In downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, spanning the Mississippi River, there is a “Stone Arch Bridge” that resembles a roman viaduct with its 23 arches. Built at a time when Minneapolis was a primary grain-milling and wood-producing center for the United States, Empire Builder James J. Hill wanted the bridge built to help his railroad reach the Pacific Coast.
Primarily a story that stitches together the interesting people and events in 1883 Minneapolis, young Fritz Persson is at the center of the telling, spending the summer after fifth grade working with the limestone-cutting crew as they race to finish the bridge by September. A young Swedish immigrant living on the Mississippi River Flats, Fritz is working so he and his father can bring his mother and two sisters to live with them in America.
Woven into the story is the explosion at the Washburn “A” Mill, Minneapolis’ role in the Underground Railroad, how Pierre Bottineau worked as a trader and landowner with those swiftly settling the twin towns, and the ways in which the Dakota, Ojibwe, and African Americans shaped this part of the country.
The author has been a docent at the Mill City Museum for a decade and knows her history well. The story of her own family is woven into that of Fritz’s family because he was her great uncle. Fritz’s brother in real life and Ms. Ruff’s grandfather, but not a part of the story, was the founder of the Pearson Nut Company, beloved for its Nut Goodie and Salted Nut Roll candy bars.
It’s a short chapter book written for ages 8 to 12, but adults will find it a satisfactory introduction to the history of the area as well.
Keystones of the Stone Arch Bridge
written by Carolyn Ruff
illustrated by Christie Washam
Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014