Dakota County Historical Society
Collect, preserve, promote and present Dakota County history

A Premier County

Dakota County, Minnesota was founded in 1849, as one of the original nine counties created by the Minnesota Territory Legislature. Therefore, we were a first county (along with eight others) and, as a governmental unit, we were established well before Minnesota gained statehood in 1858.

The current mission statement of Dakota County government contains the words, a premier place in which to live and work. We think Dakota County is a premier county in which to explore our unique and fascinating history — and Dakota County can claim many "firsts."

Use the menu directly above to explore:

  • How Dakota County became one of Minnesota's original nine counties
  • Dakota County's role in the Minnesota 1st and the Civil War
  • Can we claim Dakota County as the first "Silicon Valley?"
  • Women's first vote under the 19th Amendment
  • First Peoples to live in what is now Dakota County
  • Minnesota's first Governor, a Dakota County resident
  • Other Firsts -- help us recognize and understand other ways in which Dakota County is a premier county. 

About Dakota County

Dakota County, Minnesota is 587 square miles in area, originally vegetated with oak prairie savannas. Dakota County lies within the confluence of three of the four major rivers draining from the state of Minnesota—the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers along the northern border and the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers on the eastern border. The County’s development and history have been greatly influenced by its proximity to these rivers.

Previous to European settlement, Dakota County was part of an expansive territory of the Dakota tribe of American Indians. In 1689, fur trader Nicholas Perrot proclaimed possession of Dakota, Ojibwe (Chippewa) and other American Indian lands for the nation of France without the consent of the tribes. Lands west of the Mississippi River were annexed from France to the United States in 1805 through the Louisiana Purchase.

In 1849, the Minnesota Territory legislature created nine original counties, including Dakota. The County’s original boundary extended only as far south as Hastings, but extended west several hundred miles to the Missouri River.

The County seat was first established in Kaposia in 1853, was moved to Mendota in 1854, and moved again to Hastings in 1857, where it currently resides. Mendota, directly across the river from Fort Snelling, became the first European settlement in Minnesota.

As American Indians were systematically removed from their lands and rebellions moved further to the west, large numbers of European settlers began arriving to the region in the mid-1850s. With increased population, Minnesota became a state in May 1858—nine years after the inception of Dakota County.

Visit one of these Dakota County Historic Sites