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The History of Goodhue County

Location and Area
Goodhue County is in the southeast triangle of Minnesota. There are several irregularities in its boundary lines, but, generally speaking, it has Dakota County on the north, Wisconsin on the northeast, Wabasha County on the east, Dodge and Olmsted Counties on the south, and Rice County on the west. The Mississippi River and its enlargement, Lake Pepin, form its northeastern border and separate it from the State of Wisconsin. Its Area is 764 square miles.

Physical Features
The surface of Goodhue County is mostly prairie, but it changes to a bluffy contour along the streams, especially towards the Mississippi, which has areas of bottom lands along the great stream. The surface drainage all reaches the Mississippi River and takes an easterly or northeasterly course along elevations varying from 1,250 feet at Kenyon to 665 feet at Lake Pepin. The chief tributary streams of the Mississippi River in this county are the Cannon River with its southern arm, the Little Cannon; Prairie Creek; the north and middle branches of the Zumbro; and Belle Creek, which is another branch of the Cannon. Spring, Hay, Bullard's, and Wells Creeks, although not large streams, are important features in forming the topography of the county. Besides these streams, the Vermillion River, after draining a large part of the county to the west, separates Prairie Island from the main land. The island thus formed contains the only lakes in the county.

A prominent feature of the landscape in this region is Barn Bluff which is close to the Mississippi River at Red Wing. The name is a translation of "La Grange:, a designation given by the French because of its appearance. The promontory is a lone, high, and nearly level-crested bluff which is quite separated from the side bluffs of the valley and conspicuously seen for many miles up and down the river.

Naming of Goodhue County
The County is named for James Madison Goodhue, the first newspaper editor in Minnesota. He was born on March 31, 1810, and died in St. Paul on August 27, 1852. He graduated from Amherst College in 1833 and was later admitted to the bar. After practicing law, he became editor of the Wisconsin Herald, published at Lancaster. He came to St. Paul in 1849, and on April 28 of that year, he issued the first edition of the Minnesota Pioneer.

Establishment of the County
Goodhue County was established by the Legislature on March 5, 1853, from an area which had previously been a part of Wabasha County.  The boundaries were indefinite.  After the government survey of the greater part of the county was completed, the boundaries were defined in 1854.  The Half Breed Tract, however, had not been included in the survey, and it was later found that the starting point of the boundaries as described in the act was in Wisconsin, a few miles northeast of Frontenac.   In general, the boundary was as at present, except that Central Point Township was excluded, and the line between Welch township in Goodhue County and Douglas Township in Dakota County was extended due north to the Mississippi River a few miles southeast of Hastings.  The present boundaries were defined in 1855.  A bill was introduced in the Legislature in 1858 to detach part of Goodhue, Olmsted, and Wabasha Counties and to form a new county to be called Zumbrota.  A committee to which it was referred made an unfavorable report, and the bill was never brought to a vote.  In 1861 the voters defeated a proposition to attach that part of Cannon Falls Township north of the Cannon River to Dakota County. 

Historic Places of Goodhue County, an interactive mapping site

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