Pierre Parrant was the first person of European descent to live in the borders of what would eventually become the city of Saint Paul in Minnesota.

Pierre Parrant got the moniker “Pig’s Eye” for being blind in one eye. During his adult life he ended up amassing quite the reputation with law enforcement, a frequent squatter and bootlegger.

Making most of his income by trapping, the decline of the fur trade led him to look for new ways to make a living in his 60s.

His search brought him to a new settlement in the Minnesota Territory near Fort Snelling.

He made a claim on a tract of land on the east bank of the Mississippi River upstream from what is now Downtown Saint Paul.

In 1838, he completed a small shack that was “the first habitation, and the first business house of Saint Paul.”

Parrant also opened a tavern that became wildly popular, so popular in fact he simply listed the return address on his mail as “Pig’s Eye,” a name the community quickly took to calling the area.

Saint Paul might still be called Pig’s Eye today if not for a Catholic priest by the name of Lucien Galtier.

It is said he was so aghast that the settlement was named after a man of such ill repute that after building a mission there in 1841 he said to him:

“Pig’s Eye, converted thou shalt be, like Saul; Arise, and be, henceforth, Saint Paul!”

A few years later in 1844, Parrant lost his claim to the land. What happened to him after he left then-Saint Paul is somewhat mysterious, with some claiming he died shortly after on a trip to Michigan.

The chapel that Galtier built is now Saint Peter’s Church, the oldest Catholic Church in Minnesota.

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