1852 Settlement

Minnesota City was settled by members of the Western Farm and Village Association. The immigrants arrived from the state of New York in the spring of 1852 on the steamboats Nominee, Dr. Franklin, and Caleb Cope. The city received its name on Sunday, May 9,1852, anticipating that it might be chosen as the state capital. It had over 500 residents at the time. Currently the population is 202. MCHA archive

The first person to seek out a site for settlement along the Mississippi River was Ransom Smith in 1851. His expedition didn’t find a suitable location so in the winter of 1852 William Haddock and Arthur Murphy, both members of the Western Farm & Village Association, left New York to try again. They traveled along the ice from La Crosse, Wisconsin into the Minnesota City area believing they were following the main channel of the river. After choosing a location, other setters quickly followed. However, it was soon discovered that the new settlement was not situated on the main river channel of the Mississippi River, but along an area called Straight Slough. The Captain of the steamer Nominee was enlisted to see if steamboats could travel in the slough but sandbars prevented navigation, dashing hopes for a river based settlement along the main channel. Nevertheless, nearly 500 setters made the journey to the area and into the surrounding valleys. Those who stayed at the Minnesota City site faced many challenges in the early years but within a decade a thriving village was established with a flour mill, hotel, brewery, churches, general stores and a brickyard.  The city was incorporated in 1896 and was the location of many firsts in the settlement of Winona County. MCHA archive

Historic Firsts

There are many historic firsts in Winona County that took place in Minnesota City. They include:
The oldest city in the county (Est. 1852)

The first school (subscription)

The first public school (1852)

The first school district (1852)

The first church (First Baptist Church, Est. 1852)

The first Post Office (1852)

The first bridge

The first horticulture experiment in the state (apples)

The first general merchandise store

The first sawmill

The first blacksmith shop

The first horse shoeing

The first justice of the peace

The first representative to the legislature

The first wheat crop

Top photo: Minnesota City, "Evening on the Mill Pond" 1880 Detroit Photographic Company (Library of Congress)

Front page photo: "Minnesota City and Valley 1880-1889"  Detroit Photographic Company (Library of Congress)