Did you know that East Grand Forks was originally known as Nashville? It was named this after William C. Nash, fur trader and government mail carrier between Abercrombie and Pembina, in 1874. Nash was born in Pennsylvania, but came to the area in 1863. He built the first house (of a White man) at the fork of the Red and Red Lake Rivers, waiting for the flood of settlers he was sure was coming to buy land.*
Before this, the land was inhabited by the Ojibwe people, who freely ranged across the areas that would become Manitoba, Minnesota, and North Dakota. In October of 1863, they signed the Treaty of Old Crossing under duress, ceding 11 million acres of Ojibwe domain to the United States Government.
Before the Ojibwe were established, there’s disputed evidence that a group of Norsemen visited the area in 1362. Three miles from Kensington, MN, Farmer Olaf Ohman and his two young sons found a nearly 200 pound stone inscribed with what appeared to be runic characters stating:
“8 Goths and 22 Norwegians on a journey of discovery from Vinland westward. We had a camp by 2 rocky islets one day’s journey north from this stone. We were out fishing one day. When we returned home we found 10 men red with blood and dead. AVM save us from evil. Have 10 men by the sea to look after our vessel 14 days’ journey from this island. Year 1362.”
Supposedly at the command of Magnus Erickson, ruler of Norway and Sweden, a band of Vikings traveled across Hudson’s Bay, up the Nelson River, across Lake Winnipeg and then entering the Red River of the North until navigation became impractical (around where East Grand Forks now sits). After a march overland, 10 of the party were killed; the survivors then carved the stone, buried it and moved on to parts unknown.**
* The name was officially changed to East Grand Forks in 1883.
** Modern scholars believe the Kensington Stone to be a forgery, likely carved by immigrant farmers with expertise in stone cutting and the runic alphabet – a hoax created for entertainment during the long Minnesota winters.