Sibley family

For several years I’ve been involved in attempts to restore a monument honoring “Minnesota Pioneer Women, 1840-1860,” located on the grounds of the Sibley Historic Site in Mendota, MN.

The Lake Minnetonka DAR Chapter has secured a matching-funds grant from the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) . Working with the Minnesota Historical Society, we plan to complete the restoration project by late fall, 2017.

One is steeped in history on the grounds of the Sibley House, located just across the river from Fort Snelling, and I was motivated to read more about the people who lived there. Henry Hastings Sibley, a successful fur trader, built the home in 1835-1836. He later served as territorial delegate to Congress and was the first governor of Minnesota (1858-1860).

His wife Sarah Steele Sibley (1823-1869) captured my imagination. A little book, Six Miles from St. Paul: The family and society of Sarah Jane Sibley by David M. Grabitske, was a good read. Here’s the description from the book’s back cover:

Six Miles. Not far today, but in Sarah Sibley’s time six miles challenged all her training and ability to maintain relationships with family, friends, God, and a rapidly homogenizing culture. Through it all, she demonstrated her deft skills in managing a demanding household and leading Minnesota’s very first historic preservation effort. The wife of Minnesota’s first governor lived in Mendota, longed for St. Paul, fully embraced life, and for ten years endured an infection that claimed her life. Both for ordinary and extraordinary accomplishments, Sarah Jane Sibley is worthy to be remembered.

As a student of reverse genealogy, I was struck by a statement in the book’s epilogue that no descendants survive with the Sibley surname. Sarah bore nine children (and may have experienced more than one miscarriage).  She was pregnant nearly 1/3 of the time during her first 23 years of marriage!

These are the children of Henry and Sarah Sibley and what I found about their descendants:

  • Augusta Ann “Gussie” Sibley (1844-1932). Married Douglas Pope and had three children.
  • Henry Hastings Sibley II  (1846-1846)
  • Henry Hastings “Harry” Sibley III (1847-1851)
  • Sarah Jane “Sally” Sibley (1851-1925). Married Elbert Young and had three children.
  • Franklin Steele Sibley (1853-1863)
  • Mary Steele Sibley (1855-1863)
  • Charles Frederick Sibley (1860-1917). Married Constance Locke but had no children.
  • Alexander Hastings Sibley (1864-1864)
  • Alfred Brush Sibley (1866-1946). Married Anna Thompson. They had two children including a son named Henry Hastings Sibley (1893-1931), who married but had no children.

What a difficult life Sarah experienced! What sadness! The deaths of her sons in 1846 and 1851; her isolation on the frontier during Henry’s frequent absences for business and political duties; the Dakota War in 1862 and Henry’s role as Brigadier General; the deaths of three more children in 1863-1864; succumbing to pleurisy at the age of 46.

One of many remarkable stories of Minnesota Pioneer Women, 1840-1860.



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