In 1870, the Irish-born Thomas Ronan, Sr. and his wife, Catherine, moved from Davis County, Wisconsin to Union County, Dakota Territory. At the time, the country was reported to have still looked like a wilderness for miles around. The frame house he constructed was reported to have been the first in their immediate locality.
As early as 1871, the Emmet country of Union County, Dakota Territory was settled by a colony, originating mainly from the area of Galena, Illinois. This colony consisted mostly of Irish people as well as some Germans. They took homesteads, built shacks, and finally made homes for themselves. The pioneer settlers in this group included the Behnkes, Coopers, Donovans, Fitzgeralds, Flannigans, Jordans, Lasses, O'Connors, Sinclairs, and Tryes.
Other families followed. These included the Dolans, Farleys, Mahers, McLains, Quinns, and Steadmans.
In 1880, Thomas Ronan, Sr. and his wife opened a general store on their farm. The store was operated for six years. They also started the Emmet post office, which was located at the store; and, Thomas, Sr. served as postmaster for nine years.
In 1900, Emmet Township was finally organized from parts of the neighboring Prairie and Spink Townships.
Emmet had a hall where dances could be held. This was called Emmet Hall and was still in use as recently as 1916.
The only remnants of the old Emmet community are the names inscribed on the grave stones at the St. Joseph Cemetery. Some of the original families of Emmet moved away during the community's first fifty years. However, descendants of many of the Emmet pioneer families are still living in Union County today.