Historic Sites

Thu, 2012-03-08 10:51 -- amy.danielson

Alexander Ramsey House, St. Paul

Alexander Ramsey served as both the first governor of the Minnesota Territory and the second governor of the state. In 1851, as territorial governor and superintendent of Indian affairs for the Minnesota Territory, he negotiated treaties on behalf of the U.S. government with the Dakota for the cession of large areas of Minnesota land for white settlement. Ramsey served as governor during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. He appointed his longtime friend and political rival Henry Sibley to command forces raised to fight against the Dakota, notoriously stating that “the Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the state.” Ramsey’s descendants willed the home and all of its contents to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1964. www.mnhs.org/ramseyhouse

Birch Coulee Battlefield, near Morton

Site of one of the hardest fought battles of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Visitors can tour the self-guided site where markers explain the battle from Dakota and U.S. soldiers’ perspectives. www.mnhs.org/birchcoulee

Fort Ridgely, Fort Ridgely State Park, near Fairfax

The fort was attacked twice after the U.S.-Dakota War broke out in August 1862. Visitors can see the reconstructed foundations of the 1853 fort and the restored commissary building. Visitors can also walk an interpretive trail that describes the history of the site. Managed by the Nicollet County Historical Society. www.mnhs.org/fortridgely

Historic Fort Snelling and Sibley House Historic Site, St. Paul and Mendota

Fort Snelling served as a launching point for soldiers sent to fight in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. After the war, Dakota prisoners were held in an internment camp, sometimes called a concentration camp, along the Mississippi River flats below the fort. Today, visitors can learn about the war and the camp, as well as military and civilian life at the fort over its 120 years of active duty.

Across the river from Fort Snelling, at the restored home of Col. Henry H. Sibley along with other historic buildings, visitors will hear about the fur-trade era of the early 19th century, Sibley’s interaction with the Dakota before the war and how the fur trade was a primary reason for the establishment of the fort in the 1820s. www.historicfortsnelling.org

Lac qui Parle Mission, near Montevideo

A mission established in 1835 where the first Dakota dictionary, grammar and gospel were completed. The site features artifacts and exhibits related to Dakota people and the missionaries who worked with them. Managed by the Chippewa County Historical Society. www.mnhs.org/lacquiparle

Lower Sioux Agency, near Redwood Falls

The site of the outbreak of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, the visitor center features exhibits on Dakota history, life and culture. Self-guided interpretive trails allow visitors to explore the landscape and the warehouse building and to walk along the Minnesota River. Managed by the Lower Sioux Indian Community. www.mnhs.org/lowersioux

Traverse des Sioux, near St. Peter

On a self-guided interpretive trail, visitors can explore the site of 1851 treaty negotiations between the U.S. government and the Dakota. Visitors to this site can learn about Dakota history and culture and the lives of the people who settled in the area. Managed by the Nicollet County Historical Society. www.mnhs.org/traversedessioux

The Nicollet County Historical Society’s Treaty Site History Center is adjacent to Traverse des Sioux. www.nchsmn.org/sites.html

W.W. Mayo House, Le Sueur

Dr. William Worrall Mayo and his family lived in a house in Le Sueur at the time of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.  In August 1862, upon hearing of the outbreak of war, Mayo went to New Ulm to provide medical assistance to the town's defenders.  In December 1862, after 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato and their bodies were buried in  shallow graves nearby, doctors in the area, including Dr. Mayo, unearthed some of the bodies for medical study and demonstrations.  www.mnhs.org/mayohouse

Most of the Minnesota Historical Society sites listed above are open May-Sept.  Please visit visitmnhistory.org for more information.