January 5: 1917: A. M. Miller changes his trust to build “secular” hospital in Duluth

On this day in 1917, pioneer Duluth lumberman, quarry owner, village mayor, and theatre builder Andreas M. Miller changed his trust, a move that would eventually result in the creation of Duluth’s Miller Memorial Hospital, predecessor to today’s Essentia Health. Miller made a fortune logging northeastern Minnesota and at one time owned a brownstone quarry in Fond du Lac. In 1889 his used part of his wealth to build Duluth’s famous Lyceum Theatre. When Miller left business he moved to New York and set up a $600,000 trust (worth nearly $11.5 million today) to finance his retirement and, after his death, several charities. That January day in 1917 he changed the trust, eliminating the charities and adding that, upon his death, “…to transfer and pay over said securities in property to the City of Duluth, Minnesota, for the establishment of a free and public hospital and dispensary, in a cheerful and convenient location within the city for secular use and benefit of worthy sick and helpless poor, without distinction of sex, color, creed, or nationality who are not afflicted with any loathsome or contagious disease….” You see, at the time Duluth had two major hospitals, Catholic St. Mary’s and Protestant St. Luke’s, and Miller wanted a hospital for everyone. A native of Denmark, Miller previously showed this socialistic side when he built the Lyceum and made sure it had gallery seating with no private boxes for the wealthy. Miller died that May, but it took until May 1934 for Duluth to open Miller Memorial Hospital. In 1969 the hospital expanded and changed its name to Miller-Dwan Medical Center. St. Mary’s Medical Center integrated with the Duluth Clinic to form St. Mary’s/Duluth Clinic Health System, also known as SMDC, in 1997. Four years later, Miller-Dwan merged with SMDC, and in 2004 SMDC merged with Benedictine Health System and became Essentia Health.

Andreas M. Miller. (Image: Duluth Public Library)