2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (9–12 October 2011)
Paper No. 96-32
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM

FROM CONCORD TO THE LOWER SIOUX AGENCY AND BACK: GEOGRAPHIC AND GEOLOGIC OBSERVATIONS OF HENRY DAVID THOREAU AND HORACE MANN, JR., ON THEIR EXCURSION TO MINNESOTA, MAY–JULY 1861

INNERS, Jon D., Pennsylvania Geological Survey (retired), 1915 Columbia Avenue, Camp Hill, PA 17011, jdinners@hotmail.com, SCHWIE, Dale R., Thoreau Society, 7514 Girard Avenue S, Minneapolis, MN 55423, FLEEGER, Gary M., Pennsylvania Geological Survey, 3240 Schoolhouse Road, Middletown, PA 17057, and INNERS, Rebecca B., 1537 Albert Street N, St. Paul, MN 55108

On 11 May 1861 Henry David Thoreau, Transcendentalist author and naturalist, and Horace Mann, Jr., a 17-year-old, budding scientist, left Concord, MA, for a planned 3-month excursion to Minnesota—mainly as a means of arresting the former’s increasingly severe tuberculosis, but also as a chance to study Midwestern flora and fauna and to observe the Indians there. Thoreau and Mann took the train to East Dubuque, IL, stopping off for several days at Niagara Falls and Chicago, and then boarded a steamboat on the Mississippi River for St. Paul—arriving on 26 May.

In Minnesota they visited St. Anthony Falls, Minnehaha Falls, Lakes Harriet and Calhoun, Carver’s Cave, and Fort Snelling. Starting on 17 June, they traveled on the steamer “Frank Steele” up the Minnesota River to the Lower Sioux Agency to observe the granting of annuities to the Sioux and related festivities. Upon returning to St. Paul on 22 July, they decided to cut their sojourn short. Taking a boat south, they stopped at Red Wing, MN, to explore and botanize on Barn Bluff for 4 days. On 26 July they began the long trip back by boat and train, stopping for 5 days at Mackinac Island, MI. They arrived in Concord on 9 July.

Although both Thoreau and Mann’s consuming interest in their travels was botany, they made numerous observations on the landscape and geology. They commented on the “dune hills” and building stones of Chicago; the bluffs along the Mississippi; the digging of “poor” stone (Platteville Limestone) for buildings out of their cellars in St. Paul; the many swallow holes in the “very soft and crumbly” St. Peter Sandstone; the quarries in the red Sioux Quartzite near New Ulm; and the physiography of Barn Bluff, with its still-evident “double path.” Thoreau well described the wild meanders of the underfit Minnesota River—noting that it was 250-300 river miles from St. Paul to the Lower Sioux Agency, a crowflight distance of ~120 miles.

Thoreau’s attempt to improve his health was unsuccessful. His condition continued to worsen, and by December 1861 he was confined to the “Yellow House” in Concord, where he finished writing several of his classic essays, including “Walking,” and died on 6 May 1862. Horace Mann, Jr., went on to become a noted Harvard-educated, but short-lived, botanist. He died in 1868 of tuberculosis, possibly contracted from Thoreau on their Minnesota excursion.

2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (9–12 October 2011)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 96--Booth# 52
Geomorphology (Posters)
Minneapolis Convention Center: Hall C
9:00 AM-6:00 PM, Monday, 10 October 2011

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 43, No. 5, p. 252

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