How Sleepy Eye Got Its Name
The name "Sleepy Eye" comes from Chief Ish-Tak-Ha-Ba who settled near Sleepy Eye Lake with his band.
This little town was created after white settlers moved into the area. A railroad was then built. This allowed the development of Industries, which began trade with other areas of Minnesota. Soon after, more and more Industries were developed which increased the number of jobs available. This helped the town grow and flourish. Schools were then needed, as was a church. This led to the construction of St. Mary's Catholic Church. All of this dating back to the 1850's.
History of Chief ISH-TAK-HA-BA
Born in 1780 at Swan Lake in Nicollet County, Chief Sleepy Eyes (Ish-Tak-Ha-Ba) has been described as large, muscular, six feet two inches tall, quite good looking with a dignified presence, narrow forehead and drooping eyelids, this called 'Sleepy Eyes". He was said to be kind and friendly. Known as the most important Chief at the signing of the Treaty of Traverse Des Sioux in 1851, Chief Sleepy Eyes was one of four Ojibway leaders to visit president James Monroe in Washington DC in 1824. While in Washington DC, President Monroe Commissioned him a Chief. After 1857, Chief Sleepy Eyes and his band moved away from his birthplace Swan Lake and set up permanent homes beside Sleepy Eye lake. 'Be lake was originally called "Pretty water by the big trees" but is now known as Sleepy Eye Lake. He was also friend to the white man. It was said that if he had not died in 1859, the uprising or "Times of Trouble" would never have happened. Red Eagle, (Chief Sleepy Eyes friend) buried him on an island in Bullhead lake in the presence of Red Eagles son, who was a little over 12 years old. Placed under the monument now located near the railroad in Sleepy Eye are the testimony of these men recording the burial of Sleepy Eyes. Also, historical facts involving the moving of his remains to Sleepy Eye. The first person to suggest moving his remains back to Sleepy Eye was Reverend George Pax. The person who took the necessary steps to accomplish this was A.C. von Hagen, head of the Sleepy Eye Flour Mill. Published in the Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch was a signed letter by von Hagen in 1934, which gave a full account of the search, return, remains, and construction of a suitable monument. Reliable information revealed that the burial had taken place somewhere on the Sisseton Reservation near Wilmot, SD. Chief Red Eagle, in whose teepee Sleepy Eyes died in, agreed to take them to the place of burial as long as he returned home and was buried with high honors. Red Eagle revealed the details before the grave was opened. Red Eagle had buried Sleepy Eyes in one of his own new buckskin suits;, protected the body with boards which included his pipestone pipe, a small mirror, his tobacco pouch of raccoon skin, beads, and other small articles. Six inches below the ground Sleepy Eyes head would be found. He was buried in a sitting position under a certain spot under a large tree. Now over 90 years old, Red Eagle, along with his son, placed his hand on a spot under a large tree no marker of any kind and told Fairbault to sink his spade there. Red Eagle, disappointed at not being successful, had him move his spade six inches to the west and going down they hit Sleepy Eyes skull right in the middle. Everything was found as represented. The parcel remains coincided with a picture painted of Sleepy Eyes by a hall in 1824 in Washington. At that time, the railroad had arrived in Sleepy Eye. The President of the C & NW Railroad, Marvin Hughitt, enthusiastically agreed to give von Hagen a 50 foot square plot with a perpetual easement next to the new brick depot being built at that time, so that all railroad passengers would view the monument and motorists passing by would be in close proximity. The monument was constructed of hard granite about 50 feet high, all joints and the foundation being laid in Italian cement. It was dedicated on October 17, 1902. Placed - under the monument were bones and records, which were put into a copper box. (From the city of Sleepy Eye's booklet)"