Long before Minnetonka was incorporated as a village, areas of settlement grew around small business centers. Those areas are known as Groveland, Minnetonka Mills, Oak Knoll and Glen Lake. While much has changed over time, one can still experience some of Minnetonka’s history when visiting these areas.
Groveland is in the northwestern corner of Minnetonka, loosely bounded by Lake Minnetonka’s Gray’s Bay and Minnehaha Creek on the north, Minnetonka Boulevard on the south and County Road 101 on the west.
The first settlers were workers who helped build a saw mill and creek dam at Minnetonka Mills, which is near where Minnetonka Boulevard, Plymouth Road and Shady Oak Road meet today. Some of the families that settled the Groveland area included the Shavers, Chowens, Grays and Ogins.
James Shaver and his wife, Sarah Chowen Shaver, were the first settlers in the area. James was employed in the building of the saw mill at Minnetonka Mills. Sarah prepared food for the workers. In 1853, Sarah gave birth to twin sons, Bernerd and Bayard. They were the first twins to be born to any settler woman in the area. In fact, twins were unknown to Native American culture and, as a result, a large group of native representatives visited the Shavers to view the babies.
The birth was important in maintaining the peaceful relationship between the settlers and the Native Americans. At the onset of the Dakota Uprising, many settlers outside the lake area fled to the safety of Fort Snelling, but it seems that the settlers in this area did not consider themselves in danger and never felt the urge to flee.
William Chowen, Sarah Shaver’s brother, came to the area and built a cabin at County Road 101 and Minnetonka Boulevard. He purchased land for other members of his family, including his brother-in-law Amos Gray.
When a settler died of cholera in 1855, William donated land for a burial place, Amos made the casket, and thus Groveland Cemetery was founded. A year later, the toddler son of the Grays was also buried there. Groveland Cemetery is the beautiful burial place of many historic Minnetonka family members and remains active today.
Another family that settled in Groveland was the Ogins. Henry Ogin was one of the first trustees of Groveland Cemetery. He and his wife, Mary Jane Vandermark, came to Groveland in 1866 and had nine children.
Soon, settlers began to move to the Minnetonka area from New England and other eastern states—plus Northern Europe, Great Britain, Ireland and Bohemia (now the Czech Republic)—to farm.
William Chowen donated the land for the first school in Minnetonka, a log structure. Over time, several new school buildings were built on and near the site of the current Groveland Elementary School.
At the crossroads of Minnetonka Boulevard and the wagon path now known as County Road 101, settlement flourished. The corner was first known as Chowen’s Corner. William Chowen was the postmaster of Chowen until the early 1890s, when the area took on the name of Groveland Corner.
When Joseph Chowen built his cabin near Minnetonka and Northome boulevards in the 1890s, this area took on the name of Annie Chowen’s Corner after his daughter, but soon was simply called Chowen’s Corner. Business came to the corner in 1906, when the Deephaven Store moved there from Minnetonka Mills.
Lake Minnetonka’s Gray’s Bay was most likely named for Amos Gray. His family’s original house remains standing near the corner of Northome Boulevard and Minnetonka Boulevard.
Samuel Bartow purchased 12 acres of land on the shores of Wayzata Bay in 1857, and in 1904, the land was deeded to the Methodist Young People’s Lakeside Assembly Association. Up until 1941, the association rented out primitive cottages and maintained an assembly hall.
Want to learn more? Come to the grand opening of the Minnetonka Historical Society Museum noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1. The museum is on the grounds of the historic Burwell House at 13209 McGinty Road East in Minnetonka.