This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Forgotten Minnesota website. The first article was posted on January 3, 2011—about two days after I decided to start a website. It all started as something to keep me busy after my job of ten years was made redundant. My goal was to write a short history of as many places as I could find throughout the state. It wasn’t long before I found that goal to be impossible. After digging into several places, I found it difficult to keep the articles short since brevity has never been my strong suit—there was just so much more to each story than I could tell in 500 words. I found that I enjoyed researching, writing, and posting more when I allowed myself to dig into the story and not be guided by a word limit. After realizing that, I was on my way.
The first year was tough. I wasn’t confident enough in what I was doing to let anyone other than friends and family know about the site. The site averaged 50-75 hits per month, but each new reader boosted my confidence. People started emailing me leads and offering their expertise, and with that came more and more hits. Forgotten Minnesota slowly grew by word of mouth. In May 2014, an article about me and my website was published in the Star Tribune. Within an hour of the article going live on the Star Tribune website, Forgotten Minnesota had more hits than it had in the previous month. Email and phone calls started pouring in, and I knew that I was doing something that connected with people.
Now, Forgotten Minnesota averages more than 11,000 unique hits per month, has a mailing list of over 6,000 email addresses, and nearly 3,500 followers on social media. I regularly receive offers to write books, speak to groups of history lovers, tour places the public doesn’t usually get to see, and interview people that have amazing stories to tell. Sometimes it’s hard to believe how much things have changed in five years.
Every new place I visit for the website becomes my new favorite place. I rarely walk away from somewhere feeling underwhelmed. I usually make site visits several months before you read the article. The toughest part about that is not spilling the beans about the great places I get to visit until months later. That has taught me patience. It’s also difficult to see articles about people/places that I love receive a low number of readers. That has taught me to be more resilient. Your kind words and support have taught me to be more confident. The amount of work it takes to keep the website running and stocked with new articles has taught me tenacity and to be proactive. But over the past five years, the biggest thing I have learned is gratitude. I am thankful to everyone who has joined me on this journey, whether you have been on it with me for five years, or five hours. It isn’t always easy, but I am thankful I get to do something I love and receive so much support back from you. I look forward to showing you more forgotten Minnesota history this year, and I hope that you will find a few new favorites in the mix too. Here are just a few of the places you’ll see more about in 2016!