The History Center is closed until further notice.  While we understand this  may impact your research pathway, we want to ensure the health and safety of our patrons and volunteer staff.  We remain available by email and phone for research assistance.

~ our 2020 virtual exhibit ~

"Why Chaska?"

Stories from the present and the past . . . coming to Chaska from across the Twin Cities, the state, the country and the world!

A Brief History of Chaska

by Lisa Oberski, Tracy D. Swanson and LaVonne Barac


With the preservation of its unique name, Chaska reflects its commitment to its oldest recorded history, the history of a community in the land of the Dakota: “Chaska” is a Dakota word referring to the “first-born son” in a Dakota family.


But Chaska’s cultural history dates back much further than the Dakota.  Evidence of the first residents of Chaska can be found in what is now City Square Park.  The three burial mounds located there date back 1000-1500 years to the Mid-Woodland period Natives.  Originally three of six mounds that formed a circle, the remaining mounds are cordoned off during city celebrations held in the park as a means of showing respect for the Mound Builders, the first people of Chaska.


In 1776, European explorer Jonathan Carver began to map the area along the Minnesota River. At the time, the Dakota moved between their summer camp by the river and winters spent in the Big Woods in northern Chaska.  Seventy-five years later, as new territory opened for settlement in Minnesota in 1851 with the signing of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux by the Dakota, sites along the Minnesota River were staked out for future communities. While some never developed, others such as Chaska thrived.


It was in 1851 that an easterner named Thomas Andrew Holmes traveled up the Minnesota River where a 20-acre clearing in the Big Woods attracted his attention. He claimed it as the Chaska town site.  It operated as a township until 1871 when it became a village. Twenty years later, in 1891, the village of Chaska became a city.

View a timeline of Chaska History here  or  read more 

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City of Chaska Historic Building Tour Storymap

Interact with the online storymap building tour.  Historic Chaska homes and their original occupants are presented in this interactive look into Chaska history.  Historic buildings are also presented in the brochure "A Walking Tour of Historic Downtown Chaska" which can be found at the Chaska History Center.

Locomotive #471 was bought by the Klein brickyards in 1943 and perhaps, used for switching or for heating water near the kilns. When retired, #471 was parked behind Cuzzy's and forgotten for a number of years.


A few Chaska boys  were delighted to make it their giant play space - they climbed aboard and on top, imagining themselves the locomotive engineers, outrunning outlaws. 

Larry Meuwissen recounts his boyhood memories of #471 in this video.

Locomotive 471

View our August 2020 Newsletter


Join Us!

Become a member of the Chaska Historical Society!

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Chaska History Center Hours: 

Tuesday - Friday, 1pm - 4pm



Collecting the unique items and histories of Chaska residents and their lifestyle.

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Reviewing, indexing, recording  items in the Chaska collection. 

Archived Item Storage


Gathering cohesive facts, archived items and personal accounts to tell a story.

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Sharing our collections  with the public to educate, understand and celebrate our history.

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112 West 4th Street 

Chaska, MN  55318


Closed until further notice.
Please contact us by phone or email for your research needs.

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The Chaska Historical Society is a non-profit organization under section 501(c)3 of the IRS Code.

© 2020 Chaska Historical Society