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March 15, 1856: First church bell rings out from Superior

On this day across the bay in 1856, Superior’s fledgling First Presbyterian Church hung and rung the first church bell at the Head of the Lakes, a gift from noted pioneer Minister Edmund F. Ely (pictured below). Pioneer Methodist minister Reverend James Peet wrote in his diary on that day that, “The first church bell at Superior was hung up by the Presbyterians today, on a frame. No church yet built. Mr. Wilson [the church’s first minister] was called out of the land office to make a speech on the occasion from a stump.” According to historian Walter Van Brunt, Reverend J. M. Barnett described the bell as “a steel composition one” and that it was placed “on the rear end of a lot back of Mr. Hohly’s drug store, on Second Street, Superior,” and that “at its dedication Mr. Wilson made an appropriate speech and I rang it for the first time.” Barnett also mentioned that the bell was “a gift through Mr. [Edmund] Ely for the First Presbyterian Church, N.S., and the frame work to sustain it was procured by contributing friends and work by citizens of Superior. It was later hung in the first First Presbyterian Church.” The church itself was founded the year before, on October 30, 1855, by Wilson and soon-to-be Duluth pioneers inclduing Ely, Henry Wheeler, Alfred Merritt, and their families. In 1998 First Presbyterian joined the Hammond Avenue Presbyterian Church and the Itasca Presbyterian congregation to create Superior’s United Presbyterian Church.

Reverend Edmund F. Ely. (Image: Duluth Public Library)