Run Away With A City!
Joe Rolette Did!
Not one park is named after him. Not one street. Not one building. But he is the one who ran away with the capital of St. Paul.
Now you may say, "That is impossible. No one can run away with the capital city."
I say, "Oh yes, he did."
Here is the tale and it is a true tale, part of Minnesota's history, so lend me your eyes and read on.
Joe Rolette was a fur trader and opened a trading post in Pembina. He led some of the first oxcarts from Pembina to St. Paul when Minnesota was a territory. He was elected to the territorial legislature six times, which met in St. Paul. He dressed in his usual clothing as a voyageur of the north woods. The legislature met in the winter and he would arrive by dog sled trimmed with bells and ribbons.
In 1857 the legislators knew the territory would soon become a state and each representative wanted his district to reap the benefits. One benefit would be the official state capital. The representatives of southern Minnesota pushed through a bill to have the city of St. Peter to be the capital. It passed both houses and needed only the governor's signature.
Joe Rolette got his hands on the bill and actually ran away with it. The Senators had to stay in continuous session until Joe was found. They had to sleep on cots set up beside their desks.
The search was on for Joe. The sergeant-at-arms diligently searched by day as did others. But at night it is rumored that the sergeant played poker with Joe at the Fuller House, a fine hotel. The bill was locked in a bank's safe.
On the very last day of the legislative session, one minute before midnight, Joe walked into the Senate with the bill under his arm. The gavel sounded. The session ended. And the capital of Minnesota was St. Paul. To honor him, there is a full-length portrait of him in the Capitol building.
However, when Minnesota became a state (in 1858)Pembina was in North Dakota, where Joe Rolette died in 1871, penniless and forgotten.
One of the many forgotten historical figures who made a difference in our history.
So, you can see, people can do the impossible. Look at your life. I bet you do the impossible, too.