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Native peoples lived in this area for hundreds of years, attracted by its ample fresh water, rich black soil, plentiful wildlife, and hardwood forests. When the US government opened southeast Minnesota for settlement in 1851, the spot that would become Forestville attracted European American settler-colonists of all sorts looking to start a new life.

Forestville’s first residents arrived in 1853 from New England, the Upper Midwest, and Canada, as well as from England, Ireland, Germany, and Holland. Wheat farms flourished nearby and businesses sprang up in town. By 1860, the town had more than 150 residents and boasted 20 houses, a school, two sawmills, a gristmill, a blacksmith shop, a store, two hotels, a distillery, and a cabinetry shop. Farmers came here to market their wheat, purchase goods and services, and school their children.