Saturday, July 13, 2024
Dakota County Historical Society
To preserve, interpret and promote the history of Dakota County.

Location: Intersection of Chicago Northwestern Railroad crossing and Central Avenue

This was the village of the Kaposia band of the Mdewakanton Sioux, from which came Chief Little Crow V or Taoyateduta (meaning “His Red Nation”). Accommodating to white men and frequently wronged by them, Little Crow had a predominant role in the Sioux Uprising of 1862.

Early explorers observed Kaposia, missionaries occupied it, and the Native Americans, whose settlement it was, passed through a period of cultural interacting which led to their relocation after the Treaty of Mendota in 1851, and then in 1862 to War.

Historians differ in opinion about the village’s location prior to 1837, although it is believed to have been primarily on the Mississippi River’s East Bank near Pig’s Eye Lake. The Treaty of 1837 ceded Dakota lands east of the Mississippi to the United States and so removed Kaposia permanently from the East Bank location. It may have been moved to present-day Saint Paul (on the site of the old Union Depot) after the construction of Fort Snelling, and then moved again to the South Saint Paul location. It is likely the village had many locations in the area depending upon flooding, hunting and gathering cycles, and timber depletion. The village was situated in low land when Lt. Zebulon Pike met with seven Chiefs (including Little Crow III) for the signing of the Sioux Treaty of 1805. Later, in 1817, a Maj. Stephen Long was sent to investigate the territories purchased and noted the village – with one of the 17 buildings situated “so near the water that the opposite side of the river is within musket-shot range.” Long claims this was done so the Chief could occasionally “exercise a command over the passage of the river.”

In the Spring of 1834 Samuel and Gideon Pond came to the village as missionaries, reportedly showing the Dakota villagers how to use the plow and oxen they had acquired. Three years later a Rev. Brunson established the Kaposia Mission at the South Saint Paul location. A mission house, school house, and store were built. The Mission was left in the care of a Rev. David King, who also learned the Sioux language to better tend to his duties. By the next year the land was producing crops and the school was successful with the Dakota children, one of whom was Little Crow V. Because of his education at the school he would be able to sign his name to the Treaty of 1851. However, Little Crow V was not yet the Chief. That office belonged to Little Crow IV, also known as “Big Thunder,” who journeyed to Washington D.C. with 37 other Sioux Chiefs for treaty negotiations which ultimately led to the sale of roughly five million acres of land.

Through the 1830sand 1840’s the Sioux were feuding with the Chippewa. Big Thunder had reportedly told a US Indian Agent at Fort Snelling that he didn’t know what had started the feud, but it had been an ongoing hostility since before his time – likely related to language differences or land encroachments. This feuding and poor relations with the new superintendent of the Kaposia Mission made it an unsettled place. The new superintendent eventually moved across the river to Red Rock, leaving the Mission open for Rev. King to continue teaching until the Mission closed in 1843. A post office was established at Red Rock named “Kaposia” that year (then in Wisconsin Territory, while Little Crow’s village was in Iowa Territory). Thus leading to some confusion as we had two places across the river from one another, both named “Kaposia.” Eventually Little Crow’s village was called “Kaposia in Minnesota Territory” to distinguish which it was.

In 1845 Big Thunder died of an accidental gunshot when he tried to prevent a loaded rifle from falling off a wagon. On his death bed he passed his chiefdom to Little Crow V’s half-brothers. Little Crow V had lived at Laq qui Parle for about a decade and his half-brothers discounted his right to become chief. Little Crow V returned the next year to become chief, which led to an armed confrontation with his half-brothers on the shore near the village. Little Crow V was shot in the arms by his sibling and taken to a doctor at Fort Snelling, who recommended amputation. Little Crow V refused, and although he kept his arms, he suffered permanent disability from the shooting. Little Crow V became Chief and ordered his half-brothers executed, which they were. Little Crow V was shocked at the rampant alcoholism in his village and requested the local Indian Affairs Agent send a missionary. An old friend of the Chief’s, Presbyterian missionary Dr. Thomas Williamson, and his sister arrived in 1846 and took charge of the school. When Little Crow signed the Treaty of Mendota in 1851 Kaposia was home to 300 people. The next year that land was open to white settlers and the Mdewakanton began their migration to the reservation on the Minnesota River shortly afterward. Jane Williamson (who’d come to take charge of the school) laid claim to the Mission grounds. Franklin Steele, brother-in-law to Henry Sibley, paid her $3000 for the Kaposia area. Steele’s company, though, failed to meet legal time limits for improving the land and his development venture for Kaposia was abandoned.

Dakota County organized in July of 1853 and Kaposia became the county seat. The Kaposia post office continued service until Fall of 1854, after which the county seat was moved to Mendota (on the Western side of Dakota County). The Native Americans were removed to the reservation in 1854, however many returned to the area during the Spring and Summer until 1862.

An actual town site wasn’t laid out until August of 1856 due to land disputes. 42 blocks were platted out with streets, and although some sold nobody was willing to move into an empty townsite. More land disputes forced the few settlers to vacate their plots in 1878. The land was then sold, in 1886, to a Saint Paul real estate developer. He subsequently donated a portion of the land to the Chicago Great Western Railway that same year. With no easy access to the remaining townsite, the land was absorbed by the railway before 1909. By 1919, what had been the Sioux burial grounds near the village were sold and became a sand pit. Arrangements were made to preserve bones and relics and have them reburied later in the same spot.

In 1931 ten thousand acres of land along the Mississippi River were flooded by the new Hastings Dam – including swamps, cranberry marshes, and islands around the old Kaposia village site. In 1941 a historic marker was placed on the site of the old Indian village of Kaposia in South Park (now part of South Saint Paul).

Visit one of these Dakota County Historic Sites