Graceville, Minnesota

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Graceville is a city in Big Stone County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 605 at the 2000 census.

Contents

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 0.6 square miles (1.6 km²), all of it land.

U.S. Route 75 and Minnesota State Highway 28 are the two major highways that run through the community. The town's main street is named Studdart Avenue. The town is located on the northeast corner of Toqua Lake, a recreational lake surrounded by two campgrounds, a golf course and a shooting club.

Graceville is in a natural area called a wet prairie, which is a mix of prairie land, swamp and numerous small lakes and ponds. In 2009 a local farm cooperative began development of a large wind farm to the east of town.

History

Graceville was originally granted to Archbishop John Ireland of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Wishing to settle the Minnesota prairie with Catholic Irish-Americans, he actively promoted settlement in Graceville and the surrounding region. The town was named for Bishop Thomas Grace and a special line was built across the prairie from Morris, Minnesota.

In summer 1880, Archbishop Ireland paid for the passage of a ship filled with Famine refugees from Connemara in County Galway. Arriving in Graceville too late to adequately prepare and having little grasp of English, the Irish language speakers were ill prepared for the massive blizzard which descended in the winter. As both the Protestant Freemasons of Morris and the English speaking Irish-Americans of Graceville both schemed to manipulate the situation for their own ends, the sufferings of the Connemara refugees became an international scandal.

With the future of his entire Catholic Colonization Bureau in jeopardy, Archbishop Ireland offered up the "Conamaras" as a sacrifice, condemning them as shiftless, lazy and drunken. In the early months of 1881, all but three families were evicted from their claims and resettled in a shantytown in Saint Paul which was instantly dubbed The Connemara Patch. Meanwhile, back in Graceville, the name "Conamara" became an insult, a pejorative term for a lazy, drunken failure. Archbishop Ireland would later describe the scandal as the greatest grief of his life.

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