On July 29 and September 29, 1837, treaties were signed between the US government and the local Ojibwa and Dakota nations that allowed settlement in the St. Croix Valley. The town was founded by settlers drawn by the area’s then-abundant lumber and river traffic, making it one of Minnesota’s oldest towns, preceding Minneapolis by several years. Stillwater was officially incorporated as a city on March 4, 1854 (the same day as St. Paul). The city was named for the calm waters of the St. Croix River.
Across the street from the Courthouse, the Veterans’ Memorial for local veterans
Stillwater is often referred to as the birthplace of Minnesota. In 1848, a territorial convention that began the process of establishing Minnesota as a state was held in Stillwater, at the corner of Myrtle and Main Streets. Minnesota officially became a territory in 1849 and a state in 1858.
As more evidence of Stillwater’s importance at the time, the convention selected three leading Minnesota cities as locations for three important public institutions: Minneapolis got the University of Minnesota, Saint Paul became the capital, and Stillwater the site of the territory’s first prison. The Minnesota Territorial Prison (later Minnesota State Prison) was opened in 1853. The prison held Cole, Jim, and Bob Younger, three of the Younger brothers of the James–Younger Gang
Lumbering was the predominant industry in the St. Croix River Valley in the second half of the 19th century, and for many years logs were sent down the St. Croix, collected at the St. Croix Boom Site two miles upstream of Stillwater, and processed in Stillwater’s many sawmills. Steamboats were used most widely from 1860 to 1890, and a few are still used for entertainment today.
David Swain operated a shipyard and engine works in Stillwater. Excursion steamboats, such as the Verne Swain and the Capitol, appeared at the docks in the early 20th century.
Stillwater has a mix of public district, public charter, and private schools at the primary and secondary levels.The novel series The Emigrants and the musical Kristina från Duvemåla tell the story of a family of Swedish emigrants who journey to Minnesota in 1850. Much of the story takes place in Stillwater.
In Juno, Bren MacGuff mentions purchasing an expensive womanly item at a Stillwater store.
In the Supernatural episode “The Purge”, Sam and Dean head to Stillwater when a competitive eater mysteriously dies in impossible circumstances.
The entirety of the film The Unearthing takes place in Stillwater and the story revolves around a local ghost legend.
Brian Arnfelt, NFL defensive end, attended high school in Stillwater
Michele Bachmann, U.S. Representative 2007-15, lived in Stillwater
Ben Blankenship, member of Team U.S.A. Track and Field who set the world record in the distance medley
James B. Clark, director and Oscar-nominated film editor, was born in Stillwater
Jessica Diggins, Olympic Gold Medalist, Cross-Country Skiing, attended high school in Stillwater
Nate Dwyer, NFL linebacker, was born in Stillwater
Chris Engler, NBA player, was born in Stillwater
Sean Graham, retired professional track athlete and current head track and cross country coach at American University
Phil Housley, Hockey Hall of Fame player and NHL coach, coached in Stillwater
Todd Kalis, NFL guard, was born in Stillwater
Jessica Lange, actress, resided in Stillwater
Jonah Marais, member of boyband Why Don’t We
Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff, was born in Stillwater
Bob Nelson, NFL linebacker, was born in Stillwater
Glen Perkins, pitcher for Minnesota Twins, was born in Stillwater
Sam Shepard, playwright and actor, resided in Stillwater
Rich Sommer, actor, was raised in Stillwater
C. Gardner Sullivan, screenwriter and producer, was born in Stillwater
LaVyrle Spencer, a New York Times bestselling author, lived in Stillwater
Alpheus Beede Stickney, a famous railroad builder, lived in Stillwater, born in Maine
Thomas Vanek, NHL winger for Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild and others, resides in Stillwater