What do you to on a gloomy Sunday after Thanksgiving when shopping and football is not one of your past time? Go on a road trip.
We left St. Paul and drove to the lovely town of Stillwater located east on the St. Croix River. We took the Scenic St. Croix River road going north when we saw a sign to Marine on St. Croix. It could have been easy to miss it if we were not looking.
The town was a bustling community in the early 1800’s when Marine Lumber Company cut the first commercial lumber in the state from trees felled in the rich white pine forests of the river valley. In the winter of 1839-1840 the saw produced about 5,000 board feet of lumber a day. By 1877 the Lumber Company was turning out two million board feet of lumber, 500,000 shingles and 200,000 lathes a year with an average daily work crew of fourteen men. Financial depression, a huge logjam that prevented logs from reaching the mill, extensive tornado damage, and a low-water summer combined to cause the failure of the business in 1885.
It is hard to imagine all the tumult that was happening days in and days-out when looking at the place today. Only the ruins of the mill’s engine house, which can be seen by following the path to the overlook, serve as a reminder of Minnesota’s magnificent pine forests and the profitable lumber industry that built the town.
The St. Croix River ranked second only to the Mississippi as a carrier of logs and lumber. The white pine logs from trees that lumberjacks felled in the winter were driven downstream to sawmills in the spring. They selected that site, then known as Fall River, to build a sawmill and named it after their hometown.
For more than five decades, St. Croix pine lumber supported the growing economy of Minnesota. Today Marine on St. Croix is a little historic town with a significant portion of the city listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. The Marine Village Hall is the oldest government building in the state still being used for governmental purposes.
If you are ever in this area, stop by the St. Croix Chocolate Company to enjoy delicious artisan chocolates or visit the Marine General Store where you can find everything you could want in one place, including tasty food.