Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fillmore County, Minnesota

I was arbitrating the results produced by two indexers of a pre-1900 marriage register from Fillmore County, Minnesota. I wasn't sure where Fillmore County is in the state, so I looked at a map. It is in the southeastern part of Minnesota and shares a border with Iowa.

Although I felt fairly confident that this county was named for President Millard Fillmore, I have learned that I should find out for sure. The visit to the Fillmore County History Center, Museum & Genealogy Library web site and selecting the About option confirmed my assumption. Vice President Fillmore was president from July 9, 1850  to March 4, 1853 having assumed the role upon the death of President Zachary Taylor.

A visit to the Fillmore County official web site revealed that Fillmore County was established on March 5, 1853, a day after President Fillmore left office. The county was created from the southern part of Wabasha County. Wabasha, established in 1849, was one of the first counties created after the Minnesota Territory was created from the Wisconsin Territory in 1848. Wabasha was named for a Sioux Indian chief, Wapasha, who resided in the area.

I learned that the county seat moved twice. The original county seat was in Chatfield near Winona County. On March 2, 1855 the county seat was moved to Carimona. A year later, it was voted to move the county seat to Preston. Since April 1856 to the present time, Preston has remained the county seat. I initially suspected that county seat was moved as each of these counties was established from land that was originally in Fillmore County.

Winona and Houston Counties were created in 1854; yet Chatfield was the county seat until 1855. However, 1855 is the year in which Olmsted County was established. Chatfield is situated on the north branch of the Root River and very closed to the Olmsted County line. Its proximity to the new county may have prompted the move from Chatfield to Carimona.

Unlike Chatfield and Preston, Carimona does not appear to be on a navigatable waterway. Preston is on the south branch of the Root River. This river flows into the Mississippi River and has no rapids between Preston and the Mississippi making it easy to reach Preston by water.

Without more research regarding the political climate, population density, commerce and ease of access of these towns at that time, I cannot specifically state why the county seat was moved to three different locations in such a short span of time.

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