History of the Mower County Historical Society
The Mower County Pioneer and Historical Society was formed on August 8, 1947 following that year’s Mower County Fair. The group came about when, at that year’s fair, the Fair Board honored all farmers of the county that had farmed and paid taxes for 50 years or more. A total of 52 men and women decided that it was time to erect a building dedicated to the pioneers of this county.
Two years later, on August 9, 1949, the Pioneer Building was dedicated during the Mower County Fair. Since then buildings have been added to the site with the most recent addition, the Agriculture Building in 2003. There is one building owned by the historical society that is not on the fairgrounds site. That building is the Booth GAR Hall in Grand Meadow. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of two remaining GAR Halls in Minnesota.
History of Mower County
Mower County was officially formed on March 1, 1856, with the signature of Governor Willis A. Gorman. It was named Mower after John E. Mower, a territorial legislator. Until this time, Mower County was part of Wabasha County. Hunter Clark made the first settlement in the western part of the county, where Oakwood Cemetery is currently located in Austin.
The first Board of Commissioners met on April 7, 1856, in Frankford and located the county seat there. Since there was no official county building, all of the records were kept in a tin box. Wherever this tin box was located was where the county seat was established. A plot was designed to steal the box and relocate it to Austin. The plot was a success. In March 1857, the county board obtained the office of A.S. Everest in Austin to be used as the county seat headquarters. An election followed on June 1, where the citizens of the county voted to have Austin established as the permanent county seat. The vote was split between the western residents and the eastern residents. In January 1868, the first courthouse was built.
Since that time, the county has grown tremendously. Austin is still the county seat and largest city in the country.