Founded by Norwegians, Wanamingo Has Native American Name
Wanamingo, Minnesota is in Goodhue County and was settled by Norwegian immigrants in the 1850's. But its name has a Native American background. A KDHL listener inquired about the meaning of the evidently Indian name. Wanamingo historian Gary Bakko educated me that when names were chosen for locations in Minnesota first the county was named followed by the townships and then the cities.
I scratch my bald head. Why would Norwegian farmers decide to give their new community a Native American name that apparently has no meaning? There is speculation about it's meaning but no official document has given a definition for the name.
I was given a history book of Wanamingo that was published in 1978. It was commissioned by the Wanamingo Historical Society due to the 1976 bicentennial of the United States of America.
I have searched and searched and Bakko obviously has searched more than me. I checked an Indian language online tool plugged in the word Wanamingo and it came out with "no matches."
Bakko believes the word relates to the numerous springs found in the area. Remember townships were named before cities so Wanamingo Township was named after an "Indian heroine in a popular novel from the nineteenth century" according to the Wanamingo Historical Society.
Bakko has collected a Wanamingo cigar box proving the name was used elsewhere. He also sent me a picture and newspaper clipping talking about the Wanamingo Ferry that was in operation in the Prarie Du Chien area of Wisconsin.
This is written about Wanamingo Township on the Geneaology Trails website.
"No other township in the county it is said affords superior advantages to the farmer. The story of the early settlement of Wanamingo has been told as follows: The first settlers came here in 1851, and were natives of Norway. Early in that year Henry Nelson (Talla) came to Dodgeville, Wisconsin from California, where he had been staying a few years and where he had accumulated a snug little sum of money. About the same time his older brother, Toge Nelson (Talla) then a widower, came back to the same place from Australia, where he also had earned some money."
"The two brothers then agreed to go to the Northwest together and search for a home. Purchasing a team (of horses), they started, and after being on the way as far as the Root River, they heard that the territory of Minnesota contained good farming land, with wood and water. They then purchased a number of cattle and such implements as they would need for beginning farming operations."
A later accounting from the same information on the geneaology.com website talks about more immigrants from Norway. "After rambling over the new territory of Minnesota for three weeks they came, June 12, to the place now called Wanamingo. They had for many days seen no white persons but themselves. At about 11 O'clock on the day named above they crossed the north fork of the Zumbro. Toge Nelson stopped his team and looking around, saw there was a fine park with beautiful land adjacent. He exclaimed, 'Here will I live and die.' His words were fulfilled, for he died in 1889, having lived in that place thirty-five years. The whole company found it to be desireable country for settlement, and so began their improvements.
The information reveals the first white child born in the township (1854), first marriage (1855), first store (1857).
Below is a listing of 28 United States with Native American Indian names and their meanings.
Alaska - Great Land
Alabama - Thicket Clearers
Arizona - Silver Slabs
Arkansas - Down Stream People
Connecticut - Upon The Long River
Idaho - Sunrise, It Is Morning
Illinois - Men Or Great Men
Indiana - Land Of The Indians
Iowa - Drowsy People
Kansas - People Of The South Wind
Kentucky - Hunting Ground
Dakota (North and South)- Related People
Oregon - Beautiful Water
Massachusetts - Great Hill
Michigan - Great Water
Mississippi - Father Of Water
Missouri - Long Canoe People
Minnesota - Sky Tinted Water
Nebraska - Flat Water
New Mexico - Aztec God Mexitili
Ohio - Beautiful Valley
Oklahoma - Land Of The Red Man
Texas - Tejas Or Allies
Tennessee - From Chief Tannassie
Utah - Those Who Dwell High Up
Wisconsin - Where Waters Gather
Wyoming - Great Plain
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