“Henry,” she said, “was an ass.”
Following the War of 1812, the U.S. government sought to stamp out British
influence in the Northwest Territory, including what became Minnesota. Henry Leavenworth, who was related to more than a handful of Yale alumni both then and later, was charged by U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Zebulon Pike with the building of a fort at the intersection of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.
Pike thought it most suitable to build the fort on the low ground by their
banks. While access at that location might have been good for trading, from
a military perspective, it was hardly ideal for defending the point.
Leavenworth was replaced by Josiah Snelling, after whom the Fort was ultimately named, in 1820. By the time Leavenworth left Minnesota, he had
married three times. Lake Harriet, one of Minneapolis’ famed chain of lakes, is the namesake of his third wife, Harriet Lovejoy.
Henry Leavenworth’s dubious legacy lives on in Minnesota at the museum established at the old Fort. On one occasion, Don Leavenworth, Henry’s later relative and Yale, Class of 1952, visited the Fort Snelling Museum. Upon his arrival at the Museum, Don saw a volunteer in period costume portraying a woman of the earlier era. Don asked if she knew of old Henry. In response, she leaned over and whispered to him about Henry Leavenworth’s nature —
It was only then that Don revealed his relation to old Henry.