The county is 587 square miles in area, originally vegetated with oak prairie savannas. Dakota County lies within the confluence of three of the four major rivers draining from the state of Minnesota—the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers along the northern border and the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers on the eastern border. The county’s development and history have been greatly influenced by its proximity to these rivers.
Previous to European settlement, Dakota County was part of an expansive territory of the Dakota tribe of American Indians. In 1689, fur trader Nicholas Perrot proclaimed possession of Dakota, Ojibwe (Chippewa) and other American Indian lands for the nation of France without the consent of the tribes. Lands west of the Mississippi River were annexed from France to the United States in 1805 through the Louisiana Purchase.
In 1849, the Minnesota Territory legislature created nine original counties, including Dakota. The county’s original boundary extended only as far south as Hastings, but extended west several hundred miles to the Missouri River.
The county seat was first established in Kaposia in 1853, was moved to Mendota in 1854, and moved again to Hastings in 1857, where it currently resides. Mendota, directly across the river from Fort Snelling, became the first European settlement in Minnesota.
With increased population, Minnesota became a state in May 1858 — nine years after the inception of Dakota County.
For more information, visit the Dakota County Historical Society website.