The Story of Pilot Knob
I’ll never forget when I first came here, I remember a friend of mine recounting a conversation that she’d had with her younger sister after watching a news clip of something or another that had happened in Eagan. “Pilot Knob and Yankee Doodle Roads? Sounds like some kind of weird story book world.” I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t burst out in laughter the first time I drove through this city, when I was miserably lost and my husband told me to turn onto “Johnny Cake Ridge Road.” Oh boy…
Since then, I have grown to love the whimsical names and even learned a few of their meanings. Pilot Knob Road is named for a landmark that’s just north of Eagan. It is a glacial formation, a hill that looks sort of like a knob. The Dakota in the area called it O-He-Ya-Wa-He, meaning “a place much visited.” It was considered a sacred place for the Dakota, they often camped near it. Early French visitors witnessed the Dakota burying their dead at the site and thenceforth called it “Knoll of the Dead.” Despite it’s many names, the hill likely gets its modern name from riverboat captains who used it as a navigational reference point.
In 1851, it became the historic signing place for the Treaty of Mendota that was largely signficant the creation of the Territory of Minnesota. In combination with the Treaty of 1851 the U.S. Government acquired most of the land south of Minneapolis. Later this event would be marked by plaque’s placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution only after a part of the land was established as a cemetary.