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St. Paul - the Beginnings

Home to thousands of Native Americans for centuries, the earliest known name for St. Paul is that which it was called by the Indians: IM-IN-I-JA SKA, which, translated into English means "White Rock", it's name having been taken from the high limestone bluffs in the area. In 1819, the sound of soldiers and construction first disturbed the silence of the forest and rivers at the confluence of the Minnesota and the Mississippi rivers. The imposing gray walls of Fort Snelling soon overlooked the rivers from a vantage point high above on the steep cliffs. It wouldn't be long before the inevitable squatters camp grew up in the shadow of the fort, and the thriving community of Mendota grew nearby. And the original inhabitants, as everywhere else in the New World, would be shunted off to find new homes wherever the invading Europeans would allow them to settle.

Soon, the more privileged military officers and the residents of Mendota, became disturbed at the life style of the residents of the squatters camp, most of whom were refugees from the ill-fated Selkirk Colony in Manitoba. They were especially disturbed about the activities of a notorious, though popular, retired fur trapper whose talents had been turned to moonshining, Pierre "Pig's Eye" Parrant. The whiskey trade quickly infuriated the straight-laced Major Talliaferro, Ft. Snelling's Indian Agent, who soon issued a proclamation banishing the squatters from lands controlled by the Fort. This forced them to move down the river to the northeast, just outside the Fort's jurisdiction.

This site, then known as Fountain Cave, was located near what is now in the southern part of St. Paul, Minnesota. A small monument today marks a spot on the riverbank near where the small group settled. Soon after they set up their new squatter camp, Major Taliaferro decided they were not quite far enough out of his sight, extended the jurisdiction of the Fort to include the Fountain Cave site, and sent his soldiers to burn the new encampment. The settlers were again forced to move further down the river, this time settling on the north bank in what is now part of downtown St. Paul.

Who? Where? What?

It is the intent of this site to provide an alphabetical guide to the persons, the places, and the things that loom important in the history of this interesting city. We're concentrating here on the years immediately leading up to the incorporation of St. Paul in 1849. This includes the colorful period when our town as known as Pig's Eye, Lambert's Landing, and finally St. Paul. This is when Pig's Eye Parrant's tavern was the watering hole for rivermen serving on Louis Robert's steamboats, and the population consisted of fur trappers, Native Americans, discharged soldiers, and lots of other folks with itchy feet and lofty dreams. The muddy swamp they settled is today one of the most pleasant and liveable cities in the United States. Hopefully, this document will encourage the reader to pick up one of the many fine books on the history of the capital city of Minnesota.

Select a Volume

Sources / Bibliography

Special thanks are in order to Al Dahlquist, Minifroggy@aol.com, of Little Canada, MN, a former President of the Minnesota Genealogical Society and expert on Minnesota History who provided hundreds of citations and references especially for the 1849-1850 period, and corrected many errors.

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