Mower County was officially formed on March 1, 1856, with the signature of Governor Willis A. Gorman. It was named Mower after John E. Mower, a territorial legislator. Until this time, Mower County was part of Wabasha County. Hunter Clark made the first settlement in the western part of the county, where Oakwood Cemetery is currently located in Austin.
The first Board of Commissioners met on April 7, 1856, in Frankford and located the county seat there. Since there was no official county building, all of the records were kept in a tin box. Wherever this tin box was located was where the county seat was established. A plot was designed to steal the box and relocate it to Austin. The plot was a success. In March 1857, the county board obtained the office of A.S. Everest in Austin to be used as the county seat headquarters. An election followed on June 1, where the citizens of the county voted to have Austin established as the permanent county seat. The vote was split between the western residents and the eastern residents. In January 1868, the first courthouse was built.
Since that time, the county has grown tremendously. Austin is still the county seat and largest city in the country.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.90 square miles, of which 11.79 square miles is land and 0.11 square miles is water. Its elevation is approximately 1,200 ft.
In 2000 there were 23,314 people, 9,897 households, and 6,076 families residing in the city and 10,261 housing units. The racial makeup of the city was 92.6% White, 0.81% African American, 0.18% Native American, 2.22% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.09% from other races, and 1.09% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race was 6.12% of the population. There were 9,897 households, out of which 27.2% had children under the age of 18. The average household size was 2.29; the average family size was 2.90. The median income for a household in the city was $33,750, and the median income for a family was $42,691. Males had a median income of $31,787 versus $23,158 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,651. About 7.5% of families and 10.9% of the population were below the poverty line.
With Hormel‘s corporate headquarters and main production facility in Austin, food processing plays a dominant role in the city’s economy. Hormel and Quality Pork Processors, a contract food processing firm serving Hormel, are by far the city’s largest private employers. Though most famous for SPAM, Hormel also produces many other brands, such as Jennie-O turkey, Muscle Milk, Skippy peanut butter, and Dinty Moore beef stew.
The government, education, hospitality, and retail sectors comprise much of the remainder of Austin’s employment base.
Hormel’s consistent and steady growth have resulted in below-average unemployment rates for Austin and Mower County in recent years. As of February 2016 the unemployment rate was 3.7% in Austin and Mower County, below both the state and national average.
Marc Anderson- musician
Josh Braaten- actor
Philip Brunelle- conductor, primarily of choral music
Trace Bundy- instrumental acoustic guitar player
James W. Davidson- explorer, writer, diplomat, and philanthropist
Richard Eberhart- United States Poet Laureate
Jason Gerhardt- actor
Jackie Graves- boxer
Burdette Haldorson- basketball player and Olympian
Vince Hanson- basketball player
Geordie Hormel- musician, composer, founder/owner of The Village Recorder music studio in Los Angeles