As early as 1863, there was a hotel at Minnehaha Falls, providing meals and accommodations to those who had come to Minnesota. Some were settlers, who came pouring into Minnesota by the tens of thousands throughout the 1860s. Others were tourists, perhaps come to partake of our famously invigorating climate. A great point was made to both groups to see our world-renowned waterfall out on the frontier of the “Great Northwest.”
Here is the first hotel at Minnehaha Falls:
Little is known about the place. It was called the Minnehaha House, or maybe it was the Minnehaha Hotel. It was run by someone named Boyden whose first name might have been George but was more likely Augustus. But the accommodations were considered “first-class” and “the character and reputation of the place were excellent.”
The 1863 to 1864 date for this picture is firm. Augustus Boyden was reported to have lived at the Falls in 1863-1864. The above photo was taken by the photographers and photographic supply company of E. & H. T. Anthony of New York. While no specific record of their photographer’s visit to Minnesota has turned up, all other pictures discovered so far published by E. & H. T. Anthony at Minnehaha Falls clearly predate 1866 and the known date of John and Mollie Carbutt’s visit in October of that year.
But, more importantly, the hotel picture has a Civil War tax stamp on the back.
Since this tax went into effect on June 30, 1864, we are certain that this object was not sold before then. But the photograph was taken before then, and of course could have been easily reprinted.
During these Civil War years, efforts to build Minnesota’s railroad network were stalled, but it was obvious that the roads would be built eventually. The track was laid past the Falls in September of 1864, though it would be another year before a train ran on that track. Perhaps Boyden invested in this hotel expecting the crowds to have easy railroad access to the Falls, and that he left the area when, after 1864, there were as yet no trains and only the smaller crowds arriving in carriages. Perhaps this New York photographer was engaged to help promote the hotel back East.
It’s easy to imagine that Augustus Boyden is the man precisely centered in the photograph, standing in front of his hotel with his children by the hand. One of them looks to be a girl, and he was known to have a daughter. But we’ll likely never know who these people are.