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Minnesota Frontier Friends, woodcut, 1915

Minnesota Frontier Fences, woodcut, 1915

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  About this Site

Minnesota Place Names is an online encyclopedia of place-name information on Minnesota's cities, towns, townships, lakes and streams. The web site is derived from the book Minnesota Place Names A Geographical Encyclopedia ( Third Edition), by Warren Upham (MHS Press, 2001). The first edition, published in 1920 as Minnesota Geographic Names, included about 15,000 names. The 1969 second edition reproduced the original text and, in three separate lists, added 1,400 names and corrections. The completely revised and updated third edition combines those lists with other names of new and old places to yield more than 20,000 entries. This web site allows you to search the entire new edition of the book and to find links to other web sites and other databases on Minnesota History.

About Warren Upham

Warren Upham was an archeologist, geologist and librarian, who acquired an extensive and detailed knowledge of Minnesota's landscape while working on the state geographical survey from 1879 to 1885. He covered some 50 counties and over 11,000 miles on foot and horseback. In 1896 he became superintendent of the Minnesota Historical Society, an institution he served until his death in 1934.

Other Resources

Links to other web sites and information extracted from external databases were incorporated into this web site to create a rich reference source of Minnesota history.

  • Visual Resources Database (VRDB) from the Minnesota Historical Society at http://collections.mnhs.org/visualresources/ provides historic photos.
  • The Geographic Names Information Services (GNIS) from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) at http://geonames.usgs.gov/gnishome.html database provides additional information about places such as counties through which rivers flow, latitude and longitude, elevation (where available), names other than the federally recognized name by which the place may have been known.
  • Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 1998 - FIPS 55 Codes for Named Populated Places Primary County Divisions and Other Locational Entities at http://www.itl.nist.gov/fipspubs/55new/nav-top-fr.htm database provides standardized place names.
  • United States Historical Census Browser from the University of Virginia library at http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/census/ web site provides census information by county.
  • The Federal Census from 1850 - 1990 located in the Minnesota Historical Society's Reference Library.

A Living Database

Even though the printed volume of Minnesota Place Names, A Geographical Encyclopedia will not remain accurate forever, the web site will be updated as new information becomes available. For example, new cities are incorporated as suburbs grow into the countryside and even their names do not remain unchanged. The city of Ventura, incorporated in May 2000, was named for the state's world-famous governor by city leaders who hoped to win publicity and support for the incorporation. Residents voted six months later to rename the city St. Augusta, the name carried by the township since 1863. Place names may change for other reasons. In 1995 the Minnesota legislature mandated that all nineteen of the state's geographic features using the name "squaw" be renamed, because the word is believed to be a French corruption of an Iroquois word for female genitalia. And places may be invented. While there is no Lake Wobegon in Minnesota, in 1998 a bicycle trail in Stearns County was named the Lake Wobegon Trail. It winds past the towns that inspired Garrison Keillor's creation of the community.


We gratefully acknowledge the following individuals for their efforts to bring Minnesota Place Names alive on the web:

Dan Lynch, Caroline Ries and Melissa Sternal, Volunteers
Marj Kelly, Web Developer and Project Leader
Jason Andrea, Web Developer
Angela Goertz, Webmaster
Mary Klauda, Database Administrator
Ann Regan, MHS Press Managing Editor
Sally Rubinstein, MHS Press Editor
Rose Sherman, Information Technology Manager
Mark Stein, Web Designer
Dean Thilgen, Data Analyst
Ken Mitchell, Intern