Nobles County History

Page updated: Monday, 05-Dec-2016 09:26:21 EST

Nobles County  was first occupied by the Sisseton Sioux.  The first white man to set foot on the land was Joseph Nicollet who came to map out the area in 1842.  Nicollet named Lake Okabena (there were two Lake Okabenas at the time), Lake Ocheda, East and West Graham Lake and the Kanaranzi Creek.

The first settlement was near Graham Lakes in 1846.   Nobles County was established May 23, 1857, and organized October 27, 1870.  The county was named for William H. Nobles, who was a member of the Minnesota territorial legislature in 1854 and 1856.  In the autumn of the latter year he began the construction of a wagon road for the U.S. government, crossing southwestern Minnesota and Nobles County, to extend from Fort Ridgely to the South Pass in the Rocky Mountains.  This work was continued in 1857 but was not completed.  Nobles County was created by the Minnesota Legislature on May 23, 1857, just before the full force of the Panic of 1857 was felt.  Settlers were further discouraged from coming by the Spirit Lake Massacre of 1857.  In this incident, a band of Sioux ruthlessly murdered settlers in Spirit Lake and along the Des Moines River in Jackson and Cottonwood Counties.  The few whites in the area were understandably reluctant to stay.

During the summer of 1867, a mail route was established from Blue Earth through the Graham Lakes settlement to Yankton, South Dakota.  In January, a Post Office was established in each settlement.  The population in the spring of 1870 was 117 and nearly doubled by fall.  County Government did not start until 1870.  The first railroad, the St. Paul & Sioux City Railway, was built in 1871.  This later became the Chicago Northwestern Railroad, and is presently operated by the Union Pacific Railroad.

In 1871, a group of men from Toledo, Ohio organized a company to locate a colony of settlers in some western county.  After traveling 20,000 miles in the Midwest, they decided on Nobles County and by the spring of 1872, hundreds of people came in and took up land.  Worthington became the County Seat in 1873.  The Worthington & Sioux Falls Railway was established in 1876.  This led to rapid settlement in Rushmore, Adrian, and the western portions of the county.

The U.S. census of 1861: 11 families, 35 persons, (3 from Norway, 3 from Bavaria, 1 from Ireland and the rest from the eastern states).  In 1880, the population was 4,435. In 1895, the population was 11,905 and in 1970, the population was up to 22,959.  In 2010, the population was 22,378.

from WikipediA

Also see U.S. Census Bureau 2010 Facts for Nobles County