July 3, 1855:  The Merritt family arrives at the Head of the Lakes

On this day in what would become Duluth in 1855, Lewis Merritt and his son Napolean of Ashtabula, Ohio, arrived in Superior, Wisconsin, and set up a mill on Conner’s Point. That same year they made a claim on the Minnesota side of the bay, adjacent to other claims by Reverend Edmund Ely and Henry Wheeler. A year before Ely envisioned a townsite near today’s Forty-Second Avenue West and contacted Wheeler in St. Paul, who then walked from St. Paul to Ely’s claim to set up a sawmill. The Elys and Merritts started calling the area Oneota, a word taken from a local Ojibwe legend meaning “the rock from which the people sprang.” Ely moved his family to the site in 1856, the same year the rest of the Merritts arrived from Ohio—and the year the town was surveyed, so goes the legend, with a “carpenter’s square and level.” Read about Oneota here and the development of all of the early townships that now make up Duluth here.

The Lewis & Hepzibah Merritt Family. (Image: Grant Merritt)m