Frontenac, Minnesota

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County Goodhue
Township Florence
State Minnesota
Nation United States
Year founded 1857
Population (est. or census 2000) 1450
Alternate Name Frontenac Station

Frontenac is an unincorporated community in Florence Township, Goodhue County, Minnesota, United States, on the Mississippi River.



In September 1727, Jesuit missionaries Michel Guignas and Nicolas de Gonnor landed at the north end of Lake Pepin on the Minnesota side and established Fort Beauharnois. It was named to honor in honor of Charles de Beauharnois the governor of New France, which the land was a part of. It had a palisade one hundred feet square which enclosed several cabins as well as larger buildings. A small chapel was built, called The Mission of St. Micheal the Archangel. From this location the Jesuits ministered to the Sioux while also recording scientific discoveries. The fort was a military rally pint when Fox attackers neared in 1728, but the natives would not engage in formal battle and the military presence was minimal in the following years. The fort was abandon in 1737 after a band of Sioux who had been attacking French outposts to the north traveled to the area around Lake Pepin. It was reoccupied after 1750, but was again abandoned as the French ceeded the lands to the newly formed United States of America.[1]

Paul Marin built a second fort, this one to house a trading post, on Minnesota side of the north end of Lake Pepin in the mid 1700's called Fort Jonuiere. His son, Joseph, took over the fort after his fathers death. Joseph had traveled extensively among the Sioux before he settled at the fort.[2]

1800 through 1853Edit

In the 1830 Treaty of Prairie Du Chien land from Red Wing to Wabasha on the west side of the Mississippi River was reserved as the "Half-Breed Tract", where families of mixed blood could settle.[3]

Laws passed in 1854 and 1858 allowed white settlers to own any lands that had been unclaimed within the Half-Breed Tract.[4]

James Wells established a trading post in the location that would become Frontenac before 1850. He was killed by indians at some point.

He dealt mostly with Native Americans until the railroad was build in the early 1850s. In 1854 the Garrard brothers came upon the area during a hunting trip and bought large tracts of land. By 1857 the village was permanently established with the name of Westervelt in 1855 to honor the then postmaster, Evert V. Westervelt. [5]

The name was changed to 'Frontenac' in 1860 by the Garrard brothers after Frenchman, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, who was born in 1622. He was the French colonial governor of Canada in 1672–82 and 1689–98. He died in Quebec, Canada on November 28, 1698. There is no record of his traveling to the Mississippi River. [5]

Frontenac housed a station of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad and the picturesque scenery soon began attracting wealthy residents. It became a village of summer homes with lakeside views.[5] The railway line outside the village ran from north to south, connected the remote area with larger cities, but it was far enough away from the bluffs not to detract from the vacation destination. There are actually two villages that comprise Frontenac. The railway line attracted some residents, while the bluffs attracted others. The houses along the railway line, and later the highway, became known as 'Frontenac Station' while the bluff residences are called 'Old Frontenac'. Both are in Florence Township and are listed as one location in the U.S. Census.[5]

Notable inhabitantsEdit



According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has 40.55 square miles (107.1 km²), of which 34.93 square miles is land and 5.63 square miles is water. The city is at the northern edge of the Driftless Area of karst topography.

Frontenac State ParkEdit

The land between Frontenac Station and Old Frontenac, as well as much of the land to the north and some to the south, was set aside as a State Park in 1957. Frontenac State Park includes the floodplain along the Mississippi River, bluffs which are a flyway for many migratory bird species, prairies and hardwood forests. It is within the Mississippi Flyway and is also part of the Driftless Area of the north central United States.


At the census[7] of 2000, there were 1,450 people, 633 households in Florence Township. The population density was 41.5 per square mile (175.8 km²) and there were 18.1 housing units per square mile (175.8 km²).

Transportation Edit

Frontenac is located along U.S. Route 61 which also carries U.S. Route 63 at that point.

Rail lines run parallel to the highway, but there is no longer a station in Frontenac.

The Frontenac Airport (Minnesota)|Frontenac Airport is located 1 mi south of Frontenac Station, and is administered by a private agency. [8]

External linksEdit

Historic sites and museumsEdit

  • Little Grey Episcopal Church - Built in 1867 by Henry Benjamin Whipple (1822-1901), first Episcopal bishop of Minnesota.[9]
  • St. Hubert's Lodge - Built in by General Israel Garrard (1825-1901) and named for the patron saint of hunters. Grant LaFarge and George L. Heins, used some of the Frontenac quarried cream colored limestone when they built and designed the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, after spending the winter of 1883-84 in St. Hubert's Lodge.[10]

References in popular cultureEdit

  • William McNally used Frontenac as his setting for the novel House of Vanished Splendor. He includes the characters of John LaFarge, General Carles King, Joseph Jefferson and Henry Ward Beecher.[11]




  1. ^ Blegen, Theodore Christian. Minnesota: a history of the State. pp 55-56.
  2. ^ Blegen, Theodore Christian. Minnesota: a history of the State. p 60.
  3. ^ Blegen, Theodore Christian. Minnesota: a history of the State. p 128.
  4. ^ Lester, William Wharton. Decisions of the Interior Department in public land cases and land, Volume 1.
  5. ^ a b c d Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota Place Names database, June 2009.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  8. ^ USGS GNIS: Frontenac Airport (Minnesota)
  9. ^ Minnesota, a state guide, by Minnesota Federal Writers' Project, 1934.
  10. ^ Minnesota, a state guide, by Minnesota Federal Writers' Project, 1934.
  11. ^ Minnesota, a state guide, by Minnesota Federal Writers' Project, 1934.
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