Rosemount is an old community in Dakota County, but one with only a minor connection to the Mississippi River: Spring Lake Park is within the city boundaries, touching the Mississippi River in the far northeast corner of the city. It’s fair to say that Rosemount’s development had much more to do with railroads than with the Mississippi River, but, because today’s city touches the Mississippi, and because I’m compulsive about covering all river towns, Rosemount gets a profile in this guide.
Brothers William and Walter Strathern, immigrants from Scotland, are usually credited as being the first settlers, arriving in the early 1850s. They were followed in short order by folks from New York and New England, and then by a lot of immigrants from Ireland. So many Irish arrived at one point that there was an old story that newcomers were greeted with: “You best be Irish and you best be Catholic, or you best keep moving on.” In spite of that story, a number of German immigrants also settled in the area in the mid-1800s.
The origin of the name isn’t clear, but it seems that Andrew Keegan, one of the early settlers, used the name Rosemount for the first post office when it opened in 1855. Whether Keegan was actually from the village of Rosemount in County Westmeath isn’t clear, but it didn’t matter when, in 1858, townsfolk were trying to decide between Rosemount and Saratoga for their township name. They all knew that there was, indeed, a village in Ireland named Rosemount, and that was good enough for them. The Irish tradition is still strong in the city; you’ll find a shamrock on the city flag and the high school sports teams are known as the Irish.
The Minnesota Central Railroad built the first tracks to the village, reaching town in 1865. Two years later the railroad built a 40,000 bushel grain elevator and a business district soon developed around it; that grain elevator is still being used.
In 1871, the township boundaries were extended to the Mississippi River, incorporating part of what used to be a Dakota village led by Chief Medicine Bottle at Pine Bend. By 1881, Rosemount had a village hall, a meeting house for the St. Joseph’s Total Abstinence Society, a church, two hotels, a hardware store, four saloons, and much more. They also had a 12-piece brass band to entertain the citizens. One of the oldest surviving buildings is that old temperance hall, by the way, which was built in 1868.
Chimneys from the old Gopher Ordnance Works (Wiki Commons)
During World War II, Rosemount was chosen as the site for the Gopher Ordnance Works. When construction began in 1942, many farmers were forced to move; some got just 6 weeks’ notice to relocate. In 1945, the plant was closed and the land sold to the University of Minnesota. Another military facility was located nearby, the Naval Satellite Operations Center, Detachment BRAVO, which provided navigation data to navy ships across the planet from 1964 to 1996. The Pine Bend Refinery (owned by Koch Industries) on the edge of town is the largest refinery in the state.
The rural character of the area began changing in the 1970s, around the time the township and village merged in 1971 (incorporating as the City of Rosemount in 1974). In 40 years, the population increased 20-fold, from 1,300 in 1970 to almost 22,000 today.