County History

Washington County was created October 27, 1849, in the Territory of Minnesota. Minnesota was admitted to the United States as the 32nd state on May 11, 1858. As one of Minnesota's original nine counties, Washington County is on the eastern edge of the Twin Cities Metropolitan area, composed of 423 square miles of land, and possessing a distinct set of landscapes and resources. It runs more than 40 miles in length and encompasses 468 lakes of 10 acres or more in area. The county seat is in Stillwater, Minnesota, along the scenic St. Croix River.

Before European settlement, the land currently known as Washington County was home to many Indigenous groups. The Dakota and Ojibwe were the primary inhabitants, and they thrived in the natural landscape. They engaged in activities like fishing, wild rice harvesting, and mound building. In the 1830s, Chief Medicine Bottle led a group that established a village on Grey Cloud Island, the only known Indigenous settlement known in Washington County. The village's existence was short-lived due to the Treaties of 1837, which led to the ceding of Dakota land east of the Mississippi, requiring the relocation of the settlement. Today, Washington County has many ties to its Indigenous roots, evident in the names of our communities and landmarks like Mahtomedi and Oneka Lake. These names are derived from Dakota words meaning. Mahtomedi means "Gray Bear Lake" and Oneka means "To strike or knock off" (for wild rice harvesting).

Washington County has historically played a diverse role in the region, serving the Twin Cities with its commercial, industrial, natural, and agricultural resources. Today, Washington County is a place where a prosperous economy grows with vital industries. Population growth has caused a spread of highly developed urban areas in Woodbury, Cottage Grove, Forest Lake, and Oakdale. The communities of Stillwater, Bayport, St. Paul Park, and Newport have each developed economic bases that support a local labor force.

While much of Washington County has retained its rural atmosphere, today it is considered a suburban county. However, the County continues to maintain its diverse image - from the corn fields of Denmark Township to the residential neighborhoods of Woodbury; from the office and retail complexes along Interstate 94 to the cooling waters of the St. Croix River; from the lakeshore communities around White Bear Lake and Forest Lake to the pastoral wooded settings of Scandia and May Township - each area of Washington County possesses a distinct set of landscapes and resources.