10 Oldest Cities In Minnesota


We scoured the internet to determine the towns and cities in Minnesota that have been around the longest.

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You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.

That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.

That’s older than America for those playing at home.

So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Minnesota? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?

Because even if your Minnesota city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.

And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.

These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the North Star State according to their ‘date of foundation’:

  1. Brooklyn Park (Photos)
  2. Richfield (Photos)
  3. Minnetonka (Photos)
  4. Plymouth (Photos)
  5. St. Paul (Photos)
  6. Stillwater (Photos)
  7. Owatonna (Photos)
  8. Edina (Photos)
  9. Grand Rapids (Photos)
  10. Anoka (Photos)

For being 168 years old, Brooklyn Park doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Minnesota? That would be Hermantown — a brand spanking 43 years old.

Read on for a look at the oldest places in Minnesota or feel free to check out the best places to live in Minnesota or the safest.

How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Minnesota… Or Is It Settled?

Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.

So what did we do instead?

Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!

For the majority of cities in Minnesota, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):

  • Founded
  • Settled
  • Incorporated
  • Approved
  • Chartered

And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.

If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.

All in all, we were able to collect data on 124 out of 146 in Minnesota with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 84.9% completion rate.

We then ranked them from oldest to newest with Brooklyn Park turning out to be the matriarch of Minnesota at the ripe old age of 168.

Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.

1. Brooklyn Park

Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

Source: Public domain

Population: 79,462
Founded: 1850
Age: 168
Formerly Brooklyn Township, the township split in 1860, with the southeast village later incorporating into Brooklyn Center and Crystal. Settlers from Michigan formally established the township and named it after their hometown of Brooklyn, Michigan. Brooklyn Park incorporated as a village in 1954, and incorporated as a city in 1969.

Brooklyn Park is served by three school districts: Osseo Area School District 279, Anoka-Hennepin School District 11, and Robbinsdale School District 281.

2. Richfield

Richfield, Minnesota

Source: Public domain

Population: 35,993
Founded: 1850
Age: 168
The beginnings of Richfield date back to the 1850s, when it was still a small farming community. Close to Minneapolis and Fort Snelling, it was on the edge of a growing and expanding city with business and commerce not far away. One of the first settlers was Riley Bartholomew, a former General in the Ohio Militia who became a Richfield Justice of the Peace and a Minnesota State Senator. Bartholomew built a house on the east shore of Wood Lake in 1852, and the restored Riley Lucas Bartholomew House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the house and site are maintained by the Richfield Historical Society. In the early days, Richfield extended as far north as Lake Street, and included present day Edina and parts of St. Louis Park and Hopkins on the west, and extended to the Mississippi and the Minnesota Rivers on the east, and to Bloomington on the south. On May 11, 1858, as Congress was admitting Minnesota into the Union, the early residents of Richfield had their first town meeting. That same year Richfield was named for the fertile farm land it encompassed. By 1879, the community’s first town hall was constructed. Early residents were German, Irish and families from the New England area. These residents were soon joined by immigrants from Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

3. Minnetonka

Minnetonka, Minnesota

Source: Public domain

Population: 52,102
Founded: 1850
Age: 168
Since the mid-19th century, Minnetonka has evolved from heavily wooded wilderness through extensive farming and thriving industrialization to its present primarily residential suburban character. The Dakota and Ojibwe Indians were the first people to settle in the area. They believed the land around Lake Minnetonka (minne meaning water and tonka meaning big) was the legendary home of an extinct race. The first recorded exploration of the area by European settlers was in 1822, when a group from newly constructed Fort Snelling made its way up Minnehaha Creek (then known as Brown’s Creek or Falls Creek) to the lake. In 1851, the Dakota sold the area including Minnetonka to the United States with the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. The first census, the Territorial Census of 1857, lists 41 households. Twenty-nine of the heads of households are listed as farmers. The occupations of the remaining twelve are associated with the operations of Minnetonka Mill and a nearby hotel.

4. Plymouth

Plymouth, Minnesota

Source: Public domain

Population: 76,258
Founded: 1852
Age: 166
Plymouth’s history can be traced back to the pre-Columbian period around 1400 to 1500 AD. The original inhabitants were the Dakota. Their encampment was at the north end of Medicine Lake. The name Medicine Lake is derived from the Dakota word Mdewakanton, meaning ‘Lake of the Spirit.’ The Dakota named the lake after a warrior overturned his canoe and his body was never recovered.[citation needed]

Antoine LeCounte, a guide and explorer, was the first settler to this area. He arrived in 1848, but did not settle until 1852. He carried mail from the Red River country to points south, trading goods to Native Americans for horses on the way. LeCounte built the first cabin at what is now East Medicine Lake Boulevard at 29th Avenue North.

5. St. Paul

St. Paul, Minnesota

Population: 300,820
Founded: 1854
Age: 164
Burial mounds in present-day Indian Mounds Park suggest that the area was originally inhabited by the Hopewell Native Americans about two thousand years ago. From the early 17th century until 1837, the Mdewakanton Dakota, a tribe of the Sioux, lived near the mounds after fleeing their ancestral home of Mille Lacs Lake from advancing Ojibwe. They called the area I-mni-za ska dan (‘little white rock’) for its exposed white sandstone cliffs.

Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, US Army officer Zebulon Pike negotiated approximately 100,000 acres (40,000 ha; 160 sq mi) of land from the local Dakota tribes in 1805 to establish a fort. The negotiated territory was located on both banks of the Mississippi River, starting from Saint Anthony Falls in present-day Minneapolis, to its confluence with the Saint Croix River. Fort Snelling was built on the territory in 1819 at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, which formed a natural barrier to both Native American nations. The 1837 Treaty with the Sioux ceded all local tribal land east of the Mississippi to the U.S. Government. Taoyateduta (Chief Little Crow V) moved his band at Kaposia across the river to the south. Fur traders, explorers, and missionaries came to the area for the fort’s protection. Many of the settlers were French-Canadians who lived nearby. However, as a whiskey trade flourished, military officers banned settlers from the fort-controlled lands. Pierre ‘Pig’s Eye’ Parrant, a retired fur trader-turned-bootlegger who particularly irritated officials, set up his tavern, the Pig’s Eye, near present-day Lambert’s Landing. By the early 1840s, the community had become important as a trading center and a destination for settlers heading west. Locals called the area Pig’s Eye (French: L’Œil du Cochon) or Pig’s Eye Landing after Parrant’s popular tavern.

6. Stillwater

Stillwater, Minnesota

Source: Public domain

Population: 19,232
Founded: 1854
Age: 164
On July 29 and September 29, 1837, treaties were signed between the US government and the local Ojibwa and Dakota nations that allowed settlement in the St. Croix Valley. The town was founded by settlers drawn by the area’s then-abundant lumber and river traffic, making it one of Minnesota’s oldest towns, preceding Minneapolis by several years. Stillwater was officially incorporated as a city on March 4, 1854 (the same day as St. Paul). The city was named for the calm waters of the St. Croix River.

7. Owatonna

Owatonna, Minnesota

Population: 25,613
Founded: 1858
Age: 160
Owatonna was first settled in 1853 around the Straight River. The community was named after the Straight River, which in the Dakota language is Wakpá Owóthana. A popular, but apocryphal, story is that the town is named after ‘Princess Owatonna,’ the daughter of a local Indian chief who was supposedly healed by the magic waters of a nearby spring. The earliest the Owatonna area was settled was in 1854 and platted in September 1855, but it was incorporated as a town August 9, 1858, then as a city on February 23, 1865.

8. Edina

Edina, Minnesota

Population: 50,603
Founded: 1860
Age: 158
Edina began as part of Richfield Township, Minnesota. By the 1870s, 17 families, most of them immigrating as a result of the potato famine in Ireland, had come to Minnesota and claimed land in the southwest section of what was then Richfield Township. They were followed by settlers from New England and Germany, who claimed additional land near Minnehaha Creek. The Baird and Grimes neighborhoods (which are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places), and the Country Club District (then known as Waterville Mills) are located in the northeast part of Edina, and were among the first areas to be established. The area then known as the Cahill Settlement, at West 70th Street and Cahill Road, was also an early community center and the home of Cahill School.

9. Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Population: 11,099
Founded: 1872
Age: 146
Grand Rapids was founded as a logging town, as the Mississippi River provided an optimal method of log shipment to population centers. The predecessor of the Blandin paper mill opened in 1902.

10. Anoka

Anoka, Minnesota

Population: 17,374
Founded: 1878
Age: 140
The site which is now Anoka was first settled by immigrants in 1844. By the mid-1850s Anoka had grown to include a school, a store and a flour mill. In 1856, C. C. Andrews described Anoka as a ‘large and handsome village’ and noted that pine logs were floated down the Rum River to sawmills there. The city was formally incorporated in 1878. The name Anoka was derived from two Indian words. The native Dakota used A-NO-KA-TAN-HAN, meaning ‘on both sides’, or ‘from both sides’, referring to its location on the banks of the Rum River. The native Ojibwa used ON-O-KAY, meaning ‘working waters’.

Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Minnesota

So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Minnesota. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Minnesota.

And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the North Star State.

And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Minnesota:

  1. Hermantown (Founded in 1975)
  2. East Bethel (Founded in 1975)
  3. Coon Rapids (Founded in 1975)
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  • Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Minnesota

    City Rank Age Year Founded
    Brooklyn Park 1 168 1850
    Richfield 2 168 1850
    Minnetonka 3 168 1850
    Plymouth 4 166 1852
    St. Paul 5 164 1854
    Stillwater 6 164 1854
    Owatonna 7 160 1858
    Edina 8 158 1860
    Grand Rapids 9 146 1872
    Anoka 10 140 1878
    St. Louis Park 11 132 1886
    Hopkins 12 125 1893
    Columbia Heights 13 120 1898
    Redwood Falls 14 114 1904
    Lake City 15 114 1904
    Hastings 16 114 1904
    Chaska 17 114 1904
    St. Joseph 18 113 1905
    North Branch 19 113 1905
    Little Canada 20 113 1905
    Fairmont 21 113 1905
    Big Lake 22 113 1905
    Corcoran 23 113 1905
    Waconia 24 113 1905
    Glencoe 25 113 1905
    St. Peter 26 113 1905
    Cloquet 27 113 1905
    Falcon Heights 28 113 1905
    Arden Hills 29 113 1905
    Morris 30 113 1905
    Zimmerman 31 113 1905
    Rogers 32 113 1905
    Mounds View 33 113 1905
    Worthington 34 113 1905
    Alexandria 35 113 1905
    Byron 36 113 1905
    Monticello 37 113 1905
    New Ulm 38 113 1905
    Fergus Falls 39 113 1905
    Sauk Rapids 40 113 1905
    North St. Paul 41 113 1905
    Litchfield 42 113 1905
    Delano 43 113 1905
    Detroit Lakes 44 113 1905
    International Falls 45 113 1905
    Kasson 46 113 1905
    Belle Plaine 47 113 1905
    Waite Park 48 113 1905
    New Prague 49 113 1905
    Stewartville 50 113 1905
    Orono 51 113 1905
    Wyoming 52 113 1905
    Crookston 53 113 1905
    Baxter 54 113 1905
    Waseca 55 113 1905
    Mahtomedi 56 113 1905
    Cambridge 57 113 1905
    Victoria 58 113 1905
    Jordan 59 113 1905
    Brainerd 60 113 1905
    Lake Elmo 61 113 1905
    Virginia 62 113 1905
    East Grand Forks 63 113 1905
    Little Falls 64 113 1905
    Thief River Falls 65 113 1905
    St. Anthony 66 113 1905
    Oak Grove 67 113 1905
    Marshall 68 113 1905
    Minneapolis 69 113 1905
    Hugo 70 113 1905
    Shoreview 71 113 1905
    Fridley 72 113 1905
    Savage 73 113 1905
    Brooklyn Center 74 113 1905
    Andover 75 113 1905
    Inver Grove Heights 76 113 1905
    Roseville 77 113 1905
    Cottage Grove 78 113 1905
    Shakopee 79 113 1905
    Mankato 80 113 1905
    Moorhead 81 113 1905
    Apple Valley 82 113 1905
    Lakeville 83 113 1905
    Burnsville 84 113 1905
    Blaine 85 113 1905
    Eden Prairie 86 113 1905
    Eagan 87 113 1905
    Woodbury 88 113 1905
    St. Cloud 89 113 1905
    Maple Grove 90 113 1905
    Bloomington 91 113 1905
    Duluth 92 113 1905
    Rochester 93 113 1905
    Prior Lake 94 113 1905
    Hutchinson 95 113 1905
    White Bear Lake 96 113 1905
    Chanhassen 97 113 1905
    Robbinsdale 98 113 1905
    Bemidji 99 113 1905
    Otsego 100 113 1905

    About Chris Kolmar

    Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

    He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

    If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

    You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.

    3 thoughts on “10 Oldest Cities In Minnesota

    1. This is false and discredited. Where is Red Wing- a city that was founded in 1850? How can you not considered one of the states oldest cities, almost winning to be the designated capital of the state due to its’ age, into this count? Shame.

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