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Historic Waseca

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Waseca History

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.

The City of Waseca is located in Woodville Township. The city 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.

Waseca is a Dakota word meaning 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 name Waseca was first applied to the earliest farming settlement in 1855 near the present city of Waseca.

Historic Elm Avenue East
You’ll want to walk back along East Elm after you’ve entered Waseca on Highway 14 past Clear Lake. Many of these beautiful old homes were built in the 1880s and later as examples of Victorian, Greek Revival, Tudor, Craftsman and other architectural styles built by the wealth that the agriculture, railroad, real estate, and business created by that time. Stop in the museum and get a Walking Tour Guide.(Please remember that these are private residences and can only be viewed from the street and sidewalk.

Museum and RetroShop open Tuesday-Friday 9:00 am.-5:00 pm.
Bailey Research Library open Tuesday-Friday 9:00 am-noon, 1:00 pm.-5:00 pm.
Check website for special weekend hours.

Visit Waseca County’s National Register Historic Sites:

Link to Historic Sites

Waseca County Museum & Research Center

Waseca County Historical Society website

Did you know that Waseca County was organized as a Minnesota County by the state territorial legislature on February 27, 1857, signed by Governor Willis A. Gorman? Slightly more than one year later, on May 11, 1858, Minnesota became the 32nd state in the Union. One month before that on April 5, 1858, eight townships were organized (Wilton, Woodville, Otisco, St. Mary, Iosco, Blooming Grove, Janesville, Vivian; then two more (New Richland and Byron) on November 1, and the last two (Alton and Freedom) were organized in 1864. Because of the Uprising in 1862 and the subsequent fear by settlers, the government moved the Winnebago people, also known as Hochunk, and the land was opened for settlement.

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 county claim in Wilton in 1854.
Settlers arrived, established homes, businesses, and villages. Some of these early communities have become “memory towns,”such as Empire, Wilton, Okaman, Peddler’s Grove, Plum Valley, Cream, Palmer, Waterlynn, Vista — vanishing into the landscape as others flourished —
Janesville, Waldorf, New Richland and the county seat, WasecaWaseca_history

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–home.
The Waseca County Historical Society’s Museum and Research Center has been collecting, preserving and exhibiting the history of Waseca County since 1938. The Waseca County Museum is located in the former 1917 Waseca Methodist Church purchased, renovated and made a gift to the Society in 1964 by the brothers and partners of the E.F. Johnson Co.—Edgar, Everett and Marvin Johnson. Inside one will see the artful transformation of the dome by area artist, Mark Barens. The former altar wall was painted with a mural of ethnic motifs representing Waseca County’s early people, its Native Americans—Dakota and Winnebago, and its immigrants—the Swedish, Norwegian, Irish, Germans and others who settled here. The main floor under the dome displays several exhibits every year. A major project currently in the planning is the Waseca County Timeline to be installed on the south and west walls of the second floor balcony level, along with the re-exhibition of early artifacts from the WCHS collection.

Waseca County Historical Society website

Annual Events:

Ice Harvest at Clear Lake Park, presented by the Waseca County Historical Society

Chautauqua at Maplewood Park

Waseca County Museum and Retro Gift Shop
315 NE.2nd Avenue NE
Waseca, MN 56093
(507) 835-7700

Research Your Genealogy

The P.C. Bailey house located across 4th Street  NE from the museum, is an 1868 residence fully renovated by volunteers in 1999 to become the WCHS Research Center and Library. It houses microfilm, readers, family, business and organization files, computers, a copier, cemetery records, archives, photographs, maps and access to other genealogy research. The WCHS Research Center is a licensed branch of the Family History Library of the Genealogical Society of Utah. This means that WCHS is able to order for use at our Research Center, any of the millions of records available through the Church of the Latter Day Saints. There are over 3.5 million rolls of microfilm representing records from every courthouse in the world.

Bailey-Lewer House Research Center
Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Weekend hours by appointment or posted during special events.
(507) 835-7700