MENDOTA, situated on the south bank of the Minnesota, and on the east of the Mississippi, just at their confluence, is the oldest village in the State, and the former homestead of Hon. H. H. Sibley is the oldest private residence in Minnesota, having been commenced in 1836, and completed 1837. The first settler in Mendota was Duncan Campbell, who established himself as an Indian trader about the year 1820. He has a son of the same name now living in the Village. Campbell was succeeded about the year 1825 by Jean B. Faribault, who removed thither from Pike’s Island opposite, where he had resided several years and until driven by stress of weather to seek higher ground for his habitation, the Mississippi hawing overflowed its banks to such an extent that Mr. Faribault lost all his goods and possessions, except a quantity of furs which he saved in his boat About 1828 Mendota became the principal depot of the trade of the American Fur Company, in this region, and was placed in charge of Alexis Bailly, lately deceased. In 1834 Mr. Bailly was succeeded by H. H. Sibley, who had a much larger district under his charge, as a partner with Joseph Roulette and H. L. Douseman (both now deceased) in the business of the American Fur Company, the two last named residing at Prairie du Chien, and having charge of the trade that was tributary to that central location. In 1819, Col. Leavenworth, in command of United States troops, occupied a spot on the south bank of the Minnesota river, and opposite the present site of Fort Snelling, where they remained during the winter of 1819-20. During the winter the scurvy broke out in a most malignant form, and for some days raged so violently that garrison duty was suspended, there being only well men enough in the command to attend to the sick and the interment of the dead. The attacks were frequently so sudden that persons who went to bed well at night were found dead in the morning. One man who when relieved from his post of sentinel duty, stretched himself upon a bench in the guard room, four hours after, when called upon to resume his post, was found to be lifeless. So fatal was the disease that nearly half the command perished. This is believed to be the only case of land scurvy making its appearance in this country. The troops continued to occupy quarters on the south side of the river till 1823, and some even as late as 1824, at which time Fort Snelling was completed and the whole command removed thither.
Daniel W. Hubbard was the first man to fell a tree on the camping ground, and to him is due the credit of felling the first tree to inaugurate civilization in Minnesota. All this was, however, previous to any settlement other than by government troops, except that of Duncan Campbell, the Indian trader.
In 1851 Hon. Luke Lea, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and Hon. Alex. Ramsey, acting for the government, effected a treaty at this point, with the upper bands of Dakotas or Sioux, which together with the treaty entered into the same year, at Traverse des Sioux, deeded to the United States, all that vast country claimed by them west of the Mississippi river.
In 1847 Wisconsin was admitted as a State, leaving all those counties west of the St. Croix river without any government. Hon. H. H. Sibley, of Mendota, though residing on the opposite side of the Mississippi river, was elected to represent the inhabitants of that ungoverned country in Congress, they claiming that the act admitting a certain portion of
the Territory as a State did not abrogate the territorial organization. Mr. Sibley went on to Washington and boldly claimed his seat as a delegate from Wisconsin Territory, which after some delay was granted him. The Territory of Minnesota was organized the same session, and Mr. Sibley was elected to represent the new. Territory in 1849, and again re-elected in 1851, thus serving during five consecutive-sessions of Congress, and representing two different territories, though all the time residing at Mendota. At the time of the organization of Minnesota Territory in 1849 Hon. Stephen A. Douglas was strongly in favor of Mendota as the Capital of the Territory, but the delegate, Mr. Sibley, represented that his constituents, or a majority of them, were in favor of St. Paul, so Mr. Douglas yielded to his solicitations, and St, Paul was designated as the Territorial capital.
The first birth in Mendota was that of George Faribault, on the 28th of September, 1826. In 1834 H. H, Sibley built a store and opened up a stock of goods, which was the first store on the west side of the Upper Mississippi, and in 1837 Alexander Faribault built a stone hotel, which is still standing, and kept as a hotel by his son, George Faribault.
A Canadian by the name of Lejendre taught the first school. The first church service was held by Rev. Father Ravoux, though at what time we have been unable to ascertain. It was the first point where the Jesuit missionaries located, in this section of country. The Catholics erected a small building for a church, and after some years built the present stone edifice, which stands on the high bluff overlooking Fort Snelling and a large extent of country, for many miles around. Hon. H.H. Sibley built a small stone building to be used as a Protestant church, and which was used for that purpose for a number of years, but is now occupied as a school house.
The former residence of General Sibley was sold by him for a merely nominal sum to the Sisters of Charity of the order of St. Joseph, and is now occupied by them.
Mendota was for some years the county seat of Dakota county, but being on the extreme edge of the county, a majority of the people elected to have the county offices and records removed to the more pretentious village of Hastings, where they are now located.
The population is mostly French and Irish. The business of the town is now represented by two dry goods and grocery stores, one kept by Timothy Fee, the other by John Roth; two hotels, one by George Faribault, the other by Michael Lynch; two blacksmith shops, by William Morrissey and Joseph Braudette; two wagon shops, by Joseph Braudette and Flavious Braudette. Civillo Boutillette and Edward Lemay have carpenter shops, while Michael Dupuis is the shoemaker of the village.
Mendota furnished the first State Governor, Hon. H. H. Sibley, who was also Delegate to Congress for three successive terms, and member of the Constitutional Convention, and town officers as follows:
|Chairman of Supervisors.||Town Clerk.|
|1858-Patrick Eagan.||G. S. Whitman.|
|1859-Patrick Eagan.||G. S. Whitman.|
|1880-A. G-. Shaffer.||Jas. McBoal, appointed|
|1861-James McBoal||Philip Crowley|
|1862-P. B. Thompson||Philip Crowley|
|1863-P. B. Thompson||Philip Crowley|
|1864-James Thompson||Philip Crowley|
|1865-Michael Lynch||Philip Crowley|
|1866-William Morrissey||Philip Crowley|
|1867-James Thomas||J. D. Rodgers, Jr.
T. D. Smith, appointed.
|1868-C. A. Slivens||Philip Crowley
J H. Benson, appointed
The Milwaukee, St. Paul and Minneapolis Railroad makes a junction at this point with the Minnesota Valley Railroad, passengers for St. Paul or the Minnesota Valley taking the valley road, though making no change of cars for St. Paul.
The Milwaukee and Minneapolis Railway at this point presents some of the finest features of engineer-ing to be found on any road in the country. As the train from Minneapolis runs directly under the brow of Fort Snelling on the north side of the Minnesota river, the high rock on which the Port stands having been cut down some fifty or sixty feet to a level with the road bed, which is here some twenty-five or thirty feet above the river, and presents one of the finest spectacles to be seen, the towering and perpendicular cliff on one side and the swiftly flowing river far below on the other, while the cars glide smoothly along, hanging as it were on the verge of the hill, then passing over a line of trestlework over the Minnesota river, and the lands adjacent thereto, till it reaches Mendota, where it begins its winding way to the table lands above. Passing over another line of trestle-work, and high over the track of the Valley Railroad it winds around the hill, and passengers looking from the car windows, see in the distance to the left the city of St. Paul, which gradually is lost to view as the train moves on, and soon, on looking from the window on the right, another city greets the vision, another and yet the same,, for the train has moved around and up the hill till it is almost where it started from the depot, only higher up and going in the opposite direction, and Fort Snelling, which was passed some time since, is now standing on the right, and only across the river from where the train now stands. It is a spectacle worth a visit to the place to see. This wonderful piece of engineering, the commanding view to be had of the surrounding country from the bluffs, and the fact of its being the oldest settled town in the State, makes Mendota a place of much interest to visitors and pleasure seekers.