George Crosby

George H. Crosby. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

George Crosby began his career as a clerk in a paint store in Duluth. Soon he opened his own store, but the iron ore fever struck Crosby and in 1886 he quit the paint business and went to look for iron ore on the Mesabi. Obtaining leases on land, which other men condemned as no good, Crosby expanded his searches and successes, discovering ore on the Cuyuna Range in 1908. Crosby’s 1961 obituary documents his contributions to the community:

George Crosby Funeral Rites Set Saturday.  Funeral services for George H. Crosby, 96, prominent iron ore mining pioneer and civic leader, who died Thursday in his residence, 2029 E. Superior St., Duluth, will be conducted Saturday… Mr. Crosby, an early day explorer of Minnesota’s mining ranges and a prominent figure in Duluth’s civic life for more than a half century, had been in ill health and inactive for several years. He was the last of the pioneers who roamed Northeastern Minnesota during the early days of mining in search of iron ore. Among the ore bodies he discovered were the Hawkins Mine at the site of what is now the village of Nashwauk, the LaRue Mine east of the Hawkins, and the Crosby Mine, to the north. He also founded the community of Crosby in Crow Wing county and was responsible for the construction of the community’s streets, sidewalks and water plant and several buildings. Born in Hastings, Minn., July 24, 1865, Mr. Crosby lived there until he was 19 years old, when his family moved to Minneapolis.  After working as a grocery clerk and plumber’s helper in the Mill City, he headed north to Duluth in 1887 and worked as a painter and salesman until the lure of iron ore attracted him to the Iron Range.

His brownstone mansion home, built in 1902-04, was a Duluth showplace for many years. An outstanding Duluth civic leader over the years, Mr. Crosby was elected 1931 member of the Duluth Hall of Fame. He helped organize the Duluth Community Fund, served as president of the St. Louis County Health Association, helped found the old Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, served as president of the Minnesota Arrowhead Association, was a past director of the national Seaway Council, an organization dedicated to bringing the St. Lawrence Seaway to Duluth, and was a longtime member of the Duluth Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Crosby was chairman of the Duluth chapter of the American Red Cross, and was a life member of the Founders’ board of the National Red Cross organization. In 1935 and 1936 he was chairman of the St. Louis County Tuberculosis and Health Association Christmas Seal campaigns, and was president of the Park Point Improvement Association. In addition, he was president of the Crosby Motor Co., the Crosby Exploration Co., and the Whitmarsh Mining Co. One of his projects was to help finance a survey to determine the potential power to be derived from the St. Louis Whiteface and Cloquet rivers. The survey led to the formation of the Great Northern Power Co. and later the Minnesota Power & Light Co. In 1954 Mr. Crosby donated 3,320 acres in the lower valley of the Manitou River on the North Shore to the state of Minnesota as an addition to the state park system. He married Miss Charlotte V. Stultz in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Duluth, December 31, 1889…

George Crosby caricatured by the Duluth News Tribune. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

An article in the 10-17-61 Duluth News Tribune is further testimony to his philanthropy:

Hearing on the last will and testament of George H. Crosby, Duluth, prominent iron mining pioneer and area civic leader, who died last month, will be held next Monday.  St. Louis County Probate Court Judge George Crago said papers filed in his court indicate Mr. Crosby left an estate in excess of a quarter of a million dollars. [Worth over $1.6 million in 2007 dollars]…  Beneficiaries named in the will include, UMD, which is to receive various paintings in his residence at 2029 E. Superior St., Duluth Children’s Home Society and the Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind, $11,000 each.

George H. Crosby is also one of the best known historical figures in the city, having been elected to Duluth’s Hall of Fame in 1931. According to his 1961 obituary, he was “born in Hastings, Minn., July 24, 1865…[and] lived there until he was 19 years old, when his family moved to Minneapolis. After working as a grocery clerk and plumber’s helper in the Mill City, he headed north to Duluth in 1887 and worked as a painter and salesman until the lure of iron ore attracted him to the Iron Range.” It was there that his activities show him to be a figure of regional significance: his exploration of northeastern Minnesota during the early days of mining in search of iron ore lead him to discover the Hawkins Mine (on which the village of Nashwauk is now sited), the LaRue and the Crosby mines. He was the founder of the community of Crosby in Crow Wing County and was responsible for the construction of the community’s streets, sidewalks and water plant and several buildings. His Duluth activities were equally impressive: he helped organize the Duluth Community Fund, was president of the St. Louis County Health Association, helped found the old Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, served as president of the Minnesota Arrowhead Association, was a past director of the National Seaway Council, was chairman of the Duluth chapter, American Red Cross, and was a life member of the Founders’ board of the National Red Cross organization and was a longtime member of the Duluth Chamber of Commerce. The Crosby home at 2029 East Superior Street, where he lived with his wife Charlotte, was mentioned in his obituary:  “His brownstone mansion home, built in 1902-04, was a Duluth showplace for many years.”  Upon his death, Crosby left an estate in excess of a quarter of a million dollars and bequeathed various paintings in his residence to UMD, and, $11,000 each to the Duluth Children’s Home Society and the Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind.

Sources:

  • Larson, Jill. Intensive Survey of Historic Resources in Duluth’s East End (Part 1). City of Duluth, Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission, Duluth, Minn.: August 2007.
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