May 2, 1860: Birth of Susie May Wheeler

On this day in Duluth in 1860, Susie May Wheeler was born to Sarah and Henry Wheeler. Technically, she wasn’t born in Duluth but the town of Oneota—now part of West Duluth—which was founded by her parents and others. Susie wasn’t with us long, perishing of “some dread disease” (possibly scarlet fever) on November 11, 1864. She was described as “a gay elf-like child who lived long enough to make an important place in the lives of her family.” Her short life was marked by an earlier brush with death, described in 1923 by her brother Bert: “In the old days, the question of a market for the lumber of the sawmill at Oneota was an important one. Frequently a scow load of lumber would be taken across the bay to Superior for sale. On one of these trips, my father took his little two-year-old girl Susie and her older sister Elizabeth, who later became the wife of Commissioner Leonidas Merritt. When the scow was out in the middle of the bay, the little girl fell off into the water. Immediately her older sister jumped in after her and managed to keep her afloat until a pike pole was thrust down beside her and the little girl and her sister were lifted back on the scow without any harm coming to either. Elizabeth was 12 or 13 years old when she made this rescue.” Read more about the remarkable Wheeler family here.

The Wheeler Family marker in Duluth’s Oneota Cemetery, built on land donated by Henry Wheeler. (Image: Dennis O’Hara)

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