The iron ore industry played a significant role in Minnesota's early development. The Mesabi Range, located in the northeastern part of the state, is one of the largest iron ore deposits in the world.
Cottonwood County, located in the southwestern part of Minnesota, has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. Prior to European settlement, the area was inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Dakota and the Ojibwe. These tribes utilized the county's abundant natural resources for hunting, fishing, and gathering.

The first documented European explorers to reach the area were French fur traders in the late 17th century. However, it was not until the mid-19th century that the region saw significant European settlement. The expansion of the railroad in the 1870s played a crucial role in the county's development, as it provided a means of transportation for both people and goods.

Cottonwood County was officially established on May 23, 1857, and named after the cottonwood trees that were native to the area. The county's first settlement was Windom, which was founded in 1871 and served as the county seat. As more settlers arrived, small towns and villages sprung up throughout the county, including Bingham Lake, Mountain Lake, and Storden.

Agriculture has been the backbone of Cottonwood County's economy throughout its history. Early settlers primarily engaged in farming, with wheat being a major crop. The discovery of underground water sources allowed for irrigation, which led to the expansion of farming and the introduction of new crops like corn and soybeans. Today, agriculture, along with manufacturing and healthcare, continue to be significant industries in the county.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Cottonwood County, Minnesota.

  • 1857 - Cottonwood County is established and organized as a county in Minnesota.
  • 1862 - The US-Dakota War starts, leading to conflicts in the area, including the Battle of Wood Lake in Cottonwood County.
  • 1865 - The first permanent settlement, Windom, is established in the county.
  • 1869 - The city of Mountain Lake is founded.
  • 1870 - The county's first courthouse is built in Windom.
  • 1897 - The Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway reaches Windom, improving transportation in the area.
  • 1902 - The city of Bingham Lake is incorporated.
  • 1917-1918 - The United States enters World War I, and many residents of Cottonwood County serve in the military.
  • 1930s - The Great Depression impacts the county, leading to economic challenges for its residents.
  • 1941-1945 - Cottonwood County residents again join the military to fight in World War II.
  • 1970s - Agricultural advancements, such as improved irrigation practices, benefit the county's farming industry.
  • 1998 - The Windom Tornado strikes, causing significant damage in the county.
  • Present - Cottonwood County continues to be an agricultural and rural community with a population primarily engaged in farming and related industries.