In the mid-1970s the officials of tiny Kinney, Minnesota were desperate to fix their crumbling water system. With no help in sight from the county, state or federal government, they did the only logical thing they could think of: From the barstools of the city’s favorite watering hole, they hatched a secession plan.
The watering hole was called Mary’s Bar, the tavern owned by Mayor Mary Anderson and the unofficial “situation room” for Kinney (population 325). Since they weren’t having much luck getting municipal funding to fix the water, maybe they could get some foreign aid. So in 1977 the Republic of Kinney was born, to secede not from the county, not from the state, but from the United States.
Kinney was established in 1910 as a makeshift mining town that wasn’t meant to outlive what the local iron mines could support. A solid infrastructure wasn’t the first thing on anyone’s mind back then, and a spike in population was now straining the old water system. Everywhere the city turned they hit a wall covered in red tape. Back at Mary’s, the idea of getting foreign aid started out as kind of a joke. But the idea stuck around – if only Kinney was a foreign country…
With some quick thinking they dashed off a letter to the State Department, signed by the Mayor and the full City Council. If the US government would send some foreign aid to fix the water, Kinney would happily secede – even declare war if necessary, as long as they could “surrender real quick.” After all, these people had jobs to get to.
The letter was sent to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, but war never broke out and the 12 square blocks of the city of Kinney remained in the Union. They did get some “foreign aid”, from a local pizza mogul named Jeno Paulucci who liked their spunk. He sent Kinney 10 cases of frozen pizza and a 1974 Ford LTD, brown with 50,000 miles on it. It wasn’t quite like a water-well and pipes, but at least Kinney had a new squad car, and plenty of tomato pie to go around.
In a weird way the secession “threat” may have paid off. Within a year Kinney got its funding, and it celebrated the radical secession move for years, culminating with a weekend of 30th anniversary special events in 2007. Former Mayor Mary Anderson was there, Grand Marshall of the parade at 92, and there were fireworks and libations from Liquid Larry’s, new owner of the old Mary’s Bar. It appears there was plenty of water, both the regular and the fire kind, to go around.
Know Before You Go
Kinney is 50 miles northeast of Grand Rapids. Main Street, the site of both Town Hall and Liquid Larry's, is along Highway 25, about a mile and a half heading north off of MN Rt-169.