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Rolette, Jr., Joseph "Joe"

Territorial House 1852-55 (District 7); Territorial Council 1856-57 (District 7); Democratic Constitutional Convention 1857 (District 7); Senate 1857-58 (District 22)

Party when first elected:  Democratic

Counties Served:  Cass, Pembina (defunct), Todd

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

Date of Birth: 10/23/1820
Birth Place: Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
Birth County:
Birth Country: United States
Date of Death: 5/16/1871
Gender: Male
Religion:
Reported Minority: None Reported
Other Names: Joe
City of Residence (when first elected): Pembina
Occupation (when first elected): Fur Trader, American Fur Company/Indian Trader

EDUCATION

New York Schools; At Least Elementary School;

OTHER GOVERNMENT SERVICE

Territorial Democratic Constitutional Convention: 7th Council District, Minnesota Territory; 07/13/1857 to 08/29/1857 [Elected]

FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

Spouse: Angelique Jerome (married in 1845, she was part Chippewa Indian)
Children: Eleven children
Family Members Who Have Served in the Minnesota Legislature:

GENERAL NOTES

He was of French Canadian ancestry.

He moved to Fort Snelling, Minnesota in 1843. He soon moved to Pembina.

During his service in the Minnesota Territorial Council of 1857 a bill passed that would move the capitol of Minnesota from St. Paul to St. Peter. Joe Rolette, the chair of the Enrolled Bills Committee at the time, took the bill after it had passed both bodies and went into hiding with it. His efforts prevented the change from occurring.

"To attend this session of 1857 he walked the whole distance, about 400 miles, as the snow was too light to permit riding in his dog sled." (Folwell. A History of Minnesota, Volume 1, 1921, p. 386)

"Rolette’s arrival in St. Paul in his gaily decorated dog sled in the winter was one event that marked the opening of the legislative session. On occasion, he made the journey on snowshoes, all 385 miles." (Laken, Neoma. "‘Jolly Joe’ Rolette Jr. a Character, Merry-Maker." Wahpeton and Breckenridge Daily News, September 10, 2010)

"Most recently, historian Rhoda R. Gilman wrote that Rolette's heritage was almost entirely French and British, his only traceable Indian ancestor being an Ottawa great-great-great grandmother." (The Power of Whiteness. Minnesota History, Winter 1998-99, p. 189)

He died in Pembina, Dakota Territory.

Total Days Served: 2891

SESSIONS SERVED

1st Legislative Session (1857-1858)

  Session Details
Body: Senate
District: 22
Elected: 10/13/1857
Residence: Pembina
Term of Office: 12/2/1857 to 12/6/1859
Counties Represented: Cass, Pembina (defunct), Todd
Occupation: Fur Trader, American Fur Company/Indian Trader
Party: Democratic Party Notes: His party affiliation was provided by Minnesota in Three Centuries.
Committees:
  • Enrollment
  • Harbors
  • Towns and Counties (Chair)
Session Notes: He was sworn in on December 7, 1857 and subscribed to the oath of office on December 8, 1857. An 1858-59 session was not held due to the protracted session of 1857-58. (Minnesota Legislative Manual, 1872, p. 66) Thus, even though the first session was adjourned on August 12, 1858; the term end date for it is listed as the day before the second legislative session's start date. "When the State constitution was adopted, shutting Pembina out of Minnesota, it was supposed that Rolette ceased to be a Minnesota legislator. But when the legislature met in December, 1857, behold here was the "Gentleman from Pembina" with his credentials, as usual, and of course he was admitted." (Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. 2, p. 500)

8th Territorial Legislative Session (1857)

  Session Details
Body: Territorial Council
District: 07
Elected: 10/9/1855
Residence: Pembina
Term of Office: 1/2/1856 to 12/1/1857
Counties Represented: Pembina (defunct)
Occupation: Fur Trader, American Fur Company/Indian Trader
Party: Democratic
Committees:
  • Enrolled Bills (Chair)
  • Public Buildings

7th Territorial Legislative Session (1856)

  Session Details
Body: Territorial Council
District: 07
Elected: 10/9/1855
Residence: Pembina
Term of Office: 1/2/1856 to 12/1/1857
Counties Represented: Pembina (defunct)
Occupation: Fur Trader, American Fur Company/Indian Trader
Party: Democratic
Committees:
  • Enrolled Bills (Chair)
  • Legislative Expenses
  • Public Buildings
  • Territorial Roads

6th Territorial Legislative Session (1855)

  Session Details
Body: Territorial House
District: 07
Elected: 10/10/1854
Residence: Pembina
Term of Office: 1/3/1855 to 1/1/1856
Counties Represented: Pembina (defunct)
Occupation: Fur Trader, American Fur Company/Indian Trader
Party: Democratic
Committees:
  • Enrolled Bills
  • Estates and Escheats (Chair)
  • Internal Improvements

5th Territorial Legislative Session (1854)

  Session Details
Body: Territorial House
District: 07
Elected: 10/12/1853
Residence: Pembina
Term of Office: 1/4/1854 to 1/2/1855
Counties Represented: Pembina (defunct)
Occupation: Fur Trader, American Fur Company/Indian Trader
Party: Democratic
Committees:
  • Internal Improvements
  • Militia (Chair)

4th Territorial Legislative Session (1853)

  Session Details
Body: Territorial House
District: 07
Elected: 10/12/1852
Residence: Pembina
Term of Office: 1/5/1853 to 1/3/1854
Counties Represented: Pembina (defunct)
Occupation: Clerk/Fur Trader, American Fur Company/Indian Trader
Party: Democratic
Committees:
  • Engrossed Bills (Chair)
  • Territorial Roads

3rd Territorial Legislative Session (1852)

  Session Details
Body: Territorial House
District: 07
Elected: 10/14/1851
Residence: Pembina
Term of Office: 1/7/1852 to 1/4/1853
Counties Represented: Pembina (defunct)
Occupation: Fur Trader, American Fur Company/Indian Trader
Party: Democratic
Committees:
  • Engrossed Bills (Chair)
  • Militia
  • Territorial Affairs
Photographs
Joe Rolette (ca. 1900) From the Minnesota Historical Society's Visual Resources Database
Joseph Rolette (ca. 1841) From the Minnesota Historical Society's Visual Resources Database

Articles & Books About
Woltman, Nick. "Joe Rolette is Often Credited with Keeping Minnesota's Capital in St. Paul - But Did He?" Pioneer Press, March 6, 2019.

DeCarlo, Peter J. "Rolette, Joseph (1820-1871)." MNopedia, March 14, 2014.

White, Bruce M. "The Power of Whiteness; or, the Life and Times of Joseph Rolette Jr." Minnesota History, Winter 1998-99, p. 178-197.

Johnson, Roy P. "Joe Rolette and the Capital Scandal." Gopher Historian, Fall 1957, p. 25-27