Phalen Creek was once a spring fed-stream flowing from Lake Phalen through
a deep ravine it had gouged from the land, and into a low delta on the
Mississippi River floodplain. Surrounded by forests and wetlands, the
creek formed a natural corridor for migrating songbirds and other wildlife
traveling between the Mississippi and Phalen Chain of Lakes. Native
American tribes offered prayers and held councils in the nearby caves.
The outlet and small delta at its mouth is thought to be the place at
which Fr. Louis Hennepin landed on his journey to discover the falls
of St. Anthony in 1680.
1838, Edward "Big Ed" Phelan was discharged from Fort Snelling.
He moved into a ramshackle house he had built with another discharged
soldier named John Hays. The two didn't get along for shit, however,
and when Hays went missing and was eventually found dead, floating
in the Mississippi River near Carver's Cave, the authorities at Fort
Snelling arrested Phelan for murder. (Hays's murder was the first
homicide ever committed in Saint Paul, FYI.) He spent six months in
the territorial prison at Prairie du Chien, but then a dying Indian
confessed to the crime on his deathbed and Phelan was freed. Sounds
pretty fishy to me, but I wasn't there.
getting back to the creek; by the time he'd gotten out of prison,
Phelan had lost his rights to his old land claim, so he took up a
new one at the falls of Phelan's Creek. He sold this in 1844 and went
on to claim several other plots of land along the creek that was later
to be named after him. (In 1850, Phelan fled the state for California,
to flee from the Ramsey County sheriff on new criminal charges. He
behaved so violently toward his traveling companions that they were
forced to kill him in self-defense.)