Time and vandalism take their toll on iconic ox cart that sat next to Joe Rolette for decades

    Have you noticed something missing from the area in front of the Red River Valley Shows building? The ox and cart, that’s what. After catching the eye of passers-through and local residents for almost 50 years, the three-piece monument is now down to one.

    What was once the Pembina Trail Memorial paying homage to pioneer Joe Rolette and lending a hand to name Crookston’s annual Ox Cart Days festival, part of the monument reportedly fell into disrepair and was vandalized.

    RRV Shows board member Amy Theis said she got a call from the Crookston Police Department last fall saying they thought the cart had been vandalized and was in “pretty rough shape.”

    “I contacted the rest of the board and the decision was made to dismantle and dispose of it as it had become a safety hazard,” Theis told the Times. “It was removed some time in December.”

    “The ox was gone long before the cart,” she added.  

    Theis says, at this time, there is no plan to build a new one.

    The three-piece monument, made of fiberglass, concrete and steel, pays homage to Rolette, along the Pembina Trail, which he was credited with originating in 1843. The trail, running from Pembina at the Canadian border to St. Paul, “unified” the valley and opened it up to commercial use prior to construction of the Great Northern Railway. The monument stands a few miles east of the trail.

    In 2011, a group called “Save the Pembina Trail Memorial Association” was formed to “get the wheels moving” on refurbishing it. Crookston resident Tom Amiot was honored that year for restoring Rolette’s rifle, but time has gotten away from other efforts.