Based out of Stillwater, “The Birthplace of Minnesota”, the Washington County Historical Society collects, preserves, and disseminates the history of Washington County and its communities.  Join us on our journey through the Gateway to Minnesota History!

Help Identify Historic Forest Lake Photographs Saturday April 28th

The Washington County Historical Society recently received a large box of unidentified photographs from the Barnes County Historical Society in North Dakota. Of the hundreds of photographs donated, only a few were identified. The Historical Society is holding an open house on Saturday April 28th from 1-4pm at the Hardwood Creek Library in Forest Lake for the public to come and help the Historical Society identified those with no name.

Among the identified photos were from the Simmons and the O.W. Johnson family. One photo of the early Forest Lake Marsh Hotel could mean there are other photos from the Marsh family.

There are more than just portraits. There are business interior, exterior and house photos. There are photos showing landscapes and gardens and some from family trips around Minnesota and the country.

People are encouraged to bring their own unknown photos and family histories that could help the Historical Society identify these lost faces of Forest Lake’s history. This event is co-sponsored by the Hardwood Creek Library in Forest Lake.

Warden’s House Open House Sunday April 29 Noon to 4pm

The Warden’s House Museum will launch its 77th touring season at the Annual Warden’s House Open House on Sunday, April 29th from Noon – 4pm! This is a free event.

The open house gives patrons a “sneak peek” of what the museum has to offer for 2018.

Among the many displays and exhibits, one is dedicated to the people from Washington County who served in World War I. In 1931, two hundred eighty-six veterans of World War I formed the Last Buddies Bully Beef Club. They gathered annually in Stillwater, sharing the connected experience of war and honoring their departed comrades while carrying on the tradition of the “Last Man’s Club” formed after the Civil War. Our updated exhibit invites you into their stories of fellowship and comradery. The original satin-lined wooden cask that holds the unopened bottle of cognac and rusted can of bully beef will be on display along with a selection of treasured items.

A recent donation of a wooden box created by the notorious Younger Brothers at the Stillwater prison in the 1880s will also be highlighted along with other items made by the outlaws during their stay behind the bars of the Prison. The three Youngers, Cole, Jim & Bob, were sentenced for life for their part of the Northfield Bank Robbery in September 1876, while their partners – Frank & Jesse James – escaped capture.

Items donated that belonged to the Stillwater’s first Warden, Francis Delano, will also be displayed for the first time. Delano was Warden from 1853 to 1858 and was the Warden’s House first resident. Delano left the Warden’s position and later was elected Stillwater’s Mayor and then, when employed with the railroad, the community of Delano, MN was named for him.

A preview of our Fall Trunk Show featuring clothing from 1920-1940 will be on display, as well as many portraits and photographs of Washington County pioneers.

You’ll also be invited to enjoy live music provided by students of Mary Taylor Allen, coffee from Lake Elmo Coffee, and sample delicious treats and snacks. The gift shop will feature a few new items alongside our quality titles.



Museums are Closed for the Tour Season

The Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater is available for group tours in the off season, contact Gibson Stanton, Site Manager at or 651.439.5956 to schedule.

WCHS Latest Publications

Company K in the Border War

In 1916, Company K of the Stillwater National Guard was dispatched to the Mexican Border to defend against attacks from the famous Mexican rebel, Poncho Villa. Through letters and photographs from the WCHS collection, “Company K in the Border War” details the in-glamorous reality these Stillwater men faced while stationed in Texas.

This book recently won a Minnesota History Award for publications!!

Thru the Mill

Originally published in 1915, “Thru the Mill” was written by inmate number “4342”, George Bartlett, who served ten months in the old Stillwater Prison. This book is his account of life behind the stone walls of Minnesota’s most infamous prison.

 Want to help support your local history? Here’s your chance!

The Washington County Historical Society is the only county historical society in Minnesota that receives no annual assistance from their county.

We are 100% reliant on your generosity.

Thank you for helping us save our shared stories and history!

Museum and Research Center Hours

Research Center
602 Main Street N., Stillwater
Open year-round
Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays 12:00-5:00 PM, Wednesdays 3:00-9:00 PM
Please call ahead or email to confirm research center availability.
(651) 439-5956 |

Warden’s House Museum
602 Main Street N., Stillwater
May – October: Thursdays – Sundays 1:00-5:00 PM.
Final day of regular tour season is Friday, October 27.

Hay Lake School and Johannes Erickson Log Home
14020 195th St N, Marine on St Croix
May, September, October: Saturdays & Sundays 1:00-4:00 PM
June-August: Fridays – Sundays 1:00-4:00 PM
Final day of regular tour season is Saturday, October 27.

Eder School House
4442 Hadley Ave N, Oakdale, MN
June – August: Sundays 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM