Oakdale Township was organized in November 1858 and survived intact until 1926, when the Village of Lake Elmo split off. In the 1950s the township again began losing property: East Oakdale Township detached in 1951; Landfall and Pine Springs were incorporated in 1959; in the same year another section split off to become Northdale. Oakdale regained some acreage in 1968 when Northdale and part of East Oakdale rejoined, leaving the township with about 12 sections and just over 7,200 acres. Oakdale became a city in 1974.

Early settlers found the land covered with openings of white, bur, and black oak as well as basswood and elm—the name was selected to reflect the many stands of trees. The main occupation in early Oakdale was farming, especially wheat, because the sandy loam soil was suitable for grain crops. The many small lakes also attracted settlers. During the 1930s the main winter industry was the cutting of ice from Tanner's Lake for use during the summer in ice boxes.

The town’s first known settler was Bernard B. “Bun” Cyphers, a Virginian who came in 1848, just before the area became Minnesota Territory. That year Cyphers built a “hotel and stopping place,” called the Lake House, near Sunfish Lake. By 1850 a road suitable for stagecoach travel had been constructed past the Lake House, running from St. Paul to Stillwater and corresponding more to less to Highway 5 (Stillwater Boulevard). In the 1860s the Lake House was the town meeting site.

Cyphers soon moved on, but John Morgan, an early resident of Stillwater and former sheriff of St. Croix County, Wisconsin Territory, became the first permanent settler. In 1849 Morgan built a commodious hotel on the Stillwater–St. Paul Road about a half mile east of today’s Interstate 694. The Halfway House was where the Concord stages of Willoughby & Powers en route from St. Paul to Stillwater changed horses at noon and the passengers took dinner. In 1855 Morgan sold to E. C. Gray. Other settlers, many of them German and Irish, located nearby in the 1850s.

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