The area that is now the northern suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul was originally open woods and boggy marshes. It was home to the Dakota and then the Ojibwe. The first white man to enter the area is thought to be the Franciscan monk, Father Louis Hennepin, around 1680. It was traversed by French and Native Americans during the fur trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Permanent white settlements started in the mid-19th century. The Rum and Mississippi Rivers were used for logging and milling. The Homestead Act of 1862 increased the number of settlers in the area. Improvements in transportation linked the northern area to the central cities. Development of railroads and a dependable highway system increased travel between the areas. Soon the isolated townships and farms were only a half hour drive from the downtown central business district. Residents began to move outward.
Suburbanization took off after WWII. The population was growing. The Interstate system was built. Rural Anoka, Chisago, and Sherburne counties became suburban. Today family farms are being converted into subdivisions. Old downtowns are redeveloping toward niche markets because of the competition of retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. The woods and marshes are becoming suburbia.