September 11, 1834: Marriage of William Thurston Boutwell and Hester Crooks

On this day in what would become Duluth in 1834, Reverend William Thurston Boutwell and Hester Crooks were united in matrimony in a service conducted by Reverend Edward F. Ely at his mission at Fond du Lac. It was the first Christian wedding in what is now Duluth—and indeed, the entire Western Lake Superior region. Boutwell was a Presbyterian missionary from New Hampshire who had come to convert the Ojibwe to Christianity; he suggested the name “Lake Itasca” for the source of the Mississippi River, which he helped discover. Miss Crooks was the daughter of Ramsey Crooks, director of the Northwest Fur Company; her mother was half Ojibwe, and she was described by historian John Tuma as “Stunningly beautiful and poised.” They met at Mackinaw in 1831, when he was 28 and she 13, where they were both learning Ojibwe (“Chippewa”) before heading out on missions, he to preach, she to teach. Historians disagree on some details of the wedding: It has been recorded as taking place in 1834 on September 1, September 11, and October 11 and at least two different locations: Fond du Lac and at La Pointe on Madeline Island in the Apostle Islands. The Boutwells left missionary work in 1847, when he was appointed pastor of Minnesota’s Presbyterian Church in Stillwater. Hester died at just 36 years of age in 1853 after giving birth to their ninth child. Reverend Boutwell married Mary Ann Bergin the following year and lived until 1890.

Reverend William Thurston Boutwell. (Image: Public Domain)