In 1868 the grain trade in Minnesota was growing, but few railroads existed in the state. Steamboats were the supreme mode of transportation. William Robinson built a grain warehouse on the banks of the Mississippi to take advantage of the steamboat traffic. Shortly afterward the town of Jefferson was plotted. In a few years, however, the railroad came through, and a larger town was platted to the south. The Jefferson Grain Warehouse quickly became obsolete.
The Universal Laboratories building played a key role during World War II by ensuring that the United States had an adequate domestic supply of the essential crude drug ergot. As war threatened to cut off imported supplies of crude ergot, Universal Laboratories developed an effective collecting and processing operation in Dassel.