Henry B. Whipple

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Winning Nomination

Bishop Henry Whipple was the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. But that was not what made him famous. He was famous for his work with the Indians. He spent 40 years working with Indians all over the state. He earned their trust, respect, and the Indian name Straight Tongue. They called him that because he was always honest with them. He also played a big part in the U.S-Dakota War of 1862. He cared for the injured and comforted the people who had lost loved ones. Later that year, he went to President Lincoln to ask him to release over 300 Dakota Indians who had been falsely accused. Lincoln granted his request and the innocent Dakota were released. He built them schools, gave them money for food, and stood up for them when no one else would. He really cared about them and their state.
~Alyssa Wunderlich, Faribault, MN




A strong voice in troubled times

Henry Whipple was born in Adams, New York, and began his religious training in the nearby community of Rome, where he was rector of Zion Episcopal Church. He later moved to a post as first rector of the Church of the Holy Communion in Chicago. Throughout his early career as an Episcopal priest, Whipple dedicated himself to the struggles of the poorest members of his congregations.

On June 30, 1859, Henry Whipple was named the first Episcopal bishop of Minnesota. He established the Episcopal see at Faribault and was instrumental in founding three schools in the town--Shattuck for boys, St. Mary's for girls, and Seabury Divinity for seminary students--as well as a mission school for Ojibwe at White Earth. From his earliest days in Minnesota, Whipple befriended and supported American Indians. He made regular visits throughout his diocese, often supporting missionary clergy with his own money. Through his travels, he became dedicated to the welfare of the state's Dakota and Ojibwe people, a stance that earned him the enmity of many European settlers, particularly as the racial divides that resulted in the U.S.-Dakota War were being formed. "Bishop Whipple informed himself of the condition and prospects of both [Indian] nations," wrote historian William Watts Folwell, who saw firsthand the fear and suspicion that divided the state, "and soon became satisfied that much of their wretchedness was chargeable to the indifference . . . of white men."

Although Whipple has often been credited with influencing President Lincoln's decision to commute the sentences of 265 Dakota men convicted of war crimes as a result of the U.S.-Dakota War, his attempts to seek justice were in fact limited. In his diary and in a letter to a friend, Bishop Whipple recorded an attempt to meet with Lincoln in 1862, following the August outbreak of the war. Of Whipple, Lincoln later told a friend, "He came here the other day and talked with me about the rascality of this Indian business until I felt it down to my boots. If we get through this war, and I live, this Indian system shall be reformed!"

Resource Links

Related photos from the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society

Inventory of the Henry B. Whipple papers at the Minnesota Historical Society

Letter to Bishop Whipple about the ordination of women, 1882

Henry B. Whipple - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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