Our History

St. Peter has been a gateway and a gathering place for thousands of years.  Situated at the confluence of the big woods, tallgrass prairie, and Minnesota River, archaeological evidence tells us people have been coming together here for at least 9,000 years. When Euro-Americans first came to what is now Minnesota, they traded information, ideas, and goods at Traverse des Sioux — a shallow, rocky, river crossing located on what is now the City’s north end.  It was here in 1851 that the Dakota Nation sold about half of present-day Minnesota to the U.S. Government in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux.

The City of St. Peter was founded by Captain William Dodd in 1853 on 150 acres north of today’s Broadway Avenue.  Originally known as Rock Bend, for a river bank formation nearby, the City was renamed in 1855 after the St. Peter Land Company was formed to promote it.  Though St. Peter failed in its bid to become the state capitol, five inhabitants were elected governor. The last, John A. Johnson, was the first governor born in the state, the first to be elected three times, the first to occupy the capitol building, and the first to die in office.  St. Peter continues to be a gateway and gathering place today with new students arriving at Gustavus each year and new residents from places around the globe.

Treaty Site History Center

The Treaty Site History Center is the headquarters for the Nicollet County Historical Society.  Exhibits and walking trails interpret area history, including the Treat of Traverse des Sioux.  It was here in 1851 the Dakota Nation sold 24 million acres to the United States Government.

No other event had a larger impact on statehood and immigration.  In 1850 only about 6,000 Euro-Americans lived in the Minnesota Territory.  By 1880 the population was 776,000 with nearly 93,000 farms across the state.

Treaty Site History Center and Traverse des Sioux State Historical Site 


1851 North Minnesota Avenue
Phone: 507-934-2160

Year-Round Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm

Email: info@nchsmn.org


  • $6 Adult (18-64); $5 Seniors (65+); $4.00 for 5-17yrs
  • NCHS Members Free
  • Gustavus students and staff Free with school ID
  • Children 4 and under Free

E. St. Julien Cox House

The Carpenter Gothic home was build in 1871 for E. St. Julien Cox, a Civil War veteran, attorney, state senator, district court judge, and St. Peter’s first mayor elected in 1865. Seven Cox children grew up in the house. Lillian became the first female mayor in Minnesota in 1921. Eugene played professional baseball and trained a dog that starred in Hollywood films. Daughter Irene became one of the first women to practice law in the state.


500 North Washington Avenue
Phone: 507-934-2160

Open by Appointment only for group tours and facility rentals

Email: cox@nchsmn.org

St. Peter State Hospital Museum

Now known as St. Peter Regional Treatment Center, the St. Peter State Hospital was originally established in downtown St. Peter in 1866. Now located at the southern end of the city, it occupies 580 wooded acres.

The “Old Center” building houses a museum that is open to the public by appointment. The museum features a variety of treatment artifacts, furniture, and an archive of institutional photographs depicting small vignettes of hospital life and routines at the turn of the century.


Phone: 507-985-2249

Open by Appointment only for group tours