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History of Waseca County

The Santee branch of the Dakota Indians inhabited the land of Waseca County before the first white settlers located here. The Asa and Eliza Sutlief family filed the first claim in the county in Wilton Township in 1854. By the time the county was organized in 1857, most of the areas in the county were established except Alton and Freedom Townships and the western edge of St. Mary and Wilton Townships, where a portion of the Winnebago Indian Reservation existed until 1863. When the Winnebagos were moved the land was opened for settlement. Settlers arrived, established homes and rural communities or villages were founded. Some of these early communities have become "memory towns," vanishing into the landscape. Others have remained and flourished.

Waseca is a Dakota word, which means rich, especially in provisions. In Dakota writing and books the word waseca is spelled as we spell the name and is used to mean fertile. The soil in Waseca County is very fertile. The name Waseca was first applied to the earliest farming settlement in 1855, near the present city of Waseca.

Waseca is located in Woodville Township and is the county seat for Waseca County. The city of Waseca was platted in July 1867, on the line of the Winona and St. Peter Railroad. Waseca was incorporated as a village on March 2, 1868, and as a city on February 23, 1881. It succeeded Wilton as the county seat in 1870. The post office began in Woodville in 1864 and was changed to Waseca in 1867.

The success or failure to thrive can be attributed to many factors. Important influences in local history were the location of the railroad, changes in technical agriculture, modern mobility due to improved roads, bridges and automobiles, industrial development, the advent of utilities, cooperatives and the determination of people to make Waseca County
a good place to live.

CHRONOLOGY OF TOWNS, VILLAGES AND COMMUNITIES
1856
* Old Janesville
*Wilton
*Waterlynn
* Blooming Grove
* Empire
Vista

1857
* Okaman
* St. Mary
* Old Otisco

1858
* Mayfield

1864
* Peddler's Grove

1866
Alma City (platted)

1867
Waseca

1869
East Janesville

1877
New Richland

1885
Smith's Mill

1895
Plum Valley
* Cream
Otisco

1907
Matawan (platted)
Plum Valley renamed Waldorf

1915
* Palmer (platted)

Please Note: Some establishment dates note when the village or town was officially platted. The community may have existed prior to that date.
*Memory towns