Historical Places to Visit:
- Saint Paul’s history as a Prohibition-era hotbed for gangsters, gals and whiskey runners is well known. The city became a haven for notorious names like John Dillinger, Babyface Nelson, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis and the Barker gang, whose activities extended to robbing banks, holding up mail trucks and trains and kidnapping hostages for ransom.
- Saint Paul’s former courthouse is now the Landmark Center that offers numerous tours with various companies highlighting the gangster era of the 1930s. (http://www.visitsaintpaul.com/discover-saint-paul/gangster-past/)
- Historic Fort Snelling is a national historic landmark. History comes to life at this restored 1820s fort - once the farthest outpost of the U.S. in the homeland of the Dakota Indians. Interact with history performers, watch frontier skills demos, tour barracks and hear the daily firing of the cannon. Programs and events on the Civil War, WW I and WW II, U.S. treaties and Dakota history are available. Dred and Harriet Scott's 1836-1840 living quarters can also be viewed. (http://www.mnhs.org/visit)
- The Wabasha Caves are actual caves that were transformed into an underground speakeasy known as the “Castle Royal.” (http://www.visitsaintpaul.com/things-to-do/museums-history/)
- The first land claim was made in 1838 by tavern owner Pierre (“Pig’s Eye”) Parrant. Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant, a retired fur trader and person of dubious reputation, built the area’s first structure known as the “whiskey seller’s cabin” at the mouth of a cave in 1838. “Pig’s Eye” snuck over territory lines and found a convenient spot from which he could sell bootleg whiskey to soldiers and Indians without “the pale of law." Parrant built a cabin at the mouth of the cave to sell liquor from. Locals called the area “Pig’s Eye Landing,” based on Parrant’s popular tavern. His “Pig’s Eye Tavern” flourished, but in 1840 he was evicted by soldiers from nearby Fort Snelling. (http://www.minnesotafunfacts.com/st-paul-history/pierre-pigs-eye-parrant-one-of-the-first-st-paul-settlers/)
- Saint Paul was known as Pig’s Eye Landing until 1841 when Roman Catholic missionary Lucien Galtier built a log chapel dedicated to the apostle, Paul. In 1849, St. Paul became the capitol of the newly-formed Minnesota Territory, and it was made the state capitol when Minnesota was admitted to the Union in 1858. (https://www.cathedralsaintpaul.org/history)
- Modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in Rome, the Cathedral of Saint Paul is one of the most elaborate cathedrals in the nation. Construction of the log chapel began in October 1841, and Galtier dedicated the chapel on the Feast of All Saints Day in 1841. With its unshaven sides, bark-covered roof and surrounding areas of trees and bramble, the chapel reminded Galtier of the stable in Bethlehem. He placed the community and the chapel under the patronage of Saint Paul, with the hope that the entire Pig's Eye settlement would soon adopt the name, which, as we know today, did happen. (https://www.cathedralsaintpaul.org/history)
- Saint Paul’s historic importance in the development of the Upper Midwest was as a commercial center that utilized its strategic location on the Mississippi. In 1862, the first train left the city on the 10-mile (16-km) track of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. In 1883, a great celebration marked the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway from St. Paul to the West Coast, and 10 years later the Great Northern Railway, under the leadership of James J. Hill, was completed, with St. Paul as the eastern terminus (both railways are now part of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation). These railroad developments made the city the gateway to the Pacific Northwest and spurred its growth. (https://www.britannica.com/place/Saint-Paul-Minnesota)
- Crooks’ Haven: The gangster era in St. Paul in the late 1920s and early 1930s was known as a “‘crooks’ haven”—a place for gangsters, bank robbers and bootleggers from all over the Midwest to run their operations or to hide from the FBI. The concentration of local organized crime activity prompted reformers and crime reporters to call for a “cleanup” of the city in the mid-1930s.
- Saint Paul earned its reputation as the “sanctuary for criminals” in the Midwest with the help of corrupt politicians and police chiefs who agreed to turn a blind eye to gangsters’ underground activities, which included smuggling, racketeering and gambling. This collaboration began in 1900 with the Layover Agreement, an unofficial contract between criminals and Chief of Police John O’Connor.
- In exchange for tip-offs about FBI raids and protection during their “layover” in the city, the gangsters first agreed to check in with the St. Paul police when they were in town. Secondly, they gave a portion of their gains to the police department. Finally, they agreed to commit no crimes within the city limits, though Minneapolis was fair game. Police chiefs after O’Connor, such as Frank Sommer (1922–1923) and Thomas A. Brown (1930–1932) continued to use the “O’Connor System” in an effort to keep crime levels down in St. Paul and to profit from gangsters’ illegal operations.
- Knowing that they were generally safe in St. Paul, notorious criminals—including bank robber John Dillinger and his girlfriend Evelyn Frechette; racketeer and mob leader Al “Scarface” Capone; and the outlawed duo Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker—stayed in the city at some point, though most of their crimes were committed in other Midwestern states. In 1932, however, more than 20 percent of the nation’s bank robberies took place in Minnesota. (https://www.minnpost.com/mnopedia/2015/11/crooks-haven-gangster-era-st-paul)
About Unity One Credit Union
Established in 1927, Unity One Credit Union is one of the oldest in the U.S. A member-driven and not-for-profit cooperative, Unity One CU served the employees and families of the BNSF Railway for 70 years. However, after transferring its corporate headquarters to Fort Worth in 1998, the credit union expanded its field of membership to include other non-railroad companies, organizations and individuals.
Today, anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in St. Paul, Minnesota, Kansas City, Kansas and Fort Worth, Blue Mound, Saginaw, Haslet, Keller, Colleyville, Bedford, North Richland Hills and Southlake may apply for membership. Unity One CU has eight branches to serve nearly 29,000 members nationwide. For more information about Unity One Credit Union, visit www.unityone.org. Think outside the bank.™