Mary Easton Sibley

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Mary Easton Sibley
Mary Easton Sibley.jpg
Painting of Mary Easton Sibley by Chester Harding c1830s
Personal details
Born (1800-01-24)January 24, 1800
Rome, New York
Died June 20, 1878(1878-06-20) (aged 78)
St. Charles, Missouri
Spouse(s) George Champlin Sibley
Parents Rufus and Alby Smith Easton
Occupation early American pioneer and educator

Mary Easton Sibley (January 24, 1800- June 20, 1878) was an early American pioneer and educator.


Early life[edit]

Mary Sibley was born in Rome, New York on January 24, 1800, the daughter of Rufus Easton and Alby Smith Easton.[citation needed] She was the first of eleven children for the Easton family. In 1804, Sibley’s father, was appointed territorial judge of the Louisiana Territory by President Thomas Jefferson, making it necessary for the family to follow in his stead to St. Louis.[citation needed] In addition to his duties as judge, President Jefferson asked Easton to keep an eye on the Territorial Governor, General James Wilkinson, because he was suspected of collaborating with Vice President Aaron Burr to cause the western part of the United States to secede and form a separate country.[citation needed]

While little is known of Sibley’s early life, family records state that for a period she was sent to boarding school in Shelbyville, Kentucky.[citation needed] According to Sibley’s diaries, sometime prior to 1815 she had returned to her family in St. Louis. It was during this time that she would frequent dances with her friend.[1] The details of this period have mostly been lost, but it is assumed that it was at one of these dances that Mary met her husband George Champlin Sibley.[citation needed] They married on August 19, 1815. Due to his duties as the factor (trade superintendent to the Natives), the Sibleys quickly returned to Fort Osage near present day Kansas City, Missouri.[citation needed]

Fort Osage[edit]

Once at Fort Osage, George kept busy trading goods with the Natives and negotiating treaties for the United States.[citation needed] Records during this time period scarcely mention Mary; however, several biographers believe that she began her interest in teaching when she noticed that the few area children were not receiving an education.[citation needed] Mary remained with George at Fort Osage until it closed in 1822.[citation needed] Between 1822 and 1825, George was the Postmaster General for the area, along with trying unsuccessfully to start up a privately owned trading post.[citation needed] When the trading post failed, George found work as the lead commissioner which surveyed what became known as the Santa Fe Trail.[citation needed]

Move to St. Charles, Missouri[edit]

When work on the Santa Fe Trail ended in 1827, the Sibleys returned to St. Charles, Missouri's first capitol early in its statehood and where Mary’s father, Rufus Easton, was the second Attorney General for the State.[citation needed] After the capitol moved to Jefferson City, the Eastons remained behind in St. Charles. George owned land in St. Charles which he had purchased in 1814 when he temporarily moved east during the War of 1812.[citation needed] Because of the numerous Linden trees on this property, the Sibleys named the property Linden Wood.[citation needed] While George cleared the land for farming, the couple lived in town until a home was built on the property in 1829.[citation needed]

Mary’s spiritual awakening[edit]

According to Sibley’s diaries, she grew up in a home where religion was inconsequential.[citation needed] This view toward religion lasted until the early years of the Second Great Awakening, after which, she became an ardent Old School Presbyterian.[citation needed] Through Mary’s influence, George was converted a few years afterward.[2] Due to the preeminent role of religion in the Sibleys lives, Mary incorporated her faith into her continued interest in educating the area youth.[citation needed] She writes in her diary about schooling the children of newly arrived German immigrants using a bilingual Bible to teach English.[citation needed] Additional attempts at education were made with the region’s slaves, but as fearful slave-owners worried about a potential rebellion from enlightened blacks, Sibley was quickly forced to stop.[citation needed] Ultimately, the Sibleys' faith was the focal point of the women’s college they opened and named after their property, Lindenwood College (today known as Lindenwood University).[citation needed]

The development of Linden Wood[edit]

In 1827, as the Sibleys settled in St. Charles, Mary started a small school in town; first teaching her sister, Louisa, and a few town girls from her home.[citation needed] By 1831, a log cabin was built at Linden Wood, specifically to house twenty boarding students; as well as creates additional classroom space.[citation needed] As finances became tight for the college in 1843, Mary traveled to the east to raise money. She succeeded in raising approximately $4,000; enough to keep the school in operation.[citation needed] When the Sibleys were older and looking to retire, in 1853, they deeded the college to the Presbyterian Church.[citation needed]

Later years[edit]

After her husband George died in 1863, Mary sold her house and moved to St. Louis.[citation needed] Between 1866 and 1869, Mary joined an organization created by a prominent St. Louis philanthropist, James E. Yeatman. The organization, named The House of Bethany, was restricted to women who served the needy by providing food and medical care while promoting their Christian beliefs.[citation needed] Once the House of Bethany closed in 1869 and Mary moved back to St. Charles, living in a house near the edge of the Lindenwood campus.[citation needed] Near the end of her life, Mary became involved in the Second Adventist Movement which originally felt that Christ would return in 1844, but turned into an organized denomination when they were disappointed.[citation needed] In 1873, Mary received a letter from a Japanese man named Isaac K. Yokoyama who requested that she send educators to Japan who could also spread Christianity.[citation needed] At the age of 73, Mary took it upon herself to serve as a missionary/educator.[citation needed] Mary left from New York City by boat to Panama, crossed the isthmus, and travelled to California, but before she left the United States she realized that the journey would be too hard on someone her age and returned to St. Charles.[citation needed] On June 20, 1878, Mary Sibley died at the age of 78.[citation needed] She is buried with her family in a cemetery located at Lindenwood University.


  • Wolferman, Kristie C. (2008). The Indomitable Mary Easton Sibley. University of Missouri Press. 
  1. ^ Mary Sibley Diary( 1832-1858), George and Mary Sibley Papers, B.0001 f.2, Mary E. Ambler Archives, Lindenwood University, Missouri.
  2. ^ Mary Sibley Diary( 1832-1858), George and Mary Sibley Papers, B.0001 f.2, Mary E. Ambler Archives, Lindenwood University, Missouri.

See also[edit]