The first European to explore Minnesota was French explorer Jean Nicolet in 1634. He traveled along Lake Michigan and the Fox River and likely reached the present-day state of Minnesota.
Stearns County, located in central Minnesota, has a rich and diverse history that spans centuries. The area was initially inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Dakota and Ojibwe, who utilized the land for hunting, fishing, and gathering.

In the early 19th century, European settlers began to arrive in the region. The first permanent settlement of Stearns County was established in 1851 by a group of German immigrants led by Joseph Felling. Over the next few decades, the population grew rapidly as more settlers, predominantly of German and Scandinavian descent, came to the area to farm the fertile land and establish prosperous communities.

The county's development was greatly influenced by the arrival of the railroad in the late 19th century, providing transportation and facilitating economic growth. The city of St. Cloud, the county seat, became a major trade and manufacturing hub, attracting businesses and industries.

Stearns County also played a role in the development of the granite industry in Minnesota. Granite quarries were established in the county, and local granite was used in the construction of various landmarks, including the Minnesota State Capitol building.

Throughout the 20th century, the county continued to grow and diversify its economy, including the expansion of the healthcare and education sectors. Today, Stearns County is known for its thriving agricultural industry, vibrant cultural scene, and beautiful natural landscapes, making it a desirable place to live and visit in Minnesota.

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

  • 1855 - Stearns County is established as one of the original nine counties of Minnesota Territory.
  • 1856 - The town of Saint Cloud, now the county seat, is platted.
  • 1862 - The Dakota War of 1862 breaks out, causing significant unrest and forcing many settlers to flee the area temporarily.
  • 1870 - The first courthouse, a simple wooden structure, is built in Saint Cloud.
  • 1886 - The current Stearns County Courthouse, designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, is completed in Saint Cloud.
  • 1901 - The Great Northern Railway arrives in Stearns County, further boosting the region's economy.
  • 1928 - The College of Saint Benedict, a Roman Catholic women's college, is founded in St. Joseph.
  • 1938 - The Stearns History Museum is established in St. Cloud, showcasing the county's history and culture.
  • 1960 - Interstate 94 is completed, providing improved transportation access to Stearns County.
  • 2001 - The Stearns County Heritage Center, housing the County Museum and Historical Society, opens its doors.