A while ago I asked one of our volunteers to take a stab at writing a blog post. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but did since he’s a newcomer to our area, he dug up some history of our county. Here are his Thoughts and Scribblings!
August 5, 1851: The Treaty of Mendota, in which the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands of the Dakota “sold” most of their land in the southern part of the state, was signed by Governor Ramsey and Luke Lea, representing the United States, and Little Crow, Medicine Bottle, Good Thunder, Six, and Wabasha signing for the Dakota. Other bands had previously “sold” their land in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux.
August 4, 1854: Congress approved legislation guaranteeing pre-emption for Minnesota settlers squatting on lands that had not be surveyed. Technically, the land could be sold only after being surveyed, but settlers had poured into lands “purchased” from the Native Americans, sometimes making substantial investments before the surveyor completed their work. This act, sponsored by delegate Henry H. Sibley, allowed the settlers to purchase their land after the fact of settlement.
All this lead to an interesting question: What is Scott County?
Well, in no particular order…
- Scott County was established and organized by the MN Legislature on March 5, 1853, and named in honor of General Winfield Scott (who never set foot in Scott County).
- The county has a total area of 368 sq. miles of which 356 (96.8%) is land and 12 sq. miles is water.
- It is the third-smallest county in MN by land area and the second-smallest by total area.
- Now mostly farmland, it was initially an oak savanna and a mixture of grass and clusters of trees that grew parallel to the river valley. The savanna bordered the “Big Woods”, a closed-forest savanna that covered most of MN before it was logged in the mid-19th century and converted to farmland.
- Scott County is home to several historic, scenic, and entertainment destinations, including Canterbury Park, The Landing, Elko Speedway, Mystic Lake Casino, the Renaissance Festival, Valleyfair Amusement Park, Blakeley Bluffs, and more.
- This area was first inhabited by two bands of the Santee Sioux (Dakota), the Mdewakanton and Wahpeton. Their semi-nomadic life followed a seasonal cycle. In the summer the villages were occupied, but in the winter the groups separated for hunting. They had many permanent villages along the MN River and trails leading to these settlements and to the Red River Valley in the north and Prairie du Chien to the Southeast. These trails were later used by fur traders and settlers; known as the “ox cart trails.” Later these trails became highways such as Hwy’s 13 and 169.
- The MN River and Ox cart trails were the primary transportation routes. The first settlers were Yankees, followed by Germans, Irish, Czechs, and Scandinavians, each bringing their own traditions and religions. Most settlers became farmers.
- The county has seven cities – Belle Plaine, Elko New Market, Jordan, New Prague, Prior Lake, Savage, and Shakopee (the county seat); 11 townships – Belle Plaine, Blakeley, Cedar Lake, Credit River, Helena, Jackson, Louisville, New Market, Sand Creek, Spring Lake, and St. Lawrence; and 10 unincorporated communities – Blakeley, Cedar Lake, Helena, Lydia, Marystown, Mudbaden, Spring Lake, St. Benedict, St. Patrick, and Union Hill.
Another blog post will explore how each of the major communities within Scott County came to be (and why), and how they developed.
This blog post was written by SCHS Volunteer Paul Keever – Thanks Paul!