Who were these early settlers and where did they come from? The first permanent settlers in all of Minnesota were those in Hennepin County, organized in 1852 and named in honor of Father Hennepin, a Franciscan missionary born in 1640. He was with LaSalle on his expedition to the little known Great Lakes. They went on to the Mississippi River, following it up to the Falls of St. Anthony where they were captured by the Sioux Indians, but later rescued.
As we know, the Eastern seaboard had been settled two centuries before. Many cities had sprung up and gradually the population became more dense and people moved westward, seeking land for new homes. On May 13, 1858, Minnesota became a state. Land had been opened up for settlement in 1855. News reached the eastern and southern states that here a man could obtain title to one hundred sixty acres of land by clearing one acre, building a dwelling not less than eight by ten feet containing a window, a door, a stove and a bed, paying one and one fourth dollars an acre and vowing fidelity to the United States of America. Most of these settlers were young and strong and some brought their families with them. Many came up the river by steamboat to St. Paul, stopping at St. Anthony, a small village of about five hundred people, for supplies, and formed oxen drawn wagon trains to follow an Indian track west, hacking out a road as they went. At this period in the history of Hennepin County, St. Anthony Falls was the center of travel for the Indian and the white man, explorer, missionary and trader. Nearby was Fort St. Anthony, established in 1821 and occupied by troops. In January, 1826, the first steamboat arrived, bringing supplies. In 1828 Colonel Snelling passed away and somewhat later the name of Fort St. Anthony was changed to Fort Snelling in his honor.
Before a single white man had settled in what is now Independence intending to make it his permanent home, many had come as far from St. Anthony to what is now Wayzata and other points on Lake Minnetonka, where small settlements had sprung up. The village of Wayzata was laid out in 1854 and the first post office there was in the postmaster's home in 1855. The settlers nicknamed it the "petticoat post office" as the postmaster's wife carried the few letters that arrived in her pocket, taking them out to sort over to the anxious patron. The first post office at Long Lake was established in 1856 in the home of Henry Stubbs and was named Tamarack Post Office, later changed to Long Lake. In 1856 the first post office in Independence was opened in the log cabin of Irvin Shrewsbury. The mail was brought weekly from Minneapolis. Later this route was extended to Watertown, the farthest west the mail had been taken up to that time. At first mail was brought by horseback riders and later by stage line. Any newspaper arriving from the East was eagerly passed from hand to hand and events of great importance often were not known for months after they had taken place.