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St. Paul's first resident and original namesake, "Pig's Eye"

Posted May 19, 2020 @ 9:07pm | by Doug

~~~Tour Guide Notes ~~~

Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Perrant – St. Paul’s first namesake ---

Born - 1777 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario [although nobody seems to know exactly when or where.]  

Nor does anyone seem to know exactly how he got that eye damaged. 

Perhaps it got stabbed by a low branch while traipsing through a Northwoods portage with fellow  voyageurs, bearing a 90-lb sack of cargo on each shoulder and half a canoe on his head, covered with bear grease to repel ravenous mosquitoes and black flies.

Or, perhaps, in some drunken falderal. 

It is said that when these odorous types hit town, lock your doors. 

In 1832, the town was Mendota, a nascent settlement at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers; across those rivers from Fort Snelling, a very lonely, very distant outpost of the US Government. 

He was described by an early historian, who had once had the “pleasure” of meeting him, as

“a coarse, ill-looking, low-browed fellow.  He had a blind eye that was marble-hued and crooked, with a sinister white ring glaring around the pupil, giving a kind of piggish expression to his sodden, low features.”

 

By now the fur trade was in decline, but Pig’s Eye had entrepreneurial and whiskey-making skills, which he combined to the favor of lonely soldiers far from home.

This then led to falderal fights between inebriates, and wrath from the officer class, who booted his mischievous derriere to Timbuktu.

Well, Pig’s Eye didn’t quite make it to that distant city by the Niger River, but instead simply mosied a few miles down the Mississippi to a cave with running spring water in which he set up a tavern, aptly dubbed Pig’s Eye Pandemonium.

On about June 1, 1838, Perrant completed a small shack, that became “the first habitation, and the first business house;” thereby making Monsieur Pig’s Eye, the first inhabitant of the future city of St. Paul, which he remains to this day and will forevermore.

Meanwhile, Pig’s Eye Pandemonium was the absolute favorite watering hole for weary riverboat crews, who began to refer to the embryonic enclave as Pig’s Eye.  Mail for locals came upstream addressed to

     Ole Oleson [let’s say]” – Pig’s Eye --Minnesota Territory

But, lo, those Catholic priests!

In 1841, the first of them, Fr. Lucien Galtier, waddled in with vestment a-fluttering in the breeze off the river, swinging his censer side to side, finding the name of “Pig’s Eye” unholy as heck; and tossing his well-connected weight around, dideth thereby re-dub the village “St. Paul.”

In 1844, Pig’s Eye lost his claim at Fountain Cave and was forced to vacate the land.  After that, no one is quite sure where he went.  He just faded away, but never completely.  

Fittingly, in a disgusting manner, the St. Paul landfill near downtown and adjacent to the river, was dishonored Pig’s Eye Dump. Years later, it extended the infamy by being designated the largest Superfund [toxic] site in the state.

But redemption cometh to those who waiteth!

Today the site has been restored, revitalized, and revised to Pig’s Eye Regional Park.  It is the city’s largest, with 404 acres of purified land around a roughly 500 -acre lake, Pig’s Eye Lake.

As a footnote, I have been a local tour guide for decades and never has one guest ever inquired about where to buy a “St. Paul” t-shirt…but several have stopped at a local tavern for a Pig’s Eye Beer.

Sources:

Wikipedia  - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Parrant

Pig’s Eye Regional Park https://www.twincities.com/2017/10/24/st-paul-biggest-park-nobody-knows-pigs-eye-regional-daytons-bluff/ 

Williams, J. Fletcher (1876). A history of the city of Saint Paul, and the county of Ramsey, Minnesota.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

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