Founded in 1852, Mankato (meaning greenish-blue earth) is rich in history. Nestled in a historic river valley, the Mankato City Center is a combination of vibrant cultural experiences, extensive hiking and biking trails, and enriching historical tours and landmarks. Take one of the self-guided tours listed below to discover Mankato’s unique history.
City Center History Walking Tour
In this self-guided walking tour of the City Center’s historical sites, you will discover the beginnings of our valley’s rich and diverse culture. Download a City Center Historical Walking Tour Brochure and Map
The U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862 Tour
During the US-Dakota War of 1862, at least 450 white settlers and soldiers lost their lives along with many unrecorded Dakota casualties and forced removals. Today we try to understand the events leading up to the conflict along with the grim outcome – the simultaneous hanging of 38 Dakota on December 26, 1862. It was the largest mass execution in US History. The US-Dakota War also was the largest attack on settlers in the history of the United States. To take a self-guided walking tour of sites of the U.S.-Dakota Conflict, download The U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862 Tour Guide
On September 19, 1997, Reconciliation Park, located along the Minnesota River, was dedicated. The park is a place of remembrance and of healing toward one of the most tragic moments in Mankato’s early history. Thomas Miller, Mankato native and local artist, sculpted the white buffalo from a 67-ton block of local Kasota limestone. The monumental sculpture is surrounded by native flowers and prairie grass. The buffalo symbolizes the spiritual survival of the Dakota people and honors the Dakota heritage of this area.
In 2012, an additional memorial was created to honor and remember the 38 Dakota men who were hanged and commemorate the 150th anniversary of the execution. The monument, designed by Martin and Linda Bernard of Winona, is a 10-by-4-foot leather-looking scroll crafted out of fiberglass. One side bears the names of the 38 men and the other has a poem and prayer. The monument faces south as the Dakota believe the spirits of the dead rise from their body on the fourth day and travel south. The design shows the scroll surrounded by multicolored tombstone-shaped figures, though they symbolize the living, the people of the world looking at the monument and the names.
Benches with the inscription “forgive everyone everything” surround the memorial. While the focus of the memorial is on the 38 names, there is also a distinct message of reconciliation. The effort to build the memorial was led by Vernell Wabasha, wife of Ernest Wabasha, a hereditary Dakota chief. Reconciliation Park is a site to reflect, meditate and remember. “A reconciliation for all people.” Dakota Elder Amos Owen, 1997.
Blue Earth County Historical Society (BECHS)
Since 1901, the Blue Earth County Historical Society has held the tradition of collecting, preserving and presenting Blue Earth County’s rich heritage. The Blue Earth County Historical Society operates the Heritage Center Museum, Research Center and Museum Store as well as the Historic R.D. Hubbard House in Mankato. Blue Earth County’s past and present landscape include major waterways like the Minnesota and Blue Earth Rivers, abundant agricultural land with a foundation set on the limestone industry as witnessed in the three photos in our header. Learn more about the history of Blue Earth County.
In 1871 R.D. Hubbard, entrepreneur and founder of Hubbard Milling, began building his home in a classic Victorian style. The house was one of Mankato’s finest and was one of the first to have a telephone, indoor plumbing, electricity, and the most modern conveniences of the time. The family lived in the home until the 1930s when it was purchased by the Blue Earth County Historical Society. Tours are available seasonally. Learn more about the Hubbard House.
Blue Earth County Historical Society Heritage Center
The Blue Earth County Historical Society Heritage Center is the home of the Society’s History Museum, Research Center, Book and Gift Shop, and administrative offices. Explore the rich heritage of Blue Earth County in the History Museum featuring Native American tools and artifacts; people, places and events that shaped our history; and an interactive children’s area with a pioneer cabin. The Research Center has an extensive collection of books, photographs, and manuscripts regarding Blue Earth County’s history. The Book and Gift Shop is stocked with souvenir items, state and local history books, art by local artists, reproduction toys, collectibles, and archival supplies. Learn more about the Blue Earth County Historical Society Heritage Center.
Maud Hart Lovelace wrote 13 Betsy-Tacy books from 1940 to 1955. The books were set in Mankato (Deep Valley) at the turn of the twentieth century and told the story of Lovelace (Betsy) and her best friend Frances ‘Bick’ Kenney (Tacy).
“Maud Hart Lovelace is specifically important to Mankato because our history at the turn of the 20th century is recorded within the pages of the Betsy-Tacy books. The books are fiction based on fact. Maud did not rely only on her childhood memories, but was meticulous in her research for accuracy. Most all of the characters are based on real people Maud knew and all of the places were real places in Mankato,” said Julie Schrader, Minnesota Heritage Publishing.
“Reading these books we can ‘feel’ what it was like to live in Mankato when the first automobile came to town and homes got their first telephone. These books are loved by people all over the country and the world, but Mankato has a special connection – because it is OUR history. How fortunate we are to have this period in our history recorded in this way,” said Schrader.
The books were so popular they were reprinted in the 1970s and again in 2000 as a commemorative 60th anniversary edition.
Harper Perennial Classics reissued the six high school books in the Betsy-Tacy series in 2009 and in 2010 reissued the three Deep Valley books. In 2011 HarperCollins reissued The Betsy-Tacy Treasury, an anthology of the first four Betsy-Tacy books. The books have also been translated in many different languages including German, French, Italian and Japanese.
For information on Betsy-Tacy events, guided tours and historical facts, visit the Betsy-Tacy Society website.