To start making a plan of action, our community first needs to know where we need to go. We need to recognize where we started and where we are presently. Information received from the 2015 Comprehensive Plan shows us that we want and need positive growth, while keeping our rural charm and feel. Our growth has to be the "right" growth.
Town of Somerset
The Town of Somerset is located in northwestern St. Croix County along State Highway 64 and is geographically the largest town in St. Croix County. The Village of Somerset is surrounded by the Town and provides some employment, shopping, and services. The cities of Hudson and New Richmond are a short drive from the Town and provide additional employment and shopping opportunities. The eastern edge of the Twin Cities Metro area is only a 30-minute drive from the Town with the majority of working Town residents commute to Minnesota for employment.
The original natives of the area were, for the most part, people of the Dakota and Ojibway American Indian tribes. European fur trappers and explorers used the St. Croix River as a travel route as early as the 17th century and the beauty of the valley was noted in their journals and records.
The first European settlers in the present Town of Somerset were two French Canadian brothers, Joseph and Louis Parent who arrived in 1850. In 1851, the brothers built a cabin near the confluence of the St. Croix River, which is the present day Apple River. They might have built on flatter land to the north and east but because this area was filled with beautiful rivers, cliffs and trees, it reminded them of their home back in the Province of Quebec.
The Parent brothers named the settlement Apple River Falls and invited friends and family to join them. As others soon arrived, a schoolhouse and a church were built and here a French Canadian community was born. To this day, French surnames are common in the phone books and tax lists of the Town of Somerset.
The Town of Somerset was organized on September 19, 1856, and Thomas Chappell was elected as Town Chairman. In 1859, General Samuel Harrison arrived in the Town of Somerset and built a sawmill on the Apple River upstream from the original settlement. The sawmill prospered and the church, hotel, and a schoolhouse were constructed in what was then called the “Village of the Town”, which is now known as the Village of Somerset. The Village of Somerset was incorporated in 1918 and is completely surrounded by the Town of Somerset.
According to the 2010 Census, the Town of Somerset had a population of 4,036 persons, making the Town the third most-populated town in St. Croix County, behind the towns of Troy and Hudson. The 2013 population estimate for the Town was 4,077. The Town’s population grew 54.2 percent since the 2000 Census (2,644). Residential development in the area is primarily characterized by single-family homes. The Town is bordered by four towns—Farmington, Richmond, St. Joseph, and Star Prairie— all of which have also been growing in population. In addition, the Village of Somerset had a 2010 population of 2,635, which is expected to increase by 56 percent by 2040 (or +1,465 residents).
The St. Croix River is along the western border of the Town and is part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, one of seven such designated rivers in the United States. This border is a striking combination of 200-foot limestone palisades, lush green swampy grasslands, and low bank shore-lands. The interior of the Town is typified by gently rolling hills and numerous wooded areas.
The Present and Its Challenges
As part of St. Croix County, Somerset is also part of the Minneapolis- St. Paul Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Today, the beauty of the area attracts people to it and the Town of Somerset now faces issues all too common for a largely rural community on the fringe of a major metropolitan area. The community is dynamic, and each new development is viewed as an opportunity for some and a threat to the rural lifestyle of others.
As the demand for land, roads, and public facilities increases, the community recognizes the need to plan for effectively managing change. In addition to residential growth, the influence of the metropolitan area is apparent in Somerset as many of the Town’s residents drive to the Twin Cities for employment, shopping, and events, while the natural amenities and surface waters of the Town are attracting visitors from outside the community.