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        Minnesota | Activity 4.4: Ghost Towns - Nininger, Minnesota

        Students piece together a timeline of events related to the development of Nininger, Minnesota. Students also establish cause-and-effect relationships based on their analyses of events in the timeline.

        Lesson Summary

        Students piece together a timeline of events related to the development of Nininger, Minnesota. Students also establish cause-and-effect relationships based on their analyses of events in the timeline.

        This lesson is part of "Great States: Minnesota | Unit 4: Treaties and Statehood" which focuses on how the enormous economic, political, and technological changes of the 19th century impacted the creation of the state of Minnesota.

        Time Allotment

        30 minutes

        Learning Objectives

        Standards:  Describe how and why the United States claimed and settled the upper Mississippi River region in the early nineteenth century; explain the impact of steamboat transportation and settlement on the physical, social and cultural landscapes.



        1. Explain the difference between an immigrant and an emigrant. They both describe a person who has permanently moved from one country to another. In the country the person has moved to, he/she is known as an immigrant. In the country the person has moved from, he/she is known as an emigrant. Give an example. (“I live in the United States. If I moved to Canada, Canada would recognize me as an immigrant, and in the United States I would be seen as an emigrant.”)

        2. Show the Emigration Up the Mississippi poster advertisement about the new town of Nininger along the Mississippi River.

        3. Explain that this poster used the word “emigration” instead of “immigration.” The poster was advertising to people in other areas of the United States, in hopes of convincing them to leave their hometowns for the new city of Nininger. Thus, the goal was to have people emigrate from their current lives.

        4. Ask students to describe the highlighted words and why would these be the focus of the poster. Note the highlighted words are “mechanics” and “water power.” These relate to the skills they want to attract to the new town. Ask students to describe the images on the poster. Trains and ships are the images, showing that transportation is the key to the new town and anyone involved in the transportation industry would want to move there.

        5. Next, discuss the town accessibility and growth in the beginning. People flocked in, searching for work and new opportunities. The demand for transportation workers lead to growth in areas such as markets, restaurants, housing contractors, and more.

        6. Then, ask students if they know what happens to a town when there is a financial crisis. Explain that people stop spending money, and that new businesses are especially vulnerable to difficulties when this occurs. This is why the town failed after a financial panic of 1857, causing investors in the town to back out their financial support.

        7. Explain that this lack of support, in addition to the flood of new workers after the abolishment of slavery, was too much for the town to handle and it was abandoned in 1869.

        8. Along with a pair of scissors, hand out the Nininger Timeline handout to students. (A piece of construction paper and glue is optional, if you want students to glue down the finished product). Individually, have students cut out the strips and rearrange them into chronological order (by date).

        9. Based on the timeline and their analysis of the poster, either in groups or in a classroom discussion, ask students to formulate a preliminary explanation for why the town of Nininger was born, how it grew, and why it died. Have students fill out their explanations with additional research, if desired.

        Answer Key

        Timeline order:

        • land grant from Congress for railroad in Minnesota (1854)

        • population boom in Nininger (1857)

        • financial Panic of 1857

        • entry of Minnesota into the Union (1858)

        • Civil War (1861)

        • abolition of slavery (1865)

        • abandonment of Nininger (1869)

        Last discussion question:

        The land grant for a railroad in Minnesota made the territory more accessible and attractive to settlers. Many people moved to Nininger due to its accessibility and natural beauty, and the town thrived. The financial Panic of 1857 caused people to miss payments, stalled construction, and scared away potential investors. The growth of Nininger had stopped. The territory of Minnesota, however, was stable and large enough to enter into the Union. The Civil War was costly in terms of resources and lives lost. A lack of financial resources due to the above events halted the further development of Nininger and required many residents to move.


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