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Henry Hastings Sibley

Gov. Henry Hastings Sibley

  • May 24, 1858 - January 2, 1860
  • Democratic
  • February 20, 1811
  • February 18, 1891
  • Michigan
  • Married Sarah Jane Steele; nine children
  • Representative


HENRY H. SIBLEY, the first governor of Minnesota, was born in Detroit, Michigan on February 20, 1811. His education was attained through private tutors, and later he attended the Detroit Academy. He studied law for a while, but gave it up, deciding instead, to move to Minnesota where he established a successful career with the American Fur Company. Sibley entered politics in 1848, serving as a Wisconsin territorial delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives, a position he held until 1849. He also was a Minnesota territorial delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1849 to 1853, was a member of the Minnesota Territorial Legislature in 1855 and served as a member and president of the 1857 Minnesota Constitutional Convention. Sibley won election to the Minnesota governorship on October 13, 1857 and was sworn into office on May 24, 1858. During his tenure, he contested and eventually vetoed the untimely sale of public school land. Also, the financing of railroad construction with unrestricted state credit was challenged. After declining to run for reelection, Sibley left office on January 2, 1860, and retired from political life. He continued to stay active, serving as a member and president of the board of regents of the University of Minnesota. He served as president of the Minnesota Historical Society, president of the St. Paul Gas Company, and oversaw the military commission which condemned 303 Dakota to death in the aftermath of the U.S.-Dakota War. Sibley also presided over the commission to negotiate damage claims of the Ojibway Indians, which resulted from the construction of national reservoirs. Governor Henry H. Sibley passed away on February 18, 1891, and was buried in the Oakland Cemetery in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

Minnesota Historical Society

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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