Albert Lea, Minnesota

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For the musician, see Albert Lee

Albert Lea is a city in and the county seat of Freeborn County in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Minnesota.[3] The population was 18,356 at the 2000 census.

The city is at the junction of Interstates 35 and 90, about 90 miles (140 km) south of the Twin Cities. It is on the shores of Fountain Lake, Pickerel Lake, Albert Lea Lake, Goose Lake, School Lake, and Lake Chapeau. Fountain Lake and Albert Lea Lake are part of the Shell Rock River flowage.

The city's early growth was based upon agriculture, farming support services and manufacturing and was a significant rail center. At one time it was the site of Cargill's headquarters. Other manufacturing included Edwards Manufacturing (barn equipment), Scotsman Ice Machines, Streater Store fixtures, and Universal Milking Machines. Like many U.S. towns much of the manufacturing base has diminished. A long-time center of the city's job opportunity was the Wilson & Company meat packing plant, later known as Farmstead and Farmland. This facility was destroyed by fire. The largest employer is currently Albert Lea Medical Center/Mayo with over 1,500 jobs.

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History

The city is named after Albert Miller Lea, a topographer with the United States Dragoons, who surveyed southern Minnesota and northern Iowa in 1835, including the current site of Albert Lea.[4] Captain Nathan Boone, a son of Daniel Boone, was the scout for Lea's unit.

Albert Lea received national attention in 1959 after Local 6 of the United Packinghouse Workers of America went on strike against Wilson & Co. (one of the Big Four meatpacking plants at the time) over issues involving mandatory overtime requirements.[5] When Wilson & Co. attempted to operate the plant with replacement workers, violence erupted and split the town. During the 109-day strike, Governor Orville Freeman acted to quell the violence by closing the plant, calling in the Minnesota National Guard, and (on December 11) declaring martial law.[6] A Federal district court in Minneapolis ruled against the Governor on December 23, and the plant turned back to Wilson & Co. just days later.[7]

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