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Minnehaha Falls received the name of Brown's Falls on the fort map of 1823 in honor of Jacob Brown, major general and commander in chief of the army from 1814 until his death, February 24, 1828; but Minnehaha Creek on that map, quite erroneous in its course, bears no name. A journey up this creek to Lake Minnetonka, which was made, as before mentioned, by Joseph R. Brown and William J. Snelling in May 1822, when they were each only 17 years old, could scarcely have caused the name of that subsequently prominent citizen of Minnesota to be so applied on a map drafted by an army officer.
The name Minnehaha is cited by Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha, published in 1855, as used by Mary H. Eastman in the introduction of her book, Dakotah, or Life and Legends of the Sioux around Fort Snelling, published in 1849. She there wrote: "The scenery about Fort Snelling is rich in beauty. The Falls of St. Anthony are familiar to travelers, and to readers of Indian sketches. Between the fort and these falls are the 'Little Falls,' 40 feet in height, on a stream that empties into the Mississippi. The Indians call them Mine-hah-hah, or 'laughing waters.'"
The common Dakota word for waterfall is haha, which they applied to the Falls of St. Anthony, to Minnehaha, and in general to any waterfall or cascade. To join the words minne, "water," and haha, "a fall," seems to be a suggestion of white men, which thereafter came into use among the Indians.
The late Samuel W. Pond, Jr., in his admirable book, Two Volunteer Missionaries, narrating the lives and work of his father and uncle, Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond, wrote: "The Indian name, 'Little Waterfall,' is given . . . in speaking of the falls now called by white people 'Minnehaha.' The Indians never knew it by the latter name, bestowed upon it by the whites."
Somewhat nearly this name, however, was used in 1835 by Charles J. Latrobe in his book The Rambler in North America, telling of his travels in 1832-33, in which he wrote as follows, applying it, with parts of the name transposed, to the larger falls of the Mississippi: "But the Falls of St. Anthony! . . . the Hahamina! 'the Laughing Water,' as the Indian language, rich in the poetry of nature, styles this remote cataract."
Another early book of travel using the same form of the name, under a different spelling, is A Summer in the Wilderness; embracing a Canoe Voyage up the Mississippi and around Lake Superior, by Charles Lanman (1847, 208 pp.). He described the present Minnehaha Creek as "a small river, without a name, the parent of a most beautiful waterfall." Of theFalls of St. Anthony he wrote: "Their original name, in the Sioux language, was Owah-Menah, meaning falling water." The same spelling and translation had been given in Henry R. Schoolcraft's Narrative, 1820.
Soon this Dakota name took its present form, an improvement devised by white people, probably first published in Mary Eastman's book in 1849, previously quoted. It was more elaborately presented by Rev. John A. Merrick in a paper describing the Falls of St. Anthony, contributed to the Minnesota Year Book for 1852, published by William G. Le Duc. Merrick wrote: "By the Dahcota or Sioux Indians they are called Minne-ha-hah or Minne-ra-ra (Laughing water), and also Minne-owah (Falling water), general expressions, applied to all waterfalls; but par eminence Minne-ha-hah Tonk-ah (the great laughing water). By the Ojibwe they are termed Kakah-Bikah (the broken rocks)."
The noble American epic of Longfellow, in which he pictured Hiawatha, "skilled in all the crafts of hunters," and
. . . the Arrow-maker's daughter,
Minnehaha, Laughing Water,
Handsomest of all the women,
so well appealed to the imagination of both the United States and Great Britain, indeed of all where English is spoken, that soon after its publication in 1855, this name became known around the world, the most widely honored and loved name in Minnesota history and legends.
On the reservation map of 1839, "Land's End" is a part of the bluff on the northwest side of the Minnesota River, nearly two miles southwest from the fort, where the bluff is intersected by a tributary ravine; Minnehaha Falls and Creek were called Brown's Falls and Brown's Creek; an "Indian Village" adjoined the southeast shore of Lake Calhoun; and the "Mission," with three cultivated fields, comprising probably 30 acres, was on the northwest side of Lake Harriet.