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Although there were white trappers and traders, along with a few scattered homes in the Minnesota Territory prior to the time in which it was officially opened for settlement, the earliest towns in Minnesota emerged after a series of treaties allowed for former Native American land to be settled by European Americans and recent immigrants.

In response to a growing demand for people to serve the growing agricultural, forestry, and mining activities during the mid-19th century, a network of towns emerged across the territory. Many of these settlements declined in the last part of the 20th century, because they were bypassed by the railroad because their mines or forests had petered out, or for other reasons. Others expanded over greater areas.

Today, the populations of Minnesota's cities range from 5 (Funkley) to 382,578 (Minneapolis), according to the 2010 census. The ten largest cities in the state are Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Rochester, Duluth, Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Plymouth, Saint Cloud, Woodbury, and Eagan, most of which are in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan region.

Originally, Minnesota towns were incorporated either as villages or as cities. In 1973, the Minnesota State Legislature declared ass incorporated villages to be cities. Thus, the legal divisions within the state are counties, townships, and cities.

The Minnesota Legislature defines township government as the form of local government that most efficiently provides governmental services in areas of the state that are primarily rural, open space, or agricultural. Although the term "town" is generally used interchangeably to refer to a small city, in Minnesota a town is a governmental or political organization, while a township refers to the geographical area that the town is responsible for.

Historically, towns in Minnesota had limited governmental powers, and were unable to provide a wide range of services. In recent years, the Legislature has taken steps to expand the authority of towns. Growing towns in need of more services may be classified as urban towns, with many of the same statutory powers as a city.

By Minnesota law, there are two basic types of cities: statutory cities and home rule charter cities.

Statutory cities may choose from three forms of municipal organization: Standard Plan, Plan A, and Plan B.

A Standard Plan statutory city operates with a weak mayor-council, which consists of an elected mayor, an elected city clerk, and from three to five elected council members. The treasurer is an elected position, but is not usually a member of the council, except that the clerk and treasurer positions may be combined.

A Plan A statutory city is the most common in the state. Plan A cities have a weak mayor-council, consisting of an elected mayor and from four to six elected council members. The city clerk and treasurer are appointed officials and not members of the council. They may be combined into one clerk-treasurer position.

Statutory cities with populations above 1,000 may adopt a Plan B form of government. Also known as a council-manager plan, the Plan B statutory city government consists of an elected mayor, from four to six elected council members, and an appointed city manager. Although the council retains legislative and policy-making authority, administrative responsibilities are delegated to the city manager.

Home rule charter cities are those which have adopted a home rule charter, which defines the specific powers of elected and appointed officials and staff. The home rule charter has the effect of a local constitution and may provide for any form of municipal government, as long as its provisions are not contrary to state laws that apply to all cities in Minnesota.

For legislative purposes, the Legislature also classifies Minnesota cities according to population. First Class cities are those with populations of more than 100,000. When the population of a First Class city declines, it does not lose its status until its population has dropped by at least 25 percent from its population at the time that it last qualified as a First Class city. Second Class cities have a population from 20,000 to 100,000. Third Class cities are those with populations between 10,000 to 20,000, and Fourth Class cities are those with fewer than 10,000 residents. As of the 2010 census, Minnesota has only four First Class cities: Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Rochester, and Duluth.

For the purpose of categorization, any city or town in Minnesota may be included as a subcategory as long as there are at least a few websites to justify the creation of the category. Please feel free to suggest any that are not included. In cases where the town government is located within a city surrounded by the township, that town or township website may be listed within the city category.

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