Exploring a Carver County ghost town: San Francisco, Minn.

In June 1868, Civil War hero, Army surgeon, and one-term Rep. A.A. “Doc” Ames — who would later become one of the most corrupt mayors in Minneapolis history — relocated from Minnesota to Northern California to try his hand in the newspaper business. In his first month in town, he sent the following dispatch back to the Minneapolis Tribune, breathlessly recounting his early impressions of the city of San Francisco: “… It is a magnificent metropolitan — and a wealthy city — having more inviting qualities than any other, reaching out arms of wealth and happiness to all persons, cities, and countries. Her streets are beautiful, churches elegant, hotels splendid, stores large and well-furnished. She has an industrious population — mills, factories, and machine shops in active operation, answering to the great demands of the city and country.”

Most of America shared Doc Ames’ high opinion of San Francisco in the 1850s and ’60s: a beautiful, prosperous, world-class city, growing by leaps and bounds every decade, attracting ambitious, talented strivers from all over the world. In 1854, a few years before Minnesota statehood, a man named William Foster, who’d just migrated from the west and shared this opinion, put his admiration into action. (Foster had an exceptionally interesting life himself before his arrival in Minnesota that’s worth reading about.) He platted a village site very near the rapids on the Minnesota River, in what would later be Carver County, about 30 miles southwest of Minneapolis. Foster must have had big dreams of reaching out arms of wealth and happiness, because he named his village “San Francisco.” San Francisco, almost as hilly in places as its namesake, sat not on a bay but on the banks and bluffs of the Minnesota.

Check out the full article about San Francisco Township on MinnPost: https://www.minnpost.com/stroll/2013/11/exploring-carver-county-ghost-town-san-francisco-minn

MinnPost illustration by Andy Sturdevant