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This Date In Central Minnesota History – March 3rd, 1949

An 1860s photo of the Red River Oxcarts courtesy of the Stearns History Museum

UNDATED — March 3rd, 1949 – U.S. Postal Service releases a three-cent centennial stamp featuring a Red River Oxcart.

On March 3rd, 1849, the Minnesota Territory was signed into existence by President James K. Polk. The territory was much larger than the present-day state. It included the areas of North and South Dakota east of the Missouri River. To commemorate the Minnesota’s centennial, the U.S. Postal Service released a three-cent stamp on this date in 1949.

The stamp features a Red River Oxcart. The famous Red River Trails ran from St. Paul to near Winnipeg, Canada, one branch of the trail passing through Stearns County. This “Middle Trail”, as it was known, ran roughly parallel with today’s I-94, crossing Stearns County from St. Cloud to Sauk Centre.

The trails were used for trade, transporting furs and goods across the territory. It was also used to transport people; immigrants who came in search of their El Dorado traveled along the trail to where they would begin their new lives. It was also used by the government making expeditions, and by soldiers carrying army supplies to the forts along its routes.

The two-wheeled Red River Oxcarts that were used along this trail were made completely out of wood. Wooden pegs or rawhide held the carts together. Because the wheels and axels were entirely constructed of wood and no grease was used, these carts made a loud squeak as they traveled. The sound was so deafening, a train of oxcarts could be heard for miles.

Thanks to the Stearns History Museum for their help with our series, “This Date In Central Minnesota History”.

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