Princeton Minnesota History

Princeton Minnesota History

Let’s begin with our Princeton Minnesota history at the beginning of European settlement. The first settler to move into the area of Princeton was a lumberjack named “Banjo Bill.” The town was officially settled in 1854 and named after John Prince, a local fur agent. Two years later the town got its first sawmill.

For many years Princeton was inhabited largely by lumberjacks working seasonally in camps along the Rum River, two branches of which meet in town. As the timber was cut, and loggers moved farther north and west in search of virgin forests, Princeton began to cultivate another natural resource—clay. A fine deposit was located two miles north of town, but it was not economically feasible to develop it until the railroad finally arrived in 1886.

The first brickyard was established north of Princeton that year. Soon Princeton, and the newly founded town of Brickton (which has subsequently vanished) was supplying bricks for buildings throughout the Upper Midwest. By the turn of the century Brickton had become one of the largest brick manufacturing towns in the state. In that year 20 million bricks were shipped from the area—enough to fill 1800 freight cars. Workers in the brickyard earned from $1.50 to $1.75 per day, and those wages kept the local economy of both cities afloat.

By 1929 only one brickyard remained in the area, though it produced 4 million bricks that year. Whether the clay finally gave out, or competition from other markets simply became too severe, no one seems to know for sure, but after 36 years of production and over 800 million bricks, the last Princeton brickyard closed its doors in 1929.

Nowadays Princeton can boast a state-of-the-art medical facility and a distinguished public library overlooking the river (formerly the train station). There is a charming park along the banks of the Rum River within the city limits. Princeton is also the home of ECM printing, which was founded by former Governor Elmer L. Andersen. The plant was originally built to print the Princeton Daily Eagle, but has grown over the years to be the largest press of its kink in the Upper Midwest. ECM now prints 24 daily papers and community shoppers and also prints the midwest daily edition of The New York Times.

Princeton Minnesota is part of Minnesota’s Iron Range Audio Tour.

Minnesota Tourism

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