Dakota People in Hugo, September 1848

A Brief History of Hugo

Originally Dakota Land

the Dakota people used Hugo's many shallow lakes to grow wild rice in the summer. By the 1850s European "settlers," largely of French and French-Canadian ancestry, began moving into Dakota land. While there are documented several friendly encounters between the two groups, there were many cases of armed conflict that eventually drove the Dakota people from their land.

The township of Oneka's name is derived from the Dakota term, "onakan," which is roughly translated as "to strike or knock off." It refers to the method used by the Dakota people to harvest wild rice. 


Hugo, Not Just A One Horse Town

As more European's made their way up to what would become the Hugo area, they opened stock farms and planted hay crops. By 1869 the first road connecting the settlement to Saint Paul was completed, and it would only take 6 more years for the railroad to come through as well. In 1875 the Saint Paul and Duluth railroad, later known as the Northern Pacific, built their station in the Village of Hugo. 

The building of the railroad opened new opportunities for residents to make a living. The lumber industry became a large market in Hugo, with the Inter-State Lumber Co. opening in Hugo in the early 1900s.  

 In 1905 the Hugo Telephone Exchange was established, followed in 1910 by the First National Bank, and in 1917 the Hugo Feed Mill. The Village of Hugo was a booming community, with seemingly endless opportunities.


Highway 61

With the advent of automobile touring, businesses catering to the motoring public lined up along the Highway 61 corridor in Hugo. During prohibition many “soft drink parlors” peddled moonshine and installed slot machines. After repeal these same places thrived as popular road houses and night clubs.