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Charles Cavaleer, Territorial Librarian, 1849-1850

Charles Cavaleer

Image of Charles Cavaleer


Charles Cavaleer was Minnesota's first Territorial Librarian.



Charles Turner Cavaleer (also spelled Cavileer or Cavalier) was Minnesota's first Territorial Librarian, serving from 1849 to 1850. He issued the Library's first annual report in 1850.

Cavaleer was born on March 6, 1818 in Springfield, Ohio to Charles and Rachel (Trease) Cavaleer. He relocated to Mount Carmel, Illinois at the age of 17 to learn the trade of making saddles and lived with his cousin Charles Constable, a young lawyer. In 1841 he moved to Minnesota, settling at Red Rock. He moved to St. Paul in 1845 and opened the city's first harness shop. Two years later, he sold his business and opened the city's first drug store in partnership with Dr. John J. Dewey. In 1849 Governor Ramsey appointed him to be the first Territorial Librarian, a position he held until the following year.

Following his tenure as Territorial Librarian, Cavaleer went on to become one of the most prominent settlers and founders of the area that would soon become the state of North Dakota. In October, 1850, he was appointed by President Fillmore to become the first Collector of Customs for the Minnesota District at the Port of Pembina. In the spring of 1852, the annual flooding of the Red River completely submerged the first floor of the customs house, forcing Cavaleer to move up to the second floor where he would enter and exit the building through the hole in the roof that resulted from the collapse of the chimney.

In 1853 he formed a partnership with N.W. Kittson, W.H. Forbes, and Culber Farrington to engage in the fur trading business. In 1857 he married Isabella Murray, with whom he would have three sons and one daughter.

Cavaleer was unanimously elected the first mayor of the town of Pembina and went on to serve several terms. He was also the first County Treasurer of Pembina County, the first Probate Judge, and served as Chairman of the Board of Pembina County Commissioners and the Register of Deeds. He was appointed Postmaster of Pembina in 1864 and served in this capacity until 1885, when he resigned due to poor health. Upon his resignation, his son, E.K. Cavaleer, was appointed to succeed him.

Charles Cavaleer died on July 27, 1902, survived by his wife, daughter, and two sons. Cavalier County, North Dakota and the city of Cavalier are named for him.

You may read more about the life and work of Charles Cavaleer in the articles linked in this guide, which are the sources of this brief biography.


Image Credits: Portrait of Charles T. Cavalier courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, por 19687 p1,

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