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Swift County, Minnesota

The Swift County Courthouse is located at 301 14th Street North, Benson, MN 56215.


Beginnings [1]

Swift County was organized on February 18, 1870 and was named in honor of Henry Swift, Governor of Minnesota in 1863. Three citizens, C.E. Foster, A.W. Lathrop and Iver Knudson, were selected to serve on the first board of commissioners. The County was divided into three commissioner districts.

By 1878, the number of legal voters in the County had increased to such an extent (800 votes having been cast in the last election) that the commissioners decided on December 2, 1878, to re-district the County to provide two additional members on the board. Division was made according to the number of votes cast.

From 1875 and on, much of the time of the Board was devoted to the consideration of road petitions. One of the newspaper editors made the statement in 1885 that "the road question is of greater importance to citizens of Swift County than the question of who shall be President."

In the spring of 1876, the Legislature authorized the construction of a courthouse in Benson. On March 26, 1897, the commissioners voted to advertise for bids to construct a new courthouse as the old one proved to be too small to meet the growing needs of the County. Over the years, the courthouse has been renovated several times. It was declared a national historic site in 1976.

In 1880 the citizens of the County could view with pride the achievements of their fellow settlers during the first decade of settlement for a substantial framework had been constructed to provide a civilization for the coming generations. When we consider that from a total of approximately 600 people in the County in 1870, the population had increased to 7,472 the stream of immigration must have been very strong despite the hard times. In 1900, the population had reached 13,503.

To the pioneers who first viewed this region in the 1860's, it must have presented to the naked eye a vast, flat, monotonous stretch of land, unbroken even by trees. Except for some timber to be found along the streams and in small groves on the borders of the lakes, there was nothing to stop the plow from being put to use as soon as the settler arrived in the spring or summer. Agriculture has been and still is the main industry in Swift County.

  1. Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission, Swift County Minnesota Draft Comprehensice Plan, 2007, www.swiftcounty.com, accessed May, 2016.

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