Faribault: In the Beginning

Bird's eye view of Faribault, 1869
Bird's eye view of Faribault, 1869
Bird's eye view of Faribault, 1869

Bird's eye view of the city of Faribault, Rice County, Minnesota 1869.

Faribault Central Avenue
Faribault Central Avenue
Faribault Central Avenue

View down Faribault's Central Avenue on a quiet Friday afternoon in July 2016.

Thomas Scott Buckham Memorial Library
Thomas Scott Buckham Memorial Library
Thomas Scott Buckham Memorial Library

Thomas Scott Buckham Memorial Library on the corner of Division Street and Central Avenue in Faribault.

The City of Faribault was platted (planned out) in 1855, three years before Minnesota became a state. As other pages on this site will attest to, Faribault today is home to a diverse group of people. While that diversity has changed over time, much diversity was present in Faribault’s beginnings. With origins as a fur trading post, it had attracted a number of European settlers, including Alexander Faribault, namesake of the city; but even before these settlers arrived, Faribault and environs had been in the heart of Dakota lands, specifically to the Wahpekute nation.

A Brief Look at the Beginnings of Faribault

In order to trade with the Wahpekute and other Dakota, in 1826, Alexander Faribault, the city’s namesake, built his first fur trading post along the Cannon River.2  Faribault had close ties with the Dakota. Both his mother, Elizabeth Pelagie Kinzie Haines, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Graham, had Dakota heritage. As such, Alexander Faribault knew the language and culture of the Dakota, skills that enabled him to develop good relationships with the Wahpekute. He began trading with them along the Cannon River and, in 1834,3  persuaded them to relocate their village to the junction of the Cannon and Straight Rivers, where he established a new trading post that became the site of Faribault today.4

 

  1. Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission, “Timeline,” accessed 20 April, 2013, http://www.faribault.org/history/Timeline.htm.

  1. This year is the date generally agreed upon by most historians. According to Richard J. Steimann, “The exact year is perhaps questionable, but no primary reference exists which proves or disproves the time. The Faribault Republican spoke of Faribault being on Lake Elysian in about 1837. Another quote from the same newspaper had him on Lake Elysian in 1827, however. An 1882 History of Faribault by E.D. Neil holds that Faribault established his post at the confluence of the Cannon and Straight Rivers in 1834 and moved to the original location of Faribault in 1844.” Richard J. Steimann, “The Wapacootas and the White Man: The Story of the Early Development of Faribault,” (paper written for an independent interim study at St John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota), 35-36.

  1. Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, History of Rice and Steele Counties (Chicago: H.C. Cooper, Jr. and Co., 1910), 86.