July 10, 1869: Brewery owner buys building to open saloon

On this day in Duluth in 1869, Nicholas Decker purchased property at 31 West Superior Street to open a saloon to sell his beer. In the mid 1860s Decker had purchased the brewery saloon Washington Avenue and Brewery Creek built in 1859 by Gottlieb Busch and his friends and financed by Sidney Luce, who in 1872 would become Duluth’s third mayor. In 1869 Duluth was undergoing a major population boom—from “12 families” in 1868 to over 3,100 people in 1870—and with the saloon Decker could sell his beer at retail process, increasing his profits. But the saloon was a magnet for trouble. In August a fight that started in the saloon—with Decker himself at the center of the conflict—ended in the city’s first murder. A mob of “Philadelphia roughs” had caused trouble at the saloon, and when Duluth pioneer George Northrup intervened he was chased through the streets and stabbed. With no proper jail in town, the accused were held in the basement of Decker’s brewery, which was known by several names, including the Pioneer Brewery and the Vermillion Brewery after 1868, when Washington Avenue became the southern end of the Vermillion Trial.The murderer was eventually set free due to political influence by the Republican party. Decker tired to sell his brewery to another pioneer, J. D. Ray, a few months later, but the deal fell through. He died of consumption in 1875 and the brewery sat idle until Mike Fink purchased it in 1877. Read more about Duluth’s first murder here, the Decker family here, and the history of Duluth’s historic breweries here.

Ans Northrup, whose violent life was reflected in the death of his sons, one of whom was Duluth’s first murder victim. Image: Public Domain)northrup