Cannon Falls Area Heritage

How Cannon Falls Got Its Name:

In historic times, Native Americans and traders frequently hid their canoes near the river’s mouth, away from the heavily traveled Mississippi River, because of this the French Fur Traders named the stream “Riviere aux Canots” or River of Canoes. Easterners hearing the French pronounce “canots” thought they were saying Cannon, and the Cannon River it became. Zebulon Pike mentions the Cannon River in his journals. Our town is named after the river and the falls, a natural cascade located along the Little Cannon River. In 1853, father and son, Richard & William Freeborn traced the Cannon River upstream to its falls. The two explorers kept their find a secret until they could return a year later to stake a claim. The city was settled in 1854. It is the only city in the world named Cannon Falls.

Cannon Falls Historical Museum
Housed in the 1888 Cannon Falls Fire Hall. The Italianate building is one of the nation’s oldest surviving fire halls and is listed on the National Historic Register. The museum includes a 1920 school room and a host of photos, memorabilia and artifacts from the area’s past.

Fridays  1 – 5 p.m./ Saturdays 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and by appointment.  Admission is free. Donations are welcome

206 West Mill Street – 507.263.4080




Colonel William Colvill Statue and Monument

The first Minnesota Volunteers, under the leadership of Colonel William Colvill, are credited by many Civil War Historians with saving the Battle of Gettysburg. This local hero and his wife Elizabeth are buried in the Cannon Falls Cemetery. A statue and monument were placed at the site in 1909 and President Calvin Coolidge journeyed to Cannon Falls for the 1928 dedication. A replica of the statue can also be seen at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Cannon Falls Cemetery is located along Highway 19 on the eastern edge of Cannon Falls.



Veterans Memorial

Cannon Falls Veterans Memorial

This Veterans Memorial constructed to honor and remember Cannon Falls Veterans is located at Two Rivers Park near historic downtown Cannon Falls.

Veterans Memorial One


Goodhue County History Center

The Goodhue County Historical Society is the oldest county historical society in Minnesota. It was chartered in 1869. After 37 years in the basement of the County Courthouse, the Goodhue County History Center moved into its current home in the Baptist Old Peoples Home on College Hill in Red Wing, Minnesota. Two major remodeling projects in 1989 and again in 1992 increase storage  and exhibit space.


Tuesday – Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday*  1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

(*Note:  Closed on Sundays from December through March. Also Closed on Holidays throughout the year)

Admission is free to members of the Goodhue County Historical Society and to children under the age of 13.
Non-member admission costs:  $5.00/Adult; $2.00/Ages 13-18

1166 Oak Street, Red Wing, Minnesota 55066

Phone: (651) 388-6024/ email:

Vasa Museum

Located near the Vasa Lutheran Church (1869), this museum celebrates one of Minnesota’s first Swedish-American settlements. The building (1862), considered a center for early Swedish culture, has been restored to its 1901 appearance. The Vasa Lutheran Church was founded in 1855 by Eric Norelius, who also founded Gustavus Adolphus College and several other Swedish Lutheran Churches in the area. Norelius also helped to establish Minnesota’s first orphanage (1865) in Vasa. Norelius is buried beside the church.

The Vasa Museum is open 11:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. every Sunday in May to early October or by appointment.

Vasa is located off Highway 19 just 8 miles east of Cannon Falls – call the Vasa Church Office at 651.258.4327

Historic Downtown Cannon Falls

Cannon Falls has a wealth of buildings on the Historic Register. In 2000, 29 buildings in the downtown commercial district of Cannon Falls were put on the National Register of Historic Places. The district is an excellent example of a small Midwestern agricultural service community with most of the buildings constructed in a period from 1880-1915. Cannon38

For a copy of the Historic Walking Tour Booklet or for more information contact the Cannon Falls Chamber of Commerce at 507.263.2289.