The Lost History of Minnehaha Falls

While I was researching an audio tour of Minnehaha Falls for VoiceMap, I came across the work of Karen Cooper, who has been unearthing the sordid history of the place for many years at her website,

Cooper uncovered stories I never saw anywhere else. So when I learned she also lead an in-person tour, which she calls the “Raucous Ramble,” I was very excited to go. I wrote a story about tour for the Star Tribune.

Cooper also has a new book out called, When Minnehaha Flowed with Whiskey: A Spirited History of the Falls, which is excellent. And while the story is no substitute for the tour itself, it will give you a taste of what’s been lost and found again:

On a sunny morning this past spring, a group of 25 curious souls met at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. We were there to be led through darkness by a small, skeptical woman named Karen Cooper, who has been investigating the history of the place for more than 20 years, turning over rocks to see what crawls out.

The fruits of her labor have been collected in a book, “When Minnehaha Flowed With Whiskey: A Spirited History of the Falls,” to be published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. The book comes out in August, but if you want a preview, you can join one of Cooper’s Raucous Ramble tours, hosted by the Hennepin History Museum. The next tour will be July 23.

Cooper has a deep knowledge of the place’s history, gleaned from a mountain of material she’s collected, including some 80 boxes of photos, documents and souvenirs. She’s looked into many stories about the falls and found most of them wanting.

Read the rest here.