Minnesota Historical Society M-Flame Logo
Townships and Villages banner
P.H. Rahilly, Lake City,1917

P.H. Rahilly, Lake City,1917
Wabasha Census Information
Estab:  October 27, 1849
Parent County:  Unorganized Territory
Wabasha county with county seat

Southeast region of Minnesota Southwest region of Minnesota Northwest region of Minnesota Northeast region of Minnesota Central region of Minnesota

Go to Mn. Place Names Home page
Go to Wabasha County Towns page
Go to Wabasha Lakes & Streams page
Go to Wabasha People page
Go to Wabasha Other Items page
Go to Wabasha names from other languages or places page
Wabasha County

This county, established October 27, 1849, commemorates a line of Dakota leaders, whose history is told by Hon. Charles C. Willson in the MHS Collections (vol. 12: 503-12 [1908]). Wapashaw (variously spelled) was the name, in three successive generations, of the hereditary leaders having greatest influence among the Mississippi bands of the Dakota. Thomas L. McKenney and James Hall, in the first volume of their History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1836), gave a portrait of the second man bearing this name, who wore a covering over his left eye. The third Wapashaw's band occupied the country below Lake Pepin, his principal village being on the Rollingstone Creek, near the site of Minnesota City. A beautiful prairie in the Mississippi valley three to five miles southeast of this village, commonly called Wapashaw's Prairie 60 to 80 years ago, became the site of the city of Winona.

The town (now a city) of Wabasha, which was named in 1843 for the last of these three leaders, is situated at a distance of 30 miles up the Mississippi from his village. It was at first called Cratte's Landing, for the earliest white man to build his home there, in 1838.

From this town the county containing it, which was later established, received its name. The more remote origin of the name, which means "red leaf," and thence "red hat or cap," and "red battle-standard," as applied to the first man named Wapashaw, was on the occasion of his return, as tradition relates, from a visit to Quebec, at some time after the cession of Canada to Great Britain in 1763. He had received from the English governor presents of a soldier's uniform, with its red cap, and an English flag, which, being displayed triumphantly on his arrival among his own people, led to their hailing him as Wapashaw (History of Winona County, 1883, p. 31).

This name is widely different, as to its origin and meaning, from the Wabash River, which is said to signify in its original Algonquian, "a cloud blown forward by an equinoctial wind." In pronunciation, Wabasha should have the vowel of its accented first syllable (formerly spelled Waa and Wah) sounded like the familiar word ah; and its final a, like awe. There is, however, a tendency or a prevalence of usage departing from the aboriginal pronunciation for each of the four names of Wabasha, Wadena, Waseca, and Watonwan, by giving to the first a its broad sound as in awe or fall.