If there is one consistency to Cokato’s history, it’s change.
When the Dakota camped along the shores of what is now known as Cokato Lake, they saw a completely different landscape— one of deep woods, rivers, lakes, and swampland. Although the Dakota never made a permanent village in the area, their influence remains in the city’s name, which is based on the Dakota word co-ka-ta, roughly translating to “in the midst” or “in the middle”.
In 1858, the first Yankee settlers arrived, hailing from states such as Maine, New York, and New Hampshire. Slowly, a small settlement known for a time as Moores Prairie developed. When the railroad arrived in 1869, the growing community became known as Cokato. The railroad not only brought goods and accessibility to the community, but it also aided in the development of business and industry. With this new mode of transportation, a large number of immigrant families arrived. They originated primarily from Sweden and Finland, but a few also came from Norway, Germany, and Poland. To this day, Cokato is still comprised of a large number of Scandinavian and Finnish descendants.
As more settlers arrived, they drastically altered the land from wooded forest to family farm fields. By the early 1900s, Cokato’s agriculture evolved from small farms to industry—adapting to meet the needs of its new corn canning factory and creamery. Today, Cokato’s focus is no longer on the creamery or canning, shifting instead to seed corn and large agribusiness.