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The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch - Sleepy Eye, MN
  • Historic Fort Ridgely

  • Fort Ridgely preserved peace on the frontier from 1853 to 1867. It withstood two Indian attacks during the Dakota War of 1862. Hundreds of lives were saved by its presence. By 1867, the rapid influx of settlers moved the frontier further west, and the fort was decommissioned.

     


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  • Fort Ridgely preserved peace on the frontier from 1853 to 1867. It withstood two Indian attacks during the Dakota War of 1862. Hundreds of lives were saved by its presence. By 1867, the rapid influx of settlers moved the frontier further west, and the fort was decommissioned.
    After the fort was abandoned, early settlers dismantled the fort’s buildings for use as building materials. On one day as many as 100 wagons were seen hauling away materials from the fort. Part of the commissary remained and would later become a livestock barn.
    In 1896, Fort Ridgely’s historic importance was acknowledged when the State of Minnesota purchased 5 acres of the original Fort site. The Fort Ridgely Monument was dedicated. Attending the dedication were an estimated 3,000 people including dignitaries, former defenders of the fort and about 50 refugees who sought safety in the fort in 1862.
    In 1911, the park was expanded to 153 acres to include the entire battlefield. The State Legislature approved “Fort Ridgely Memorial Park” as Minnesota’s 4th State Park. The other State Parks were 1891-Itasca, 1895-Interstate and 1905-Minneopa.
    During the 1920s and 1930s, there were various programs and commemorations in the park with different forms of entertainment. Members of the Indian community, former defenders and refugees were among those who attended.
    In 1934, under the direction of the National Park Service, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked on projects within the park related to erosion control, clean-up, foot trails, planting trees and building bridges across Fort Ridgely Creek. The CCC began work on structures using Morton Gneiss, a hard durable rock from quarries in Morton. Due to lack of funding, the CCC camp closed in 1935.
    In 1936, the Veteran’s Conservation Corps (VCC), under the supervision of a National Park Service archeologist, did the excavation work around the Fort Ridgely parade ground. All that remained of the original commissary were parts of the south, east and west walls. Using stone from the original quarry, the commissary building was restored in 1937, as a joint project of the Minnesota Historical Society, the VCC, Minnesota State Parks, and the National Park Service. One of the log powder magazines was found on a nearby farm, moved back and reconstructed. The cellar walls of the Officer Quarters buildings were uncovered and repaired. The foundations of the other Fort Ridgely buildings were located and outlined.
    In 1969, the Minnesota Historical Society assumed management of Fort Ridgely Historic Site and opened the Commissary as a museum. Today, the Historic Site contains some 20 acres within the State Park.
    In 1970, Fort Ridgely Historic District was added to the National Register. The Historic District had 220 acres. Today, Fort Ridgely Historic Site is listed as a National Battlefield by the National Park Service.
    In 1989, the CCC and VCC structures were listed on the National Register. Included were 25 structures in the park, including the foundation restorations around the Fort Ridgely parade ground and the historic commissary reconstruction.
    Page 2 of 2 - Today, Fort Ridgely Historic Site is operated by Nicollet County Historical Society under the management of the Minnesota Historical Society. The Historic Site is open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend and offers a variety of programs.
    For more information on Fort Ridgely Historic Site and State Park visit the websites of Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota DNR, and Nicollet County Historical Society.
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