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Preston is in the center of Fillmore County, in southeastern Minnesota, in what is known as the Driftless Region of the state, as the area was untouched by glaciers. The Root River flows through the city, and Mystery Cave State Park is nearby. A twenty-foot statue of a trout is along Minnesota Highway 16 which, along with US Highway 52, are the chief routes through the city. Surrounding communities include Carimona, Fountain, Hutton, and Lanesboro, while Amherst, Big Spring, Bristol, Fillmore, Highland, Whalan, and Wykoff are nearby. Harmony is about eleven miles south-southeast, Chatfield fifteen miles north-northwest, and Spring Valley seventeen miles west of Preston. Preston was founded by John Kaercher in 1853. He chose the location because he could use the Root River for water power, and because the area offered large supplies of timber, water power, stonework, and rail service. The town was platted in 1855, and named for Luther Preston, its first postmaster and an employee of Kaercher. The old Preston grain elevator was known as the Milwaukee Elevator Company Grain Elevator, which was last used in the 1980s. The Preston Historical Society is attempting to restore the structure, as it was built with cribbed construction, which uses interlocking bins. The Preston Overlook, on the National Register of Historical Places, was constructed in 1937 by the Minnesota Department of Highways under the New Deal. Preston is the county seat of Fillmore County.


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