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.
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.
Become a member of the Chaska Historical Society!
Chaska History Center Hours:
Tuesday - Friday, 1pm - 4pm