Over Memorial Day weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the pre-grand opening of the Sibley Historic Site in Mendota with several of my DAR friends. After a brief reception, we were given a private tour of the buildings at the site while reenactors from the fur trade era set up tents and replicas of a birchbark canoe and bateau on the lawn. The site is open to visitors on Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 until 4:00 pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Even if you can’t make it to one of the tours, there are interpretive signs and a small self-guided audio (via your cell phone) tour.
The Sibley House was built in 1836 for Henry Hastings Sibley. Sibley lived in the house for eight years before marrying Sarah Jane Steele. In May 1840, their home served as the temporary territorial headquarters while Territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey visited Sibley in Mendota.
The people of Minnesota elected Henry Sibley to be their first governor on May 11, 1858. He narrowly beat out his friend Alexander Ramsey for the job. In 1862, Sibley moved to St. Paul and sold his home in Mendota to St. Peter’s Catholic Parish. The house was subsequently leased to several parties but was later abandoned. Railroad transients took over the house and used the hardwood floors, stairway, and millwork for fires. The house was left in ruin.