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Sibley, ND


Henry Hastings Sibley, born on this date in 1811, left his mark on the Northern Plains. After serving as Minnesota’s first governor, he participated in the US-Dakota Conflict of 1862 and led the punitive expedition against the Dakota the following year.

Since his death in 1891, Sibley has been memorialized in sites across the Northern Plains including Minnesota’s Sibley County, Bismarck’s General Sibley Park and a small village in Barnes County that recently made big news.

As late as 1954, Sibley, North Dakota was nothing more than treeless prairie on the edge of Lake Ashtabula, a popular fishing spot north of Valley City. But that was all about to change. While visiting relatives, Eddie and Edythe “Toots” Hagglund drove past the lake. Noticing several anglers nearby, Mrs. Hagglund announced, “This place could use a hamburger stand.” That simple statement got the ball rolling. In 1954 the Hagglunds purchased the property and constructed a lake cabin. Little by little they planted trees and started building, beginning with a dance hall and café; eventually adding a motel, campground and mobile home court.

Sibley’s name wasn’t officially added to the town until a few years later, when the proposed bar ran into trouble. In 1960, the local township board denied their request for a liquor license. Undeterred, the Hagglunds decided to incorporate the town. Then they could simply issue themselves a license. Meeting the requirement of 100 residents proved a bit tricky, but as Mrs. Hagglund later admitted, they counted a few cats and dogs and convinced some residents of nearby Luverne to sign the petition.

Now all it needed was a name. Some suggested the Hagglunds name it after themselves, but Eddie quickly vetoed the idea. Their former implement dealership in Sharon had carried their name, and that he said was enough. Instead, they turned to the history books, naming the community after the military general who passed through Dakota Territory a century earlier.

Because of the Hagglund’s work, Sibley was no longer just for fishing; it became a hot spot for social gatherings as kids poured in to dance, roller skate and feast on Mrs. Haggland’s smorgasbord of homemade French fries, pies and buns. Her baking drew in more than just kids. Although the town has never surpassed more than 50 residents, Hagglund prepared one Mother’s Day banquet that drew nearly 1,500 people!

After founding the community, the Hagglund’s leading role in Sibley’s story recently came to a close. Eddie had passed away a few years earlier, so at the age of 93 Edythe decided to sell off what she described as the “heart and soul of the town.” The auction in May of 2007 made national headlines as half a dozen buildings on two acres were sold off; all went to local buyers.

Today, General Sibley’s namesake may no longer be the social hot spot it once was, but that doesn’t seem to stop the nearly 200 people who still pour into town each summer weekend.

Written by Christina Sunwall


"Heart of N.D. Town Auctioned Off." KXnet.com (May 5, 2007 ) http://www.kxnet.com/t/bismarck-nd/120722.asp.

Schlegel, Jean. "Sibley Celebrates, Despite Rain " Valley City Times-Record (July 1, 2008) http://www.times-online.com/content/view/94759/60/.

Woman, 93, Selling Heart of Small North Dakota Town. Foxnews.com (May 2, 2007) http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,269735,00.html.