Minnesota has been a state since 1858, but its history goes back much further. The earliest human remains found in our state date back to around 9,000 years ago. Given the state’s long and varied heritage – Native American, German, French, Scandinavian – it’s no surprise that we have some unusual place names.
1. Lake Elmo, Washington County – Nope, it’s not named for everybody’s favorite muppet. Lake Elmo the city is named after Lake Elmo the lake, which is named after St. Elmo, an 1866 novel by August Jane Evans. The jury is still out on why – Evans had no connection to Minnesota.
2. Nowthen, Anoka County – Nowthen just became an official city in 2008, so its history is easy to trace. The name comes from the first postmaster, who often said “Now, then.”
3. Duluth, St. Louis County – Duluth was named for Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, the first known European to visit the area. That’s quite the mouthful – I’m glad they went with “Duluth.”
5. Thief River Falls, Pennington County – Thief River Falls comes from another Ojibwe word, this one meaning “stolen land river.” Here’s the story: a group of Dakota Indians were found on a stretch of river by the Ojibwe – thus stealing it – until they were forced to leave.
6. Climax, Polk County – Climax is tiny – just under 300 people – but most of us have heard of it because of its unusual name. But the origin isn’t what you think – the town’s name comes from a chewing tobacco company.