Alexander Ramsey was Minnesota’s first territorial governor, second state governor, a US senator, and Secretary of War. Although he directly contributed to the founding and the growth of Minnesota, he also played a major role in removing the area's Indigenous people—the Dakota and Ojibwe—from their homelands.

Three generations of the Ramsey family came to occupy the handsome native limestone home at 265 South Exchange Street. In 1964, on the death of the last surviving family member, granddaughter Anita Furness, it was willed to MNHS, which Ramsey himself co-founded.