial Convention of 1848, Stillwater boldly proclaims itself as the “Birthplace of Minnesota.” The city’s own birth came with the completion of the Stillwater Lumber Company’s sawmill in 1844, and by 1848 Stillwater had become the river’s largest community and the center of the lumbering industry.
The census of 1850 listed a population of 620, second only to St. Paul. The next year the Territorial Legislature handed out the university to St. Anthony (which later became Minneapolis), the capital to St. Paul, and the penitentiary to Stillwater. In 1854 Stillwater and St. Paul became the territory’s first two incorporated cities.
With dreams of becoming the next Chicago, Stillwater thrived through the rest of the century and had 10 mills turning at its peak, but it suffered with the end of the logging era. The last log passed through the St. Croix Boom in 1914, and the city stagnated for decades, though never bottomed out thanks to the availability of jobs in the Twin Cities.
The big turnaround came in the early 1980s when the historic buildings downtown were restored and empty storefronts hung signs for gift and antiques shops.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition