Day-trip to Henderson, Minnesota, June 18, 2016
Why Henderson? Why would a doctor trained at the medical school of the University of Paris choose a frontier practice in Minnesota Territory?
Part of the answer is that he was an exiled French revolutionary hoping to start a new life.
- Dr. Hyppolite Joseph Seigneuret, born in 1819 in Fontainebleau, France, had degrees in both
Medicine and Law from the University of Paris. He had also been a leader of the Revolution of1848. One of the “Accused of 15 May 1848,” he fled, was convicted in absentia and condemnedto prison, exile, confiscation of his property, and fines. He lived for a few years on the Isle ofJersey in the English Channel. In September of 1854 Dr. Seigneuret arrived with his parents,brother-in-law, young wife, and daughter in Henderson, Minnesota. He lived there for the next45 years, dying of pneumonia in 1899.
A section of Henderson, Minnesota, was known as ‘Frenchtown.’ Some of the families camedirectly from France; some came from Québec; others came from Switzerland. All spoke French.Both doctors in town, Dr. Seigneuret and Dr. DeMontreville Wilcox who was a graduate of LavalUniversity, advertised their ability to treat patients in multiple languages.
Seigneuret’s career was remarkable in two important ways. In 1862, following the Dakota War,he was a surgeon with the Sibley Expedition against the Sioux who had retreated to the Dakotas.He continued as the physician and surgeon for the prisoners who were then transported and heldat Ft. Snelling, and finally, signed the death certificates for those Sioux hung at Mankato. Thesecond noteworthy contribution was his untiring effort to educate his community on contagiousdiseases. Quarantine for diphtheria, smallpox and scarlet fever was instituted in Hendersonthrough his efforts, and public funerals for victims of those diseases were banned to prevent thespread of these highly contagious diseases.
Today in Henderson the Bigaouette, Beliveau, Bisson, Cameron/Camirand, Chevalier, Denoir,Lemire Morissette, Prudhomme, Pruden, Norman, and other family names remain. Homes of afew prominent French families still stand.
Itinerary for Day-trip to Henderson, Minnesota’s FrenchtownSaturday, June 18, 2016$40 per member (+1 additional person) OR $45 per nonmember*includes transportation, lunch (soup or salad and sandwich with a dessert), program on Dr. H.J. Seigneuret (1819-1899), entrance fee for the museum, all taxes and tips.9:30 am Meet the bus at Mall of America (Richfield Bus Company charter) in the parking lotoutside the east side (Transit Center) parking.9:45 am Depart from Mall of AmericaGoogle maps estimates 48 minutes. We will allow one hour.A local guide from the historical society will join us for the bus tour.10:45 to 11:20 The church and cemetery of St. Thomas. Drive through Frenchtown11:25 to noon Tour the Sibley County Historical Society and Museum with guides.12:00 to 12:25 Walking Tour of Frenchtown and the Brown Cemetery12:30 Lunch catered in the former Sibley County Courthouse (built in 1879) followed by aprogram on Dr. Hippolyte Joseph Seigneuret and the francophone pioneers of Henderson2:20 Load the bus for 2:30 departure3:30 Arrival back at the Mall of America Transit Station.