Part I of II
Long before a town in Texas recently changed its name to Dish in exchange for free satellite television service, naming a town was a serious undertaking. The names of southern Minnesota communities attest to this.
The names came from a variety of sources, some even revel dreams for the future. Naturally, some of these towns no longer exist.
In Martin County, DeSoto was named for the famous Spanish explorer, but only existed a few months before losing to public sentiment and a better location. After the Spanish-American war, nearby citizens were upset by the DeSoto name. Residents raised $1,500 to move DeSoto farther south to create Dunnell.
Nicollet also was moved. When residents discovered the railroad was to be built a few miles away, they packed up and moved to the existing site. Other towns were simply renamed. Fremont was named for the Republican presidential candidate in 1856. Replatted two years later, it was renamed Garden City.
Some names weren’t a good fit. Local pioneers thought Golden Gate in Brown County was too high-toned and nicknamed the village Podunk, a name that stuck until the village died.
“This area has a number of ghost towns,” said Bob Sandeen, collections manager of the Nicollet County Historical Society. Nicollet County had Swan City, Union City, Eureka, Red Stone, Red Stone City, Washington, Dakota City and Waheoka.
Most of these towns sprang up during the Panic of 1857 when real estate was being bought and sold at a frenzied pace. “The Panic of 1857 was the death knell for a lot of these proposed communities,” Sandeen said.
While some of these towns had people living in them for a short time, others were only platted on paper.
“One of my favorites is called McQuiston’s Addition to LeHillier,” he said. The proposed place would have been at the Minnesota and Blue Earth rivers junction, across from Sibley Park. “If you look on the north side, it doesn’t look very promising — it’s a cliff. I have a personal interest in this. McQuiston was married to the sister of my great grandfather John Haslip. I don’t know if he was running a scam, but the McQuistons left the state shortly after that.”
At one time Dakota City was one mile west of Eureka, which according to a 1936 article in the St. Peter Herald, was across from South Bend.
Washington was north of Traverse de Sioux and Red Stone City was in Courtland Township. Union City was a companion city to Swan City.
“Waheoka is a continuing puzzle to me,” Sandeen said. The town was slightly east of St. Peter and was intended to be a suburb of that town.
West Newton was named partly to honor James Newton, an early settler and partly to honor a steamboat with the same name. The West Newton was built in 1852 and sank a year later. The town’s general store, Harkin’s, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open seasonally to visitors.
The Martin County Historical Society, under the direction of then President Roy Levik, put markers up at nine lost town sites in 2001 and 2003.
“If we wouldn’t have, I think the history of those towns would have been lost in the next generation,” said Lenny Tvedten, executive director of the historical society. “They were thriving communities in the 1800s, but most died out when they were bypassed by the railroads.
“Manyaska was one of the towns that lasted longest. A railroad station, the stockyards closed, the grain elevator burned down in 1960 and the last building was moved to Welcome in 1961,” he said.
Discussing Lone Cedar, Tvedten said, “I don’t know if the tree is there or not, but the town isn’t.”
Nashville Center was east of Truman. All that remains of North Star, which was southwest of Truman, is the cemetery. Cedarville was northwest of Fairmont. Northrup was named after a University of Minnesota president.
Fairmont was originally named Fair Mount based on the nearby geography. First platted as Cardona, residents opposed to the Spanish name changed it to Imogene, who was the daughter of Cymbeline in a Shakespeare play.
Granada, with a population today of fewer than 300, bears the name of a renowned medieval Moorish city and kingdom in Spain. The town was originally named Handy. Another existing Martin County city, Trimont, is the result of the merger between Triumph and Monterey.
A Martin County town was haphazardly named after a large island adjoining India — Ceylon. Originally named Tuttle’s Grove after the county’s first settler, Calvin Tuttle, the railroad renamed it Tenhassen. The name, however, was already in use. Men sitting around in Tom Sahr’s general store settled on Ceylon for the Ceylon tea boxes on the shelves.
In the 1800s, if communities didn't boom, they became lost ghost towns
Part I of II
- Local News
- Charges filed for downtown bar punch A felony assault charge has been filed against a Lake Crystal man for allegedly punching another man in the face at a Mankato bar Saturday night.
- Mankato High grad retiring as head of GM Dan Akerson led GM to profitability and out of government trusteeship
- MSO receives $10,000 NEA grant Funds will support May 4 concert of Latin music
- Driver, vehicle sought in hit-and-run crash Police are searching for a vehicle and its driver involved in a hit-and-run crash early Tuesday morning.
- Enggren closes convenience store After starting a convenience store, briefly opening a grocery with city incentives, then returning to his old store, Jeff Enggren has called it quits after 33 years.
- Baby, it's cold outside Wind chills and cold temperatures give a "real feel" you may not want to acknowledge.
- City sewer dome in danger of collapsing Fix expected to reach $650,000
- Council approves water/sewer bill changes The additional revenue, along with the 2 percent increase in basic water/sewer charges for all property owners, is aimed at helping the city utilities get revenues more in line with operational expenses.
- Mankato shifts TIF funds Council OKs diversion of $877,000 from special districts
- Endowment in honor of longtime orchestra conductor Doug Nimmo has served as conductor of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra since 1987.
- More Local News Headlines