In 1851, a group of nine men from Maine, Massachusetts, and New York arrived in what is now Waterville. The town was surveyed and platted in 1856. The name was suggested by Waterville, Maine native J.J. Wright because of its location between the two lakes (Sakatah and Tetonka). Waterville was incorporated as a village in 1878 and as a city in 1898.
With no railroad west of the Mississippi, early settlers used water as a means of communicating with the outside world. In 1857, Le Seur County Rep. L.Z. Rogers and L.F. Hubbard of Goodhue County secured the land grant to improve the Cannon River from Red Wing to Waterville, but the plan to use the waterways never materialized.
Instead, the land grant was transferred to the Wisconsin, Minnesota & Pacific Railroad Co. to aid in constructing its line from Red Wing to Mankato. That grant was later transferred to Chicago North Western Railroad.
Cut Nose, a Warpekut Indian, operated a ferry at the narrows between Upper and Lower Sakatah until a bridge was built. From its earlies days, the lakes and rivers have been vital to Waterville's economy. Flour mills, saw mills, ice companies, brick company, excursion boats, fishing and fish seiners, and tourists contributed to its growth.
Today, Sakatah State Park, Singing Hills State Trail, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Area Fisheries Headquarters, Singing HiIls Girl Scout Camp, Camp Omega (Lutheran Comp) and tourists continue to use the waters around it.