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June 21, 1864: Death of Robert Miller, namesake of Miller Creek

On this day in 1864, Pennsylvania native Robert Miller, namesake of Duluth’s Miller Creek, died in Vicksburg, Tennessee. According to Duluth historian Heidi Bakk-Hansen, Miller was counted in Duluth’s first official census in 1860. He was 42 years old, lived alone, and reported his property—which was between Miller Creek and Coffey Creek—as worth $1,000 (about $26,000 in today’s money). His time in what became Duluth was brief: On December 6, 1861, he enlisted in Company K of the Minnesota Fourth Infantry Regiment. In August 1863, Miller was mustered out of his regiment and promoted to Full Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Colored Troops, 50th Infantry. In these newly formed “colored” infantry regiments, officers put in charge of training were generally white; the few black officers were surgeons or chaplains. Miller spent one year training and supervising black soldiers at the Vicksburg garrison before he died from dehydration caused by chronic diarrhea. Many of Duluth’s creeks are named for pioneers who arrived here in the 1850s: Knowlton Creek for Frederick Knowlton, Kinsgbury Creek for William Wallace Kingsbury, Keene Creek for Freeman Keene, Merritt Creek for the Merritt family, Miller Creek for Robert Miller, Coffey Creek for Levi B. Coffey, Buckingham Creek for F. A. Buckingham, Chester Creek for Charles Chester, Tischer Creek for Urs Tischer, etc. Sargent Creek is named for George Sargent, who came to Duluth in 1869. Mission Creek for the mission built alongside it in the 1830s, USS Steel Plant Creek for the 1915 Minnesota Steel Plant site it runs through, Clarkhouse Creek for the 1869 Clark House Hotel, Brewery Creek for the brewery built alongside it in 1859, and Forty-third Avenue East Creek for the street is passes under just before reaching Lake Superior. No one is quite sure who is the namesake of the Lester River or how Oregon and Amity creeks (first mentioned by newspapers in 1894 and 1899, respectively) got their names, and Bent Brook, which runs through Glensheen, was likely unnamed until the Congdon family built their home. Stewart Creek may have been named for John Stewart, who is also the namesake of the Stewart River along Lake Superior’s North Shore three miles northeast of Two Harbors (right next to Betty’s Pies).

The African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C., which includes the name of Robert P. Miller, who was promoted to Full Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Colored Troops, 50th Infantry after serving with the Minnesota 4th. (Image: Trip Advisor)