Main Births etc
Worthington, Minnesota
—  City  —
Tenth Street in downtown Worthington in 2007
Motto: You'll Come To Love Us
Location of the city of Worthington
within Nobles County
in the state of Minnesota
Coordinates: 43°37′26″N 95°35′57″W / 43.62389, -95.59917
Country United States
State Minnesota
County Nobles
 • Type Mayor - Council
 • Mayor Al Oberloh
 • Total 8.74 sq mi (22.64 km2)
 • Land 7.34 sq mi (19.01 km2)
 • Water 1.40 sq mi (3.63 km2)
Elevation 1,591 ft (485 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 12,764
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 12,870
 • Density 1,739.0/sq mi (671.4/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 56187
Area code(s) 507
FIPS code 27-71734[4]
GNIS feature ID 0654391[5]
Website City Website

Worthington is a city and county seat of Nobles County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 12,764 at the 2010 census.[6]

The city's site was first settled in the 1870s as Okabena Station on a line of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway, later the Chicago and North Western Railway (now part of the Union Pacific Railroad) where steam engines would take on water from adjacent Lake Okabena. More people entered along with one A.P. Miller of Toledo, Ohio, under a firm called the National Colony Organization. Miller named the new city after his wife's maiden name.


File:Joseph Nicollet.jpg

French explorer Joseph Nicollet

File:First Org Train.jpg

First train on the St Paul & Sioux City Railway

File:Worthington 1893.jpg

Worthington, Minnesota 1893

Worthington's first decade: The first European to set eyes on southwestern Minnesota was French explorer Joseph Nicollet. Nicollet mapped the area between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in the 1830s. He called the region “Sisseton Country” in honor of the Sisseton band of Dakota Indians then living there. It was a rolling sea of wide open prairie grass that extended as far as the eye could see. One small lake in Sisseton Country was given the name “Lake Okabena” on Nicollet’s map, “Okabena” being a Dakota word meaning “nesting place of the herons.”

The town of Worthington was founded by "Yankees" (immigrants from New England and upstate New York who were descended from the English Puritans who settled New England in the 1600s.[7]

In 1871, the St. Paul & Sioux CityRailway Company decided to connect those two cities with a ribbon of steel. The puffing steam engines that then chugged across the prairies consumed enormous quantities of water. As a result, water stations were needed every eight to twelve miles (19 km) along the route. One of these stations was designated as “The Okabena Railway Station.”

In that same year, Professor Ransom Humiston of Cleveland, Ohio, and Dr. A.P. Miller, editor of the Toledo Blade, organized a company to locate a colony of settlers along the tracks of the Sioux City and St. Paul Railway. This colony – the National Colony – was to be a village of temperance with a capital “T”, a place where evangelical Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Baptists could live free of the sins of alcohol. A town was plotted, and the name was changed from the Okabena Railway Station to Worthington, Worthington being the maiden name of Dr. Miller’s mother-in-law.[8] On April 29, 1872, regular passenger train service to Worthington was started, and on that very first train were the first of the National Colony settlers. One early arrival described the scene:

We were among the first members of the colony to arrive at the station of an unfinished railroad… There was a good hotel, well and comfortably furnished, one or two stores neatly furnished and already stocked with goods, [and] several other[s] in process of erection… The streets, scarcely to be defined as such, were full of prairie schooners, containing families waiting until masters could suit themselves with “claims,” the women pursuing their housewifely avocations meanwhile – some having cooking stoves in their wagons, others using gypsy fires to do their culinary work; all seeming happy and hopeful.[9]

Settlers poured into the region. It was the age of the Homestead Act when 160 acres (0.65 km2) of government land could be claimed for free. All one had to do was live on the land and “improve” it, a vague phrase if ever there was one. In such an atmosphere, settlers without connection to the National Colony also arrived in great number, and few of those were temperance activists. Scandinavian, German, and Irish immigrants were among those who came. American-born settlers invariably included many hardened – and hard-drinking – Civil War veterans hungry for free land.

A curious event took place on Worthington’s very first Fourth of July celebration. Hearing that there was a keg of beer in the Worthington House Hotel, Professor Humiston entered the hotel, seized the keg, dragged it outside, and destroyed it with an axe. A witness described what happened next:

''Upon seeing this, the young men of the town thought it to be rather an imposition, and collected together, procured the services of the band, and under the direction of a military officer marched to the rear of the hotel, and with a wheelbarrow and shovel took the empty keg that had been broken open, and playing the dead march with flag at half staff marched to the flagpole in front of Humiston’s office where they dug a grave and gave the empty keg a burial with all the honors attending a soldier’s funeral.

They then, with flag at full mast and with lively air, marched back to the ice house, procured a full keg of beer, returning to the grave, resting the keg thereon. Then a general invitation was given to all who desired to partake, which many did until the keg was emptied… In the evening they reassembled, burning Prof. Humiston in effigy about 10 p.m. Thus ended the glorious Fourth at Worthington, Minn. —Sibley Gazette July 5, 1872[10]

In spite of tensions between pro-temperance and anti-temperance factions, the town grew rapidly. By the end of summer in 1872, eighty-five buildings had been constructed where just one year before there had been nothing but a field of prairie grass.

The ensuing winter was a severe one, and swarms of grasshoppers stripped farmers’ fields bare in the summer of 1873. Still, settlers came. 1874 produced a bumper harvest, followed by another grasshopper invasion in 1875. 1876 and 1877 were both good farming years. Grasshoppers returned for the last time in 1879, and a bright future began for southwestern Minnesota. According to the 1880 census, Nobles County boasted 4435 residents, 636 of them living in Worthington. For German, Irish and Scandinavian immigrants seeking a new life, southwestern Minnesota was a new world.[11]

On December 12, 2006 the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) staged a coordinated predawn raid at the Swift & Company meat packing plant in Worthington and at five other Swift plants in western states, interviewing workers and hauling hundreds off in buses.[12][13][14]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.74 square miles (22.64 km2), of which 7.34 square miles (19.01 km2) is land and 1.40 square miles (3.63 km2) is water.[1]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1880 636
1890 1,164 83.0%
1900 2,386 105.0%
1910 2,385 0%
1920 3,481 46.0%
1930 3,878 11.4%
1940 5,918 52.6%
1950 7,923 33.9%
1960 9,015 13.8%
1970 9,916 10.0%
1980 10,243 3.3%
1990 9,977 −2.6%
2000 11,283 13.1%
2010 12,764 13.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

The U.S. Bureau of Census now classifies Worthington as one of its micropolitan areas. Population of the Worthington Micropolitan Area is 20,508.

2010 census[]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 12,764 people, 4,458 households, and 2,917 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,739.0 inhabitants per square mile (671.4 /km2). There were 4,699 housing units at an average density of 640.2 per square mile (247.2 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 62.2% White, 5.5% African American, 0.7% Native American, 8.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 20.5% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 35.4% of the population.

There were 4,458 households of which 34.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.4% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 34.6% were non-families. 28.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.79 and the average family size was 3.36.

The median age in the city was 33.5 years. 26.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.1% were from 25 to 44; 21.3% were from 45 to 64; and 15% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 51.1% male and 48.9% female.

2000 census[]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 11,283 people, 4,311 households, and 2,828 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,578.9 people per square mile (609.3/km²). There were 4,573 housing units at an average density of 639.9 per square mile (246.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 76.81% White, 1.91% African American, 0.49% Native American, 7.06% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 11.49% from other races, and 2.11% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 19.28% of the population.

There were 4,311 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.4% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.4% were non-families. 28.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.12.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.5% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 98.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $36,250, and the median income for a family was $44,643. Males had a median income of $28,750 versus $20,880 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,078. About 9.1% of families and 13.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.4% of those under age 18 and 12.3% of those age 65 or over.


Worthington is located in Minnesota's 1st congressional district, represented by Mankato educator Tim Walz, a Democrat. At the state level, Worthington is located in Senate District 22, represented by Republican Doug Magnus, and in House District 22B, represented by Republican Rod Hamilton.

Local politics[]

The mayor of Worthington is Al Oberloh. City council members are Lyle TenHaken, Michael Kuhle, Scott Nelson, Ronald Wood, and Mike Woll.[15]

There is a sister-city relationship between Worthington and Crailsheim, Germany founded in 1947 and therefore is considered to be the oldest relationship between an American and a German city that has survived post-World War II.


Worthington is served by Independent School District 518.

Technical College: Minnesota West Community and Technical College

Worthington Christian School


  • I-90.svg Interstate 90
  • US 59.svg U.S. Route 59
  • MN-60.svg Minnesota State Highway 60
  • MN-266.svg Minnesota State Highway 266 (decommissioned - designated as Nobles County Road 25)
  • County 25 (MN).svg Nobles County Road 25
  • County 35 (MN).svg Nobles County Road 35

Notable people[]

  • George Dayton, a banker and real estate developer in Worthington before moving to Minneapolis to start Dayton's Department Store (now part of Macy's). Recently restored, the 1890 Dayton House is a community historic site and bed and breakfast.
  • Matt Entenza, former minority leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives (2002–2006) and a 2010 DFL candidate for governor of Minnesota. He grew up in Worthington and attended Worthington public schools.
  • Stephen Miller, fourth governor of Minnesota from 1864–1866, later settled in Worthington, representing the area in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1873-1874. He was an 1876 presidential elector. Upon his death in 1881, he was buried in Worthington Cemetery.
  • Lee Nystrom, NFL player, was born in Worthington.
  • Tim O'Brien, an American novelist known for his Vietnam War literature, grew up in Worthington in the 1950s. He references Worthington in several of his novels, including driving around Lake Okabena in The Things They Carried, published in 1990.
  • Mary Beth Blegen National Teacher of the Year, 1996
  • John Olson, longtime state senator and Worthington native, represented southwestern Minnesota from 1959–1977. He chaired the Minnesota Senate's General Legislation Committee from 1967–1971, and the Higher Education Committee from 1971-1973.


  1. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  3. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  4. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  6. ^ "2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File". American FactFinder. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  7. ^ The expansion of New England: the spread of New England settlement and institutions to the Mississippi River, 1620-1865 page 247
  8. ^ Worthington album : A project of the Worthington Daily Globe by Crippen, Raymond. Heritage House Publishers, 1998.
  9. ^ A.P. Rose's History of Nobles County
  10. ^ From New Cloth : The making of Worthington By Hudson, Lew. Published by American Legion Post #5, Worthington, MN 1976,
  11. ^
  12. ^ "U.S. Raids 6 Meat Plants in ID Case", article New York Times by Julia Preston, December 13, 2006
  13. ^ "Series of Immigration Raids Hits Identity-Theft Ring", article NPR by Pam Fessler, December 13, 2006
  14. ^ "Worthington shaken after ICE raid", article Star Tribune by Richard Meryhew, December 14, 2006
  15. ^ Lakes N Woods City Info

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