History of Marshall

Southwestern Minnesota was first explored in the middle of 1800s by fur traders Joseph LaFramboise and James Lynd.

Marshall’s first settlers arrived in June of 1869, when a group of 3 men and women traveled to western Minnesota in search of new land for development. The group who arrived in covered wagons, included C.H. Whitney and C.H. Upton, who located claims on the present site of downtown Marshall.

Lyon County was organized in 1870 in Lynd. Also in 1870, Whitney established a post office and became postmaster. Mrs. C.H. Whitney was given the honor of naming the community. She chose the name to honor Minnesota Governor William Rainery Marshall, a two-term governor who served from 1866 to 1870.

The city grew rapidly after Whitney persuaded members of the Winona and St. Peter Railroad to build a railroad line to Marshall.

That same year, Marshall succeeded the neighboring community of Lynd as the county seat because of its location and new rail line. The arrival of the Great Northern Railroad in 1888 provided Marshall with Crossroad status, thus greatly increasing its ability to succeed as a community.

Marshall was incorporated on February 17, 1876. Yankee migrants began to pour into Lyon County as well as a number of Scandinavian, German and Irish immigrants. By 1880 the census showed that Marshall had a population of about 1,000 people.

After the construction of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in 1884, recruitment of immigrants from Belgium and Holland followed. Throughout Marshall’s history a wide range of diverse immigrant groups have chosen to make Marshall home with the newest of the arrivals being from Somalia.

Marshall has always been a strong supporter of local businesses. By 1872, Marshall had a business sector that included three general stores, a lumber yard, blacksmith facilities and a hotel. Within a year, they expanded to include a railroad office, telegraph center, a drugstore, hardware stores, a meat market, furniture stores, a photography studio, livery stable and machine shops.

By 1920, Marshall was poised to become more than just another small town. At that time, local food-processing industries began to grow.

By the end of World War II, the community began a phase of rapid expansion. The city’s first and most dramatic success in the field of food processing was by Louis Weiner and sons with their company Marshall Foods. However, the largest impact on the community started when Paul Schwan built his own diary plant on West College Drive together with his wife and sons Marvin and Robert in 1948. Four years later, Schwan’s Dairy was founded.

Southwest Minnesota State University was founded when the Minnesota University System chose Marshall as the location for the newest college. Construction began in the late 1960s and the first graduation took place in the spring of 1972. Since that time, SMSU has impacted the community and area development and was ranked #1 “public comprehensive college in the midwest” from 1998-2006.

Marshall is a vibrant proactive community poised for the same type of continued development during our next 130 years that has been experienced to date.

Marshall is a great place to live, work and raise a family. Marshall located in the southwest corner of Minnesota, supports new and existing businesses with a productive labor force, good transportation system, and a cooperative community attitude.

For more information about Marshall’s history, visit the Lyon County Historical Museum located at 356 West Main Street. You can reach them at 507-537-6580.