Washington County Historical Society Gives Boutwell House a Second Chance

The Washington County Historical Society has entered into a contract to purchase the historically significant pioneer home of Rev. William T. Boutwell on Boutwell Road in Stillwater.

The Washington County Historical Society purchased the home for $600,000, on Thursday, Brent Peterson, Executive Director of the Washington County Historical Society said. The historical society still need to raise up to $400,000 for renovations.

Donations can be sent to the Historical Society at PO Box 167, Stillwater, MN 55082 or by donating online at their GoFundMe page, http://www.gofundme.com/boutwell.

The house, which dates to 1870, was nearly demolished before Nicole Curtis, of HGTV’s “Rehab Addicts,” stepped in front of the back hoe and paid off the demolition crew to stop.

After that, negotiations between the owners and Curtis stalled and the WCHS has come in to purchase the site to make sure the home is preserved.

Rev. Wm. T. Boutwell was an early pioneer in what would later become Minnesota. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1828 and from the Andover Theological Seminary three years later. He was sent to Mackinaw to learn the Objibwe language.

In 1832 he accompanied Chippewa Agent Henry Schoolcraft on an expedition up the Mississippi River and together they discovered the true source of the river. Schoolcraft asked Rev. Boutwell for a Latin word meaning true source, Rev. Boutwell gave him the Latin words, “Veritas” meaning truth and “caput,” meaning head. Schoolcraft combined the two words and created the name, “Itasca,” used for the lake and state park today.


Rev. Boutwell served as missionary at La Point, Wisconsin, and at Leech Lake (Cass County) and Pokegama Lake (Pine County), Minnesota. He was also the first minister to hold a worship service in what is now Stillwater.

In 1847 Rev. Boutwell permanently settled at the site on Boutwell Road purchased by WCHS. He helped to organize the First Presbyterian Church in Stillwater and was the first chaplain of the Minnesota Territorial Senate in 1849. He traveled by foot, canoe and horseback to preach to the people at St. Croix Falls, Marine Mills and Cottage Grove. He was later assigned to preach at Point Douglas by the Home Missionary Society.

“Rev. Boutwell’s influence has spanned generations,” Peterson said. “His name is still seen throughout the St. Croix Valley and will be for decades to come. Preserving his home is the least that we can do for everything he has done for us.”

Rev. Boutwell’s wife, Hester Crooks, is historically significant herself. The daughter of American Fur Company’s Ramsey Crooks, Hester was one of the earliest female missionaries and teachers in the Midwest.  Together they formed a lasting partnership for the advancement of their missionary work and laid the foundation for future settlement of the region.

The house “is truly a community treasure and provides a tangible connection to our collective past,” said Doug Gasek, Executive Director of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. “We at PAM could not be more excited to see the Boutwell house restored and lovingly cared for.”

“Boutwell’s story deserves to be remembered by Minnesotans…across the state,” said Stephen Elliot, Director and CEO of the Minnesota Historical Society, “Boutwell served as a cultural bridge among Minnesotans of his day.”

Because the house has never been designated a historic site in Minnesota, it remains vulnerable to destruction. Suburban developments already encroach on the site, which sits across Boutwell Road from the small family cemetery that it the reverend’s final resting place.

Even though the Washington County Historical Society has purchased the home, more funds are needed for the renovation and preservation of the house. Donations are needed and can be sent to the Historical Society at PO Box 167, Stillwater, MN 55082 or by donating online at their GoFundMe page, http://www.gofundme.com/boutwell

“This is the mission of the Washington County Historical Society,” said David Lindsay, WCHS Board Chair and resident of Cottage Grove. “If we cannot save one of the most historically significant sites in the county – why are we here?”

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