Joshua B. Culver was born in Buffalo, New York, on September 12, 1829. He arrived in Duluth in 1855 and was one of the incorporators of Duluth Township. After the Civil War erupted Culver enlisted on November 9, 1861 and was commissioned as a first lieutenant. He fought in the battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Perryville, Nashville, Gallatin, Stone River, Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, and Mission Ridge and mustered out as colonel on July 25, 1865. Culver returned to Duluth where he and his fellow pioneers—with the help of Jay Cooke’s agents from Philadelphia—guided Duluth through its first boom period. Culver opened a sawmill on Minnesota Point near the site of the Duluth Ship Canal, operated a dock on the bayside of the point near Morse Street, and was involved in various other business enterprises. When Duluth became a city in 1870, Culver was elected its first mayor. He stayed in Duluth after the Panic of 1873 left it bankrupt and in 1882 was elected the mayor fo the Village of Duluth. Culver died July 17, 1883, while visiting Buffalo. C. H. Graves finished out his second term as mayor. R. C. Mitchell, editor of the Duluth News Tribune, described as a “bitter political opponent of Colonel Culver,” wrote this tribute to Culver:
Our Mayor is dead. A hush, a death of silence comes over the excited scenes that are passing, arousing our village to unwonted agitation, and upon the instant the uproar of contrition subsides into the stilled and breathless quiet of the death chamber. Our mayor is dead; dead in a strange city; dead while yet a traveler and sojourner among strangers. As if painful stillness came hard upon the furious roar of a thunder-burst, as if in battle the quiet of the catacombs followed the awful flash of the artillery’s line and the shrieking musketry’s fierce volley, or as when at word of command the upheaved sea silenced its fury and its tempestuous alarm sank into a softer cadence than a lullaby, so fell a painful silence upon our village yesterday upon the instant it was made known our mayor had fallen by a shaft of death in a far-off city, across and beyond the wide expanse of lakes. It is painful to record the words.