The History Behind the Pierre Bottineau House

by | Mar 2024

The Pierre Bottineau House sits in Three Rivers Park District.

The Pierre Bottineau House sits in Three Rivers Park District. Photos: Three Rivers Park District

A historical interpreter discusses the life and legacy of Minnesota frontiersman Pierre Bottineau.

When Mike Murray discusses Pierre Bottineau, it’s like he is talking about an old friend. The details and timeline the historical interpreter for Three Rivers Park District has of Bottineau, a man who died 128 years ago, is extensive, impressive and worth listening to.

“There’s quite a history to Bottineau,” Murray says. “He played a large role in the development of Minnesota.”

 Pierre Bottineau

Pierre Bottineau

And while Bottineau’s legacy lives on through stories and history books, another piece of him still stands today to allow visitors to learn about the Minnesota frontiersman, who led treacherous expeditions throughout Minnesota and North Dakota. The Pierre Bottineau House, located near the chalet in Elm Creek Park Reserve, allows visitors to experience the life and times of the legendary Bottineau. Through public programs or tours, visitors can explore exhibits that showcase Bottineau’s varied roles as hunter, trader and entrepreneur.

While Murray says there’s a lot to know about Bottineau, he touched on the highlights of the man, who was born in 1817 in a hunting camp near Grand Forks, North Dakota. His father was French-Canadian and his mother was an Ojibwe woman. Later in life, Murray explained, Bottineau’s heritage helped him become a renowned diplomat and translator.

“He was known as The Walking Peace Pipe,” Murray says. “He was fluent in many languages, including English, French, Ojibwe, Cree and Winnebago.”

Throughout his life as a guide, Bottineau played a key role in the settlements that became Maple Grove and Osseo, plus other towns.

Murray says it was when Bottineau ended up in the area known as Bottineaus’s Prairie on the Maple Grove/Osseo border, that he had found “paradise” and built his forever home.

“He built a house in 1854 in that area because he loved it there,” Murray says, noting the house has since moved a few times to help save the building and find an area that closely resembles the natural setting Bottineau would have experienced—woodland and open ground. It has been in its present location in Elm Creek since 2009.

While Bottineau was a unique man, his house was, too. It was the first wood-framed house built in Maple Grove and resembled a Greek revival style.

Pierre Bottineau House

Pierre Bottineau House

“The corners of the building look like Greek columns,” Murray says. “The front door facing the chalet that has two side lights were also common in Greek revival style. While it had a timber frame, it also had a balloon frame. The joke is that the building is so light, it could float away like a balloon.”

Starting a Congregation

Murray says Bottineau founded more than communities. While in Osseo, Bottineau brought the Catholic community into his home. In 1855, the first mass offered in Osseo took place in Bottineau’s living room. 

The community needed a Catholic church, so Bottineau and many volunteers completed the first building in 1856, naming it Church of St. Louis. This was the first Catholic church built in Hennepin County, west of the Mississippi River. 

“He not only built churches, but he also filled them, too,” Murray says.

Visiting the Pierre Bottineau House

Murray says the best way to take advantage of various programming at the Pierre Bottineau House is to keep an eye on the Three Rivers Park District program calendar to see offerings.

“When you visit Pierre Bottineau’s house, you’ll get a broader sense of his story and the role he played in our state’s history,” Murray says. “He was really an interesting guy.”

Three Rivers Park District
Facebook: Three Rivers Park District


Recent Stories

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This