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Jean Baptiste Faribault

Jean Baptiste Faribault, one of the most interesting figures of early Minnesota history, was a descendant of a prominent family of Le Mons, France. His father, a lawyer, came to Canada in 1757, as secretary of the army under Montcalm. Jean Baptiste the seventh son of Barthelmy Faribault, was born at Berthier, Canada in 1774. He received a fair education, leaving school at the age of sixteen to enter a firm of importers at Quebec.

The spirit of adventure led him to choose the life of a fur trader and in 1799, he entered the employ of the British fur company. He had charge of trading posts at Kankakee, near the present site of Chicago, Baton Rouge on the Des Moines River in Iowa, and in 1805, at Little Rapids on the St. Peter River near the present site of Carver. In 1809, he became an independent fur trader at Prairie du Chien.

While trading at Little Rapids in 1805, Mr. Faribault married Elizabeth Pelagie Kinnie Hanse, the widow of the superintendent of Indian affairs. As the daughter of a French voyageur and a Wahpeton Dakota mother, Pelagie was a member of that Dakota band. Pike Island was ceded by the Dakota to Mrs. Faribault and her descendants by the Treaty of 1821, but the gift was never recognized by the government.

In 1812, Mr. Faribault was offered a commission in the British Army. He declined it, remaining friendly to the United States. During the siege of Prarie du Chien by the English, his house was burned, his cattle killed, and $12,000 worth of furs and merchandise were pillaged. Mr. Faribault later became a naturalized citizen of the United States and an employee of the American Fur Company.

In 1819, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Leavenworth, being impressed by Faribault's knowledge and understanding of the Dakota Indians, offered him military protection and assistance if he would settle near the new fort at the mouth of the St. Peter (Minnesota) River. Faribault and his family settled at Pike Island where he built a log house, farmed, and carried on his fur trade with the Indians.

In June 1822, the Island flooded and he moved to the east bank of the river. In the spring of 1826, the water which was unusually high, carried off his house and livestock, and Faribault and his family barely escaped by boat. Still not discouraged he built a new home higher on the banks of the river. About 1840, his stone house was finished, and here he resided for many years, going to his trading post at Little Rapids during the winter months.

Mr. Faribault died on August 20, 1860 at Faribault, the city which had been named for his oldest son, Alexander.

Of this study pioneer, General Sibley wrote:

"Among the pioneers of Minnesota there is none whose memory and whose name better deserves to be respected and perpetuated than JEAN BAPTISTE FARIBAULT."

Excerpts from "The Sibley Historic Site" Published 1995 by Sibley House Association / MNDAR

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