Wednesday History: The Creation of Steele County
Steele County as we know it today was established in 1856 and named after Franklin Steele, who was a governmental contractor, according to the county's website. The county is 432 square miles. The population in 1860 was 2,863 and the 2011 Census placed the population at 36,350
According to the city of Blooming Prairie, in 1856 it was first known as Oak Glen Township. The wife of a railroad official named the township Blooming Prairie after the tall grasses in the prairies. The many settlers in the area grew wheat. The first rail station was running in 1860, with stores and the post office to follow. The first school was built in 1868. A new two-story school was built in 1873. Blooming Prairie was incorporated in 1873-74.
Ellendale was established in 1901 and named for Ellen Dale Ives, who was the wife of the railroad's president. According to the city website, a railroad was built in the area because it was of equal distance from Owatonna to Albert Lea. A bank was first built, followed by Lerberg's Grocery, the post office and lumberyard were next. The first school was built in Cooleyville, just a half-mile from town and combined the surrounding schools. In 1993, Ellendale-Geneva school districts merged with New Richland-Hartland school district.
According to lakenwoods.com, Medford township was named by Englishman William K. Colling after a ship that his son was born on. The township had a post office in 1855 as part of Rice County and it was in 1857that Medford became part of Steele County and was the first post office in the county. Medford Straight River Days are June 16-18 this year and were first celebrated in 1971.
From the city's website, Owatonna is named after Princess Owatonna. She was ill and her father, Chief Wabena, brought her to the site of a natural spring, called minnewaucan. Architect Louis Sullivan completed the first bank in 1908. Owatonna is the home of the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children, established in 1886 and closing in 1945. It housed 10,635 children.
A little history about Steele County's four cities. Steele County also has 13 townships.