The Historical Geography of Good Thunder, Minnesota, 1870-2005

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Conference Poster

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Good Thunder is a small village in south-central Minnesota on the Maple River. Founded in 1870, it is named for two prominent Indian leaders, a Winnebago chief who lived at the site, and a Dakota who was active in the conflict of 1862. It began as an agricultural commerce center when the railroad arrived in Minnesota. The purpose of the study is to consider the transformation of the village, focusing upon the origins and significance of its physical and cultural features in the context of historical geography. The changing historical events and geographical features of the village portray this change in five distinct eras of sequent occupance. Commercial, residential, public, and religious spaces in the landscape are examined using historical photographs and maps to describe the stages visually. The study associates the interaction of German, Irish, and old-stock American cultures with the physical landscape, and the development of the cultural landscape in the context of broad social and economic themes in Minnesota and the United States. Good Thunder existed as a self-sustained agrarian commercial center for nearly a century before changes in farming practices and transportation technologies undermined the community's economic and social foundations. After three decades of decline, the village experienced a renaissance as a home for local artists. A rekindled sense of community was manifested by a public-art mural, which is now a symbol of the village. Cultural substitution, community pragmatism, and a strong sense of place and identity all play roles in the transformation of the village.


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