Continental Divide Monument Tells the New York Mills Story

by Steve Heriot, photo provided

The drop of water had circulated in the ocean for 3,000 years before evaporating off the California coast. It developed into a vaporous part of a cloud that floated for nine days high above the Rocky Mountains and across the Central Plains. When the water vapor hit the cool air two miles above New York Mills, Minnesota, it condensed and transformed into a liquid raindrop, which fell for six minutes at 30 feet per second, landing squarely upon the top of the Centennial Monument in Central Park and splitting into two smaller droplets. One of the smaller droplets dripped off the left side of the monument, and water molecules from it made their way toward the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The other small drop dripped off the right side of the monument, and molecules from it started their journey to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean.

The Centennial Monument commemorates the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of New York Mills and the historical significance of the geographical setting of the city. The monument, which is situated precisely on the Continental Divide, has a fountain, which symbolizes rain falling on New York Mills, and two plaques. The smaller plaque reads “As the Water Falls and Divides Upon this Stone, the Rains Falling Upon this Park flow both North and South to the Seas.”

The larger bronze plaque further explains the monument’s purpose. “This marker is erected on the height of land which divides North America into vast drainage areas. The land on your left drains to the Gulf of Mexico and the land on your right drains to the Hudson Bay. For 150 years, the divide also delineated the realms of nations seeking dominion over the continent’s immeasurable resources.”

Continental Divide Monument in New York Mills. Minnesota
Continental Divide Monument in New York Mills, Minnesota

Specifically, the west side of town was within “Rupert’s Land,” granted by King Charles II in 1672 to “Governours and Adventurers trading in Hudsons Baye.” In 1818 the lands drained by the Red River of the North, lying south of the 49th parallel, were relinquished by the British. The east side of town lies within Louisiana Territory, which was alternatively under the rule of Spanish and French monarchs from the 16th Century until 1803 when it was ceded to the United States by Napoleon.

The flags of England, France, Spain, the 15-star American flag of expansion, and the current American flag fly over this marker on ceremonial occasions, greeting visitors to New York Mills and symbolizing the spirit of the explorers and settlers of North America.

The first settlers to New York Mills were directed here by advertisements placed by the New York Mills Company, who wanted to log the area’s majestic white pines. A lumber mill was established, followed by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1871. The town was established in 1884 when the population was about 300. Today, New York Mills is a city of 1,200 residents and has developed into a progressive, forward-thinking community.

Category: Education, Live