Faribault is regarded as one of the most historic communities in Minnesota, with settlement and commercial activity predating Minnesota’s establishment as a U.S. Territory. Prior to 1745, the area was primarily occupied by the Wahpekute band of Dakotah. Shortly thereafter, the tribe was driven south after several clashes with the Ojibwe over territory.
The city’s namesake, Alexander Faribault, was the son of Jean-Baptiste Faribault, a French-Canadian fur trader and Elizabeth Pelagie Kinzie Haines, a woman of the Dakotah tribe. Another source maintains the city is named for Jean-Baptiste Faribault. He is credited with fueling most of the early settlement activity in the area beginning in 1826, when he established a fur trading post on the banks of the Cannon River. By 1834, the trading post had grown in popularity and was relocated to the Straight River, one mile (1.6 km) upstream of its junction with the Cannon River, the site of modern-day Faribault. The young Alexander Faribault used his knowledge of Dakotah language and culture to improve relations with the displaced Wahpekute and even helped the tribe to resettle in the area. This relationship was instrumental in ensuring the success of the trading post and allowing safe travel to the area for settlers.
The aptly named Alexander Faribault House was built in 1853 by Alexander Faribault at a cost of $4,000. The house is considered the oldest framed structure in the area, and still stands in its original location near the southeastern edge of Faribault’s historic downtown district.
The years following the construction of this first building brought unprecedented growth, development, and economic prosperity for the young settlement. Spurred by the completion of the area’s first steam-powered sawmill in early 1854, the next year would bring Faribault from a sleepy settlement of 20 buildings to a bustling town with more than 250 buildings. Historians attribute Faribault’s impressive growth during this period to a number of important milestones which were passed in 1855 and 1856, including the creation of roads connecting to other settlements and trading posts in Iowa and Minnesota Territory, the availability of mail service, and the construction of schools and churches.
The City of Faribault was platted in 1855 and granted a home-rule charter in 1872.