MendotaThis wide valley intersection between the two rivers known today as the Minnesota and Mississippi has been a meeting place for people for thousands of years.
The Dakota people lived on these prairielands by the 1700s. They knew this place as Mdo'-te or "the junction of one river with another." French explorers and traders who were here in the late 1600s named the Minnesota river Sans Pierres because the river was silty but had few rocks. British explorers and traders who arrived a few years later misunderstood the French name, calling the river Saint Peter's. In 1852, the territorial legislature changed the name of the river to Minnesota, a version of its Dakota name.
The American military arrived here in 1805 when Lieutenant Zebulon Pike signed a treaty with the Dakota, purchasing a parcel of land that included the river valley and the high bluff across the river on which Fort Snelling was built.
What had been a meeting spot for the Dakota became a trading hub for the entire region when the American Fur Company opened a post at Mendota. Alexis Bailly took charge in 1826, followed by Henry Hastings Sibley in 1834. Sibley replaced the log buildings at the post with several permanent structures, and others were added later. Four major structures remain today: a limestone company storehouse (1834); Sibley's limestone dwelling and store (1836); the limestone and sandstone house (1839) of trader Jean Baptiste Faribault; and, up the hill, a brick house (1834) of trader Hypolite DuPuis.
Trade ended here in 1851, when the Treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota resulted in the removal of the Dakota to a reservation in the upper Minnesota Valley. Henry Sibley resided here until 1862 and led an active political career, serving as Minnesota Territory's first delegate to Congress (1849-53) and the state's first governor (1858-1860).
Sibley House AssociationFrom 1910 to 1996, the Minnesota Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) volunteered time, money, and leadership to restore and care for this historic site.
The Minnesota Chapter of the DAR was established in 1891 for the purpose of fostering patriotism, historic preservation, and education. Its members formed the Sibley House Association (SHA) in 1910 to preserve the then abandoned home of Henry Hastings Sibley, Minnesota's first governor and a descendant of Revolutionary War veterans. Envisioned as "Minnesota's Mount Vernon," the Sibley House Museum opened to the public with great fanfare on June 14, 1910. Admission was ten cents.
For the next 85 years, the DAR worked to make the house and its history available to Minnesotans. It raised funds, coordinated restoration work, collected photographs and artifacts, and operated a successful tour program. During that time it also added two other Mendota properties to the site. The house built in 1854 by Sibley's secretary, Hypolite DuPuis, was purchased in 1922, and operated as the popular Sibley Tea House until 1973, providing funds to run the museum. The 1839 house of Jean Baptiste Faribault, a long-standing Mendota fur trader was acquired in 1936 and restored with the help of the Works Progress Administration.
After 86 years of restoration and care of the Sibley Historic Site, the Sibley House Association of the Daughters of the American Revolution generously donated its properties and collections to the State of Minnesota in 1996.
[seal of The Minnesota Historical Society]
Erected by the the Minnesota Historical Society