Nicollet County MNGenWeb Project

A bit of History

The current state of Minnesota along with Wisconsin, Illinois, and several other states was originally known as the Northwest Territory, often referred to today as the Old Northwest Territory in historical circles. Nicollet County was created in 1853 from previously unorganized territory and was named in honor of the noted French explorer, Joseph N. Nicollet.

St. Peter was first settled in the fall of 1853 by Capt. William B. Dodd. It was platted in June 1854, was incorporated as a borough March 2, 1865, and as a city January 7, 1873. At Which time the town of St. Peter was chosen as the county seat. It was named for the St. Pierre or St. Peter River, as the Minnesota River was called by the early French and English explorers and fur traders, most likely in honor of Pierre Charles Le Sueur, whose surname is borne by the adjoining county on the east side of this river.

St. Peter was originally intended to be the State Capital. While the State Legislators were preparing to vote on St. Peter as the Capital of Minnesota, the bill naming St. Peter as the capital was stolen, thus St. Paul was then chosen as the capital.

In early years it was also known as Rock Bend and Rocky Point. The city had a station of the Chicago and North Western Railway, and the post office was established in 1856. The city is the site of Gustavus Adolphus College, which was first founded in Red Wing in 1862, moved to East Union, Carver County, in 1863, at which time it was called St. Ansgar's Academy, and moved to St. Peter in 1876 and was renamed. The Minnesota Hospital for Insane was established here in 1866.

In 1880 construction was started on the County Courthouse and it was completed in 1881. Over the years the courthouse has been subject to many renovations of the original structure. The original style was mixed Romanesque and Queen Anne styles of architecture and was designed by noted St. Paul architects of the day; Bassford and Stebbins. In 2002 the Nicollet County Courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For thousands of years the area of Minnesota that includes Nicollet County was a gathering place for Native Americans and and later became a gateway to the west. The original residents of the area include the Ojibway, Sioux, and Chippewa, though many other tribes have also called Minnesota home for a brief time, the Chippeawa or Lower Sioux tribe was the major native population. For more information on Minnesota Native Americans please see: Native American Links

Neighboring Counties


The history of this area is as rich as it is diverse. Home to many descendants of fur trappers, lumberjacks, dairymen from far away places like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France and many other countries intermixed with the Native Tribes of the area results in a rich cultural mix.

You will find festivals, fairs and other events devoted to the various cultures and societies that make up the current population of Nicollet County. The Nicollet County Fair, recently celebrated its 142nd year of continuous operation. The many lakes, beautiful forests and bountiful attract many nature lovers to enjoy the great outdoors!


For your Convenience the following forms have been placed on this website:

These forms are also linked on the Archives Page and individual links are placed on related pages.

County Coordinator

My name is Laverne Tornow and I am your current County Coordinator. I do not live in Minnesota, but do have ancestors who lived in Nicollet County at one time, thus my interest in the area.

I am seeking a local person who would be willing to act as my assistant coordinator. If you are interested please contact me.

If you have any questions or comments about the contents of this website, contact the County Coordinator.