Charles Cavileer, the "father of Pembina," Pembina County, North Dakota, is the oldest living settler of that locality, and has been prominently identified with the local business, political and official interests of the Northern Red River Valley since 1851. His name has been indissolubly connected with the prosperity and progress of Pembina, one of the most thriving and vigorous cities in the Northwest, and to him belongs the honor of laying the original town plat, supplementing it with an extensive addition as soon as the railroad communications, in 1878, decided the future properity of the embryo city.
Mr. Cavileer is a native of the State of Ohio, born in Springfield on the 6th day of March, 1818, and is the son of Charles and Rachel (Trease) Cavileer, natives of Maine and Pennsylvania, respectively. Our subject's boyhood days were spent in his native city, with the usual educational advantages of the common schools, until he had attained his seventeenth year, when he removed to Mount Carmel, Illinois, where he served an apprenticeship to the saddler's trade, until he was twenty-one. Then, until 1841, he served as a journeyman, and at the expiration of that time went to Red Rock, six miles below St. Paul, Minnesota, where he remained a short time, and the succeeding year traveled around about Duluth and Lake Superior, and then again returned to Red Rock, across the country, with no trail and only the sun as a guide. He then worked about one year on a farm near Red Rock, and in 1845 went to St. Paul, and opened the first harness shop in the State. In 1847 he sold out, and in the following year, in company with Dr. Dewey, established the first drug store in St. Paul and in Minnesota. They remained together for two years, when our subject sold out to the Doctor, and was appointed by Governor Ramsey as first Territorial Librarian, which position he held until 1851.
We then reach the period from which our subject has been connected with the history of the Red River Valley. In that year he was appointed United States Revenue Collector of the customs1, and the duties of that office in those days, although not necessitating very close application of the Incumbent, were, nevertheless, of a rather varied nature. Besides being collector of customs he had to manage the post office arrangements, give some attention to signal service business, and, in fact, was representative of every branch of the United States civil service. These various duties Mr. Cavileer performed for four years, and at the expiration of that time he moved westward to St. Jo and engaged in fur trading, and afterward he moved to Fort Garry (now Winnipeg), where he was engaged in quite an extensive general merchandise business. In 1864 Mr. Cavileer returned to Pembina, and a regular post office being then established there, he received the appointment of postmaster, which he retained until. 1884, when he resigned in favor of his son, who is the present postmaster. In 1853, in addition to his official duties, he engaged in the fur trade in partnership with Commodore Kittson and W.H. Forbes, with whom he remained three years. At the expiration of that time, Forbes having drawn out, Kittson and Cavileer formed a partnership with the following gentlemen included in the firm, viz.: Kittson, Culver, Farrington, Sargeant and Cavileer. This continued for two years. In 1863 Mr. Cavileer engaged in haymaking for the Government, employing fifteen men and two machines.
Mr. Cavileer was united in marriage on the 13th of March, 1857, to Miss Isabell Murry, the daughter of Donald and Jane (Heron) Murry, and this union has been blessed with the following children - Edmund K., the present postmaster; William M., Albert D., Lula, Belle, and the oldest child, Sarah, who died at the age of four years. William married Jennie Bradshaw, and resides in Pembina. Edmund and William were at Kildnan, then Prince Rupert's Land, at the time of the Reil Insurrection, and helped Scott run bullets some time previous to his murder.
In the early days of his settlement in Pembina he was a regular correspondent to the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, District of Columbia. From his first settlement Mr. Cavileer has taken a deep interest in the progress of the district, and since the formation of the village no man has done more for the building up of the same. He is a public-spirited citizen, and one who is highly esteemed and respected by all who know him.
Mr. Cavileer is a stanch republican in politics. He voted for General Harrison in 1840, and now that North Dakota will soon become a State he may possibly live to vote for the grandson of the old General for a second term. It would be a strange coincidence if the only two votes he ever cast for President should be cast for the two General Harrisons.
[From: Red River Valley and Park Regions of Minnesota: Illustrated Album of Biography of the Famous Valley of the Red River of the North (1889)]
1 - Customs collectors were responsible for collecting duties; recording financial transactions; admeasuring and documenting merchant vessels; administering customhouses and, until 1852, lighthouses; collecting and accounting for funds for marine hospitals; and, until 1871, administering revenue cutters. Captains of vessels arriving at U.S. ports from abroad were required by an act of March 2, 1819 (3 Stat. 489), to submit a list of passengers to the collector of customs. Upon occasion the collector acted as the depository for federal funds and collected taxes for the Bureau of Internal Revenue.