February 24, 1858: George B. Sargent tell Bostonians of the “New West”

George Sargent. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

On this day in 1858, future Duluth pioneer George B. Sargent gave a lecture in Boston about the “New West.” He was attempting to gather others to help him build a new community that would rival Chicago. To convince his listeners, he told them, “Seated at the mouth of the St. Louis River, at the northwestern extremity of Lake Superior, we are as near the tidewaters of the Atlantic, within five and twenty miles, as we are at Chicago.” He also spoke of the rich iron deposits in the region, explaining that “the undeveloped wealth of the Lake Superior region offers reward beyond calculation to those who have the energy and enterprise to secure it.” He was right, we all know now, but before Sargent and any investors had a chance to secure anything, the Civil War broke out. Sargent served in the Union Army and rose in rank to General before the war’s end. Afterward, he went to work for Jay Cooke, who sent him to Duluth in 1869 to look over his investments. Sargent is credited as being the prime driving force behind Duluth’s early commercial success. He opened Duluth’s first bank on Superior Street, oversaw the construction of Duluth’s first hotels (Clark House and Bay View House), and helped finance St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Duluth Township’s first church. Sargent travelled to Germany in 1875 for health reasons and died there. Historian Walter Van Brunt, who knew Sargent, wrote of him, “George B. Sargent was a man of high attainments, a discriminating and thoughtful reader and a close observer of men and events. He was an authority on matters of finance, and held a high position in the circles in which he moved.”

One Response to February 24, 1858: George B. Sargent tell Bostonians of the “New West”

  1. He must have been a remarkable man. Imagine Duluth in 1858, literally still being cut out of the steep and rocky hillside. Just getting to the townsite of Duluth was a formidable journey. A true pioneer!

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