Martin L. Jenks

M. L. Jenks. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

For the past twenty years Mr. Jenks has been one of the prominent grain men of Duluth, and his individual enterprise and the capital he represents have given a decided impetus to the commercial power now wielded by the Zenith City.

Mr. Jenks was born at Forrester, Michigan, July 15, 1861, son of Benjamin L. and Amanda (Messer) Jenks. His father for many years was identified with farming in St. Clair county, Michigan, but in later years was active in the lumber and timber industries of Michigan. At Woods Mill in Sanilac county he was manager for the J. L. Woods interests, and was also interested in the wholesale firm of Pack, Woods & Company of Cleveland, wholesale lumber dealers. Besides acting as manager of the saw mill and general store his services were valuable in locating timber, and a considerable part of his time was spent as a cruiser. Throughout his life he was known as a man of strict commercial integrity, ability and honesty, and was frequently called upon to act as arbitrator on account of his faculty of seeing both sides of the question. In politics he was a Republican.

Martin L. Jenks, the youngest in a family of five children, was educated in the public schools of Michigan and spent one winter in a college at Kalamazoo and another winter at Mount Morris, Illinois. When twelve years of age he earned his first money and beginning at the age of sixteen was regularly working in general stores and on farms. At the age of twenty-four he entered the service of a wholesale dry goods store at. Kansas City, but about three years later returned east and became identified with a rolling mill at Findlay, Ohio, and during the five years there became superintendent of the Findlay Rolling Mill Company.

Since then his chief interests have been in the grain business. When he came to Minnesota he first located at Washburn, spending two months with Nye Jenks & Company, when he was transferred to the Nye Jenks & Company office at Minneapolis as cashier, where he remained two and a half years. He was then sent to the Milwaukee office of the Rialto Elevator Company, a subsidiary of Nye Jenks & Company, and remained in Milwaukee until the spring of 1900. The firm did a profitable business in that city, and while Mr. Jenks was there and since has operated the Angus-Smith Elevator. In the spring of 1900 he came to Duluth to organize the business of the Itasca Elevator Company, buyers and shippers of grain, buying it on exchange and shipping east. The first year they handled not quite three million bushels, and their business has increased until the total aggregate of one season has reached as high as twenty million bushels. Mr. Jenks now gives his special attention to the Itasca Elevator Company as secretary and manager.

He has been prominent on the Duluth Board of Trade, serving as director eight years, vice president two years and president two years, and now represents the Duluth Board as counsellor of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Jenks is a member of the Commercial Club, Kitchi Gammi Club, Curling Club and Boat Club, and is a Republican in politics.

December 7, 1892, while living at Findlay, Ohio, he married Miss Linnie Edgar, of Sidney, Ohio. Her father at the outbreak of the Civil war, being unable to enlist in his home county on account of his age, went to another county and became the youngest member of his regiment and served throughout the period of hostilities. Mr. and Mrs. Jenks have two daughters, Hester Anna, born in 1894, and Edna Messer, born in 1898. Both are graduates of the Duluth Central High School and spent two years finishing their educations at the National Park Seminary at Washington, D. C.


  • Van Brunt, Walter, ed. Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota Vols. 1 – 3. The American Historical Society. Chicago: 1922.
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