Monday, December 20, 2010

Minnesota: "Beltrami Country"

Although we have covered the history of Giacomo Beltrami, the famous explorer from Lombardy, it's worth noting that Minnesota has a number of place names in his honor. Like so many subjects, it always seems like we can't quite do them justice. Beltrami lived an incredible and adventurous life.

First, there is Beltrami County, Minnesota, in the north of the state. Next, there is the city of Beltrami, Minnesota, in the northwest of the state. Lastly, there is a neighborhood named Beltrami in the state's largest city, Minneapolis.

There are likely many other names of streets, parks, etc., which bear his regional iconic name. Beltrami explored the American frontier starting in the 1820s. This country wasn't very old at that time, and Minnesota was largely unexplored by Americans. It's hard to imagine that today, but it had really been less than fifty years since the Revolutionary War.

Now, as we look back today, from a "Lombardian-American" perspective, it's ironic that there was significant later immigration from Lombardy to that Great Lakes region. Places like Duluth, Minnesota and Iron Mountain, Michigan; and other places more eastward, on the American and Canadian sides of the lakes. There's a whole history that we need to dig through. We're really just painting some very broad strokes here. There were a couple of notable Lombard Catholic missionaries in the Wisconsin area, who were sent to teach and convert the local natives. One even wrote a book to help preserve their disappearing language. I don't recall their names offhand, but I can see a definite pattern, over a long period of time, of Lombards in this northern-Midwest area.

[Left: Early Duluth]

I know that I've repeated this theme a number of times, but getting information in this area of study is like pulling teeth. As patterns develop, it's both exciting and frustrating. I can say with reasonable certainty that nobody has written about Lombardian history in North America, except Lombardi nel Mondo in Italian-only publications.

One local exception is a book about "The Hill" in St. Louis, I don't recall the name offhand, which was a Milanese/Lombardian district within nineteenth century St. Louis. I had posted a very interesting article about the history of The Hill in an earlier website, which dealt with specifically Lombard culture there, but I may have lost it unfortunately. However, there is the book, and we can eventually find the information again.


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