Mary Whipple's_story: 1862
Before the Story
After the Story
In her tracks
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Alexander Faribault's story: 1855
Before the story
After the story
In his tracks


Taopi's story: 1864
Before the story
After the story
In his tracks


Bishop Henry Whipple's story: 1867
Before the story
After the story
In his tracks


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Mary Whipple
Before the Story: 1829-1862

Early Years | To Faribault | Letters | More

Mary J. Mills Whipple was born in the state of New York on June 11, 1829. There are hints that she grew up in a family with an Episcopalian tradition. Her sister, Jane Marie Mills, was a missionary at St. Columba on Gull Lake, and married James Lloyd Breck, a devout Episcopalian who founded Faribault’s Seabury Divinity School. Records show that a “Leonard Mills” served as a minister in Faribault.

Mary J. Mills. Mary J. Mills. This photo was taken in about 1860. Courtesy of the Sibley House Historic Site, Minnesota Historical Society.

While growing up in New York, Mary received what was described in her obituary as a “liberal” education. This is an important clue to understanding Mary and her life.

During the time she was attending school, there was a strong movement to support and improve women’s education. Some of the “female academies” founded at this time in New York produced graduates with education levels equal to those of college-educated men of the era. It was not uncommon for these women to become missionaries and teachers like Mary. One historian reported that Mary attended one of the most well-known of these academies, the Emma Willard School.

Educated women. Educated women. University of Minnesota coeds, ca. 1905. Photograph Collection. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Early Years | To Faribault | Letters | More

By the time Mary’s story begins in August of 1862, she had been in Faribault for four years. She had first traveled to Faribault with her sister, Jane, and became a very busy teacher in the mission school for Indian children founded by Breck.

Many things happened in a short time period for Mary. In 1861, she married George Whipple, the brother of Bishop Henry Whipple. In the spring of 1862, Jane died, and it is clear from her letters that Mary was very involved in taking care of Jane’s young sons. She also took care of Clara Mokomanic, who was the daughter of an Ojibway mother and a French Canadian father whom the Brecks had adopted.

Mary's Whipple's Ojibway ward, Clara Makomanik, sitting on James Lloyd Breck's lap, ca. 1855. Mary's Whipple's Ojibway ward, Clara Makomanik, sitting on James Lloyd Breck's lap, ca. 1855. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Mary’s friends in this early time period included Sarah P. Darlington, a very well-educated woman who became the well-known principal of St. Mary’s Hall. (One historian said that Mary was also the principal for one year and helped establish many of the traditions at St. Mary’s.) Another friend of Mary’s was a woman named Stella Whipple Cole. Mary’s letters suggest she knew Stella in New York. While it is not clear exactly how Stella was related to the Whipple family, she married Gordon Cole, a prominent Faribault attorney.

Early Years | To Faribault | Letters | More

Much of what we know about Mary’s life comes from a collection of detailed letters she wrote throughout her life. The letters are kept at the Minnesota Historical Society. The collection begins with a letter in 1858 describing her journey to Faribault from the east. The best way to find out more about Mary is to read her letters. You can click below to learn some things about her life in Faribault from 1858 to 1862.

From Hastings to Faribault, 1858
Mary’s Wedding, 1861

Early Years | To Faribault | Letters | More

Read Mary's Story about her experiences in 1862. Find out more about her life After the Story. Visit places in Faribault by following In Her Tracks.

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