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May 30, 1871: First Cargo of Grain Loaded at Elevator A Shipped from Duluth

On this day in Duluth in 1871, the propeller St. Paul left Duluth carrying 11,500 bushels of wheat, the first shipment loaded at Elevator A, poised along the shore at the foot of Third Avenue East. (The first official shipment of grain from Duluth down the lakes, 4,200 bushels of wheat, departed August 27, 1870, on the propeller steamer Winslow heading to Buffalo, New York.) The elevator was not even complete two weeks earlier when it first began filling the 92,000 bushels that arrived in Duluth via the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad. The Minnesotian reported total of 4,400 bushels of the wheat were graded “Duluth Extra,” described as “The highest, heaviest milling grade of Spring wheat in the United States—raised exclusively in Minnesota and invariably weighing over 60 pounds to the bushel, sound, plump, and well cleaned.” The shipment was good news, and the paper went on to say: “The immense business of the L. S. & M. R. R. is now doing, night and day, taxing the capacity of rolling stock and the energies of every man connected with this road, shows that the calculations of its projectors are about being realized; and their prediction that a double track will be required in less than five, was a wise forecast and not a wild guess. ‘Things is workin’.’” Just over two years later, however, the nation went bust as Jay Cooke—builder of the LS&MR—had run out of money. The LSM&R went into receivership and was later revived as the St. Paul & Duluth Railroad, which was purchased by the Northern Pacific Railway in 1900. Read more about Duluth’s grain trade here and railroad history in Duluth here.

The St. Paul. (Image: Great Lakes Vessel Index)