Buchanan Minnesota – First Ghost Town on the North Shore

Buchanan Minnesota – First Ghost Town on the North Shore

The Buchanan historical marker is located along old Highway 61 in Minnesota near present day Knife River, and itgives the visitor a glimpse of the early days of North Shore settlement. The text on the marker merely hints at the true story of the area. This is what the marker says:

This town site, named after President Buchanan, was laid out in October 1855.  From September 1857 until May 1859 the place, though little less than wilderness, was the seat of the U.S. Land Office for the Northeastern District of Minnesota.  After the removal of the land office the settlement disappeared.

buchanan historical marker

buchanan historical marker

Here is the real story of the ill-fated settlement called Buchanan.

For years, rumors of gold, silver, copper and other valuable minerals just waiting to be plucked from the North Shore circulated among the settled communities to the east. After the second treaty of La Pointe in 1854, in which the Native Americans ceded much of the North Shore to the US Government, work began immediately to survey the land and plat new town sites along the North Shore. The general consensus was that new settlers would flood the area within a few short years, but this turned out to be false. Many planned communities in the area were never more than ideas on paper.

Buchanan was one of only three towns that became a reality. The plans were laid out and construction began late in 1856, a short year later the US Land Office for the Northeastern District of Minnesota was moved from Duluth to the new Buchanan site. Before long there was a boarding house, hotel and several saloons in the area. A dock was quickly added so that small boats and steamers could land here.

The quickness with which Buchanan rose to prominence was matched only by its speedy downfall. Mineral exploration in the area had yielded surprisingly little success. This, coupled with the severe financial crisis of 1858, in which thousands of businesses went bankrupt and speculation came to a near standstill, provided very little incentive for people to move to the area. The final blow to Buchanan’s existence came when it was discovered that the U.S. Land Office, a pillar of the small community, had actually been built on someone else’s land. There was no option but to move the Land Office back to Duluth in the early summer of 1859 and the remainder of the residents soon followed. Buchanan, with all its promise and government guidance, became the first ghost town on the North Shore.

Although the town’s site no longer exists, we urge you to stop at the historical marker. There you’ll find several short paths leading to the rocky shore of Lake Superior. Get out and enjoy it, the view is breathtaking.  

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