GOVERNORS OF MINNESOTA
Henry H. (Hastings) Sibley
First State Governor
May 24, 1858 - January 2, 1860
Born: February 20, 1811
in Detroit, Michigan
Died: February 18, 1891
in St. Paul, Minnesota
Married to: Sarah Jane Steele (1843)
Ethnic Background: English
Occupation: Fur Trader, legislator, businessman
The state's first governor began his long, colorful career in Minnesota as a fur trader even before the area was opened to white settlement. He concluded it by serving as president of a utility—the St. Paul Gas Light Company—in the bustling capital city of the nation's 32nd state. During almost six decades, Henry H. Sibley played a vital role in the expansion and settlement of the northwest frontier.
A native of Detroit, this son of a Michigan Supreme Court justice was schooled in the classics before he headed into the wilderness at age 18 to find a more "active and stirring life." He entered the fur trade as a clerk and, at 23, assumed responsibility for the American Fur Company's "Sioux Outfit" headquartered near Fort Snelling at Mendota. His neighbors, including Dakota Indians who dubbed him "Walker in the Pines," were frequent guests at the still-standing stone house and trading post he built there in 1835.
As Sibley's reputation as a "fur lord" increased, so did his influence on the region recognized as Minnesota Territory in 1849. He served three times as territorial delegate to Congress, and with statehood imminent, he played a leading role in drafting the Minnesota constitution. After narrowly defeating Republican Alexander Ramsey in the first state gubernatorial contest, Sibley declared in his inaugural address, "I have no object and no interests which are not inseparably bound up with the welfare of the state."
He chose not to run for re-election but continued to serve the state as military commander during the Dakota War of 1862. Sibley's final occupations were those of St. Paul businessman, president of the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents and the Minnesota Historical Society, and prolific chronicler of the state history he had helped make.