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March 25, 1710: Duluth’s namesake dies from gout

On this day in 1710, Duluth namesake Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Lhut died of complications from gout in Montreal, New France. du Lhut had been born in the French village of Saint-Germain-Laval, near Lyons, in 1639 and served in King Louis XIV’s Royale Guard before traveling to what would become Canada. Biographer’s suggest that in 1678 a failed romantic involvement with the daughter of a nobleman sent du Lhut into the wilderness to make a name for himself. So he and a small band headed to Lac Tracy (today’s Lake Superior) with the lofty goals: find a passage to the “Vermillion Sea,” which du Lhut thought was the Pacific ocean, and bring peace to the warring native people’s living on Lake Superior’s shore. In June, 1679, the group landed at what the Ojibwe called Onigamiinsing or “Little Portage.” When Duluth was platted as a townsite in 1856, the portage trail was platted as Portage Street. In 1870 and 1871, the Duluth Ship Canal was cut through Minnesota Point along Portage Street. du Lhut did manage to establish peace among the Ojibwe, Dakota, Cree, and Assiniboin, but it didn’t last. And he never made it to the Vermillion Sea, which turned out to be the Great Salt Lake. After his exploits he returned to Montreal and lived out his life as a bachelor soldier. When du Lhut died, the governor of New France sent a brief but poignant message to the King: “Captain du Lhut died last winter. He was an honest man.” So just who is Jean Duluth Road named for? Find out here, discover more about du Lhut here, and learn why Duluth was named for du Lhut here.

Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Lhut depicted in his hometown of Saint-Germain-Laval, France, in this painting by Duluth artist David Ericson. (Image: Duluth Public Library)