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!

Fort Snelling at Bdote: A Complicated History on Sunday, August 19 at 2pm at Warden’t House Museum

The Washington County Historical Society is pleased to have Peter DeCarlo join us at the Historic Warden’s House in Stillwater. This exciting and free presentation will dive into the complicated history of Fort Snelling at Bdote and the Minnesota Historical Society’s work to reinterpret and revitalize one of Minnesota’s most important historical places

For millennia, the area where the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi has been a crossroads, a place of strategic power. But its history is deeply complicated. Many Dakota people consider the area, known as Bdote, to be both a sacred place of origin and a site of genocide. Many other people think of Fort Snelling, the limestone fortress built by US soldiers at Bdote in the 1820s, as the “birthplace of Minnesota,” an icon of patriotism and pioneer spirit. That symbolism, too, is complicated: over the decades, many army officers held enslaved African Americans at the Fort. The fort itself is also a powerful reminder that most Minnesotans today are descendants of immigrants, living on Dakota land. Come learn about the history of Fort Snelling at Bdote and the Minnesota Historical Society’s work to reinterpret and revitalize one of Minnesota’s most important historical places. 

Peter J. DeCarlo is a historian and author of Fort Snelling at Bdote and Loyalty Within Racism: The Segregated Sixteenth Battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard During World War I. He holds an MA in American history and his research interests include colonialism, borderlands, Native American studies, and public memory. His current research focuses on the Columbus Memorial located on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds. He was a former intern for WCHS and now works at the Minnesota Historical Society as a research historian.

The event in on Sunday August 19th at 2pm at the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater. It is free to attend. For further information please contact the Warden’s House Museum at 651-439-5956


Museums are Open for the Tour Season

The Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater is available for group tours  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.

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

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