Fillmore County, located on the southern border of Minnesota, is the second county west of the Mississippi River. Fillmore County is located on 865 square miles--that's 553,082 acres. At its beginning, Fillmore County included all of Houston, most of Winona and Wabasha, some of Olmsted, and a little of Dodge and Mower counties. The present boundaries were established in 1855. Fillmore County was established March 5, 1853 and was named in honor of President Millard Fillmore who was President of the United States 1850 to 1853. At the time of its statehood, Fillmore was the most populous county in Minnesota, a distinction held until 1870. Its population peak occurred in 1895 at 28,599 people.
Railroads played an integral role in the development of Fillmore County. There were three major railroads in Fillmore County. The last railroad left in the late 1970's. Railroads could make or break a town; many small towns became flourishing cities due to the business brought in by the railroads.
In its beginning, Fillmore County was a diversified business area. Because of its abundant water resources, sawmills, gristmills, feed mills, and woolen mills flourished. Agriculture was as important then, as it is now. According to a survey of 1,913 farms from the Census of Agriculture of 1978, approximately 483,555 acres of land were being used for farming. Due to improved farming methods, small farms have been combined into larger units. There are more acres being farmed now, but by fewer farmers. The chief crops raised are corn, soybeans, and alfalfa; the chief livestock--dairy and beef cattle, poultry, and hogs.
In 1854 and 1855, the first county seat was located in Chatfield. On March 2, 1855, Carimona was designated as the county seat. March 1, 1856, the voters of Fillmore County voted for Preston to be the county seat. On February 24, 1863, the citizens of Preston decided to erect a brick courthouse 50 feet square and two stories high on a public square; two wings were added in 1884. The present courthouse was erected in 1958 on the site of the previous courthouse.