Tracing the Roots of the Nicollet County Historical Society

In summer 1928, the Nicollet County Fair Association sent out a call to anyone interested in forming a Historical & Old Settler Association. Anyone who lived in the County or whose parents lived there for at least 40 years were allowed to register. By the 22nd, 96 people had registered.

They named the new organization the Nicollet County Historical & Old Settlers’ Society. The annual dues were $0.25.

Almost immediately, they began receiving artifacts from Nicollet County’s early days. Planning began for an exhibition to celebrate the new organization and St. Peter’s Diamond Jubilee. They displayed the donated artifacts on the ground floor of the Burg Block in St. Peter.

The Society’s infancy was complicated by the many artifacts donated after the Jubilee. The organization did not have a building to house its newly acquired artifacts. Luckily, Gustavus Adolphus College offered the Society use of the basement in their men’s dormitory, Uhler Hall.

 

Judge Henry N. Benson was elected
president of the Society in Sept. 1933.

A Nomadic Life for the Society

Unfortunately, the Society spent many years moving the collection all over St. Peter awaiting a permanent home. Over the years, the Society was located in the First National Bank basement, the Konsbruck, the Nicollet County Courthouse basement, the Neubert Hatchery building, and the Central Community Center.

In the 1940s, the Board of Directors voted to drop “Old Settlers” forever from the organization’s title, and it became the Nicollet County Historical Society.

A New Historic Site

In 1968 NCHS received the Gault Home as a donation. St. Peter’s first mayor, Eugene St. Julien Cox built the house for his family in 1871. Members of that family lived in the home for over 90 years until it was donated to NCHS.

The Society began restoring the home to its original glory, turning it into a house museum. In 1970 the National Parks Service accepted the Cox House’s nomination placing it on the National Register of Historic Places. It officially opened as the E. St. Julien Cox House in 1971.

 

A New Home & Bright Future

After many unsuccessful years searching for a permanent place to call home, NCHS won a 100-year lease on land in May 1988. The new museum’s location was on the north end of St. Peter near Traverse des Sioux Park. The Society broke ground on the new museum in the spring of 1992. NCHS moved from its location at St. Peter’s Central Community Center to its new custom-designed Treaty Site History Center in mid-December 1992.

The Treaty Site History Center opened February 1, 1994, holding a grand opening and dedication on Sunday, May 22, 1994.

 

Beginning in 1999, NCHS embarked on a new partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society. The Society took over management of the Alexander Harkin Store located in the heart of Nicollet County. The 1870s general store makes its home along the beautiful Minnesota River along County Road 21.

As NCHS settled into its new home and role with MNHS, two new partnership opportunities presented themselves. Fort Ridgely and Traverse des Sioux historic sites came under the NCHS umbrella as its newest partnership sites in 2005. NCHS was now interpreting history at sites all across Nicollet County.

Today, NCHS still reaches audiences across Nicollet County through programs and exhibits. Our current sites, the Treaty Site History Center, E. St. Julien Cox House, and Traverse des Sioux, serve as the foundations where we fulfill our mission to preserve, protect, and share the rich history of Nicollet County.

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