The Board of Immigration, established by an act of the legislature in 1867 (General Laws of Minnesota 1867, chapter 28), was created to encourage immigration to the state.
At its inception, the board consisted of the governor, William H. Marshall and the secretary of state, Henry C. Rogers (both ex officio members); and a third member who served as secretary and was appointed by the governor. Hans Mattson, a lawyer and Swedish immigrant, was the board's first secretary.
The board membership was later increased to five (General Laws of Minnesota 1871, chapter 50): the governor, the secretary of state, and the state treasurer (all three ex officio), and two appointed members. The board membership was changed again in 1879 (General Laws of Minnesota 1879, chapter 76) and the board ceased operation in 1886.
The board was re-created in 1907 (General Laws of Minnesota 1907, chapter 267), titled the Minnesota State Board of Immigration, and empowered to appoint a salaried commissioner of immigration. There were again three ex officio members (the governor, the state auditor, and the secretary of state) who appointed two members for two-year terms, and the board members in turn selected the commissioner.
The duties of the re-created board were generally to facilitate and encourage the immigration of persons of "good moral character" to the state and to assist immigrants on their way to Minnesota. For these purposes it received an appropriation from the state, but it also solicited contributions and endowments. The board acted primarily as an information service, collecting and disseminating information about Minnesota's agricultural, rail, and commercial opportunities. It published books, brochures, pamphlets, and maps in English, French, German, Irish, Welsh, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish. Many of the publications advertised Minnesota public lands available for homesteading.
By 1922, the board members expressed to the state the need to expand and improve the immigration department. In 1923 the legislature introduced a bill that would have transferred the board's duties to the Department of Agriculture (HF126). That bill did not pass, but in 1925, the Conservation Commission assumed the duties of the board and the office of commissioner of immigration (Laws of Minnesota 1925, chapter 426, article 4, section 4).