Blue Earth County was organized March 5, 1853. Its first jail was completed January 1, 1857, and ten years later, construction of its first courthouse was completed.
In 1885, the state legislature authorized the county to issue bonds to build a new courthouse provided that voters give approval in a referendum. In a bitter contest, which pitted Mankato, the county seat, against other towns, the measure lost by a small margin, 1,907 to 1,799.
Undaunted, the county commissioners forged ahead with building plans, which again "stirred up the opposition all over the county." In May 1886, a taxpayer's suit was brought to enjoin the county commissioners from building a courthouse. The case was assigned to Judge Martin Severance, who, in a politically savvy strategem, invited a colleague, Charles M. Start, to join him in hearing the case. Together they denied the injunction, permitting the commissioners to let contracts for the building. The following year, the legislature authorized the county to issue bonds to complete the project, provided that voters approve. After another spirited contest, the measure passed, 1,519 to 1,446.
Construction of the new courthouse was completed in October 1889, but because of lingering bitterness, no dedicatory services were held. However, in December of that year, at the inaugural court session, Judge Severance delivered an effusive address about "the structure," which he said, "marks the progress of that laudable rivalry attendant upon a civilization that holds every triumph in architecture to be the hand maid of science and morals."
This account of the Blue Earth County courthouse appeared first in a history of that county published in 1909.