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May 21, 1863: Superior teen shot and killed by stockade sentry

On this day across the bay in 1863, a teenage boy was shot and killed when he was mistaken for a hostile Indian. The 1862 Sioux Uprising in New Ulm, Minnesota, had raised fears about similar activity at the Head of the Lakes. So the U.S. Army sent Company B of the 18th Wisconsin Infantry to Superior under orders to build a stockade at the federal government’s expense. There were never any Indian attacks, but there was one casualty as a result of the rumors. According to Zenith City’s Judith Liebaert, “a family sought refuge in the stockade at night following reports of a possible Indian attack. Their teenage son walked ahead of the rest of the family, carrying a fishing pole. In the darkness, the stockade’s armed guard took the boy and his fishing pole for an Indian with a rifle at the ready. The boy, knowing the guard well, did not heed an order to halt; the guard fired, striking the boy in the chest. The boy died. The guard’s fate, left in the hands of army officials, is unknown. One historian claimed the soldier soon died of a ‘broken heart.’” Read Liebaert’s entire history of the stockade here.

This postcard shows the replica of the old stockade that was constructed along East Second Street near the original fort’s site in 1954, the city’s centennial year. The replica stood for much longer than the original—43 years, until the City of Superior decided to demolish the rotting structure. At the time they considered erecting a second replica, but never followed through on the plan. (Image: Zenith City)