Stearns County Town Names That Changed Over the Years
Stearns County has many settlements that would be considered towns, some cities and some villages. Not all the town names that we know today were the town names that existed years ago. Settlers began occupying territories in Central Minnesota starting in the 1850s and 1860s. John Decker of the Stearns History Museum joined me on WJON to shed some light on the town history of the county. He says many towns took on different names due to Post Office requirements and that towns in Minnesota couldn't have the same name so Post Office identities were sometime created. He also indicated that settlements often times moved depending on where the railroad went.
The settlement we know now as St. Joseph used to be known as Clinton from 1856 - 1870. Other towns that had identity changes included Avon, which used to be known as Spunk Lake from 1863-1872. Albany's settlement was called Two Rivers from 1868-1872 but the original settlement in the area was called the Schwinghammer settlement and it was located just east of where the current town now is from 1863-1872. Decker says where that original settlement was has been marked by the History Museum. Collegeville started their Post Office in 1879. There was a settlement where the eastern portion of St. John's University campus is. It was called Flynntown. Decker says campus buildings and some homes are now located in that spot.
Wardville was a settlement north of Holdingford from 1882-1894. Holdingford was once called Holdings Ford before the names were combined in 1905. St. Wendel has an interesting history. The settlement was once called Hancock in 1858, was known as Spunk Brook in 1873 and 1874, was called Maples from 1877-1920 before the location became known as St. Wendel.
Waite Park was known as O'Brien Station before it became a town. Decker says the railroad came through the location close to where the Ledge Amphitheater now is and that stop was known as O'Brien Station starting in 1885. Waite Park was settled just east of where O'Brien Station was in 1890.
Many other towns or villages underwent changes over the years in Stearns County. I'll take a look at more of these in future editions.
If you'd like to listen to my conversation with John Decker it is available below.