Small Town Nicknames—the Athens of the West


Small towns are special. They appear in personal blogs, trip advice sites, and everything related to road trips. They endear themselves to historical buffs and qualify for lists for any number of reasons—funny names, local industries, notable residents or festivals—you name it. Minnesota is full of such special places.

Near this town of Cows, Colleges, and Contentment is the Athens of the West, otherwise known as Faribault. Like many places across our country, Faribault was named for a family who traded and settled in the area, particularly along the Cannon and Straight Rivers. Jean-Baptiste was the fur-trading father but it was his son Alexander who established a popular fur-trading post encouraging early settlement and business. With this settlement came the interest in establishing churches and schools for the town’s families. According to Faribault’s website, in the 1860s, “Faribault gained national recognition as an educational and religious center due in large measure to the efforts of Bishop Henry Whipple in developing a system of interrelated churches and schools. This, along with the establishment of the highly acclaimed State Academies for the Blind and Deaf, led Faribault to be known as ‘Athens of the West.’”

Faribault woolens

Over time, fur-trading was replaced by local businesses such as the Faribault Woolen Mill, AmaBlu, producers of blu cheese at The Caves of Faribault, and Sellner Manufacturing, the maker of Tilt-a-Whirl, your favorite amusement park ride. Many of these businesses bear the name Faribo. Let us know if you know the story behind this nickname. These and other local attractions both natural and commercial helped to put Faribault on the list of the “55 Best Small Towns to Visit on a Road Trip of America” recently selected by Congratulations!

When you have taken in all the history the town has to offer, check out the beauty from the ground at the River Bend Nature Center and area parks and trails, or take to the skies at Cross Country Soaring. From Downtown, the caves, the rivers or the air, Faribault is special. Maybe Faribault’s motto really is “small town pride, big city opportunities!”


Sarah (Rosenau) Korf at Flickr