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Nicollet: A Brief History

The area of Nicollet County which contained the early activity revolving around the formation of a village and community was a very fertile area of land.  It was covered by the “Great Woods” which had to be cleared for farming. But before any thought of change to the area, it was an ideal area for the Sisseton Sioux Indians with Chief Sleepy Eyes as their head. The Sisseton Sioux resided on grounds at the upper mouth of Swan Creek, land which is located on the John C. Kettner farm, section #5 of the plat book. Many Indian burial mounds can be found around the Swan Lake area attesting to the fact that this area was their home.

The Sisseton Sioux were happy here, much game, good water, an ideal area for their camps. In 1838, the French explorer, Jean N. Nicollet explored the area and its  told that he befriended Chief Sleepy Eyes and his tribe. Jean N. Nicollet noted in his notebook that the area was full of natural beauty. He also is credited with making an early map of Swan Lake.

The area was opened to white man’s exploitation by an Act of Congress and a Treaty in 1851 signed at Traverse des Sioux. The Sisseton Sioux were required to leave the area and go to the reservation near the city of Sleepy Eye. They did this very reluctantly, but as settlers came into the area they were persuaded to leave.

We can hardly leave unmentioned, the Sioux Uprising of 1862. This having been one of their favorite camp areas made the local settlers very uneasy. Many were warned by friendly Indians and hurried off to St. Peter for safety. It’s been told that the men would sneak back under cover of darkness to check on their homes and belongings. Among 30 persons from Nicollet County were killed during this time. The only known Nicollet resident killed was john Summers, grandfather of Ed Summers.

The rugged early beginnings of Nicollet are surely no more hectic than many other communities underwent in infancy. In the winter of 1853-54, P. K. Johnson came from Mankato and staked a claim for Noah Armstrong in Section #33 at the mouth of Swan Creek. A company of nine members formed the Swan Creek Claim Company. The village of Eureka was laid out, which covered 500 acres. A few improvements were made; a saw mill started, but the company failed. Hiram Saywood jumped the claim and laid out Eureka anew; this also failed. Eureka Post Office was established in 1855 and in 1858 but the name was changed to Nicollet. In 1856 Swan City was laid out in section #5 which is now the John C. Kettner farm. This never materialized as a permanent village. Dakota City also laid out in 1856, opposite Judson, never worked out as a site and thus went broke.

E. J. Boys, P. N. McDermid, J. B. Kennedy and Amos S. Post formed a company in 1857 which organized and laid out a new area to be called Nicollet. This new land was received by land grant from the U.S. President Bucannan and deeded to one Edward Shumway who in turn released it to James Kennedy in 1858. This new site for our early village was located on section #17 on a farm now owned and operated by Martin Stolt and his son Arden. Attached to their deed is an early map of the village laid out in streets and named. This early site was also abandoned after only a few early buildings were constructed such as a State Center, Hotel, Blacksmith Shop, and Trinity Lutheran church, whose cemetery is still located in what is now referred to as “Old Nicollet”. In 1863, Rebecca Grace and Daniel Grace sold the land contained in this site to Christian F. Stolt and thus it came into the possession of Martin Stolt and his son, Arden.

One would think that after all those early problems hope of a village would be abandoned, but the era of the railroad came and Nicollet was on the move again.

The site on which Nicollet is now located is found on section #3 whose owner is 1858 was William A. Mills. It was founded on a warrant for 160 acres of land in favor of Sarah Jobson, widow of Jonas Jobbson, Private, Captain James Company, Pennsylvania Militia, War of 1812, the said warrant having been decreed by the District Court of the sixth Judicial District of Minnesota to be the property of H. W. Lamberton and by him assigned to William A. Mills. A plat of “Town of Nicollet” was dated June 30, 1874. This tells of the date village lands were platted by James H. Stewart and Walter L. Brackenridge. Many deeds of the village, which have been examined, also bear out the historical reference.

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