History of Winona County

M. Wheeler Sargeant

History of Winona County, Part I |

History of Winona County Part II

M. Wheeler Sargeant arrived in what was to be Winona County August 1, 1853. He was at the time a member of a surveying party that reached Wabasha Prairie on September 19. He was born in Danville, Vermont in 1822 and attended Dartmouth College. He practiced law with William Windom and James Wilson. He served as District Attorney, County Recorder of Deeds and was elected the first Mayor of Winona in 1857.

Edward Ely described him as being "chock full of brains." He was considered somewhat eccentric but his honesty and integrity were never questioned. The authors of the county history wrote that he was, proud in spirit, undemonstrative, intensely sensitive and sympathizes but little with the outward conventionalities of society he was often misunderstood. 

Sargeant's History of Winona County is an excellent source for probing into the history of Winona's territorial period because a participant who was an informed and erudite student of human society wrote it. He had an intimate knowledge of the political economic and social life of the people and the community. He was able to discuss the development of a frontier community within the context of the times and a broad knowledge of human behavior.

Sargeant's History of Winona was a speech which was written to entertain and inform. It surely must have raised many issues and provoked discussion and controversy among his fellow citizens on the eve of Minnesota's admission to the Union as a state.

This speech is long, but it contains a large amount of information and many ideas which inform us about Winona's territorial era. We have divided the speech into two parts and into many topical sections to make the study of the speech easier. We also provide questions and additional information to guide your discussion of the text.

Scratching Beneath the Surface:Sargeant's History Study Questions

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