Dodge County is in the southeastern triangle of Minnesota, in the second tier of counties north of the Iowa line. It is rectangular in shape, 24 miles north and south, and 18 miles east and west. On the north is Goodhue County. Olmsted County is on the east, Mower County on the south, and Steele County on the west.
Government surveys, preliminary to opening southeastern Minnesota to preemption, were started in the summer of 1853. The influx of settlement began in 1854, and before the close of that year the future county was well dotted with cabins, except in the extreme southern and northwestern parts.
Squatters filed on their claims as soon as the Government land office at Winona opened early in 1855, and the public lands in the county were practically all taken before the middle of the 1860's.
A colony of New Hampshire people centered at Rice Lake village in what is now Claremont Township. The first house in the village, erected in 1855, became a stagecoach tavern. People of English background, born in New England and in a few other of the older states, constituted the greater part of the newcomers in the next few years.
A Norwegian colony was started in the middle 1850's and it increased in succeeding years until the people of that nationality formed a compact colony in the southeastern part of the county. Several Swiss families settled in Milton Township in 1856. The village of Bern, which they named from their native canton, became the center of one of the four principal Swiss colonies in Minnesota. The German colony had its beginning in Claremont Township in 1857. Groups of Danes, Irish, British, and Canadians also arrived in substantial numbers before the influx of settlers diminished.
The Dodge County area was a part of Wabashaw County as established in 1849. In 1851 the present county was divided between Wabasha and Dakota Counties. Boundaries of counties created in the southeastern part of the Territory in 1853 are somewhat uncertain, but in general the Dodge County area fell within the limits of Rice County.
Two years later, on February 20, 1855, Dodge County was created. In addition to its present area the county included a tier of townships which on February 29, 1856, were attached to Steele County.
The county was named in honor of Henry Dodge of Wisconsin, and his son, Augustus C. Dodge of Iowa. Henry Dodge was born in Vincennes, Indiana, October 12, 1782. He served in the war of 1812; was colonel of volunteers in the Black Hawk war in 1832; commanded and expedition to the Rocky Mountains in 1835; was Governor of Wisconsin Territory and superintendent of Indian affairs in 1836-41; delegate in Congress for Wisconsin in 1842-45; again Governor of that Territory, in 1845-48; and one of the first United States senators from the State of Wisconsin in 1848-57. Augustus Caesar Dodge was born in St. Genevieve, Missouri, January 12, 1812, was a delegate in Congress for Iowa Territory, in 1840-47; one of the first United States senators from Iowa in 1848-55; and was minister to Spain in 1855-59.