Grant City administrative offices are located at 111 Wildwood Road, Willernie, MN 55090; phone: 651-426-3383.
At the time of settlement by farmers in the 1850's, the Grant area and Washington County were the home of Native Americans of the Ojibwe tribe. Farmers from the East Coast of the United States arrived in the 1850's. The Town of Grant was officially organized October 20, 1858 as a Congressional Township containing the normal six-mile by six-mile area with the first three supervisors and a clerk. The Town was organized at the home of Thomas Ramsden as Greenfield Township, with Albion Masterman, James Rutherford and Joseph Crane as supervisors, and Jesse Soule as clerk. It originally covered the current cities of Grant, Mahtomedi, Willernie, Birchwood, and Dellwood, and two-thirds of East White Bear Lake. In 1864, after learning of another Greenfield Township in Hennepin County, the name was changed to Grant, in honor of Ulysses S. Grant.
The western one-third of Grant Township became Lincoln Township in 1918, and eventually Lincoln was split into Mahtomedi, Willernie, Birchwood, and Pine Springs. Dellwood became a separate community in 1993.
Grant remained a township until November of 1996 when it became a city. In the summer of 1996, the Town of Grant successfully applied to be incorporated as a city. The Minnesota Municipal Council approved its application in early September, 1996. The purpose of this change was made to protect the rural nature of Grant. A City Council with four Council Members and a Mayor took office after the November, 1996 election.
Albion Masterman and William Rutherford were the first settlers to open farms in the eastern part of Grant. They were Stillwater residents who took advantage of the first land sales in the area in 1849 to buy farmland. The first property deeds in Grant were signed in 1851. Soon after came James Rutherford, Thomas Ramsdell, and George Bennett. Masterman built the first house, and brought his wife, the former Eliza Middleton, to form the nucleus of a settlement. A flour mill was built by James Rutherford in 1857 on Brown's Creek. Jesse Soule, another early settler and town clerk, later became a county commissioner and state legislator.
According to the St. Croix Valley Press, Grant was the place to be in the mid-1800s because of "lush farm country that included cheap land." At that time, Highway 96 (Dellwood Avenue), was an Indian trail that was used as a horse cart track for travelers venturing between Stillwater and White Bear Lake. It became the first public road in the township, generally called the Rum River Road. It was the direct route from Stillwater to the Rum River in Anoka and the Mississippi pineries.
Another road was surveyed across the township in 1847, connecting Stillwater with St. Paul.
The Stillwater and St. Paul Railroad, completed in the fall of 1870 (and purchased by the Northern Pacific in 1878), crossed Grant, going from White Bear Lake to Stillwater. A townsite plat named "Wilson" was laid out at the same time, but never developed. By 1900 the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad (Soo Line) crossed the township. Duluth Junction in Grant was where the Northern Pacific crossed the Soo Line. The old Soo Line is now the Gateway Trail.
In 1892, the Minneapolis and St. Paul Suburban Railroad Company ran a streetcar line from St. Paul to Mahtomedi, and by 1899 the Twin City Rail Transit Company had established regular streetcar service from Mahtomedi to Stillwater, running through Grant. The streetcar stations included Parent, Masterman, Lies, Elliot and Grant. After this line was abandoned, the right-of-way was sold to surrounding landowners. The streetcar station still exists at the east end of McKusick Lake in Stillwater, but has been converted to residential use.
The first school in Grant opened in 1856, and was followed by other schools as settlers arrived. These schools were one-room buildings, each operated by a separate school district and school board. The current City Hall on Kimbro Avenue is one of these school buildings, once named the Welander School. The school districts eventually consolidated into the Mahtomedi and Stillwater School Districts. Many residents remember the red one room school that stood at the corner of Highway 96 and Jamaca that burned down many years ago. The Mahtomedi High and Middle Schools are located in Grant.
Except for the village of Withrow, Grant was almost exclusively a farming community during its first century. However, its proximity to the Twin Cities and closeness to Highway 36 and Interstate Highway 694 made it attractive for development as home sites. The first platted subdivision was Hickory Park followed by Wake Robin Acres, platted as one acre lots in the early 1960's. Concern about potential pollution from septic systems caused the Town Board to change the minimum lot size standard from 1 to 2.5 acres in 1968. Later, the Metropolitan Council issued a directive that all future subdivisions in the rural townships within its jurisdiction have an average lot size of ten acres and a minimum lot size of five acres. The Grant Town Board adopted this requirement in 1976. Since then, much of Grant has been developed into home sites. Only a few commercial farms now remain in Grant, but many small hobby farms, mostly for raising, training, and boarding horses replaced them.
Grant has experienced only small amounts of commercial development. There are two commercial zones in Grant. The first commercial zone contains a farm supply store located at the corner of Highway 36 and Keats Avenue. The other commercial zone is at the corner of Highways 17 and 36 where several small agricultural businesses operate—two commercial apple orchards, a large nursery, and family farms that sell to the public.
A private airport also operated in Grant for many years. Northport air strip on Highway 96, midway between Stillwater and White Bear Lake, was a general aviation grass-runway field that trained more than 3,000 glider pilots during World War II. It was abandoned in the 1990's, and has been replaced by a housing development.
The majority of land in Grant today is occupied by agricultural and residential uses.