It is speculated that early trappers and explorers were the first to enter the Jackson, MN, area. The first white settlers in Jackson were brothers – William, George, and Charles Wood of Indiana, by way of Mankato. In July of 1856, they established a trading post and named the proposed town "Springfield" because there was a spring near where they built their cabin, a large one-room log building near the Des Moines River. Forty settlers followed in that summer of 1856. The greater number were of English and Scottish descent, from Webster City, Iowa. Over a dozen log cabins were built by that fall.
The winter of 1856-1857 was one of the most severe that was ever experienced because of its bitter cold, deep snows, and violent storms. Food was scarce as all the white settlers had come too late to raise a crop or plant gardens. Consequently, all provisions had to be hauled from the nearest settlements of Webster City or Mankato.
Several bands of roving Indians visited the white settlers that winter. They were always received kindly, the settlers sharing their supplies. One of these was a gang led by Inkpaduta, a lawless band, who were enemies of all Indians because of their plundering, robberies and outrages. This was the group that in March 1857, after not being extended hospitality at Smithland, Iowa, massacred 40 settlers and took four women hostage in the Okoboji and Spirit Lake area before proceeding to Springfield, Minnesota.
On March 26, 1857, there were 11 able-bodied men in the Springfield settlement. Inkpaduta and his gang came down from the Heron Lake area by way of Gaboo’s camp. They first attacked the Woods’ store where, after killing William and George, they replenished their stock of ammunition and proceeded to attack the other cabins. At the Thomas cabin gathered the greater number of settlers, a determined fight was put up, and they succeeded in standing off the Indians. For the first time since leaving the Smithland area, the Indians encountered men who were not afraid to fight for their lives, and the attempt to wipe out the settlement failed. However, they did kill seven and wounded three others. Terrified of a possible second Indian attack, the beleaguered people who survived left for Fort Dodge.
Just two months after the massacre and when the area was completely depopulated, the Minnesota State Legislature made this county a political division, naming it Jackson County – after the first merchant of St. Paul, MN. The temporary county seat was located at Jackson, the town site of Springfield having been renamed. Resettlement was slow, since settlers still feared the Indians.
In August of 1862, the Sioux nation went on the warpath. On August 25, the Belmont community was attacked. Most of the settlers were gathered at one cabin for church. The Indians thought that they had gathered to resist their attack, so they fled before there was much of a fight. However when they first arrived, they did kill 13 and wounded three. This scared the settlers, so the pioneers took flight for Iowa. For a second time, the county seat was entirely deserted.
Determined not to give up, the settlers soon returned following the Civil War in 1865 and resettled the depopulated Jackson County. They were followed by many others whose homelands were in Europe. A new era began. A stockade was built on what is presently Thomas Hill, manned by the military, which encouraged people to settle in the Jackson community. Homes were built from native timber and some from prairie sod. There were no wagon roads, no bridges, no churches, and only one school that served the community. Despite the terrors of living in a country exposed to Indian attack, numerous disasters, prairie fires, severe blizzards, crop failures, and the grasshopper devastation of 1873, these hardy, courageous pioneers survived and gave us a heritage we can be proud of.
From the birth of Springfield Addition in July, 1856, the pains and suffering of a strong settlement have established a prosperous farm and industrial community known as Jackson.
Anders R. Kilen, an early Jackson County pioneer who had homesteaded in Belmont Township in 1867, was a young man very interested in the growth and development of Jackson County. Mr. Kilen felt that a tract of land within the southwest quarter of section 33, Heron Lake Township, would make an excellent location for a town.
The area chosen by Anders Kilen for a town site was higher in elevation than the surrounding area and the land here was well drained on all sides. For many years the earliest trappers who passed through the area had known of this beautiful piece of ground called “The First Mound” by the Indians. The lakes in the area were abundant in fish and waterfowl which provided early residents a source of food. There were also many muskrats to be trapped for fur.
Heron Lake, just a mile and a half away, was famous as a hunters’ paradise and was the site of considerable market hunting for several years. Anders Kilen had visions of a town being located on this tract of land. Not knowing who owned the land, he took action to locate the owner.
First, he walked to Jackson, the county seat, consulted the records and learned in whose name the 80-acre tract was assessed. He then walked to Windom and took a train to St. Paul where he located the owner of the land and returned home with the deed in his pocket.
He had purchased the original site of the town of Lakefield from The St. Paul and Sioux City Railroad Company for $420. The date was July 1, 1879.
Mr. Kilen then met with officials of the Southern Minnesota Railroad (later known as the Milwaukee Railroad) and agreement was reached for a side-track on the land. Finally, he hired James E. Palmer to survey and plat the new town site, and by August of 1879 there was much interest and excitement about the new town born on the prairie. For a time the people in the area called the new town Bethania.
However, on September 5, 1879, Anders R. Kilen, the town founder and proprietor, dedicated the new town and called it Lakefield.
Built in 1973 by Al McQuinn, founder of what is today the application equipment division of AGCO, the facility in Jackson produced the industry’s first self-propelled sprayers. The factory has undergone renovations and expansions over the decades to keep up with the growing demand for application equipment. In 2006, the first tractor assembly was brought to Jackson, with the new assembly line to handle the Challenger track tractors and articulated 4WD tractors.
Most recently, in 2011, the tractor assembly line underwent a 75,000 square foot expansion to bring wheeled row-crop tractor production to North America for Massey Ferguson and Challenger. This expansion includes AGCO’s first North American visitor center – Intivity Center.
The Intivity Center is going to be a must-see destination that will showcase AGCO’s leadership in the development of agricultural innovations that will benefit North American growers now and long into the future.” Interactive displays, animation of futuristic products, videos, an extensive collection of historical artifacts are among Intivity Center features in the state-of-the-art 16,000 square foot facility.
Click on the our website for more information, hours and to schedule a tour!
Come on out to Fort Belmont Park and explore the re-creation of Fort Belmont, the surrounding buildings and prairie. Take a step into history; imagine living the life of a Southwestern Minnesota pioneer in the 1800's. Fort Belmont is located in Jackson, MN, just south of Interstate 90 (Exit 73) and the US Highway 71 Intersection. During the season, guided tours are available of 1873 Lysgard Farmhouse & Summer Kitchen, 1902 Delafield Church, Fort Stockade & Log Cabin, Blacksmith Shop, Sod House and the Grist Mill.
Jackson County Fair Village consists of 20 historical buildings and is located at the Jackson County Fairgrounds. A home, church and various business buildings, complete with furnishings, depict what "Main Street" might have looked like in a former era. Antique machinery and other items of interest are also on display. The Fair Village is open to the public during the Jackson County Fair, usually the last week of July. Tours are available by appointment the rest of year. Check out our website for additional information on the Jackson County Fair and the Fair Village.
The Jackson County Historical Society was originally started as the "Old Settlers' Association" 1925. The group continued to have annual picnics until 1929 and then languished. In 1946, Mr. A.E.F. Glaser and Ed Lafot called the group to reorganize and formed the Jackson County Historical Society affiliated with the Minnesota State Historical Society.
The JCHS is a 501(C)3 non-profit society. For a short time, the society used the farmers room at the county courthouse for meetings and it's display area. In 1950 the Halsten-Olson log cabin, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Osmund Halsten, was moved to the county fairgrounds (Jackson) by the society. In 1958 the District-5 schoolhouse followed. Until the 1970's these two buildings and the farmer's room contained the society's collections. A new building was sought when the Farmers Exchange building in Lakefield became available in 1974. Here, the museum has expanded to over 4500 sq feet of a climate-controlled area...with a large amount of display area and small amount of storage. With the help of the fair board, the society moved the Stall Church to the fairgrounds. Throughout the 1970's-80's the Holthe log cabin was rebuilt by the society, and many commemorative signs have been placed around the county.