April 10, 1880: Death of Duluth pioneer Luke Marvin

On this day in Duluth in 1880, pioneer Luke Marvin died. Marvin had first come to Duluth from St. Paul in 1861 and shortly thereafter was appointed registrar of the U.S. Land Office. It took an entire week for Marvin, his wife, and his five-year-old son (and namesake) to make the 150-mile trek up the Military Road from St. Paul to Superior City; Mrs. Marvin is considered the first woman to ever travel the road’s entire length. The Marvins made the treacherous journey because Mr. Marvin had invested in Oneota Township. He had started a correspondence with Oneota pioneer Reverend Edmund Ely in 1856 and a year later had one share of Oneota Township. While he remained in St. Paul, he looked after “matters and legislation concerning Oneota.” Before he left for Duluth, Reverend Ely warned him in a letter: “If you love your family, do not attempt to bring them over the old military road from St. Paul, Mrs. Marvin and the children could never make the trip. It is hard travel for a strong man.” Obviously, they made it. In 1869 Marvin and John Hunter helped to found Duluth’s First Presbyterian Church, and the pair became that institute’s first two elders. For many years he served as Assistant Auditor of St. Louis County. At his death Marvin was serving as Duluth’s “President Postmaster,” a position he had held since 1875; his job was handed over to his son Luke A. Marvin (who was five years old when his father brought him to what would become Duluth), a decision the Lake Superior News said “gives very general satisfaction.” At the time, the Ashland Press called him “one of the best men of Duluth” and noted that “the loss of Mr. Marvin will be severely felt.” Before the street names on Minnesota Point were converted to numbers, Oak Street was renamed “Marvin Street” in his honor; it is now 9th Street South. You can read Luke A. Marvin’s first-hand recollections of the early days at the head of the lakes, which tells of that trip over the Military Road, here.

2 Responses to April 10, 1880: Death of Duluth pioneer Luke Marvin

  1. Tom, as we know there were a lot of claims as to the “first” of this or that at the Head of the Lakes: marriage, birth, sawmill, sermon, church bell, etc. And most of the information came from those “Old Settlers” in recollections decades after the fact, and I’m guessing not without a little ego to influence the message along the way. Yes, as I recall Mrs. Peet did travel the road in that most delicate of all conditions earlier than Mrs. Marvin. Perhaps that is why Mrs. marvin’s story is qualified with “the road’s entire length” (emphasis added). No matter what, I think we can all agree that these early settlers were all remarkable people.

  2. Thought I remembered Harriet Peet as the first woman to travel the Old Military Road. Her sleigh overturned, pinning her beneath. She was apparently quite pregnant, giving birth to a child in Superior not long thereafter.

    Any records anywhere on customary travel duration for walking? It took me 10 days (age 59) averaging 16 miles/day in April – winter/early spring was preferred to avoid bugs and bogs.

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