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HOW TIHIEY IEOfSLATEE) FDFTY YEAIRS AGO
v U U I2H ; - S^S^^^B^SSSm^^^mS^S^^M'. ' '"" * "... _nl% *^1%-/ THE territory of Minnesota <was ■;-. organized on the Ist day of j June, 1849. Thefirst session of the territorial ". legislature - con-' vened on the 3d day of September, 1849. There were nine members of the council and eighteen members of the ;> house of representative—its ' place ofr. meeting was in the Central . house, . a': hotel situate on the southwest corner of Second and ; Minnesota streets. The main building was a two-story log building weather boarded and painted, . •with a frame addition in the rear. The . house of representatives met in jr the dining room—the council up ; stairs, in what was .known as the ladies' parlor. The hours of meeting were adapted'" to the rules of the hotel in regard to -'-', Its meal hours. After breakfast the : dining room was cleared. of . its table_-; ; : and dishes, and the desks of the mem- i bers brought in and the business of - the day began. About 11:30 notice : was served upon the speaker that the dining -• . room was wanted, the members would '\ then pick up their desks and pile themv; up in what was known as the office; their papers they, generally put in their pockets. The tables and dishes would \ then be brought into the dining room for dinner. After dinner the room: would again be cleared and become the"; hall of the house of representatives. When supper time came notice was again served to the house to vacate, which was done. The room used by. day for a council chamber at night '•'. ■was converted into a sleeping -■■ room. , The desks and chairs were piled up at ' one side of the room, and the vacant part of the floor covered with straw ticks and Indian blankets upon which . some of the members would ; sleep. '■'. This was. a little different from what - It will be in the capitol. , ;. The First Legislature The men who composed that first. '. legislature—while they may have worn - moccasins and buffalo coats in season —were a class that would compare most favorably with the men who now represent Minnesota in the leglsla- . ture of the state,. They were men of.. more than ordinary intelligence, ener getic and industrious, men of character," men who had thrown away the com forts of other : homes and sought homes on the frontier of civilization to better their condition in life. Among these men were Morton S. [Wilkinson, who afterwards became a member o^songress- and a United': .States senator; William R. Marshall, a governor of Minnesota and a general in the Civil war; David Olmsted, first, mayor of St. Paul, and whose first mes-: sage to the common council ./ after fifty years might be read with profit; by that distinguished body of men, the . present common council; Lorenzo A., Babcock, afterward attorney general. of the territory; William H. Forbes,. quartermaster in the army and Indian agent; Gideon H. Rond, the old mis sionary. Then there was David B. Loomis, Martin McLeod, Mahlon Black, Henry F. Setzer and Joseph W. Fur ber, in fact there was not a man among* thenvbut what became more or less prominent in the early history of Minnesota/as among those who aided materially in every effort and scheme which started Minnesota on her way to a great future. All of the members - of the first legislature have "passed into the great unknown except Parson K. Johnson, who resides at Brainerd,' Minn., and in his eighty-fifth year lives to interestingly tell the story of: pioneer days. -;V . All the laws passed at the first ses sion were good laws. There' was no wildcat legislation or boodling. : . The boodlers were among the later arrivals, for as Gov. Ramsey used to say, "the" old settlers were honest, if nothing else." Among the laws passed were.; those establishing courts, • organizing;.: counties, laying out territorial r roads, granting ferry charters, incorporating the Minnesota Historical society, li censing groceries—I believe they call them saloons —and one act in •which the people of St. Paul was very' much interested, incorporating the - town of St. Paul. Among other, legis lation was a class that grew so rapidly In later years, that had it not been for the constitutional prohibition, would" have taken up a large part - of 'I the; time of the legislators, as it does now of our districts courts, namely, divorce cases. . An attempt .was made at this session . to locate the permanent seat of govern ment at St. Paul, but it failed. St. An thony, with almost .. the population [of . Bt. Paul, thought it had some : : fijNE of the most interesting chap \^j ters in the early history of Min nesota, and one of great moment to St. Paul, relates the audacious feat by which Hon. Joe Rolette prevented the seat of government from being lost to this city. There should be placed in the new capitol some memorial, Btatue, picture or tablet to commem orate permanently the man who, forty five years ago, by disappearing with a bill to remove the capital to St. Peter, Bayed the day for St Paul. But for the daring and loyalty of Rolette to St. Paul, the erection of the marble structure, which is now the pride of not only the city but the etate, would have been doubtful, and :-"'i':' ''-^--*■■'.''':< r-'^T^'-:-X'^;^~& claims, and its members fought the bill to locate to a finish. Stillwater, with not much less population, while it hard ly thought lightning would strike the banks of the St. Croix, like some of our politicians, was in the market. One day during this first session, while Wil liam R. Marshall was addressing the house, a member in a seat in front of him called him a liar. Marshall, with the agility of a cat, jumped over his seat and before any one realized what was going on knocked the member out of his seat to the floor; returning to his seat he apologized to the house and proceeded with his remarks. The mat ter dropped there and was never heard of again. This was pioneer ethics. Some Party Feuds •The second session of ihe le?islature assembled in the Rice house, a three story brick building, situated on the north side of Third street, near Wash ington street, on the Ist day of Janu ary, 1861. During the year 1850 there had been an election for congress, in which there were nearly as much lying and meanness as in the brotherly con test between R. C. Dunn and Judge Collins. It was not a party contest, however. It was cliques, factions and clans. Although one of the candidates was a Democrat, the other a Whig, the Whig administration, of which Gov. Ramsey was the head, supported the Democrat, while Henry M. Rice, a Democrat, and his political friends sup ported the Whig. There was an im mense amount ofbltterness manifested during the campaign. The Pioneer, in one of its editorials, speaking of the Interest created, said that quite a num ber of citizens had been seen upon the street without shirts, they having bet their last one on the result of the elec tion. The same feeling manifested in the canvass for delegate was soon seen in the legislature. Goodhue, the'editor of the Pioneer, and who had been elected territorial printer a few days after the legislature convened, had an editorial in his paper in which he at tacked Judge David Cooper with un paralleled ferocity, he belonging to the opposing political faction. Cooper was absent from the territory at the time. A brother of the judge took up the cudgel in his behalf. Joseph Cooper, the brother, gave it out that Goodhue was to be shot on sight. He armed himself with a revolver and a dirk knife. Goodhue having heard of Coop er's threats, armed himself with a re volver and a email pistol he carried in his pants' pocket. ■.- - -_• ■ ..--^-.. -•■'•■» •'■■■■.-.■_:-'■ i •"-.•-- -.-"-■:- ••-^1 7:--'- ■"' ■■-■ '. :.-'-•-■ "- - -•■ -■- '■■- '-■■-■•_■ ..;...- -;• ■".■-.'.'.. -■:-. ;-.::;-;-i.-.--"*7^ iK.~ .■-■^■-.s-i .^-^.■:;--£•.-..-"-■•^^- '■••^.v-i- ■■:r-..--"vi £ -'2-:-' ■•-* ■—~^^^ i. T'--'v; ■•"'A \' -~ ~* ii_.-jn;"'___:-'- '"■■■' _ml-__l * "-•" "~ ■_t K . ' *■- 'i- c»~; even had it been built, it would not have been within the confines of St. Paul. Rolette was a member of the third territorial legislature, which assembled in St. Paul in 1852, and represented that portion of the territory known as Pembina county. He was re-elected as a member of the house at the sessions of 1853, 1854 and 1855. In the legisla ture of 1856 Rolette was elected a mem ber of the council, which at that time corresponded to the present senate. In the legislature of 1857 Rolette was a member of the council and chairman ot the committee on enrolled bills. The bill removing the capital from St Paul to St Peter passed th* coun- THE ST. PAUL GLOBE GOLDEN JUBILEE EDITION The next day after the publication of the article, shortly after noon upon the adjournment of the house, Cooper and Goodhue both being present in the house, Cooper came out first and took position on the sidewalk, Goodhue a moment later. When Goodhue reached the street Cooper advanced drawing his revolver, exclaiming: You d . I will blow your d —d brains out. Goodhue drew his revolver also. By this time the members in the house and those in the lobby had reached the street. Some four or five shots were fired, but as the combatants Kept dodg ing around and through the crowd others were more likely to have been shot than either of them. By this time the sheriff reached the scene of ac tion, caught the parties and disarmed them as he supposed taking from each his revolver. Cooper still had his knife and Goodhue his small pistol. A' party, whose name is is not necessary to mention sprang to Goodhue and threw his arms around him from his back and held him while Cooper ' .■■.■■ ■' ■■■•:"■■■■ ■■;.:-■:■ ' ' .•: ■ '..., ■: -.■ ■'/ '■ : ; :■:.■■ : ■ ■ ■.-,:■ . . ■■".:■■•■ .-■ ■■■;■■■■■ . • . ■;■:■■: .' ■ ■':' ' Old Central House, Historic Building in Which First Legislative Sessions Were Held ST. PAUL IN 1851 (From an Old Drawing) cil by a vote of 8 to 7, February 12, and six" days later passed the house. The legislative members from St. Paul made a gallant fight to prevent the passage of the measure, and as a compromise •were ready to agree to the removal of the seat of government to Nicollet is land, now a part of Minneapolis. The Minneapolis members, however, feared a trick, and would not listen to any compromise. Gov. Gorman, who had been appointed to succeed Alexander Ramsey as governor of the territory, was ready to sign the bill as soon as it was presented to him. Rolette Gets the Bill Five days before the session ended the enrolled bill was given to Rolette as >%sSpSk^*!.s' a^a HAS",■* William Pitt Murray chairman of the committee to compare with the original bill. Here is where some of the members of the legislature who had the interests of St. Paul at heart got In their work. Rolette, who dearly loved a joke, was persuaded that it would be an excellent one to hide the capital bill. *So he took the bill to a bank kept by Truman Smith, at Seventh and Jackson street, and on the pretext that the package contained some important papers in volving an estate, deposited it with the banker. He then took the landlord of the Fuller house into his confidence, i.nrt securing a retired room, went into re tirement for a season. stabbed him several times in the ab domen. Goodhue, when released, drew the small pistol from his pocket and shot Cooper in the groin^from the ef fects of which he afterwards died. Surgeon McLaren, of Fort Snelling, who attended Goodhue and dressed his wound, said that not one man in a hundred cut as he was, would have lived. There Is no doubt but that there was a conspiracy to murder Goodhue. He was an able writer and aggressive. He never hesitated to write and print what he thought, and with his foes he had no mercy. He was a thorn in the side of the opposition, and they made the Cooper article a pretext to put him out of the way. This affair intensi fied the feeling in the legislature, and from then until the close of the session, ""It may be said, that the members went armed to the teeth. A Mock Session James Vincent, a wag and a joker, suggested a few days after the fore- At the session of the council the fol lowing day, when he did not appear, a resolution was presented calling for a report on the bill from Rolette, and if he was not present, from the next rank ing member of the committee. A call of the house was ordered, but Rolette could not be found. The friends of the bill then moved to proceed with the bill, .and that was where they made a fatal mistake. It took a two-thirds vote to dispense with the proceedings under the call, and they had but nine out of the fourteen members with them. Until further proceedings under the call were dispensed with, no other bus iness could be carried on. "John M. Lamb, sergeant at arms of the council, going affair, to some of his chums, that at a noon hour they gather up a crowd and take possession of the house of representatives, and give out the word that there should be no more meetings of the members of the house of representatives in that building. The boys thought it a good sugges tion. The next day some sixty or seventy men marched into the house, took seats, Vincent occupying the speaker's chair, declaring the house open for business. They then com menced in a mock way to legislate, repealing laws they thought obnoxious, passing laws they thought good. It was soon noised over the village that a mob had taken possession of the capitol. The public was excited. Ames, speaker of the house, called upon Gov. Ramsey and demanded that some soldiers be sent for from Fort Snelling to clean out the mob. The demand was complied with. A courier was dispatched to the fort, and In a short time it was announced that a company of soldiers was on the way to St. Paul. Vincent, having heard the news, waited until they were with in a short distance of the village, when he announced that the hour of ad journment had arrived. With that he ran his hand in his pocket and drew out some forty or fifty silver half dol lars, which he threw broadcast among the crowd, saying the laborer is worthy of his hire. "Gentlemen, the enemy is in sight. 'Get,' " and he "got." It was quite a while before the governor and the speaker of the house heard the last of the scare. The Original Capital Fight There were not many bills introduc ed at this session which became laws. There were two, however, which led to much discussion, and a very con siderable amount of bad blood among the members. These were the loca tion of the territorial capital at St. Paul and "for the apportionment of representation of the territory." As to the first, it has been asserted and stated from time to time that the loca tion of the capital at St. Paul was the result of a trade between St. Paul, St. Anthony and Stillwater by which St. Paul was to have the capital, St. Anthony the university and Stillwater the prison. The story has been told bo often that nearly every one in the state believes it to be true. Some old settlers have asserted that the com pact was made as early as 1848 at Stillwater, before the organization of was sent out with instructions to find Rolette and bring him back at all haz ards. The search made for Rolette was something which will always be re membered. Reports were received that Rolette had been seen at various points but Investigations made by officers of the legislature failed to find the miss ing member. For 123 hours the council remained in continuous session, the members eating and sleeping where they could be summoned in case Ro lette returned. A new law was drafted and passed, but the speaker of the council and house refused to sign it, holding that it was not valid. Gov. Gorman signed the measure, but when the St. Peter advocates brought mandamus proceed- the territory. If that had been true, why was it not located at the first sess ion? Now there is not a word of truth in the statement. The St. Anthony mem bers, both in the council and house, fought the bill at every stage, from its introduction until its passage, and died like men in the tranches. John Rollins represented St. Anthony in the council and Edward Patch and John W. North in the house. The St. Anthony mem bers, however, did make a bargain, not with St. Paul, but with David Olmsted and William R. Sturgis, mem bers of the council from the Sixth dis trict, that if they would vote with them to defeat the location of the capital at St. Paul, they would use their influence to secure from congress a grant of "a township of land to aid in the con struction of county buildings in Ben-: ton county. In fact they did secure! tlfe passage of a memorial to congress: asking for the grant. The St. Anthony combine, even after! the passage of the bill, to show the^ blood that was in them, tried to get 1 the title of the bill amended so as to read, "a bill to provide for carrying out a magnificent scheme of log rolling." may be said that in 1851, when an; attempt was made to remove the cap-! ital from St. Paul, had it not been fori the St. Anthony delegation in the house! of representatives, the capital of Min-. nesota would be on Nicollet island;; today instead of St. Paul. When thd| St. Paul members realized that the*' fight was a hopeless one, and preferring"; St. Anthony to St. Peter, made a mo tion to strike out the words St. Peter in the bill and insert St. Anthony, the motion came within one of being car ried, the St. Anthony members voting against it. They preferred St. Peter to St. Anthony. They were a modest set, with small heads. Locating the University The most exciting subject before the legislature of 1851 was the apportion ment bill. It was claimed by one side that it was unfair, as it gave the ter ritory west of the Mississippi river an undue proportion of representatives, as its only inhabitants, except soldiers and Indian traders, were Indians. That Pembina county, with only seventy acres under cultivation, while Benton county had 4,000 acres—a poor showing of cultivated land for our day—had twice the representation. After the passage of the bill by the house seven members who refused to vote upon its third reading handed in their resigna tions as members. Their resignations were promptly accepted. The fight on this bill was the aftermath of the bill locating the capital. After it had be come evident that St. Anthony had no show for the capital, St. Paul joined in with St. Anthony to secure the uni versity. As St. Anthony was in Ramsey county at that time they were as anxious for its location at the FaUs of St. An thony as the members 'representing that village, and at their request Gen. George L. Becker, of St. Paul, drafted the bill which was afterwards intro duced into the legislature by Mr. North, of St. Anthony, and became i law. It may be possible that the St. Paul members thought that the granting of a charter for a university was kind of mythical, as there had been no appro priation in money or a grant of land to aid in its erection. In fact the people were more interested in claims, town sites, pine lands, furs and the where with to get daily bread than universi ties. I am inclined to think that had St. Paul realized the situation, the uni versity might have been located some where else. I am willing to admit that, notwithstanding all the shrewd ness, cunning and political manipula tion of St. Paul, with the growth ami development of the state during a pe riod of little over a half century, the city at the Falls of St. Anthony re ceived the largest piece of pie. During the session there were other 'laws passed which it is unnecessary to refer to. It may be said, however, that they were mostly for ferry charters, laying out territorial roads, the build ', ing of booms and divorcing people who had come to Minnesota to take a fresh I start. , The session finally closed on the night of March 31, which was \ a day and night of excitement, . such as we have never seen In • St. Paul and never desire to. Hun ' dreds of citizens were about the streets » and public places armed to the teeth | and ready upon the slightest provo ► cation to shoot down their fellow cit ► lzens who opposed them. Feelings of [ enmity, bitterness and hatred were en • gendered between citizens during the ' session of the legislature, and partie ' ularly during its last days, which ex « tended even into family relations and ' were not eradicated for months. ► —William Pitt Murray. ings under the bill to move the capital, Judge Nelson ruled that the law was invalid. Rolette Was a Little Too Late Just a moment after President John B. Brisbin had declared the council ad journed sine die, Rolette came into .the legislative hall with a certified copy of the bill to remove the capital. He was much surprised to learn that he was too late. / There were attempts made in 1858 and 1869 to move the capital from St Paul, but they were unsuccessful, and the building of the magnificent struc ture which is now nearing completion makes it certain that the question will never be raised again.