After years of effort by Dodge County representatives, employees and residents, the Minnesota Historical Society received $2.1 million dollars for a grant to Dodge County to “predesign, design, construct the stabilization of the Wasioja Seminary Ruins, and to construct a catwalk through the ruins and to construct a fence surrounding the ruins.”
A group of state legislators toured the ruins in 2021 and that tour helped legislators decide to find funds for some type of stabilization. At that tour, the keynote speaker, Michael Eckers, explained that this is the only building left of the state’s first three institutions of higher education.
Buildings from Hamline University, founded in 1854 and the University of Minnesota, founded in 1851, are no longer standing. The Wasioja Seminary was dedicated in 1858 and in its heyday, more than 300 students were enrolled there. At the beginning of the Civil War, patriotism gripped the state as the Minnesota governor was the first to pledge troops to President Abraham Lincoln.
Most of the students volunteered to fight for the Union and the group formed Company C of the Second Minnesota. The ‘Boys of Wasioja’ were almost all lost during the war. The Seminary never recovered the loss of most of its students. In 1905, a fire raged through the building and only the ghostly walls are left.
At the county commissioners’ meeting in mid-December, Comp Plan/Land Use Manager Melissa DeVetter and County Engineer Guy Kohlnhofer explained to the commissioners that the grant is a one-time appropriation through the general fund and does not require a match from the county.Work will begin on the site in the spring.