Finding Ancestors wherever their trails led with Genealogy Trails History Group

Olmsted County Minnesota 
Genealogy and History

Olmsted County Origins


This county, established February 20, 1855, was named in honor of David Olmsted, first mayor of St. Paul, in 1854, who in 1855 removed to Winona, in the county of that name, adjoining Olmsted county. He was born in Fairfax, Vt, May 5, 1822; came to the Northwest, first to the Wisconsin lead mining region, in 1838; was a pioneer settler of Monona, Iowa, in 1840; engaged in trading with the Indians at Fort Atkinson, Iowa, in 1844; was a member of the convention which framed the state constitution of Iowa, in 1846; came in 1848 to

Long Prairie, Minn., when the Winnebago Indians were transferred there, and established a trading post which he continued several years. He was a charter member of the Minnesota Historical Society, and a member of the council of the first territorial legislature, 1849 and 1850, being its first president. In 1853, having removed to St. Paul, he became proprietor and editor of the Minnesota Democrat, which under his management began its issue as a daily newspaper in May, 1854. After his removal to Winona, ill health compelled him, in 1857, to give up business, and he then returned to his old home in Vermont, where he died February 2, 1861.

Another prominent citizen of this name, but of another family, with slightly different spelling, for whom, however, some have supposed this county to be named, was S. Baldwin Olmstead, a farmer and contractor, of Belle Prairie and Fort Ripley, who was a member of the territorial council in 1854 and 1855, when this county was created, having been president of the council in the former year. He was born in Otsego county, N. Y., in 1810; came to the Northwest in early manhood, and resided in Iowa and Minnesota; was engaged with government contracts about Fort Ripley for a time; removed to Texas at the close of the civil war, and settled on a farm in Burnett county, where he died, January 27, 1878.

Source: MINNESOTA GEOGRAPHIC NAMES Their Origin and Historic Significance
by Warren Upham, Archaeologist of the Society
Published by the Minnesota Historical Society
Saint Paul, 1920


Olmstead County (1920)
Minnesota Historical Society Collections, Vol. 17 (1920) Submitted by Jan Stypula

This county, established February 20, 1855, was named in honor of David Olmsted, first mayor of St. Paul, in 1854, who in 1855 removed to Winona, in the county of that name, adjoining Olmsted County. He was born in Fairfax, Vt., May 5, 1822; came to the Northwest, first to the Wisconsin lead mining region, in 1838; was a pioneer settler of Monona, Iowa, in 1840; engaged in trading with the Indians at Fort Atkinson, Iowa, in 1844; was a member of the convention which framed the state constitution of Iowa, in 1846; came in 1848 to Long Prairie, Minn., when the Winnebago Indian's were transferred there, and established a trading post which he continued several years. He was a charter member of the Minnesota Historical Society, and a member of the council of the first territorial legislature, 1849 and 1850, being its first president in 1853, having removed to St. Paul, he became proprietor and editor of the Minnesota Democrat, which under his management began its issue as a daily newspaper in May, 1854. After his removal to Winona, ill health compelled him, in 1857, to give up business, and he then returned to his old home in Vermont, where he died February 2, 1861.
Another prominent citizen of this name, but of another family, with slightly different spelling, for whom, however, some have supposed this county to be named, was S. Baldwin Olmstead, a farmer and contractor, of Belle Prairie and Fort Ripley, who was a member of the territorial council in 1854 and 1855, when this county was created, having been president of the council in the former year. He was born in Otsego county, N. Y., in 1810; came to the Northwest in early manhood, and resided in Iowa and Minnesota; was engaged with government contracts about Fort Ripley for a time; removed to Texas at the close of the civil war, and settled on a farm in Burnett county, where he died, January 27, 1878.

Townships and Villages.
Information of geographic names has been gathered from the "Geographical and Statistical History of the County of Olmsted," by W. H. Mitchell, 121 pages, published in 1867; "History of Olmsted County," pages 617-1148, in the "History of Winona and Olmsted Counties," 1883; "History of Olmsted County," by Hon. Joseph A. Leonard and others, 674 pages, 1910; and from Hon. Charles C. Willson and Timothy H. Bliss, each of Rochester, the county seat, interviewed during a visit there in April, 1916.
Byron, a railway village in Kalmar Township, platted in 1864 and incorporated in 1873, was named at the suggestion of G. W. Van Dusen, an early grain buyer, for his former home, Port Byron, N. Y. (W. H. Stennett, Origin of the Place Names of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, 1908, page 50.)
Cascade Township, organized in 1859, was named for the beautiful Cascade Creek, which flows through the south edge of this township, joining the Zumbro River in the city of Rochester.
Chatfield Village, of Fillmore County, reaches north into the southwest corner of Elmira Township.
Chester, a railway village six miles east of Rochester, has a name that is also borne by townships and villages or cities in twenty-five other states.
Cummingsville, a former village on the North branch of Root River, in Orion Township, was platted by Francis H. Cummings, who settled here in 1855, building a sawmill.
Douglass, a railway village eight miles northwest of Rochester, was named for Harrison Douglass, owner of its site. He was born in Macedon, N. Y., March 21, 1825; came to Minnesota in 1855, settling here as the first blacksmith in the county; built a grain elevator at this village in 1878; died in Fargo, N. D., March 7, 1902.
Dover Township, originally named Whitewater in 1858, for its river flowing east into Winona County, was organized in May, 1859, being then renamed for Dover in New Hampshire, whence some of its settlers came. The railway village of this name, platted in the spring of 1869, was at first called Dover Center, from its location at the center of this township.
Elmira Township, organized May 11, 1858, was named by settlers from the vicinity of Elmira, New York.
Eyota Township, organized in 1858, was at first named Springfield, which was changed in 1859 to this Dakota or Sioux word, spelled iyotan by Riggs in the Dakota Dictionary, meaning "greatest, most." Eyota railway village, platted in November, 1864, was incorporated March 9, 1875.
Farmington, organized in 1858, is an excellent farming township, whence it received this name, borne also by a railway village in Dakota County, and by townships and villages or cities in twenty-five other states of the Union. Five counties in Wisconsin have each a Farmington Township.
Genoa, a little village in section 34, New Haven, first settled in 1856 and platted in 1865, bears the name of an ancient seaport in northern Italy, the birthplace of Columbus. Nine other states of the Union have villages of this name.
Haverhill Township, organized in 1858, originally called Zumbro for the principal river of this county, was renamed Sherman in 1865 and Haverhill in 1866, this name being suggested by settlers who had come from Haverhill in Massachusetts.
High Forest Township, organized in 1858, took the name of its village, platted in 1855, on high land partly surrounded by forest trees growing along the North branch of the Root River.
Horton railway station, in the south part of Eyota, was named for Charles Horton, a lumber merchant of Winona. He was born in Niles, N. Y., March 31, 1836; came to Minnesota in 1858, settling in Winona; founded the Empire Lumber Company in 1858, and was its president; died in Winona, May 15, 1913.
Judge, a railway station in High Forest Township, was located on the farm of Edward Judge, a native of Ireland, who came here as a pioneer settler in 1854, and died in September, 1904.
Kalmar Township, organized in May, 1858, bears the name of a seaport in southern Sweden, noted for a treaty made there July 20, 1397, uniting the kingdoms of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
Laird, a railway station in section 26, Eyota, was named in honor of William Harris Laird, of Winona, who was born in Union county, Pa., February 24, 1833, and died at a hospital in Baltimore, Md., February 5, 1910. He came to Minnesota in 1855, settling in Winona, and in the firm of Laird, Norton and Co., formed in 1856, engaged extensively in lumbering and lumber manufacturing. He was donor of the Public Library building in Winona, and president of the trustees of Carleton College.
Marion Township, organized in 1858, received the name of its village, founded in 1855-6. Seventeen states of the Union have counties of this name, and it is borne also by townships and villages or cities of twenty-five states, in honor of Francis Marion (b. 1732, d. 1795), of South Carolina, a distinguished general in the Revolutionary War.
New Haven Township, organized in May, 1858, was named for the city of New Haven in Connecticut.
Orion Township, organized in 1858, received this name of a constellation from a township and village in Richland County, Wisconsin.
Oronoco Township, organized in 1858, was named for its village, founded in 1854, which Dr. Hector Galloway, one of its first settlers, named for the large Orinoco River (differently spelled) in South America, in allusion to the valuable water power of the Middle branch of Zumbro River at this village.
Pleasant Grove Township, organized May 11, 1858, and its village, platted in 1854, derived their name "from a beautiful grove of oaks, where the little village is located."
Potsdam, a village in Farmington, founded about the year 1860, was named by its German settlers for the Prussian city of Potsdam, noted for its royal palace and beautiful parks, sixteen miles southwest of Berlin.
Predmore, a railway station in the southeast corner of Marion, established in 1891, was named for J. W. Predmore, who came in 1854 as one of the pioneer settlers of this township.
Quincy Township, organized May 11, 1858, bears the name of cities in Massachusetts and Illinois, and of villages and townships in fourteen other states.
Rochester, the county seat, often called "the Queen City," was platted in October, 1855, and was incorporated as a city August 5, 1858. It was named for Rochester, N. Y., by George Head, a pioneer settler, who had lived there and afterward in Wisconsin before coming to this place in July, 1855. The rapids of the Zumbro River here reminded him of the Genesee River in New York and its great water power at Rochester, having a vertical fall of 95 feet. (Leonard, History of this county, p. 185.)
Rock Dell Township, organized May 11, 1858, has narrow gorges or dells, with ragged cliffs of limestone, eroded by little streams flowing northward to the South branch of the Zumbro River.
Salem Township, organized in 1858, was named by Cyrus Holt, a pioneer who came here in 1855 and was appointed postmaster of an office established in the winter of that year. The post office, and later the township, received this name from Salem, the county seat of Marion County, Illinois.
Simpson, a railway village and junction in Pleasant Grove Township, platted in 1890, was named in honor of Thomas Simpson, of Winona, Minn., secretary of the Winona and Southwestern railroad company. He was born in Yorkshire, England, May 31, 1836; came to the United States with his parents while quite young; studied surveying, and in 1853 took the government contract for running the meridian and parallel lines in the southeast part of Minnesota Territory; settled in Winona in 1856; was admitted to the bar in 1858; practiced law, engaged in many important business enterprises, and during many years was president of the State Normal School board; died in Winona, April 26, 1905.
Stewartville, in High Forest Township, was founded by Charles Stewart, who came from the state of New York in the spring of 1857 and built a mill here in 1858. When the railroad passing this place was constructed, in 1891, additions to the village were platted by Charles N. Stewart and others.
Viola Township, at first named Washington, organized in May, 1858, was renamed at the suggestion of Irwin N. Wetmore, for the village of Viola in Wisconsin, about forty miles southeast of La Crosse. The railway village in this township, bearing the same name, was platted in September, 1878.

Lakes and Streams.
Olmsted County is drained by the Zumbro, Whitewater, and Root rivers, flowing to the Mississippi.
The origin and meaning of the first of these names are fully noticed in the chapter of Goodhue County, where a village and township on this river are named Zumbrota. Its earlier Sioux name, Wazi Oju, applied to the river by Nicollet, referring to its large grove of white pines at the village of Pine Island, is also duly explained for that village and township in Goodhue County.
Large affluents of the Zumbro in Olmsted County are its Middle branch, formed at Oronoco village by union of the North and South Middle branches, Cascade Creek, whence a township is named, the South branch, Silver Creek, Bear Creek, to which Badger run is a tributary, and Willow Creek.
Bear Creek has its farthest source in a spring on the farm in Eyota which was taken as a homestead claim in 1853 by Benjamin Bear, a pioneer from Pennsylvania, the first settler in that township, for whom the creek received this name.
Whitewater River, having in this county its North, Middle, and South branches, is translated from its Sioux name, Minneiska, borne by a township and village in Wabasha County at the mouth of this stream.
Root River, to which its North branch flows through the south edge of Olmsted County, is also a translation of the Sioux name, Hutkan, spelled Hokah on Nicollet's map, which gave the name Hokah of the village and township adjoining the mouth of Root River in Houston County.
Partridge Creek is a small tributary to this branch of Root River from the south in Pleasant Grove Township.
The only lakes in this county are two picturesque mill ponds formed by dams, Shady Lake at the village of Oronoco, and Lake Alice or Florence at Stewartville. The second “was named Lake Alice by Charles N. Stewart, in compliment to his wife” (as noted in the History of this county by Leonard, 1910, page 270) ; but in the latest atlas of the state, 1916, it is called Lake Florence.
Hills.
The bed rocks, sculptured by rains and streams before the Ice Age and only thinly overspread by the glacial drift, present beautiful valleys and ravines, most noteworthy in Rock Dell Township, and in some places form hills or small and low plateaus. College hill is such a plateau, about 75 feet high, in the west part of the city of Rochester; Sugarloaf Mound, more conspicuously seen, rises close south of the railroad two miles east of this city; and Lone Mound is in section 11, Farmington.

 

Home  |  Olmsted County History


©2008 Genealogy Trails