FOLEY -- Benton County is celebrating a big anniversary. 170 years ago this week on January 7th in 1850 they held their very first county commissioners meeting.

Benton County Historical Society Executive Director Mary Ostby says at that time the county was much larger than what we know today. She says when the state turned into a territory there were only nine counties, including Benton.

Out of those nine original counties only three counties were allowed to do business Benton, Ramsey, and Washington, and their boundaries for those counties -- of course because there was only nine -- were much larger than they are today.

The original Benton County encompassed part of what we now know as Crow Wing, Aitkin, Morrison, Mille Lacs, and Sherburne counties.

Image courtesy of Benton County Historical Society

The county is named for Thomas Benton who was instrumental in the land purchase that allowed Minnesota to become a state.  He never actually stepped foot in Benton County.

Benton county's courthouse has moved several times over the years starting in Sauk Rapids, then moving to a town called Watab - which no longer exists, then back to Sauk Rapids, before moving to its current location in Foley.

The nine large counties were broken up between 1849 and 1858 and Benton became the size that it is today before Minnesota became a state.

A lot of people are surprised to find out that Benton County existed in the territory before the state was even a state.

The county is now one of the smallest in Minnesota.

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