On May 6, 1864, as the Civil War was being fought a thousand miles away, 23 men gathered on a midwestern plain to dig a ditch.
Many of the men were captured southern soldiers who had been given a choice: go up north to help settle the west, or keep sitting in a prisoner-of-war camp.
The mens’ mission: build a fort to protect white settlers in the Dakota territories.
The fort — a log wall lining a rectangular ditch — was named Fort Hilmer, and stood where downtown Redwood Falls is today.
The original trading post was a wood building that stands where the old office supply store downtown is.
The first brick building in Redwood Falls was built next door, on approximately the site of Calf Fiend coffee shop.
As the town grew, it took time to celebrate each new milestone.
“In 1914, the town had a celebration for Redwood’s 50th anniversary,” said mayor and town historian Gary Revier.
“They celebrated by bringing back as many of the original settlers as they could to tell their stories.
“The National Guard Armory downtown was dedicated at that time, and most of the celebrations were held there.
“In 1939, for the 75th anniversary, there were still a few of the old pioneers left, who could tell about life here in the 1870s,” said Revier.
“For the centennial in 1964, Redwood held the biggest celebration this community has ever seen. We had the biggest parade in our history, water shows, and a pageant.”
April 6, 2014 marks the 150th birthday of Redwood Falls’ founding, and city leaders hope everyone gets on board to celebrate it with style.
“On Oct. 17, City Council President Cory Theis and I will moderate a meeting to discuss plans for the 150th anniversary,” said Revier.
“We’d like to encourage everyone — including churches, service clubs, and athletic clubs — to get involved to help tell their stories.
“We’d especially like to invite the Dakota community to tell of their thousands of years of history here.”
Revier said a date for the 150th birthday celebrations hasn’t been settled on, but he’s expecting it to probably be held next June, perhaps in conjunction with the traditional community parade.
“The celebration will have to be coordinated with a lot of different organizations,” said Revier.
The first organizational meeting will be held at the Redwood Area Community Center on Oct. 17 starting at 5:30 p.m.