“Jolly Joe” Rolette, Minnesota’s beloved buckskin-clad ar legislator, “runs away through the Capitol” in this 1964 comic by previous Pioneer press artist Jerry Fearing.

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Minnesota’s territorial Legislature poll in 1857 to relocate its funding from St. Paul to the town of St. Peter, about 60 miles southwest.

But the man tasked with sending that regulation to the branch for a signature absconded v it instead. That disappeared ~ above a weeklong bender and returned just as the session ended 162 years back this week v the invoice unsigned. Or for this reason the story goes.

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Joe Rolette, a Minnesota ar legislator native Pembina, N.D., is often credited with staying clear of Minnesota’s funding from being relocated to St. Peter. However the fact is more complicated. (Courtesy that the Minnesota historic Society)

That man was Joseph Rolette, a vibrant fur businessman from the Red river Valley. His antics space often credited with saving the resources for St. Paul by avoiding its removal to St. Peter.

It’s a great story — and much of it factual — however the truth is an ext complicated.


“It’s a myth the Joe Rolette conserved the resources for St. Paul,” said William Lass, a Minnesota historian who has actually researched and written about the episode. “But as soon as those things space ingrained, it’s darn tough to source them out.”

The credit for maintaining the resources in St. Paul, Lass says, belongs rather to a lesser-known Territorial can be fried Court justice.

THE myth OF JOE ROLETTE

When Minnesota region was established in 1849, St. Paul was designated its capital. The cultivation city was easily available by riverboat, and also it was amongst the territory’s largest population centers.

But as Minnesota all set to go into the union together the 32nd state, other funding contenders sprang up. St. Peter emerged as the many serious challenger.

The initiative to relocate the funding to St. Peter to be driven practically entirely through the St. Peter soil Company, a real estate firm the owned virtually all the property in the small town. Amongst the company’s shareholder were few of Minnesota’s most influential men — including Gov. Willis Gorman.


Gorman and also his associates witnessed an opportunity to progressive the worth of your land by swiping the chair of federal government from St. Paul.

“It’s a power grab ~ above the component of the company,” Lass said.

The reason found very small support among the citizens of Minnesota, however the company’s market to donate a thoreau of land because that the brand-new Capitol building — and a sizable amount of money towards its building and construction — earn the donate of part in the Legislature.

A bill for the removal of the resources to St. Peter was introduced in February 1857, during the last legislative session prior to Minnesota would become a state. The bill narrowly passed the home of Representatives and the Council, predecessor of the state Senate.

On Feb. 27, the main copy the the removal act to be entrusted to Rolette, follow to early Minnesota chronicler J. Fletcher Williams.

“Jolly Joe,” as he was affectionately known, had represented the Canadian border region of Pembina (most of i m sorry is now in north Dakota) for five terms in the Legislature. The buckskin-clad councilor travel the 400 miles to St. Paul each year by dogsled.

As chairman of the committee top top enrolled bills, Rolette was tasked through reviewing the document and forwarding it to Gorman because that his signature. Yet Gorman never ever received the bill and also Rolette disappeared.

Most early on Minnesota backgrounds agree the Rolette locked the invoice in the safe of a regional banker prior to retiring come an upstairs room at the Fuller home hotel, whereby he spent the next seven job boozing and playing cards with a discreet group of friends.

When Rolette was no at his desk on Feb. 28, the guys of the St. Peter faction panicked.

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In desperation, one of them demanded a “call of the Council,” a legislative maneuver the forced missing members come report to the chambers — yet it additionally prevented those that were existing from leaving.

All this did was freeze the proceedings the the council while lock waited because that Rolette to return. The Sergeant in ~ Arms was dispatched to search for him, however he appears to have made at best a half-hearted attempt.

Back in the the supervisory board chambers, cots were collection up and also food delivered for the legislators. This state of affairs continued for five days and also nights until one of them obtained the shining idea come ask an additional member of the Enrollment Committee to draft a 2nd copy the the bill for Gorman come sign. Which the did.

With just a pair of days left in the 60-day session, the call of the Council was suspended for this reason it could finish its other work.

As the clock win midnight on march 7, the president of the Council carried down his gavel come close the session.

“The moment the doors to be thrown open, in stalked Jo. Rolette, and commenced rallying his brothers members, in his vivacious and also pointed style, on the great joke he had played ~ above them,” Fletcher writes.

St. Paulites commemorated Rolette as a hero, carrying him through the streets — and also according to pioneer historian T.M. Newson, paying him a cool $3,000 for his service to your city. (Newson likewise alleges a reward was paid to the Sergeant at Arms, who had such a hard time recognize Rolette.)

The St. Peter faction was predictably outraged, but they believed the substitute bill they drafted in Rolette’s lack carried the force of law. Castle sought a court bespeak to pressure state public representative to relocate their offices right into the brand-new “Capitol” castle soon built on the financial institution of the Minnesota flow in their small town.

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As a righteousness of the Minnesota Territorial can be fried Court, Rensselaer Nelson settled the state’s infamous capital removal dispute in 1858. (Courtesy the the Minnesota historic Society)

Minnesota Territorial supreme Court justice Rensselaer Nelson take it up the situation in feather 1857. Nelson sided through St. Paul, judgment that the Capitol removed act was invalid due to the fact that the invoice signed by Gov. Gorman was no the officially enrolled copy that Rolette had lugged off.

But all of this to be irrelevant, Nelson added. He mentioned that the 1849 necessary Act, which developed Minnesota Territory, stipulated the the Capitol might only be relocated by a vote of the people.

So, even if Rolette had gained the original bill signed through the governor, it also would’ve to be invalid.

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“He carry out a nice small stunt,” Lass claimed of Jolly Joe. “But Rolette did not conserve the capital.”

Over the years, Rolette’s high jinks to be mythologized by generations that Minnesota storytellers — consisting of some at the Pioneer Press. Listed below is a comic by employee cartoonist Jerry Fearing, which no doubt contributed to Rolette’s legend. For an enlarged version, click here.

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The Pioneer Press aided cement the myth that Joe Rolette’s antics preserved the funding in St. Paul v this comic, which appeared in a 1964 publishing by employee cartoonist Jerry Fearing referred to as “The Story that Minnesota.” Fearing spent a good deal that time researching his 76-page pictorial background of the north Star State, but he was however taken in through fanciful at an early stage accounts that the resources removal story.