HOW TIHIEY IEOfSLATEE) FDFTY YEAIRS AGO
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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
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
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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.
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even had it been built, it would not
have been within the confines of St.
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
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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
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
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
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
, 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
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.
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