Rice County, Minnesota Needs a Name Change
Henry Mower Rice lobbied the United State Congress to pass the bill to establish Minnesota Territory and then served as its delegate to the U.S. Congress from 1853 to 1857. He also became one of the first Senators to represent the state in 1858 when statehood was granted. His work on the Minnesota Enabling Act during those years facilitated Minnesota's statehood.
As I read accounts concerning the questionable charachter of Henry Mower Rice, the namesake of Rice County, Minnesota, steam poured out of my ears.
When I first moved to this county in 1987 and saw his picture hanging in the Rice County Courthouse I didn't think much about it.
He was one of Minnesota's first two U.S. Senators. So why not?
Then I realized there is no record of him ever being in Rice County. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
Research into the man and you find a very questionable charachter.
This is true of many political figures but it doesn't mean we should name a county after him.
Rice was born in Vermont in 1816. Died while on a trip to San Antonio, Texas January 15, 1894. He is buried in Oakland Cemetery, St. Paul, Mn.
He is described in some historical accounts as a trader, businessman and treaty negotiator. In my estimation these are kind descriptions.
Wikipedia states, "He was responsible for policies that benefited himself and his business partners at the expense of Minnesota indigenous people."
Rice served as Minnesota Senator from May 11, 1858 (when the state was established) until March 4, 1863.
He ran for Governor unsuccessfully in 1865.
Wikipedia has a timeline listed that includes this entry for 1856. Henry "Sibley unsuccessfully sues Rice after discovering he had been cooking Choteau company books to cover his land speculation. Rice switches companies; his soured relationship with Sibley significantly shapes the next five years of Minnesota politics."
Here is another entry from Wikipedia, "In 1854, Rice passed a bill allotting certificates, or “scrip,” exchangeable for 160 acres of unclaimed federal land, to Metís people dislocated by new Dakota treaties. While scrip was hypothetically non-transferable, a loophole allowed a land holding company owned by Rice’s associates to buy thousands of acres of so-called “half-breed" scrip for pennies on the dollar."
"A Democrat with Southern in-laws and friendships with prominent pro-slavery senators, Rice supported allowing states to secede peacefully to avoid the Civil War well into the summer of 1861."
Does this sound like the kind of person we want to name our county after?
There is no reason why we can't rename the county. If it is a person I would propose Whipple County after the Bishop Henry Whipple called "straight tongue" by Native Americans living here.
He spent his own money to board a train and personally lobby President Abraham Lincoln not to order the hanging of scores of Dakota men.
Wouldn't you rather have your county associated with someone like that?
At least he lived in Rice County.
I have several suggestions for a new county name listed below. You might suggest a better one. We might not want to name the county after a person at all because digging deeper who knows what skeletons you might find. I have some of those suggestions here also.
- Whipple County (after Bishop Henry Whipple)
- Rolvaag County (Northfield's proud son and former Governor of the state)
- Quie County (Al Quie, former Governor and U.S. Congressman grew up on a Rice County farm near Dennison)
- Klemmer County (Tom Klemmer started the Faribault Woolen Mill Company)
- Sellner County (Herb Sellner, Inventer of the Tilt-A-Whirl)
- WahpeKute County (Wahpekute Dakota Native Americans were believed to be the first settlers here)
- Hushasha County (Chief of Wahpekute Dakota tribe)
- Deer County (We do have an abundance of deer in the county)
- Dwarf County (Dwarf Trout Lily is a rare wildflower located here)
- Cannon County (Home to Cannon Lake and a segment of the Cannon River)
Those are 10 names I came up with. Do any of them strike your approval? Please participate in this request for input.
If you have other suggestions please let me know. Also please be serious with your selection we want to have an appropriate name for the county.
Either something that has been or is here or someone who actually was here at one time or another.
The inventor of "half-breed scrip" and apparent swindler should never have a county named after them.