Reporter and his family move to Minnesota after calling it the ‘worst place to live in America’
BAGLEY, Minn. — Although she couldn’t have anticipated it at the time, the course of Briana Ingraham’s life would change in the aftermath of a single sentence her husband wrote in an article for The Washington Post.
Her husband Christopher famously incited the fury of Minnesotans in 2015 when he wrote an article ranking all the counties in America against one another based on their climate and geographic appeal.
“The absolute worst place to live in America is (drumroll please) ... Red Lake County, Minn.,” Christopher Ingraham wrote in the article.
In an ironic turn of events, however, the family chose to move to that very same county not long after he penned the story. Now several years later, Briana spoke about her family’s experience moving from the East Coast to rural Minnesota on Wednesday, April 3, at the year’s first event for Northern Exposure to Lifelong Learning in Bagley.
“Ultimately, it’s a story of a typical family just trying to find the right place to call home,” Ingraham told a room full of people on Wednesday.
At the beginning, Briana didn’t even realize Christopher wrote the article. Eventually, someone shared it with her, and she began to see the response from the hordes of indignant Minnesotans who took issue with the analysis in the story.
At the behest of some of the Minnesotans he met online after the fallout, Christopher traveled to Minnesota to see the land he criticized. He did so much to the chagrin of Briana, who was sure the villagers would be waiting with tar and feathers for the reporter who smote them on the national stage.
To her surprise, Christopher returned from his trip not only “unscathed,” but “beaming” about the state and the people who lived there.
Eventually, though, life returned to normal, along with all the chaos that goes with it in the big city. They lived in a 900-square-foot townhouse with twin boys in Baltimore, and they both worked demanding jobs. In fact, Christopher would commute three hours a day, leaving virtually no time to spend with his children.
At some point, it all began to be too much. Briana and Christopher grew up in upstate New York. Building forts, fishing, running free — they remembered those things from their own upbringing, and they wanted their children to experience them as well. They wanted a change of pace; they just didn’t know where that change would take them.
It was Briana’s mother-in-law who first suggested they move to Minnesota. After all, she said, Christopher had raved about the state so much after he returned from his trip.
“I stared at her in disbelief,” Briana said. “All I could think was ‘why would anyone move to Minnesota? It’s so cold there!’”
The idea of having more time with their family, though, began to wear down her determination not to move to Minnesota. She waffled back and forth, but eventually she decided the chance to live somewhere where they could devote more time to family was too much to pass by.
And although she may have been apprehensive about moving to “Canada,” as she jokingly referred to it, Briana soon realized there were things about the state she didn’t anticipate, one of which was the people.
When they flew out to Minnesota to look for houses, there were only about three properties listed on the market. A family they’d met not long before, however, somehow managed to line up 11 houses for them to look at in two days.
Since they weren’t expecting to close a deal during that brief trip, they didn’t bring a checkbook to make the earnest-money payment. Nonetheless, the same family that lined up the houses offered to loan them the money until Briana and Christopher could pay them back.
“You would not find that in Maryland; that is Minnesota nice,” Briana said. “I have come to know and love the people of this rural part of America’s heartland. I’ve seen more acts of kindness, generosity and caring than in the seven or eight other states that I’ve lived in.”
A little more than three years after that news article was published, life moves at a slower pace for the Ingrahams. Briana is a stay-at-home mom, and Christopher telecommutes for his job at the Washington Post. She’s picked up the oboe again after 17 years. The school system is a good fit for their children.
However, she’ll admit she’s unsure if her family is here to stay. Christopher has a book coming out in the fall, but his job could require him to move back to the East Coast. Plus, she’s still not a fan of the cold.
But, she also said they plan to live where it’s most beneficial for their three children, one of whom was diagnosed with autism.
Regardless of whether they plan to stay long term, though, she’s come to love the opportunities and people she found in the small corner of the world that her husband once called “the absolute worst place to live in America.”
“If people could see, feel and experience just what a Minnesota community has to offer, I really believe you’d have more families living through Minnesota winters to be a part of it,” Briana said.