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In 1860, flour production stood at 30,000 barrels; it reached 256,100 barrels in 1869. Pillsbury and Company owned five mills at the falls, and in 1879, Washburn-Crosby Company (now General Mills) owned four mills.

The former Washburn "A" Mill building on the west side of the falls exploded on May 2, 1878, but its owners quickly rebuilt the west side district, including a new, larger Washburn "A" Mill.

Also noted architecturally for the city's first steel building and one of its few Sullivanesque designs.

While the falls were familiar to the Ojibwe and Sioux Indians who lived in the area, Father Hennepin spread word of the falls when he returned to France in 1683.The land east of the Mississippi came under England's control in 1763, and then became American territory after the American Revolutionary War in 1783.After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the western side of the falls became American territory as well.The following year, Colonel Josiah Snelling established a permanent fort at a blufftop site overlooking Pike Island and the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers.The fort, first named Fort Saint Anthony and later Fort Snelling, became an island of civilization in the wilderness.

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