October 27, 1917: Leonidas Merritt pays tribute to the past

On this day in Duluth in 1917, Zenith City pioneer Leonidas Merritt sat down with Duluth News Tribune reporter William O’Mally and regaled him with tales of Duluth’s early days. He spoke of F. A. Buckingham, surveyor and namesake of Duluth’s Buckingham Creek, who Merritt counted among the older, eccentric “cranks” in those early days, one of the “odd men whom the kids of the first days had lots of fun. (Merritt himself was just 12 years old in 1856 when Duluth was opened for settlement). That depends on your definition of fun.  Buckingham, who arrived at the head of the lakes in 1854, was said to have “openly declared hatred of [Abraham] Lincoln.” He almost killed by a group of younger pioneers after—having heard a false rumor that Abraham Lincoln had died—he had stated “I’m glad of it.” Later a group of younger men tried to “run old Buckingham out of his house in Coffee’s old trading post.” The older man took on a gang of youths and was finally put down after being struck in the head with the butt of a gun. Buckingham left Duluth to enlist as soon as the Civil War began; the article fails to mention which side he fought for. Read the entire 1917 interview here: Merritt_10.28.1917_DNT

Leonidas Merritt posed for this photograph, depicting him on his search for iron ore in the late 1880s, to accompany his speech when it appeared in the Duluth News Tribune October 28, 1917, the day after he delivered it. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

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