How Did Saint Paul Get it's Name?

Traveling to the Twin Cities? Imagine if, instead of plugging in “Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport,” you had to plug in: “Minneapolis/Pig’s Eye International Airport.”

Catchy, isn’t it?

And not as far-fetched as you might think. Long before the city was officially founded, Fort Snelling (originally known as Fort St. Anthony) was established, bringing in lots of trading. While fur was the initial focus of the trade industry, people started to deal in whiskey, too. A lot. Too much, according to the military representatives who controlled the fort.

One chap in particular rubbed military officials the wrong way: Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant, a bootlegger who (ahem) got the “boot” and was banished from trading his wares near the fort. He moved his operation a few miles away, establishing a settlement. Others followed, and the settlement became known as “Pig’s Eye” after the area’s first (white) resident.

In 1841, the settlement was named Saint Paul by a French priest, in honor of Paul the Apostle—but locals still commonly referred to it as “Pig’s Eye.” In fact, rumor has it that the city almost became officially, legally named “Pig’s Eye” when Minnesota became a territory in 1849 and the city was named as its capital. Ultimately, however, Saint Paul was determined to be a name worthier of such a promising industrial city. Of course, that didn’t stop a whole lot of folks from holding on to the nickname!

Edward Rupp