Dakota County has the ability to boast about many firsts. The first Territorial Governor for Minnesota was Alexander Ramsey, who lived in Mendota, Dakota County in 1849. Ramsey served in this role from 1849 – 1853, before being elected Mayor of St. Paul.
On May 11, 1858, Minnesota was officially admitted as the 32nd state of the United States of America. Shortly after, on May 24, 1858, Henry Hastings Sibley was elected as the first Governor of Minnesota. Sibley lived in Mendota, Dakota County and built the first stone house there in 1835. The house today is part of the Sibley Historic Site, operated by the Dakota County Historical Society.
Sibley was very influential in the fur trade early on in his life and had a very close relationship with the Mdewakanton Dakota tribe. He entered a de facto marriage with Red Blanket Woman, granddaughter to the tribe’s chief. With this marriage, he had a daughter named Helen Hastings Sibley, also known as Wahkiyee (Bird).
Sibley’s marriage with Red Blanket Woman did not last long and he eventually married Sarah Jane Steele. He was very well-known amongst the Dakota tribe and officials within the newly-formed state. He served as Minnesota's first Governor from 1858 to 1860.
Today, Sibley is a controversial part of Minnesota’s history and most remembered as the man tasked with ending the Dakota Uprising – known today as the US-Dakota War of 1862.