July 20, 1856: First Christian sermon delivered on Minnesota Point

On this day in in 1856 in what would become Duluth, Rev. John M. Barnett, a Presbyterian minister, delivered the first Christian sermon on Minnesota Point. Barnett recalled the event: “On the evening of July 20, in the summer of ’56, I preached my first sermon on the point in a house owned by a man named Rider. The house was a little frame building which had no siding and was without doors. The attendance was not very large, there being only twelve adults and a few boys present.” Despite the poor attendance, Barnett must have enjoyed the change of venue, for in the same account he recalls holding services in a building in Superior where he “could hear the sound of the glasses in the saloon in the room below and could hear the knuckles of the gamblers in the room overhead as they struck their hands on the tables.” Barnett, it seemed, liked to complain, as his initial description of Superior suggests: “It was the most wretched place that I had ever set eyes on and when I landed I sank into the clay above my shoe tops. It made me feel lonesome and I felt that I couldn’t stay, so went back to the boat and climbed over its side, determined that I would not stay here.” Barnett also gives himself and J. B. Culver credit for naming the Zenith City after Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Luht, but other, more reliable accounts credit the Reverend J. G. Wilson, who during a picnic on Minnesota Point in 1856 regaled his fellow pioneers with the story of du Luht’s adventures at the Head of the Lakes. Six years after delivering that first sermon Barnett returned home to western Pennsylvania.