James J. Hill
The Dakota Rail Regional Trail follows the route of a former railroad line that was once part of the Great Northern Railway. Built by James J. Hill in the late 1800s, this historic line played a part in connecting Minnesota to the world.
Hill was born on September 16, 1838 in Ontario, Canada. When he was seventeen years old, he arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota. He made his fortune working in the shipping business on the Mississippi and Red Rivers. In 1878, Hill and other investors purchased the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad after its bankruptcy during the Panic of 1873. Soon after, the railroad's name changed to the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railway. The railroad stretched across Minnesota and west toward California to connect with trade routes from the Far East.
Although known as a (sometimes overly) involved manager, James J. Hill was also an astute businessman. His ventures included not only railroads, but coal, freight, and steamboats. Hill noted that the secret to success was, "Work, hard work, intelligent work, and then more work."
Over time, the rail line became known as the Great Northern Railroad and was called James J. Hill's "Greatest Adventure." Hill died on May 29, 1916 in St. Paul, Minnesota, but his legacy lives on with the Dakota Rail Regional Trail.
Fun Facts about
The first settlers to arrive in Mayer were German and Swiss
August Ninneman was the first to leave the Helvetia townsite and open a store in Mayer.
Mayer built its first public school (District 73) in 1887.
In July 1907, the first gasoline street lamps appeared in Mayer.
In 1908, Mayer enacted a law to bar livestock from running loose on the streets.
In 1925, Mrs. John Rabe was the first woman to take office in Mayer. She served as the Justice of the Peace.
In 1933, Elmer Sell started Carver County's first airport in Mayer. Sell was in the Air Corps during WWI and bought his first plane in 1931.
O.D. Sell (of Mayer) founded the Carver County Historical Society in 1940. The museum was located in Mayer until the mid-1940s, when it moved to Waconia.
Mayer Lutheran High School opened in 1961.
1856 - The arrival of a rail line brings settlement of a village at Mayer.
1878 - James J. Hill acquired the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad.
1885 - The Great Northern Railroad opens through Coney Island Station, Mayer, and New Germany.
1888 - Christian and Wilhelmine Haueter name the village of Mayer after a roadmaster who worked on the Great Northern Railroad.
1970 - The Great Northern Railroad merges with the Northern Pacific to form Burlington Northern Railroad.
1984 - Burlington Northern stops operating the line.
1985 - The Dakota Rail purchases the railroad and resumes operation.
1995 - RailAmerica purchase the line but continue to operate under the name of Dakota Rail.
2001 - The Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority (HCRRA) acquired the entire railroad corridor from Wayzata to Hutchinson.
2002 - Carver County Regional Trail Authority acquires its portion of the corridor from HCRRA.
Fall 2004 to Spring 2005 - Steel and ties are salvaged from the railroad corridor.
2008 - Three Rivers Park District develops the first 13.5 miles of trail from Wayzata to St. Bonifacius.
2010 - Carver County developed the 5.5 miles from Mayer to Mcleod County Line near Lester Prairie.