Historical Markers in
Watonwan County, Minnesota

The Minneapolis Millers baseball team was the first professional baseball team to play under the lights in 1930.

Watonwan County, located in southern Minnesota, has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Before European settlement, the area was home to various Native American tribes, including the Dakota Sioux and Ojibwe. The first European explorers arrived in the late 17th century, with French and British traders establishing relations with the native peoples.

In the mid-19th century, settlers began to arrive in the area, attracted by the fertile prairies and abundant natural resources. Watonwan County was officially established on February 25, 1860, named after the Watonwan River that flows through the region. Agriculture quickly became the dominant industry, with farmers cultivating crops such as corn, wheat, and oats.

The county experienced significant growth and development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Railroads were constructed, connecting Watonwan County to larger markets and facilitating the transportation of goods and people. The advent of the railroad also led to the establishment of new towns, including St. James, the county seat.

Throughout its history, Watonwan County has faced its share of challenges. Like many other rural communities, it was affected by the Great Depression of the 1930s, causing economic hardship for many residents. However, the county persevered, and today it continues to be a vibrant agricultural community, producing a variety of crops and livestock.

As Watonwan County moves into the 21st century, it remains proud of its history and heritage. The county celebrates its agricultural roots through events such as fairs and festivals, highlighting the importance of farming to the local economy. While facing modern challenges, Watonwan County continues to be a testament to the strength and resilience of its people.

  • 1853 - Watonwan County is established by the Minnesota Territorial Legislature.
  • 1855 - The first white settlers arrive in the area.
  • 1856 - The town of Madelia becomes the county seat.
  • 1870 - The railroad reaches Madelia, leading to increased economic growth.
  • 1880 - Lake Crystal is incorporated as a city.
  • 1899 - The city of St. James is incorporated.
  • 1921 - The Madelia State Hospital (now known as the Madelia Community Hospital) opens.
  • 1933 - The Watonwan River floods, causing severe damage to the county.
  • 1946 - The Belgrade School District consolidates with St. James and other surrounding districts.
  • 1965 - The WOW Zone, a popular entertainment center in Mankato, opens.
  • 1971 - The Watonwan County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1998 - The town of Odin celebrates its 100-year anniversary.
  • 2001 - The St. James Federal Building is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 2010 - The Watonwan County Historical Society is established.