February 16, 1856: Harriet Peet nearly crushed traveling to Superior

On this day on their way to Superior in 1856, Reverend James Peet and his wife Harriet—along with Reverend Edmund Ely—had some trouble along the Military Road from St. Paul to the Head of the Lakes. The road was notoriously rough. In fact, Ely had been warned about it by another Duluth pioneer, Luke Marvin, who told him “If you love your family, do not attempt to bring them over the old Military Road from St. Paul.” The trip took them nine days during which the thermometer reached as low as 28 degrees below zero—they travelled in winter when the otherwise muddy road was frozen. At about four p.m. on February 16, the loaded sleigh was “upset by the roughness of the road” and tipped over. Peet’s diary states “We upset our load and were detained half an hour. Mrs. Peet became wedged in between the load and a tree, so that we had to cut the tree to get her out. She would have been crushed to death had the sleigh and horses gone six inches further, but she was extricated unhurt, for which we were thankful.” Harriet Peet was in the third trimester of a pregnancy at the time, and six weeks later in Superior she gave birth to Olin F. Peet, who would become city editor of the Duluth Tribune. Fifty-six years later, Harriet Peet—dubbed the “Little Lady of the Lonesome Trail”—traveled by train from St. Paul to Duluth in the Soo Line’s observation car. She called the trip, which took just a few hours, “so short and pleasant.” By then she was 85 years old and the wife of Charles Jones (Reverend Peet died in 1871). She was greeted by a cheering crowd, and newspaper headlines celebrated her as the “City’s First White Woman.”

These images of Harriet Peet/Harriet Jones appeared in the Duluth News Tribune in 1912. (Image: Zenith City Press)

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