On this day in Ashtabula, Ohio, in 1852, Duluth pioneers George and Julia Nettleton were wed. According to Mrs. Nettleton’s recollections, George “had been an Indian trader for several years on Madeline Island.” Roughly ten days into their marriage the pair headed off to Minnesota with George’s brother William. The group made it to the Head of the Lakes that year, and found it all but empty, as Mrs. Nettleton recalled: “There was no one in Superior at that time, and my husband said there must be a large city at the head of this lake some time. We couldn’t tell whether it would be on the Minnesota side or on the Wisconsin side, but at that time there was nothing but a wilderness on the Superior shore…nothing—just a pile of rocks.” Four years later it was clear the Nettleton’s thought the Minnesota side was the key to the region’s future, as in 1856 they staked a claim at the base of Minnesota Point east of today’s Third Avenue East that stretching west to Eighth Avenue West, corresponding to much of today’s downtown. In 1857 the Nettleton brothers and others officially established the Town of Duluth. George and Julia moved to St. Paul after the Panic of 1857, but William stayed through the hard times and Duluth’s first big boom, from 1868–1873, and ran for mayor in 1871, losing to fellow Ashtabulan Clinton Markell. Many Duluth pioneers came from Ashtabula county, and in the 1880s—when their investment in Duluth paid off—they built grand vistorian homes in an area that became known as “Ashtabula Heights.” Today that area has been largely replaced by the ever-growing Essentia Health campus.
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