An atlas of the early 1870’s shows a lake by the name at what is now the city of Worthington, MN. In fact, Okabena was the accepted name for that city in 1871-1873. An early issue of the Windom newspaper refers to people coming from Okabena to Windom for business and social reasons. Then comes the announcement in a later issue that “the good people of Okabena have decided to change the town’s name to Worthington. Research has been unable to discover who was responsible for the selection of this name for our town. Was it the railroad when they put in a side track at this spot? Was it the government when a post office was designated? Perhaps it was the first settlers themselves.
There is no question as to the origin of the name “Okabena”. It is Sioux, literally translated, “Nesting Place of the Heron” or “Heron’s Nesting Place”. The Indian pronunciation, of course, would emphasize each syllable. There are many similarities in various Indian languages, and many years ago, a Chippewa chief in Northern Minnesota, in asking where the name came from, had no difficulty in immediately translating the word.
The Heron referred to the Big Blue Heron, seen commonly years ago among the bird life of Heron Lake and along Okabena Creek. It is a member of the Egret family.
The name Okabena also became well known in horticultural circles. A hardy winter apple called the Okabena, was developed by the Ludlow Nursery on the shores of Lake Okabena. At one time it was a very popular apple known throughout the country. Locally, years ago, the Eidhammer farm had several trees of this variety in their homestead orchard.
The theme for the 125th Birthday Celebration for Okabena, MN is “Come Home To The Nesting Place”. Okabena becomes the biggest little city on the 4th of July with activities planned throughout the day ending with spectacular fireworks. People always come from far and near to celebrate the 4th in Okabena. This year an All School Reunion is also being planned along with July 3rd and 4th plans for Okabena’s 125th Celebration.
(Okabena’s history was provided courtesy of the Okabena Centennial Edition of
The Okabena Press, Jackson County History Books, Jackson County Historical Museum and Tri-County News.)