On May 5th of 1820 Lieutenant Colonel Henry Leavenworth moved the 5th U. S. Infantry troops under his command to this area to escape the unhealthy conditions they had endured at their earlier stockade on the Minnesota River. The clear, cold spring water helped restore the men and their families, who lived in tents and elm bark huts here during three summers while they built the permanent stone fort nearby. The military continued to rely on the spring's fresh water through the nineteenth century, using horse-drawn water wagons and later a stone water tower and underground pipes to transport the water to Fort Snelling.
Families who left the Red River colony of Lord Selkirk were allowed by Colonel Josiah Snelling to settle near this location in 1821. Here they raised cattle and sold provisions to the army. When they were forced to vacate the military reservation in 1840, they moved downstream and helped establish St. Paul.
Blacksmith shops, stables, trading posts such as B. F. Baker's substantial stone warehouse, the St. Louis Hotel, and a stamboat landing all occupied this area, but by the time of the Civil War nearly all were gone. Today, this spring is all that remains of Camp Coldwater.