Wanamingo, Minnesota is in Goodhue County settled by Norwegian immigrants in the 1850's.  A KDHL listener inquired about the meaning of the evidently Native American name.  Wanamingo historian Gary Bakko educated me that when names were chosen for locations in Minnesota first the county was named followed by the townships and then the cities.

I scratch my bald head. Why would Norwegian farmers decide to give their new community a Native American name that apparently has no meaning?  There is speculation about its meaning but no official document has given a definition for the name.

I was given a history book of Wanamingo that was published in 1978.  It was commissioned by the Wanamingo Historical Society due to the 1976 bicentennial of the United States of America.

I have searched and searched and Bakko obviously has searched more than me.  I checked an Indian language online tool plugged in the word Wanamingo and it came out with "no matches."

Bakko believes the word relates to the numerous springs found in the area.  Remember townships were named before cities so Wanamingo Township was named after an "Indian heroine in a popular novel from the nineteenth century" according to the Wanamingo Historical Society.

Bakko has collected a Wanamingo cigar box proving the name was used elsewhere.  He also sent me a picture and newspaper clipping talking about the Wanamingo Ferry that was in operation in the Prarie Du Chien area of Wisconsin.

This is written about Wanamingo Township on the Geneaology Trails website.

"No other township in the county it is said affords superior advantages to the farmer.  The story of the early settlement of Wanamingo has been told as follows: The first settlers came here in 1851 and were natives of Norway.  Early in that year Henry Nelson (Talla) came to Dodgeville, Wisconsin from California, where he had been staying a few years and where he had accumulated a snug little sum of money.  About the same time his older brother, Toge Nelson (Talla) then a widower, came back to the same place from Australia, where he also had earned some money."

"The two brothers then agreed to go to the Northwest together and search for a home.  Purchasing a team (of horses), they started, and after being on the way as far as the Root River, they heard that the territory of Minnesota contained good farming land, with wood and water.  They then purchased a number of cattle and such implements as they would need for beginning farming operations."

A later accounting from the same information on the geneaology.com website talks about more immigrants from Norway. "After rambling over the new territory of Minnesota for three weeks they came June 12, to the place now called Wanamingo.  They had for many days seen no white persons but themselves.  At about 11 O'clock on the day named above, they crossed the north fork of the Zumbro.  Toge Nelson stopped his team and looking around, saw there was a fine park with beautiful land adjacent.  He exclaimed, 'Here will I live and die.'  His words were fulfilled, for he died in 1889, having lived in that place thirty-five years.  The whole company found it to be a desirable country for settlement, and so began their improvements.

The information reveals the first white child born in the township (1854), first marriage (1855), first store (1857).

Below is a listing of 28 United States with Native American Indian names and their meanings.

Alaska - Great Land

Alabama - Thicket Clearers

Arizona - Silver Slabs

Arkansas - Down Stream People

Connecticut - Upon The Long River

Idaho - Sunrise, It Is Morning

Illinois - Men Or Great Men

Indiana - Land Of The Indians

Iowa - Drowsy People

Kansas - People Of The South Wind

Kentucky - Hunting Ground

Dakota (North and South)- Related People

Oregon - Beautiful Water

Massachusetts - Great Hill

Michigan - Great Water

Mississippi - Father Of Water

Missouri - Long Canoe People

Minnesota - Sky Tinted Water

Nebraska - Flat Water

New Mexico - Aztec God Mexitili

Ohio - Beautiful Valley

Oklahoma - Land Of The Red Man

Texas - Tejas Or Allies

Tennessee - From Chief Tannassie

Utah - Those Who Dwell High Up

Wisconsin - Where Waters Gather

Wyoming - Great Plain

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