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Escape from Al Capone - Hideout Refuge in Ely, Minnesota

Updated on March 5, 2017
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Looking across the lake at Hibbard's Lodge from Keithan's cabin.
Looking across the lake at Hibbard's Lodge from Keithan's cabin. | Source

True Story

What does the State of Minnesota, the words escape and refuge, the gangster Al Capone and the City of Ely have in common? Stay tuned to hear about the spunk of two people that my grandparents first met and got to know many years ago.

First some background:

This all first started back in the days when Al Capone's gang solicited payments from store owners in Chicago for "protection."

This was sheer blackmail and the store owners knew it but most felt pressured to give in rather than incur the wrath and/or destruction that might take place if they refused.

Al Capone's 1929 Philadelphia, Pa, mug shot
Al Capone's 1929 Philadelphia, Pa, mug shot | Source
Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend
Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend

It was because of this man and his gang that the Hibbard's lives were forever changed.

 

Al Capone Gang

George and Minn Hibbard were the proprietors of a store in Chicago and when they were approached by Capone gang members and ordered to pay protection money, they refused!

Long story short, one business day some gang members came into their store and blasted them with bullets. This was their first warning. Minn was injured but George was pretty severely wounded. Often fires would be started in those days and businesses would burn to the ground for stubborn business owners who refused to make payments.

When exiting the store, the Hibbard's were threatened by the shooters that if they testified against them in a court of law, they would not survive the experience.

No one even the Al Capone gangsters were about to threaten this most spunky of couples!

Testify they did, and the gangsters went to jail.

But the George and Minn Hibbard knew that their lives were now endangered and they decided to leave Chicago behind them.

Ely, Minnesota in the winter
Ely, Minnesota in the winter | Source

Their new life begins...

Fleeing for their lives, the Hibbard's decided to get as far away into a remote area where they would probably not be followed for the threatened retribution of testifying against Capone gang members.

According to what they told my grandparents and later, us, they eventually made their way to Ely, Minnesota.

Gravel and dirt roads leading back into their place (as I got to see in 1967) did not yet exist back then.

Supposedly they had to carry their belongings and do some portaging (walking overland with their canoe and possessions between waterways) and finally settled near a beautiful lakeside location that would later become their home and eventual business.

The first winter they lived in a tent!

Partial view of front of Hibbard's log cabin in Ely, Minnesota
Partial view of front of Hibbard's log cabin in Ely, Minnesota | Source

Fast Forward...

One summer between college sessions I got to drive Minn Hibbard up to her home in Ely from McAllen, Texas.

Looking at a map of the mid-section of the United States, this trip traversed roadways from about as far south (near Mexico) as one can get to the opposite northern extreme.

Primarily waterways and spits of land and islands separate Minnesota from Canada in this northern part of the country.

Her husband, George, had already died and Hibbard's Lodge which was a deluxe fishing resort had already been sold. What remained was the log cabin home that had been built on the banks of Moose Lake.

Partial view of Hibbard's Cabin and Moose Lake
Partial view of Hibbard's Cabin and Moose Lake | Source

Many "Finlanders" as Minn called them (people coming from Finland) did the wonderful construction work in years past building and designing the log cabins, lodges and many other structures using the native trees and rocks found in that part of the country.

Partial view of Hibbard's cabin on Moose Lake
Partial view of Hibbard's cabin on Moose Lake | Source

Other images viewed near the Hibbard's home in Ely, Minnesota

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Saw this while walking through the woods near her home
Saw this while walking through the woods near her home
Saw this while walking through the woods near her home | Source
Source

Her home had the most unusual and beautiful naturally curving wooden railing leading up to the second floor. It had been crafted from one branch of a local tree.

Sadly I no longer remember the type of wood but the beauty of it all polished up remains within my memory.

Naturally I got to see the Lodge and just like her log cabin constructed home the Lodge was of a similar design only much larger of course.

The massive stone fireplace in the Lodge was gorgeous and would have warmed many bodies through the years when lit and glowing. The smaller one in her home was also inviting and she was well supplied with wood for the warming and crackling fires.

Inside the Stuga...George and Minn's cabin.
Inside the Stuga...George and Minn's cabin. | Source

During the days I hiked in the woods or took her boat out onto the lake and rowed to my hearts content while singing. (Hope the landlubbers liked my caterwauling. Ha!)

View from a boat on the lake looking back at the Lodge. See the canoes on the banks of the lake? View from a boat on the lake looking back at the Lodge.
View from a boat on the lake looking back at the Lodge. See the canoes on the banks of the lake? View from a boat on the lake looking back at the Lodge. | Source
Looking back at the shore while out on her rowboat one day.
Looking back at the shore while out on her rowboat one day. | Source

It was a lovely glimpse into the life of these folks who had worked hard and rebuilt their lives after their Chicago experience. They had developed a regular clientele for their Hibbard's Lodge.

The view from the living room window of Hibbard's cabin overlooking the Moose Lake.
The view from the living room window of Hibbard's cabin overlooking the Moose Lake. | Source

Kawishiwi Falls - Ely, Minnesota

Because of the seasonal nature of their work and the weather in Ely, Minnesota they had winters to relax.

While vacationing that is where they had met my grandparents who were also vacationing in McAllen, Texas.

When they all retired down there years later the friendships were maintained.

The beautiful area around Ely!

The Red God's Call

Source

To the right is the back of a brochure from Hibbard's Lodge. On the front the following was found:

"HIBBARD'S Lodge

ELY, MINNESOTA

ALL AMERICAN PLAN

ACCOMMODATIONS ARE COMPLETELY MODERN (With hot and cold water showers and lavatory, and flush toilets)

Deluxe --Per person per day--$12.00

No weekly rates

Boat and maid Service Included

Children under 8 half price

ALSO STEAM BATH (Sauna) with SHOWERS"


In addition to the above, it was triple A (AAA) approved. For an extra charge one could hire guides for a charge of $14.00 per day. Motors for the boats were also an extra charge from $3.50 to $5.00 per day or $21.00 to $31.00 per week (obviously depending upon the size of the motor.)

You can tell from these prices just how old this brochure must have been when the Hibbard's were in business.

Today there are many Lodges in that part of the country and most of them are probably still of a rustic nature that would blend in with the natural scenery found there.

Moose Lake in the distance (obviously taken from the air)
Moose Lake in the distance (obviously taken from the air) | Source

As a side note when one of my brothers became an Eagle Scout his boy scout troop went canoeing in the waters around Ely, Minnesota.

This is a wonderland up there consisting of the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. There are multiple trail-heads and canoe portage sites.

View to west - northwest from Gin Hill - Moose Lake - Canadian Border Bay

View to west - northwest from Gin Hill - Moose Lake - Canadian Border Bay
View to west - northwest from Gin Hill - Moose Lake - Canadian Border Bay | Source

Fishing is great in Ely, Minnesota

Crystal clear waters and unpolluted air are a delight to the senses. There are over 1,500 miles in which one can canoe on waterways consisting of 1,000 lakes and streams. Numerous campsites are available.

Wildlife is abundant.

The population of people remains small.

It is no wonder to me that the Hibbard's not only sought refuge in Ely, Minnesota to escape Al Capone's gangsters but that they absolutely fell in love with the place. If you are looking for a pristine area of the country in which to visit this just might be the place you are seeking!

George and Minn Hibbard holding fish caught at their lodge in Ely, Minnesota.

Source

Have you ever visited the area around Ely, Minnesota?

See results

Memories of Ely, Minnesota

Ely, Minnesota

A markerEly, Minnesota -
Ely, MN 55731, USA
get directions

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

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    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 22 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Au fait,

      Interesting that you grew up living so near one of Al Capone's lieutenants and that your dad was once offered a job. Good thing that he was not lured by money alone and turned it down. All of your lives may have turned out very different had he accepted that offer! Of course he may have ended up dead or in jail!

      Wisconsin and Minnesota are both beautiful states among others. This country of ours is jam packed with beauty! Thanks for the shares.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 22 months ago from North Texas

      Gorgeous photos! I grew up in central Wisconsin not that far from the north and it's similar in WI as it is in MN. Well, you lived not far from me, so you know what I'm talking about.

      Anyway, Al Capone had one of his lieutenants living less than a mile from where I grew up out in the sticks. My dad talked about how he was offered a job working for him and turned it down. There was a black-top road by our farm, but DeGeorge lived on a dirt road that T'd off it to the west. Not sure I spelled the name right, but they would come for weekends from Chicago and sometimes a couple of weeks vacation. They would drive by with their huge Cadillacs (bigger than most apartments nowadays).

      Voted up and "BUI. Pinned to Awesome HubPages, and will share with followers.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mike Fass,

      Your family history is certainly intertwined with George and Minn Hibbard and the Hibbard's Lodge. No wonder you are so interested in this subject. Thanks for your comments.

    • profile image

      mike fass 2 years ago

      I forgot to say my dad met grace mcmongle at the resort fell in love had six kids and lived to 93

    • profile image

      mike fass 2 years ago

      As I remember my mother went to Chicago with them maybe as a housekeeper or nanny as she went to the century of progress with them!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mike Fass,

      Hopefully your mother had a good experience working there. I used to know someone who also worked at Hibbard's Lodge who retired in McAllen. Apparently Minn was a taskmaster who expected perfection from her workers. The woman I met had a good experience and later spoke highly of her experience and was friends with George and Minn in McAllen.

    • profile image

      mike fass 2 years ago

      My mother worked for them in the 1930s and have a few pics

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Don,

      It makes sense that many of the people living in that area would know one another. I'll bet that your fireplace is a beauty. I remember the beauty of the one in George and Minn's cabin as well as the lodge. Real craftsmanship involved!

    • profile image

      Don Beans 2 years ago

      We have a cabin on Jasper lake that we own that also has a fireplace built by 'Rock-a-Day' Brown. Many of those names are still well known Ely names.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mike,

      It must really be fun for you knowing so many of those names in the book. No wonder you are enjoying it so much! :))

    • profile image

      mhlong 2 years ago from Southern Michigan

      Just an update on Mike Hillman's book. Today, it would be stories of Old Ely, but even when he wrote the original articles it was fairly current. I read with great interest, of course, the chapter 'Almost Older Than Time'. The cabin my grandfather had built, the stone work was done by John Brown, the general contractors were Tjader and Jonas. I found some other names in the construction - Hauling by Zorman, Lampert Lumber, Korrke Lumber, Fin Labor and board, Percy Foreman. Others who worked on the cabin - Tony Palcher, Vince Vessel (and his son who fished a lot with my younger brother). Barry Bain stopped by once or twice, and my grandparents had Don Beland guide them to Dorothy's. Spent time in town at Buccowich's and the IGA Foodliner. It was 1961 I met Mike Vosburgh and Chris, I was 14.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Donald,

      Mike will be particularly interested in this since he spent so much time up there. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Donald Beans 2 years ago

      Good Evening from the cold Northwoods. Vosburgh Custom Cabins located on Moose Lake has a photo framed as a picture of Austrian George, and that of another old woodsman of yesteryear- Gunner Graves of that same era. Gunner was a lumberman and guide of that period. You may also recall the native American family, the Chosa's who lived on Basswood Lake.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mike,

      This book would really strike a chord with you since you spent so much time up there and knew many of the names of people and the area so well. It is wonderful that you learned of it because of what Donald wrote on this hub. Makes me smile! :))

    • profile image

      mhlong 2 years ago from Southern Michigan

      Peggy - and Donald,

      I purchased the book, and am glad I did. Mike Hillman's stories are mostly about the times in the 1970's and after, but so far, I'm familiar with the locations and even some of the names he writes about. I'm guessing this book is a compilation of articles he wrote for the newspaper or little talks he gave on the radio. Sort of a Garrison Keillor of the Arrowhead/Boundary Waters area. Chapter 3 is about the cover picture of the fireplace, a little background, and reminiscences of his interaction with Tanglewood, which is what Hibbard's Lodge became. The story really picks up after George and Mina sold the Lodge, but it pretty much follows the story I'm familiar with. He mentions walking the 'old path'. I walked it many times. Thanks for the suggestion.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mike,

      Don should really like this extra information if he comes back to read this. I am so glad that I had that experience of driving Minn up to Ely and spending time with her that one summer. My parents and grandparents visited up there at different times and one of my brothers who later became an Eagle Scout took a boy scout trip up there and did some canoeing and portaging between lakes, etc. Good memories!

      I have forgotten their names, but a doctor who owned a cabin one or more over from the Hibbard's towards the lodge drove me to the airport that year for my return to McAllen. I had driven Minn's car up there for the summer. At the time they owned a Lincoln Continental car which impressed me. Ha!

      Prior to my return to Texas, Minn had me cook a pork chop dinner for them at the Stuga. She liked my cooking and that dish in particular. I cooked from a young age always assisting my mother in the kitchen and took over making entire meals in my early teens on occasion.

    • profile image

      mhlong 2 years ago from Southern Michigan

      Don, you are stirring up old memories. If you scroll down some ways, into the older comments, you'll find more of my story, but suffice it to say that I was up at Moose Lake especially in the early and mid-1960's for a number of summers spending anywhere from 10-45 days at a time. My grandparents were Lewis and Becky Hibbard and they built one of the cabins around the bay to the west from Hibbard's Lodge. I can't give you an exact count from the old foot bridge, but it was 2 to the south from George and Mina's cabin (called The Stuga). My grandparents sold it around 1965-6 and I came up there for week in 1967 and then again for half a day in 1969 and then around 1987 for a 3 day canoe trip that my brothers (and a cousin) and I took from Don Beland's up to Knife Lake, portaging over to Carp, back down to Prairie Portage and into Basswood a ways, and then back to Moose. We three brothers spent around 630 total days on the shores of Moose Lake in our pre adult years. When I was around 15 (1962 or 3), I met (I can barely remember 1st names and not last name at all) Chris, who was my age and was staying about 2 cabins to the west from Kirk's, closer to 'Gin Hill' or Inspiration Point or whatever others called it. (my grandparents and I often had dinner at Kirk's because they were very friendly). He knew Mike (I recognized the name Vosburgh immediately), and we 3 hung around together for several weeks. My grandfather had an AlumaCraft with a Johnson 10HP outboard and we would zoom around Moose Lake and up through the chain. I didn't know Mike as well, but we did hang out. Sad to hear about his passing. We knew Bernie Carlson, knew Bill Romm a little, and my grandparents knew many cabin owners, the Fredrickson's, Mrs. Soukup, Longsters, others. My grandparents around this time hired Don to guide them up to Dorothy Molter's, who we happened to visit on that canoe trip, just months before her passing. Lots of stories, lots of memories and good times. I made a 40 minute video combining some movie film, slides and photos from that time, telling the story of my grandparents and the cabin. Several of my cousins, grandchildren of George (we called him Uncle Art because his name was George Arthur Hibbard) have also come on here, cousins I knew little of that I'm now in contact with. Thanks for posting and sharing.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Donald,

      I'll send an email to Mike because he may well know some of these people you mentioned. It is a small world! Thanks for the added information.

    • profile image

      Donald Beans 2 years ago

      Hi Mike and Peggy, unbelievable but Mike Hillman has just recently passed away at age 62. I believe the Mike you worked with at Kirk's Lodge was Mike Vosburgh. His grandparents Burley and Ruth Anne ran Kirk's Lodge in the 60's. Now you're getting into more history and adding me into the mix. Mike Vosburgh was instrumental in getting my career up and running. Kirks was bought out by the USFS and Mike started Vosburgh Custom Cabins on the big cliff overlooking Moose Lake, just down (east) from Hibbards. I took over Mike's guiding in the mid 1980's-early 1990's. My business grew to where I started my own guide/ outfitting and now have lodging in Ely and cabin rentals on Jasper Lake and an easement on Moose Lake with my towboat. Mike V. died suddenly at age 56 in 2004 and his wife, Betsy V. still operates Vosburgh Custom Cabins along with Mike's son, William. It is a wonderful operation. Kirk's is all gone, no sign of ever being a resort except for the well head. People you probably remember that I worked (guided ) for, or have come to know and became friends with some - Don Beland, Bernie Carlson, Knife lake Pete Cosme, Julian Jones, Robert (Jeep) Latourell, John Herrick. Some are still around and some, their families have taken over their businesses. Moose Lake is still the dropping off point for BWCA/ Quetico Park fishing trips.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mike,

      Will read that obituary regarding Mr. Hillman. Thanks for leaving it. Wonder where that book can be found? I had not yet started my search for it.

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