A Very Brief History of Carver County
by Leanne Brown

Carver County has been home to many different cultures throughout time. One of the best documented early native peoples is the Woodland Culture who lived in this region from 1200 B.C. until 1700 A.D. Their nomadic hunting and gathering patterns depended upon the seasons and resources of the land. More recently, the Dakota Indians used the area for hunting and temporary lodging. With the signing of the treaty of Traverse de Sioux, however, this area was opened for settlement by white pioneers.fred.jpg (12186 bytes)

In March of 1855, Carver County was organized by the Minnesota Territorial Legislature. The county was named in honor of the explorer, Jonathan Carver. The original county seat was San Francisco Township but in 1856 voters moved it to Chaska.

Much of the east central part of Minnesota, including Carver County, was covered by the Big Woods; a dense forest of oak, elm, maple and cottonwood trees. The density of the Big Woods made it difficult for early settlers to clear the land for farming.

Many of Carver County’s initial settlers were from eastern states but by the 1860s most new settlers were immigrants from Germany or Sweden. The Germans founded towns like Hamburg, New Germany and Cologne while the Swedes settled in East Union and Watertown. Most immigrants became farmers but some living in Chaska became laborers in the brick industry.

Located along the Minnesota River, Chaska had good deposits of clay for brick-making.   The cream-colored brick became a favorite for building houses in Chaska and the surrounding rural area. The bricks were also used in the foundation of the Minnesota Capitol building when it was constructed 100 years ago. Slowly the brickyards closed until the last one shut down in the 1950s.

hamcream.jpg (8768 bytes) Farming was the chief occupation of Carver County for 100 years. While many grew crops, others were dairy farmers. Creameries were numerous and the county claimed for itself the title of "The Golden Buckle of the Dairy Belt." Bongards Creameries is still important link to our dairy heritage.

Carver County’s most historically important farmer was Wendelin Grimm, a German immigrant who settled in Chanhassen. Grimm planted alfalfa and gathered the seeds from the plants that survived the first winter and re-planted every year until he had a full crop. His perseverance paid off when Grimm Alfalfa was recognized as the most winter-hardy strain available. In fact, it was used throughout North America between 1910 and 1940 and is one of Minnesota’s leading contributions to the history of agriculture.

Today, farming is no longer the predominant occupation in the county. Carver County has seen an explosion of residential development in Chanhassen, Chaska, Waconia, Carver and Victoria. Many now commute to jobs in Minneapolis or its suburbs. Carver County currently has a population of 80,000 people.

New link to county history website! Want to learn more about the history of San Francisco Township? Follow the link below to explore their new website!


Living 70+ years in one town. 78-year-old Ron Roeser still lives next door to the home where he grew up in Chanhassen, MN, no. 10 on Money's Best Places to Live. Watch the CNN video in the link below to learn a bit of the history of Chanhassen and what it's like to live in one of the 10 best places to live.