ST. JAMES DAY — History

— The City of St. James was founded in 1870 by the president of the St. Paul & Sioux railroad Company, EF Drake.

— St. James is the county seat of Watonwan County and is located on Highways 4, 60, and 30. Lakes that are in or near town include: St. James Lake, Long Lake, and Kansas Lake, which is 6 miles south of town.

— St. James has a unique story behind how it got its name. General Sibley was a member of the Board of Directors for the railroad. He was given the honor of naming the planned town, and proposed a lengthy Sioux Indian name. The next morning, the president of the railroad, EF Drake, asked Sibley the name he had chosen for the town but he had forgotten it. Rather than have the General go home and retrieve the document that had the name on it, Drake suggested the name “St. James” and the name was agreed upon by the railroad men.

— The town site for St. James was chosen by railroad surveyors who established the halfway between St. Paul and Sioux City, Iowa. A train engine repair center was erected at the site and St. James grew around it. In 1871 when the village charter was established the population was 600.

— Many great and interesting people called St. James their home or business-place. Among those are Minnesota Governor Hammond and Reverend and Mrs. Theodore Mondale, who are Walter Mondale’s grandparents.

— The first church came to St. James in September 1870, and was Presbyterian. The First Baptist Church of St. James was organized in February 1871 and their church was built in 1872. The Methodist Episcopal Church was also organized in 1871 and built a house of worship in the fall of 1872.

— The first passenger train that came to St. James was on November 22, 1870. It was an excursion from St. Paul consisting of elegant coaches filled with railroad VIP’s.

— In late July of 1873, a plague of grasshoppers appeared in St. James, and across much of Minnesota. Everything in the young village was ruined or destroyed, and the grasshoppers stayed for four long years. When they finally left as suddenly as they came the people were destitute, but the pioneering spirit persevered, and the town was rebuilt.

— In the year of 1896, St. James had more than 100 businesses, including: 4 large hotels, a $35,000 opera house, a modern creamery, a flour mill, 3 carriage and wagon manufacturers, a library of several hundred volumes, 1 cigar factory, a steam laundry, a bottling works, 8 churches, and a modern sewer system.

ST. JAMES DAY — History

— By 1940, St. James had grown to a city of almost 3,500 people. The business district included: 10 food stores, 5 general stores, 7 apparel outlets, 2 furniture stores, 7 car dealers, 13 gas stations, 9 lumber and building stores, 11 restaurants, 3 drugstores, 3 hardware stores, 2 music stores, 3 farm seed supply stores, 2 jewelry stores, and 12 other stores.

— The Saluators Railroad Museum Park is located on St. James Lake, across from the Hickory Inn. The park features a 122 year old train depot, track, caboose, switch tower, and sand tank.


–THe Mayor of St. James is Gary Sturm. The City Council is made up of Kathleen Hanson, Don Mackey, Ray Hahnfeldt, Paul Harris and Don Halverson.

–Former Seattle Mariner Michael Scott Kingery was born in St. James.

–The St. James Volunteer Fire Department is an organizational unit that organized in 1895. Currently, the full roster consists of 34 volunteer members. The department covers the City of St. James and the surrounding rural area for a total fire district of 150 square miles and 6,500 people. The Fire Chief is Jason Monnens.

–It is the St. James Police Department’s goal to provide all those who live, work, and visit St. James with prompt, courteous, and professional service. The Police Department strives to reduce crime, disorder, and the fear of crime, providing for an enhanced quality of life. It is their initiative to partner with the community in addressing neighborhood problems by utilizing a community oriented-policing and problem-solving philosophy with reverence for the law and protection of the rights of all those we encounter. Rick Eisfeldt is the Chief of Police.

–Becky Cselovszki is the Superintendent of St. James Public Schools.

–St. James KNUJ Farm Families include: Harvey and Lois Heckman (1985), Reinhold and Mildred Besel (1986), Phil and Nita Moody (1989), Clarence and Ramona Niemeier (1991), Laverne Pearson Family (1992), Dale and Marlene Eckstrom (1993), Dennis and Karin Bottem (1995), Roger and Kathy Asendorf (1996), Merlyn and Janet Froslan (1999), Ron and Deb Bocock (2000), Samuel and Marie Chistenson (2002), Richard and Sheila Spitzner (2003), Dale and Karen Lange (2005), Peter and Amy Louise Gieseke (2008), Dennis Coleman (2010), Dale and Deb Anderson (2012), Brown Family Farm (2013), Spitzner Family Farm (2014), Terry and Joleen Braaten (2016), and the Darrell Helget Family (2018).

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