WHAT’S IN A NAME: 25 years before Beltrami, a British-Canadian fur trader explored the area – Bemidji Pioneer
, 2022-08-13 10:37:00,
Editor’s note: This is the first in a 20-story series titled “What’s in a name?” completed by Pioneer reporters for our 2022 Annual Report. Read more of the section by clicking the embed at the bottom of this article.
With a slight twist of events, Beltrami County could have been named Thompson County.
That’s because in 1798, a British-Canadian man named David Thompson was the first foreign explorer to supply descriptions of Red Lake and Turtle Lake, according to the Genealogy Trails History Group website.
Thompson was a fur trader, surveyor and cartographer who was known to some Native American people as “Koo-Koo-Sint” or “the Stargazer.” In his career, Thompson traveled 56,000 miles across North America, mapping 1.9 million square miles along the way. He has been described as the greatest practical land geographer that the world has produced.
But it was an Italian explorer — Giacomo Costantino Beltrami — for whom the county was named. In 1823, Beltrami was in search of the Mississippi River’s source when he came upon a lake he named for a deceased friend: Lake Julia.
Beltrami thought the lake sent its waters both toward the Mississippi and into what was then known as the Bloody River, later formally named the Red Lake River.
Most locals know that Bemidji was named for the Ojibwe Chief Shaynowishkung, whose band of about 50 people had their homes on and near the south end of Lake Bemidji and around Lake Irving, including the site where white settlers founded the town.
Chief Bemidji’s name was taken from the older Ojibwe name of this lake, crossed by the Mississippi River. It was translated as “the lake where the current flows directly across the water.”
Explorer Henry Schoolcraft, in the narrative of his expedition to Lake Itasca in 1832, wrote the name of Lake Bemidji as “Pamitchi Gumaug” or “Lac Travers.”
On a map drawn by Joseph Nicollet in 1843, the lake is spelled “Pemidji L.” Nicollet, a French scientist, geographer and mathematician, led three expeditions from 1836 through 1839. His map of the Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi covered parts of what would become eight states.
To read the original article, go to Click here