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August 8: An Honest, Upright, and Charitable Citizen

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Born in Springfield, Ohio in 1818, Charles Cavalier moved to Carmel, Illinois at the age of seventeen. After a few years he pulled up stakes and headed west. He settled in Red Rock, Minnesota, six miles south of St. Paul, but soon relocated to St. Paul where he opened a shop in 1845. He sold out in 1847 to start the town’s first drugstore in partnership with a doctor. However, he was a restless soul. In order to move on to other adventures, he sold his share of the drugstore to the doctor.

Cavalier would become a prominent citizen, holding many government positions in Minnesota Territory. He was the first territorial librarian, and President Fillmore appointed him territorial customs collector. He served in that position for several years before moving to Pembina. He formed a partnership with Norman Kittson and engaged in a successful fur trade between Walhalla and Fort Garry in Canada.

In 1851, Cavalier was one of three white men, along with Kittson and Joseph Rolette, living in what is now North Dakota. In an interview with a reporter, Cavalier remembered the early days when he hauled furs by the two-wheeled Red River carts. On one trip their guide suddenly became concerned and told them to hurry in positioning the carts in a V formation. The group heard a distant rumble, and soon a herd of buffalo had descended upon them, veering around the temporary fort of oxcarts. Cavalier said it took two and a half days for the gigantic herd to pass by.

Known as the “Father of Pembina,” Cavalier was the town’s first postmaster. When he retired, his son took over as postmaster. Cavalier was also one of the first county commissioners, the first county treasurer, and first probate judge. He served several terms as the mayor. He was a colleague of many well-known people including Pierre Bottineau and Governor Alexander Ramsey.

On this date in 1902, Charles Cavalier’s obituary appeared in North Dakota newspapers. He had many honors and accomplishments, but perhaps the best was the way he was remembered, with the obituary noting that his friends and neighbors considered him an honest, upright, and charitable citizen.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher

Oakes Republican. “Cavalier Dead.” Oakes ND. 8/8/1902. Page 2.
Courier Democrat. “North Dakota: A Leaf from the History of North Dakota.” Langdon ND. 12/26/1895. Page 3.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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