History & Demographics
The Founding of Victoria
First Sites and Settlers
Native North American settlements appear to have existed in our community based on the concentration of artifacts found at a number of locations. A year-round village may have been located between Stieger Lake and Lake Auburn. Another site was located on the McKnight farm, and a third site was near Carl Krey Lake. The artifacts are possibly from the mound builders’ civilization, which were in the area before the Mdewakanton Dakota. The Mdewakanton Dakota had summer residences in the Carver area along the Minnesota River. Winter deer hunts possibly took them to Victoria and nearby.
Michael Diethelm is thought to be the first European settler in the area when he set up a temporary shelter in 1851, not far from the present site of St. Victoria Church. Michael returned to St. Paul where he stayed and worked during the severe winter of 1851-1852. The following spring, he returned with his wife and repaired his shelter. In 1852, Michael’s brother Carl and his wife Elizabeth and two children set up a claim not far away. Other European settlers came to Victoria shortly after the Treaty of Mendota took legal effect on February 24, 1853.
The hardwood forest provided material to build the homes. Tamarack, which grew in the meadows, was straight and slender and often used for rafters, joists and beams in building houses and barns.
Naming of Victoria
The name Victoria dates to 1856 when after several years of disagreement the families located on the north side of Lake Bavaria and those on the south side reached an agreement. Two families on the north side donated 30 acres of land for the church and at the suggestion of the southern faction, the church was named St. Victoria, a favored saint among three families from the south faction. In 1857, steamboats began to make periodic trips from St. Paul to Chaska and some businessmen established themselves in Chaska. They carried supplies, which earlier settlers had to travel to St. Paul to obtain.
The soil in the area was known to be good, and early settlers notified their friends and relatives in Germany, Holland and Switzerland, which attracted more farmers. Early crops consisted of potatoes, carrots, cabbage and corn; wheat was the main cash crop. Raspberries, gooseberries, grapes, black currants, strawberries and cranberries were readily available.
In 1882 the railroad arrived in Victoria. The first automobile appeared in Victoria in 1911, owned by Anton Schmieg. Victoria Drive was the first road of great importance to Victoria and its settlers, extending from Chaska toward what is now known as St. Bonifacious and Watertown. With steamboats plying the river between St. Paul, Chaska and Carver, the trading center for Victoria moved from St. Paul to Chaska and Carver. Wood and grain could be sold in Chaska. This promoted clearing more land to grow crops.
Churches and Schools
The first European settlers constructed log houses. St. Victoria parish was organized in 1855, and a log church and school were completed in 1858. Around 1875, a larger, two-story school was constructed. In 1870, the parish constructed its second and present church using bricks manufactured in Chaska. In 1863, the Moravian Church was constructed of logs and was replaced in 1878 by the present church.
In 1876, Carl Diethelm’s son Michael built a house from wood on his father’s property. After Charles Diethelm returned from western Minnesota in 1897, he constructed the town’s first store near the intersection of Rose and Stieger Lake Lane.
In 2020, Victoria has a population of over 10,000 residents in approximately 3,500 households. Median household income is approximately $147,682 (Source: US Census ACS 5-year), and the median home value is approximately $434,300. (Source: City of Victoria) Sixty-two percent of residents are 18-64 years old (Source: US Census ACS 5-year.) Victoria’s residents are well-educated; just over 70% have an associates, bachelors or graduate degree, and 97% have at least a high school degree. (Source: US Census ACS 5-year)
The following sources provide more detailed information about Victoria’s demographics: