Worthington 150: Celebrating 150 years ... and poised for the next 150

Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle shares thoughts on city's milestone anniversary.

Mayor Mike Kuhle gives his last International Festival opening remarks as mayor on Friday, July 8, 2022.
Mayor Mike Kuhle gives his last International Festival opening remarks as mayor on Friday, July 8, 2022.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — The city of Worthington in 2022 is celebrating the 150th Anniversary of our founding. The future of our city looks bright and promising for the next 150 years.

It was a noisy, hilarious and potentially dangerous scene. But the merchants of 1934 declared it a huge success.
One night he ran smack-dab into a group of evangelists while staggering out of a saloon. He was converted on the spot. Since then he traveled all across the country preaching the gospel and convincing sinners to “get right with God.”
The city’s Army National Guard unit, Co. F of the 215th Coast Artillery, was ordered to active duty in 1940, a full year before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In the first 100 years, early settlers arrived and with hard work and determination developed the city and the rich land surrounding it. These early pioneers were immigrants mostly of European descent.

The early history of Worthington was marked by remarkable work in agricultural production, manufacturing and marketing. The names are too numerous to mention, but their contribution to our community’s history is so valuable. It brought food processing companies such as Campbell Soup and Armour to our community that provided good jobs. The Armour pork processing plant is now JBS. Agriculture is, and always will be, a huge part of our community.

Business and manufacturing leaders were very instrumental in developing Worthington as a

prosperous place to live and work. George Dayton, E.O. Olson, and Robert Ludlow are a few of the many that contributed to the economic success of Worthington.


In the late 1970’s, the Veterinary Medical Center under the leadership of a group of very enterprising young veterinarians started a company called Oxford Labs. Some of the names involved were Schmidt, Freese, Pfeifer, Simonson, and others. They built up Oxford Labs and sold it to Upjohn, which is now Merck. This company is located on the south side of Worthingon and is thriving as one of our major employers.

Then, some members of this enterprising group came together a number of years later to form and build up another company, Newport Labs. Newport was then sold to a large Italian company and eventually sold to a German giant in the BioScience industry. And, by the way, this group of veterinarians located Newport Labs in the “Big Red Barn” in our new Bio Science Park north of Interstate 90. And now Cambridge, a third animal vaccine company, is being developed.

The Bio Science Business Park represents the future of economic growth for high paying jobs and for advancement in animal vaccines and the Ag Bio Science business sector — not only in our region, but throughout the great state of Minnesota.

Bob and Pat Ludlow started Bedford Industries in their garage/home making, of all things, bread ties. This business has grown into a huge entity that sells to the world market and is evolving and re-inventing itself every day. New products such as Elasti-Tag are being developed every day.

A timeline that celebrates big moments in our town's history.
Adrian proposed dissecting Nobles County so it could reign over a new county.
While Worthington City Hall maintains all council meeting minutes, the early minutes are handwritten.

What Bob and Pat started back then. and now with the leadership of the next generations that include Kim and Jay Milbrandt, is a true asset to our community.

The immigration of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century built and made our community into what we are today. Our church communities provided the moral support necessary to enrich our community. The teachers who taught all of the children in Worthington contributed to our success by providing a quality education.

The last 50 years has been marked by a second wave of immigration in Worthington. Our churches in the early 1990’s started this change by sponsoring immigrants from southeast Asia; a worthy humanitarian effort!

In the years since, Worthington has grown because of increased immigration from Latin and Central America and East Africa. Our companies need these workers to survive and expand.


Worthington has been successful in welcoming these cultures into our community. While we have had challenges with immigration, we have worked hard and are providing a stable workforce for our companies.

Immigration has been a big part of our last 150 years, and will define our future.

A timeline that celebrates big moments in our town's history.
Adrian proposed dissecting Nobles County so it could reign over a new county.
While Worthington City Hall maintains all council meeting minutes, the early minutes are handwritten.

Worthington leaders, with the help of our voters, are investing in amenities that will attract people and grow our community. The “Sales Tax” projects are providing improvements to our park system, a new indoor fieldhouse, 10th Street pavilion, outdoor aquatic center and ice arena improvements. We still have much more to do in Lake Okabena improvements and other projects to complete the legacy of these “Sales Tax” projects.

The city, along with our partners such as Worthington Public Utilities, Housing and Redevelopment Authority and private businesses are also working hard to address housing in our community.

If Worthington history gives any indication, it is that the future is secure and is full with opportunities for our visionaries and innovators to write the next chapter. We are not defined by one sector over another, we are part of the larger economy. Indeed, we are part of the world’s economy with multinational cutting edge companies that export ag and manufacturing products all throughout the world.

Worthington is in a good position! Because of the last 150 years of work, we will prosper and grow.

Happy 150th Anniversary, Worthington!

A timeline that celebrates big moments in our town's history.
The Indian culture along the shores of Lake Okabena remained undisturbed until the mid-19th century, when white settlers first moved into the area.
An addition to the junior and senior high complex, the auditorium was designed with the classic art deco features so popular at the time.
The first public school consisted of 49 students and two teachers who met in various rented rooms throughout the village.
At least 50 confirmed reservations were received from Midwestern windsurfers of various skill levels.
First festival focused on playing soccer.
Committee member recounts sorting everything from dresses and suits to shoes.
Ludlow a figure in Worthington's early history.
“Building international relations on a community-to-community basis … represents a new approach to democracy.”
Jack started as an immigrant shoemaker and went on to lead a flamboyant rags-to-riches life. He was part of an interesting era in Worthington’s history.
Last local casualties were from Vietnam war.
The founder of this unique partnership visited Crailsheim in 1958, when she was decorated with the “Bundersverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse.”
His home still stands today as a bed and breakfast.
The Mobergs and Larsons came to America together in 1870, an arduous journey by boat, foot, wheel car and railroad.
E. O. Olson was a prominent figure in Worthington's history
Worthington was a natural for the natural ice industry. The railroads were here. The lake was here.
Worthington’s economic base began to broaden from the narrow pedestal of farming to the much broader one of agriculture.
One Worthington woman who was close to the welfare scene expressed it another way: “I never told my kids how tough we had it. And I forgot it as soon as I could.”
Worthington soared to a new population of 3,481 persons by the 1920s.
In 1916, a hexagonal bandstand was built about 75 feet out on Lake Okabena at the foot of Third Avenue.
His most notable accomplishment was in 1911, when the four-story hotel which bears his name was built, with 118 feet of it faced on 10th Street and the courthouse square.
From the first permanent house to the largest King Turkey Day in 1966, Worthington has a storied past.
Prior to 1909, post was termed president.

What To Read Next
“I want you to be very creative,” resident artist Bobbie Alsgaard Lien told Brienna Bahl’s class of first-grade students Thursday. “You’re artists now!”
Any resident within the city of Worthington can apply to get a nutritious, balanced meal delivered to their door. Both regular and special diet meals, such as salt-free or diabetic, are available.
Mahoney was named Education Minnesota Worthington’s Teacher of the Year in May 2022.
The Jackson County Libraries are hosting puzzle competitions at all three libraries on Feb. 25.