August 31, 1870: Birth of native pioneer and civic leader Bert Wheeler

On this day in Duluth in 1870, Bert N. Wheeler was born to Oneota pioneers Henry and Sarah Wheeler, the last of their eleven children. According to his 1946 obituary Wheeler graduated Hamline University, where he lettered in nine different sports including football, baseball and track, in 1894 and returned to Duluth that same year where he was promptly elected superintendent of School District 22 which served Virginia and Eveleth. He served as St. Louis County’s superintendent of schools from 1899 to 1901 when he took a position as principal of Duluth’s Bryant Elementary School. In 1905 he married May Belle Whitmore and entered the real estate business the same year. His civic achievements are legion. In 1923 he was elected Duluth’s Safety Commissioner. He served as president of Goodwill Industries since it was established in 1922 until his death, and director of the Duluth Council of Social Services from 1935 to 1941. When he died he was the oldest member of the Duluth Y.M.C.A., having served on its management committee since 1898. He was director of the “Y” from 1905 to 1936 and spent 35 as the chairman of the organization’s foreign work committee. He also found time to serve in Duluth’s naval militia as an officer aboard the U.S.S. Gopher and was a lifetime member of the St. Louis County Historical Society. Wheeler died in 1946 at age 77. Read more about the remarkable Wheeler family here.

This photograph of Bert N. Wheeler accompanied his 1946 obituary in the Duluth News Tribune. (Image: Zenith City Press)