La Crescent was founded in 1851 by Peter Cameron and was originally called, “Camerons”. Peter and his wife, Emma, were two of the town’s most colorful characters. Peter tried to dig a canal to change the flow of the Mississippi River so it would flow closer to La Crescent and bypass La Crosse, Wisconsin across the river. He died 10 weeks before its scheduled completion in 1857, and the canal was never finished, although the canal can still be seen in aerial photographs of the city.
The second name of La Crescent was “Manton”, named by William and Harvey Gillett, after they cleared the downtown area for settlement for Peter Cameron. In quick succession, the name of the town was changed again by the somewhat unscrupulous Kentucky Land Company, which was a land speculation company. They wanted a more romantic sounding name for the town to attract settlers and came up with “La Crescent”, after the bend or “crescent” shape of the Mississippi River around the town. La Crescent incorporated in 1857.