Escape from Al Capone: Hideout Refuge in Ely, Minnesota
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
Other images viewed near the Hibbard's home in Ely, MinnesotaClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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!)
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.
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!
Below is the back of a brochure from Hibbard's Lodge. On the front the following was found:
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.
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.
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.
Have you ever visited the area around Ely, Minnesota?
Fishing is great in Ely, Minnesota
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Peggy Woods