December 26, 1919: Esko Store opens, Thomson never the same…

On this day south of Duluth in 1919, the opening of the Esko Store was announced, setting off events that eventually lead to a new community name. The announcement read, “Fritz Esko, one of the sons of Alex Esko, of the Town of Thomson, has opened up a general store at the junction of the Scanlon road with the Duluth-Twin City highway. He expects to carry a complete line of merchandise and will deal in country produce.” According to Robert D. Esko, “[with] this brief announcement, the stage was set for a chain of events that eventually led to the naming of the community.” The Esko Store was located at the intersection of the “Scanlon Road” and the “Duluth-Twin City Highway,” the two main routes through Thomson Township. The Scanlon Road, now part of Highway 61, ran east-to-west; the Highway, known today as Thomson Road, ran north-south. The store opened as automobiles were replacing ox carts and horse-drawn wagons. Travelers heading to the Twin Cities turned south toward Carlton at the “Esko’s corner store;” those going to Scanlon or Cloquet were told to continue west past “Esko’s Corner.” Soon other businesses popped up adjacent to the store, and locals began referring to this entire new business district as “Esko’s Corner.” When the U.S. Postal Service set up a post office nearby in 1935, it named the office Esko, so that mail sent to the area would be addressed to Esko, Minnesota. So, thanks to the USPS, while there is no official city or township in Minnesota called Esko, there is an Esko, Minnesota. Discover the entire history of Esko and Thomson Township in the book Esko’s Corner, available here.

Esko’s first store, financed by Alex Esko and operated by his son Fritz, opened on December 26, 1919, on the Duluth-Twin City highway, now Thomson Road. It was near the east-west Scanlon Road, and the intersection became known as “Esko’s Corner.” The store was later moved and repositioned to face north. Here, in the early 1920s, Fritz Esko is flanked by two men believed to be salesmen. (Photo courtesy of Robert D. Esko)

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