August 10, 1907: Seven men drown in Duluth Harbor

On this day in Duluth in 1907, seven men drowned in the Duluth harbor adjacent to the Northern Pacific freight house on the slip at the foot of 12th Avenue West. According to historian Heidi Bakk-Hansen, eleven men had overloaded a rowboat in effort to avoid a longer walk after their shifts; in the busy waters their boat was accidentally run over by a mud scow pulled by a tug.  Seven were drowned while their coworkers watched in anguish. It took days to recover all the bodies, at least one of which was never located. During the search, many of the Scandinavian laborers at the slip refused to work, and gathered anxiously awaiting their compatriots’ recovery from the depths. As they waited, they also gathered donations to fund the men’s burial. The drowned were all between the ages of 18 and 30, aside from one older man who was never identified in the press. As the Duluth News Tribune article describing the scene noted, “The old man, who made such a desperate but unsuccessful fight for his life, was a Finlander, but no one could recall his name.” More than 700 people attended the men’s funerals, after which five of the victims were buried together in Park Hill Cemetery. A stone marking their grave is engraved simply with their names: Charles Hansen, Nils Sleeper, John Solberg, Walter Lundeen, and Ole Stafne, “Drowned in Duluth Bay Aug. 10, 1907.” You’ll find other remarkable grave markers at Park Hill cemetery, and you can read about them here.

This stone marks the grave of five men who drowned in Duluth on August 10, 1907. (Image: Ava Francesca Battocchio)

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