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Alexander Ramsey & The Alexander Ramsey House: Home

Minnesota's First Governor

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Alexander Ramsey and the Politics of Survival, by Marx Swanholm. 
St. Paul : Minnesota Historical Society, 1977.
MNHS call number: F605.1.R18 S9

The Alexander Ramsey House, by  Alice Hermina Poatgieter.
​Saint Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society, 1970.
MNHS call number: F613.S8 R32 1970

Alexander Ramsey and Family Personal Papers and Governor’s Records, 1829-1965
Correspondence, diaries, real estate records, scrapbooks, school records and other materials documenting the career and family of Ramsey.
MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid

Records of Governor Alexander Ramsey, 1860-1863
Includes accounting records; records concerning both civil and military appointments; letters received; records relating to pardons and other criminal matters; and petitions. 
MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid

Materials Relating to the Ramsey Family and the Ramsey House
Biographical and genealogical information on Alexander Ramsey, the Ramsey family, and related families; and abstracts from the diaries of Ramsey, his daughter Marion Ramsey Furness, and his granddaughters Anna and Laura Furness.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P642). 


Alexander Ramsey, who served as both the first governor of the Minnesota Territory and the second governor of the state, was born in Pennsylvania in 1815. 

Ramsey was appointed to the governorship of the newly formed territory in 1848. In that capacity, which he held concurrently with that of superintendent of Indian affairs, he negotiated treaties on behalf of the U.S. government with the Dakota for the cession of large areas of Minnesota land for white settlement, most notably the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux in 1851. In 1860 Ramsey was elected the state's second governor.

In 1861, Ramsey was the first state governor to answer President Abraham Lincoln's call for troops at the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1862, after years of tension between the Dakota and the burgeoning white population of the state, the US-Dakota war broke out.  Many of the factors that led to war were directly related to the treaties Ramsey had helped negotiate and the lack of compliance with them by the government and traders. 

Ramsey went on to be elected as a U.S. Senator and served as Secretary of War under President Rutherford B. Hayes. A shrewd businessman, he spent subsequent years in business pursuits and made a sizeable fortune in real estate. In 1868, construction began on an opulent new home for the Ramsey family in St. Paul's fashionable Irvine Park neighborhood. The house was equipped with the latest technology, including hot and cold running water, gas lighting and hot water-heated radiators. 

Alexander Ramsey died at home in St. Paul on April 22, 1903. His grandchildren left the house and all its contents to the Minnesota Historical Society, founded in part by their grandfather in 1849.

The Alexander Ramsey House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. 

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Katie Jean Davey
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