In 1853, the Traverse de Sioux Treaty opened up the region to white settlers, who were attracted by the huge stands of timber and the availability of land for farming.
The first settlers arrived in Medina in 1855. On April 10, 1858, County Commissioners gave the City an official designation as “Hamburg Township.” Local residents preferred the name, “Medina,” after the Arabian holy City that was in the news that year. On May 11, 1858, 37 residents met in the home of Valorius Chilson and voted unanimously to change the name.
Medina’s early European settlers were chiefly German, Irish and French-Canadian and had names still common in Medina, like Scherer and Reiser; Mooney and Crowe; Hamel and Fortin. The first generations tended to group according to their language ties and to help each other through the long hard winters.
Townships were always divided into 36 sections, each consisting of a square mile. This meant that the City of Excelsior extended beyond the north shore of Lake Minnetonka to Medina’s southern border. Excelsior’s northern residents tolerated this inconvenience until 1868, when Excelsior’s north shore residents voted to become a part of Medina. This expanded Medina to over 50 square miles.
In 1889, George A. Brackett led a successful drive to carve the City of Orono out of the southern 11 sections of Medina. Later, the City also ceded away land to Loretto, when it incorporated in 1940. Loretto had been platted since 1886 at the time the Minneapolis & St. Paul and Sault St. Marie railroad came through.
The Hamel area of Medina was platted as a City as early as 1879, but its efforts to incorporate failed, in part, because of the complication of straddling the borders of both Medina and Plymouth. The town might have been called Lenz after Leander Lenzen, who built a mill on Elm Creek and set up a post office in the name of Lenz in 1861. But, when the Lange Hamel family gave land to the railroad for the train depot in 1884 they asked that it be called “Hamel,” and the name took root. To this day, people call this area of Medina, Hamel.
Built on the road from Minneapolis to Rockford, Hamel was a busy town. At the turn of the century Hamel boasted a school, two hotels, the Church of St. Anne’s, a hall for the Ancient Order of United Workman and numerous stores. The town decreased to its present size after Highway 55 bypassed it in the 1950’s.
As it grew, Medina graduated from “township” status to become a “village” in 1955; it incorporated as a City in 1974.
In 2008, Medina is a prosperous, suburban edge City and, as its population of 4,987, residents are eager to preserve its rural heritage.
Hamel remains an unincorporated city, but is an integral part of Medina.