Although Minnetonka has a long history stretching back to the mid 1800s, when the first settlement was established along Minnehaha Creek, it’s the 50th anniversary of incorporation as a village that the city celebrates in 2006. Here’s a brief look at some of the highlights of Minnetonka’s history.
The land that would come to be known as Minnetonka was sacred ground for Native Americans. The dense woods and open prairies made for good hunting, while Lake Minnetonka provided excellent fishing. The Dakotah Sioux and Ojibway Chippewa would cross through Minnetonka as they traveled between Shakopee and Mille Lacs. A major Indian trail through Minnetonka crossed Minnehaha Creek just below the rapids at present-day Minnetonka Mills, then ran along the present Baker and Plymouth roads.
In 1851, Indian tribes signed an agreement allowing settlement of lands west of Fort Snelling, and by 1852, Minnetonka's first settlement was established at the current Minnetonka Mills site. Available water power and the clearing of trees for farms provided the right ingredients for establishment of a saw mill, the only one west of the Mississippi River. A few years later, the addition of a furniture factory created the largest business center in Hennepin County. By 1869, the saw mill was replaced by a flour mill, which operated until the mid 1890s when it could no longer compete with the larger mills on St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis.
Early settlers came to Minnetonka primarily from New England and other states east of Minnesota, from northern Europe and the British Isles, and from Bohemia (now part of Czechoslovakia). The Bohemians, or Czechs, introduced the techniques to grow raspberries in this climate, a success the neighboring city of Hopkins has been capitalizing on since 1935 with its annual Raspberry Festival.
As Minnetonka was settled, several small, distinct commercial areas, all two to three miles apart with farms and homes in between, developed over the years. Those areas came to be known as Minnetonka Mills, Glen Lake, Groveland, and Oak Knoll.