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About Ramsey County - History, Demographics, Services and Cities

Following is some general information about Ramsey County, additional information can be found at the Ramsey County Historical Society website.

Take a tour of the Historic Ramsey County Courthouse

Ramsey County is a county located in the U.S. State of Minnesota. As of 2000, the population was 511,035. Its county seat is St. Paul, which is also Minnesota's state capital. The County is named for Alexander Ramsey, the first governor of the Minnesota Territory.  

The Naming of Ramsey County

Ramsey County, Minnesota, is named after the first Governor of the Minnesota Territory, Alexander Ramsey. Congress established the Minnesota Territory in March of 1849, and President Zachary Taylor (who at one time commanded Ft. Snelling) appointed Ramsey governor on April 2.

Taylor's first two appointments declined the job, and Ramsey himself wanted to be tariff collector of the Port of Philadelphia. At any rate, he came to Minnesota with his family, and declared the organization of the Minnesota Territory on June 1, 1849. Elections for the Territorial Legislature were held on August 1, and the first assembly met at the Central House, a hotel at the intersection of Minnesota and Bench (now part of Shepard Road) in St. Paul.  

Alexander Ramsey

Alexander RamseyAfter territories were formed, counties were next. The act creating the first nine counties of Minnesota, including Ramsey, was passed and signed October 27, 1849. The original Ramsey County boundary included all of the present-day counties of Ramsey, Anoka, Isanti, Kanabec, and parts of Washington, Pine, Carlton, Aitkin, Mille Lacs and Hennepin. In 1849, Ramsey County had 2,197 residents, 834 dwellings and 458 "improved acres."

There were only three county judges at the time, and each judge was responsible for three of the nine counties. All early trials were held in what is now the Twin Cities area. So it was quite a big deal for people at that time to come to town for trial.

There is a historical curiosity involved in the naming of Ramsey County. The first draft of the bill used the name St. Paul County, rather than Ramsey. It was changed before the second reading. The records do not show who suggested the change, or why, and Ramsey, surprisingly, makes no mention of it in his letters or diaries.

Why the name change? The new governor was well-liked, but had not been in office long enough to truly distinguish himself. It is possible that the name change was a bit of political savvy on the part of someone in order to flatter the new governor. At any rate, the name stayed, as did Governor Ramsey.
- Researched and written by Tony Greiner, Alexander Ramsey House


As of the census of 2000, there were 511,035 people, 201,236 households, and 119,936 families residing in the county. The population density was 1,267/km (3,281/mi). There were 206,448 housing units at an average density of 512/km (1,325/mi). The racial makeup of the county was 77.37% White, 7.61% Black or African American, 0.83% Native American, 8.77% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 2.45% from other races, and 2.90% from two or more races. 5.28% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 201,236 households out of which 29.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.00% were married couples living together, 11.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.40% were non-families. 32.00% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.50% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.16.

In the county the population was spread out with 25.60% under the age of 18, 11.30% from 18 to 24, 30.70% from 25 to 44, 20.70% from 45 to 64, and 11.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 93.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.20 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $45,722, and the median income for a family was $57,747. Males had a median income of $39,806 versus $30,814 for females. The per capita income for the county was $23,536. About 7.40% of families and 10.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.70% of those under age 18 and 6.80% of those age 65 or over. Quick facts census data l fact finder census data

The Origins and Benefits of County Government

The origins of county government can be traced to the English shire of a thousand years ago, which functioned both as an administrative arm of the national government and as a local unit of government.

These dual roles of county government continue today in both the United Kingdom and the United States. As constitutionally established and protected subdivisions of state governments, counties serve as an administrative arm of the state to provide state-defined services.

But, as a primary unit of local government responsible directly to the electorate, counties are obligated to represent the needs of this electorate and to set local public policy. Counties can levy and appropriate funds, enact ordinances to guard the public's safety and health, regulate zoning or undertake a number of other activities.

Not only is Minnesota a diverse state, but unlike most other states, it relies heavily on county government to plan, administer and fund a broad range of services: tax assessment and administration, elections, record keeping, transportation, planning and zoning, environmental and solid waste regulation, parks and water management, law enforcement, correctional and probation services, health, social services and welfare administration. Most of these services are dictated by state and federal law; however, some are established by the County Board of Commissioners.

County Services in Minnesota

Costs of social service programming were divided as follows for 1991: 23.5 percent federal, 35.5 percent state, and 38.1 percent county. In the criminal justice area, Minnesota had the lowest state share of expenditures of any state in the nation in 1990. During this year, 33 percent of total criminal justice expenditures came from the state, while 67 percent were local property tax expenditures.

There is a strong belief in Minnesota that services are better determined and delivered as close to the people as possible. Local governments have always played a strong role in planning, delivering and funding local services. This allows greater accountability to the electorate for expenditures of property taxes and development of programs and services. It also ensures that decentralization and the lack of uniformity that may result are acceptable.

Counties are in an ideal position to continue to promote a continuous and comprehensive system of services. In providing this leadership, counties demonstrate efficiencies and economies of scale within county boundaries. If and when some programs or services require a larger population base or geographic area, counties are very familiar with utilizing multi-county joint powers agreements to achieve broader goals. Some counties have joined together to handle waste management or to provide a nursing home facility.

Simply put, counties are partners with the state and federal governments, working to meet the needs of the citizens, and trying to make better use of limited resources without raising taxes.

Researched and written by Patricia Conley and Lois McCarron
Association of Minnesota Counties

Cities in Ramsey County 

  1. Arden Hills
  2. Blaine *
  3. Falcon Heights
  4. Gem Lake
  5. Lauderdale
  6. Little Canada
  7. Maplewood
  8. Mounds View
  9. New Brighton
  10. North Oaks
  11. North St. Paul
  12. Roseville
  13. Shoreview
  14. St. Anthony*
  15. St. Paul
  16. Spring Lake Park*
  17. Vadnais Heights
  18. White Bear Lake**
  19. White Bear Township

* = based in another County, but partially extending into Ramsey County.
** = a small part of this city extends into Washington County.


Commissioner District Map

Legislative Map

Ramsey County Trivia!

How many Commissioners does Ramsey County Have?

  • 7

How many parks does Ramsey County have?

  • 9 regional parks
  • 5 regional trails
  • 5 county parks
  • 3 special use facilities
  • 9 swimming beaches
  • 5 major cross country ski trails

How many people work for Ramsey County?

  • 4,378

How many people volunteer for Ramsey County?

  • In the year 2003, 4,000 individuals volunteered services to Ramsey County totaling 210,000 hours at a value of approximately $3,000,000.

What is the Annual Budget for Ramsey County?

  • $518,729,994 (2006)

How many computers does it take to run the services of Ramsey County Government?

  • Approximately 3,500

How many departments make up Ramsey County?

  • 26

What is the population of Ramsey County?

  • Approximately 511,000