April 21, 1870: Robert Bruce appointed Chief of Police

On this day in Duluth in 1870, Mayor J. B. Culver appointed Robert Bruce the Zenith City’s first Chief of Police. The Minnesotian thought Bruce a good choice, but wished Culver had made a more local choice: Bruce lived nine miles from Duluth on Rice Lake in his very own township, Bruceville. But Bruce had worked for Culver before, providing stone for use on the outer breakwater—besides his $900 annual salary, Bruce was allowed to keep his stone contract. The chief was described in the Minnesotian as “a stranger from the Cherokee Indian country west of Arkansas whose presence was an anomaly.” To Thomas Foster, the newspaper’s editor, Bruce’s appointment was further evidence that Culver’s “Ring” corruptly ran Duluth. Whether Culver and his friends were corrupt is a matter of opinion, but Foster’s instincts about Bruce were correct. In early July of the same year Bruce announced he had been called to Chicago. He never returned, leaving behind about $3,000 worth of debts to Duluth merchants, boarding house keepers, and the men working for him on Culver’s stone contract. Major J. L. Smith took Bruce’s position as Chief of Police; Bruce was never heard from again—at least not in Duluth. Duluth struggled to find the right police chief: five different men held the position between 1870 and 1873.