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.
Steele County, located in southeastern Minnesota, has a rich history that dates back to the mid-19th century. The area was originally inhabited by the Dakota Sioux Native American tribe, who were later displaced as European settlers began to arrive in the early 1850s. In 1855, the county was officially established by the Minnesota Territorial Legislature and named after Franklin Steele, a prominent leader in the area.

The early years of Steele County were characterized by rapid development and growth. Agriculture played a significant role in the county's economy, with settlers clearing land for farming and establishing homesteads. The construction of the railroad in the late 1860s further stimulated growth, connecting the county to larger markets and facilitating the transportation of goods.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Steele County experienced a period of economic and social progress. The county seat, Owatonna, saw the establishment of numerous industries, including flour mills, implement factories, and a state school for the deaf. This industrial growth attracted a diverse population and contributed to the prosperity of the county.

In the later part of the 20th century, Steele County continued to evolve, adapting to changing economic conditions and modernization. The agriculture sector remained strong, but the county also saw the growth of other industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, and retail. Today, Steele County is known for its vibrant communities, historic downtowns, and scenic landscapes, making it an attractive place to live, work, and visit.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Steele County, Minnesota.

  • 1853 - Steele County was established by the Minnesota Territory Legislature.
  • 1855 - Owatonna, the county seat, was founded.
  • 1856 - The first courthouse was constructed in Owatonna.
  • 1865 - The Minnesota School for the Deaf was established in Faribault.
  • 1875 - Construction of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad began.
  • 1882 - The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad reached Owatonna.
  • 1889 - The Steele County Courthouse, still in use today, was completed.
  • 1956 - The Hormel Institute was established in Austin.
  • 2018 - Steele County celebrated its 165th anniversary.