A community with a rich historyIt’s not common for a community to be able to lay claim to having two separate “birthdays.” But, in many ways, Woodbury is an uncommon city. On one hand, “pre-historic” Woodbury can trace its municipal origins to 1858 when it was designated as a township.
It’s not common for a community to be able to lay claim to having two separate “birthdays.” But, in many ways, Woodbury is an uncommon city.
On one hand, “pre-historic” Woodbury can trace its municipal origins to 1858 when it was designated as a township.
By the 1960s, however, Woodbury was already exhibiting the birth pangs of a modern locale transitioning into a different kind of community.
Woodbury became an official city when its residents voted for incorporation on Feb. 14, 1967 — a Valentine’s Day present that can also be regarded as contemporary Woodbury’s birth date.
According to local sources, the Dakota American Indians were the first to inhabit what is now Woodbury, living here for hundreds of years before the first Anglo-Saxon settlers moved into the area. The Dakota Indians were eventually pushed southward from Northern Minnesota by the Chippewa or Ojibwa tribes which learned to use guns from French fur traders.
The town’s pioneer years, typical of many Minnesota locales, were primarily agricultural ones. Farms were the order of the day.
The city’s first European settlers came to Woodbury in 1844. Many of them had migrated from the eastern states. Immigrants also came from Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland.
John and Alexander McHattie came to America from Scotland in 1840. The brothers first purchased land in Afton in 1841, but moved to Woodbury by the fall of 1844.
In 1839, William Middleton was sent to America from Ireland by his father to find land in America. His parents and seven brothers and sisters joined him in Woodbury six years later.
A township was organized in 1858, although Woodbury was not its original name. Initially, it was called Red Rock Township, after a painted rock on the east bank of the Mississippi River. In 1859, it was discovered there was another community that already had that name. As a result, the township was renamed Woodbury, after Judge Levi Woodbury of New Hampshire, who was a friend of the first town board chair.
Town meetings were held in residents’ houses until the first town hall was built in 1876 for $600. The building served as the township’s meeting place for 85 years and was also used for political and milk association meetings and community activities.
The first school opened its doors in 1855. A small house owned by William Middleton became a school.
Woodbury’s first road was surveyed in 1852 and is now known as Bailey Road. The first money levied for road construction occurred in 1860. When Radio Drive was built in 1905, the city contained 35 miles of roadway. Afton Road, the first blacktop road, was constructed in the mid-1930s.
The early 1900s brought more changes. The first electricity came to Woodbury in 1919. The telephone was introduced in the 1890s and its use grew steadily over the years. Most homes had a telephone or nearby access to one just prior to World War I.
Urban development came to Woodbury during the 1950s, as housing began to replace farmland. The first subdivision, Woodbury Heights, was constructed in 1955. The city’s growth created more challenges for the town board, requiring more meetings. The township sold its first bond issue for the construction of water and sewer lines in 1961.
Individual school districts were consolidated into Independent School District 833 in 1957.
As the needs of the community became greater, a petition was drawn to incorporate the township into a village. The proposal was ratified by residents at a 1967 election. The first village council was elected two months later, with Orville Bielenberg serving as the village’s first mayor.
Woodbury’s population explosion occurred during the 1980s and 1990s. More than 10,000 residents lived in the community in 1980, but the population had grown to 20,075 residents by 1990. Today, Woodbury contains nearly 60,000 people.
For more information on Woodbury's history go to target="new">woodburyheritage.org