Wakan Tipi Cave

October 12, 2020 is Indigenous Peoples Day (Federally recognized as Columbus Day). It is a good time to consider the names of things in Imnizaska (the Dakota name for Saint Paul, describing the white rock bluffs), because words matter. So many of the names of local streets and parks are recognizing the first European men to claim ownership here and laydown the city grid. Seeing the name Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) restored in Minneapolis gives me hope for the efforts for Wakan Tipi (Carver’s Cave). Interesting story in the Pioneer Press last week:

The 1875 picture of the Cave illustrates how much has changed over the last nearly 150 years. The mouth of the Cave was higher up along the cliff, until the railroads sought to take over the marshy ground where Phalen Creek meets the Mississippi. Landfill was brought in, the white cliffs were dynamited away, and the railroads brought streams of settlers to Saint Paul. When the railroads declined, the area around the Cave served as an unofficial dump.

Wakan Tipi Cave (Carver’s Cave) 1875 (MNHS)

Over the years, the Wakan Tipi Cave has been covered by natural debris falling from the cliffs above and/or man-made activities to change the landscape, and then “rediscovered”. Each time, the hope of petroglyphs and miles of tunnels capture the public’s imagination. In 1977, two hundred years after Jonathon Carver visited the Cave and met with the Dakota people, the Cave was uncovered and a steel door was placed at the mouth. Fresh water continues to stream out from under the door. What remained of the Cave rests waiting for its next chapter in the history of Imnizaska.

In 2005, the area around the Cave was rehabilitated with the creation of the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. It was this video of Jim Rock, Dakota scholar and educator, that inspired me to add a medallion to my map drawing of Phalen Creek and Trout Brook (Swede Hollow).

Wakan Tipi translates to “dwelling place of the sacred.” Very excited to watch the progress of the Wakan Tipi Center. https://www.lowerphalencreek.org/wakantipicenter


Sunday Social Gathering, 1885 (Subjects: Mrs. H. Schaber and her son Henry Schaber)
Photo Credit to the Minnesota Historical Society

Margaretha Helfman Schaber was widowed at the age of 39. She was left with ten children, the oldest 18 and the youngest newly born, the Saint Paul Mills flour mill along Phalen Creek, and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Her husband Henry Schaber’s story is told in Identified Sat, Oct 25, 1879 – Page 4 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Newspapers.com. Below is Margaretha’s story.

Margaretha Helfman was born in November 1840 in Hesse Darmstadt, Germany. At the age of 18, she immigrated to the United States in 1859. She joined her husband who had come to Saint Paul a few years earlier. In 1869, Henry quit his job as a teamster at the Brainard’s Mills and went into business with Phillip Thon and purchased the Saint Paul Mills. By 1872, Henry had purchased his business partner’s interest in the Mill and made various improvements.

In October 1879, Henry was killed crossing train tracks. Margaretha continued the running of the mill but the first year was tough. A fire destroyed the mill in January 1880. Undaunted, she rebuilt in the spring: doubling the size of the building and increasing the horse power of the engine from 25 to 30. In August, she took on a business partner, Charles Passavant. On September 30, 1880, tragedy struck again when the boiler in the mill exploded that destroyed the mill and killed the night engineer. Fri, Oct 1, 1880 – Page 7 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Newspapers.com. Margaretha rebuilt the mill again, this time with a 35 horse power engine. They advertised as “Millers of the Celebrated White Rose Flour.” Margaretha’s eldest son, Henry, began working in the mill in 1881 at the age of 17.

In 1883, the Schaber family moved to 689 Minnehaha, just north of the mill and the Hamm (Excelsior) Brewery.

1885 City of Saint Paul Map showing the Schaber’s House in relation to their mill
Saint Paul Mills (Shaber & Passavant), 1885
(Can you see the Schaber’s home in the distance?)
Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

Margaretha ran the mill through 1886. She was 46 and the mill industry was modernizing from grist to rollers. The 1887 and 1888 Saint Paul City Directory lists the Schaber’s as proprietors of a grocery store at 637 Minnehaha. Henry Schaber later returned to milling at the Lindeke Mills. Margaretha sold the family home at 689 Minnehaha in 1895, as the Hamm Brewery continued to expand.

Margaretha Helfman Schaber lived with her daughter and family when passed away in Saint Paul on July 4, 1921.

Minnie T. Farr

Lincoln School Faculty, 1900. Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

Lincoln School (built in the 1870s and demolished in 1973) was where most children who lived in Swede Hollow attended public school. Looking for an interesting person to feature in the drawing of Lincoln School, I ran across Minnie T. Farr. She is in the photo above: middle row, fifth from the left. Turns out she graduated from my alma mater, Saint Paul Central High School. This is her story:

Minnie was born in Minnesota July of 1861. Her parents were Joseph and Sara Farr, who relocated from Washington D.C. While her father worked as a barber, he was a member of the underground railroad. Check out this great article on Joseph Farr: http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/57/v57i03p123-129.pdf

Minnie was the first Black person to graduate high school in Saint Paul. In 1881, she delivered the Salutatory address in French at the Saint Paul Central High School graduation ceremony at the Opera House in Saint Paul. Sat, Jun 25, 1881 – Page 2 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Newspapers.com

Minnie was also the first Black school teacher in Saint Paul. She taught at Lincoln School for 19 years. She paved the way for her younger sister, Bessie, who also taught school in Saint Paul.


The Farr family lived at 59 East 11th Street. The 1900 census lists Minnie (teacher – 38), Elizabeth (teacher – 37), and Richard (railroad porter – 34) living at home with Joseph and Sarah. Like all women school teachers at the time, Minnie never married. This curious article “JC Martin will not annoy Minnie Farr Hereafter” describes unwanted attention from a prospective suitor: Wed, Aug 12, 1896 – Page 2 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Newspapers.com More to research there.

Minnie T. Farr passed away on July 12, 1905 after a long illness. She was only 42. Sat, Jul 15, 1905 – Page 3 · The Appeal (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Newspapers.com