St. Augusta Got Its Name – on ‘This Date In Central Minnesota History’
ST. AUGUSTA - November 7th, 2000 – Vote held to name city St. Augusta
John Wilson, the “Father of St. Cloud”, could also be considered the “father” of St. Augusta. He filed the plat for the townsite to be called St. Augusta one week before he filed the plat for the townsite of St. Cloud. That was on January 10, 1855.
The town grew up by the river around one of John Wilson’s sawmills. It grew quickly for a couple of years and soon the town had two general stores, a Catholic church, a blacksmith shop, and a wagon factory. But everything was destroyed by a tornado in 1859. After this the townsite moved a few times and had a few different names: Berlin, Neenah City, and back to St. Augusta.
Story has it that the name St. Augusta was suggested by Father Pierz. Pierz was a priest who was known for his missionary work in Central Minnesota in the 1850’s, and for encouraging German settlement of this area. Supposedly, Fr. Pierz found a picture of St. Augustine on the ground not far from Wilson’s townsite. The first small log church where Pierz offered mass was built in 1856 on the location where he found the picture. This building was soon too small and another church was built in 1858, and finally another in 1873. This church was about a mile west, and residents from Neenah City and the old St. Augusta moved and settled around this church. Thus the town of St. Augusta (as we know it today) grew in this location.
Fearing annexation from nearby St. Cloud, the residents of St. Augusta Township tried to incorporate under the name Neenah in 1999. However, St. Cloud wanted annexation to remain an option, and moved to block the town from incorporating. Soon, the town decided to refile their petition for incorporation again, this time under the name Ventura, after MN Governor Jesse Ventura. This decision worked to get the town publicity! The area was soon swarmed with reporters and the Governor himself stopped by to pay a visit. However, many residents of “Ventura” were not pleased with this new name, and more than half the city’s registered voters petitioned for a ballot to rename it St. Augusta.
The election on what to name the incorporated town was held on November 7th, 2000. There were three options on the ballot: St. Augusta, Ventura, or Augsburg (a compromise merging of the two hamlets that make up the town, St. Augusta and Luxemburg). We know today which option won: 70% of voters favored the name St. Augusta.
Thanks to Sarah Warmka and the Stearns History Museum for their help with our series, “This Date in Central Minnesota History”, on WJON.