Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakota Life

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The story of the Gibbs Museum begins in 1833 near Batavia, New York. Jane DeBow was taken by a missionary family traveling west to work among the Dakotah around Fort Snelling. Jane grew up in Minnesota and became familiar with the Dakotah culture. Her fascinating story is told in the children’s book, Jane Gibbs: Little Bird That Was Caught, available from the Ramsey County Historical Society. Later, in Illinois, Jane met and married Heman Gibbs. In 1849, the year Minnesota became a territory, the newlyweds came up the Mississippi River and bought 160 acres, the land on which the Gibbs farm house still stands. At first, Jane and Heman lived in a 10 ft. by 12 ft. dugout sod house. The remains of this “soddy” have been excavated. Visitors to the museum can see this excavation site and a replica sod house. In 1854, Jane and Heman built a larger cabin. With a growing family, additions to the farm house were made in 1867 and 1873. A trail leading from the Lake Calhoun area to the northern rice lakes crossed the Gibbs farm. Jane renewed her friendship with the local Dakotah who would stop to visit her on their way to gather wild race. Today visitors can tour the Gibbs family farm house. The Dakotah style tipi and replica bark lodge allow visitors to explore the traditional lifeways of the Dakotah. Visitors can observe a native prairie, a Dakotah medicine garden, and traditional Dakotah and pioneer crop gardens. Visitors also will find the original white barn built by the Gibbs family in 1910 and the red barn, designed by prominent architect Edwin Lundie. The Stoen School, built in the 1880s, was moved from Chippewa County, Minnesota in 1966. The schoolhouse is furnished with wooden school desks, slate boards, McGuffey’s Readers, a pump organ, and a working school bell.

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