I continue to be astounded by the amount of information that can be found online, and how that data grows in exponential leaps within a matter of months. An effort has been underway for years now to digitize books, particularly from the past, which is a researcher’s dream, but a nightmare for authors when it comes to copyright concerns. Google Book Search is the most visible player in the realm of book digitization, partially because Google is so big, but also because it has been maneuvering the thicket of digital rights negotiations with the publishing industry.
Before there was Google Book Search, however, there was Project Gutenberg. Its goal is to provide the full text of books online, to make books freely available to the reading public. Project Gutenberg has over 28,000 books available through its online catalog and offers around 100,000 books through its Partners, Affiliates and Resources. Project Gutenberg has sidestepped thorny copyright issues by concentrating on digitizing books already in the public domain.
You may be asking yourself at this point, “What does this have to do with Morrison County history?” For some time now, Project Gutenberg has had the text of “Minnesota and Dacotah” by C. C. Andrews available for download through its online catalog. The book is a compilation of letters written by Andrews concerning a trip he took into Minnesota Territory in 1856. (The C. C. part of his name is short for Christopher Columbus. Perhaps his name inspired an urge to travel.)
Andrews traveled from Baltimore to Chicago and from there to St. Paul, which was his starting point for investigating other parts of what is now Minnesota. During his travels, he went through Swan River and Little Falls in Morrison County, and continued on to Crow Wing. He met with Chief Hole-in-the-Day II, who had a considerable influence on what is now Morrison County. The details Andrews provides, which are laced heavily with his opinions, give an interesting picture of life in the territory at that time.
And best of all? The book is free and readily available. Check out Project Gutenberg and see what other treasures you can find.