August 29, 1892; Death of Reverend Edmund Ely

On this day in 1892, missionary and Duluth pioneer Edmund Franklin Ely died in Santa Rosa, California. Born at Wilbraham, Massachusetts on August 3, 1809, Ely studied religion in Rome, New York, until taking a position in 1833 with the American Board of Foreign Missions to teach in missionary schools near Lake Superior. Ely wound up at a branch of an Ojibwe mission at Sandy Lake under the direction of Rev. William T. Boutwell. In the summer of 1834 Boutwell was gone, Ely was in charge, and the school was moved to Fond du Lac. Ely actually built the schoolhouse himself. In 1835, a reinforcement of teachers was sent by the mission board. One of them, Miss Catherine Gonlais, was a former student of Ely’s at the Sandy Lake mission. She and Ely married and remained at Fond du Lac before moving to the mission at La Pointe on Madeline Island in 1839. Ely retired in 1854 and moved to Superior. That same year he and Catherine crossed the bay and landed near today’s Forty-second Avenue West, where he envisioned a townsite. Two years later the Ely family to the area and, along with the Wheeler and Merritt families, established the town of Oneota. Ely’s Peak between Oneota and Fond du Lac is named for the reverend. The town of Ely is not.

Reverend Edmund F. Ely. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

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