June 6, 1920: Assistant Fire Chief Wilson Killed

On this day in Duluth in 1920, Assistant Chief Charles W. Wilson, 51, was killed and firefighter Otto Kalkbrenner was injured in a tragic accident on the way to a fire. According to Duluth Fired Department historian Jarry Keppers, Wilson, 51, was “driving about 30 or 40 miles per hour to a fire at the Twin Ports Clothing Company when he tried to pass to the right of a horse-drawn street flushing wagon. The teamster driving the wagon, while trying to get out of the way, swung his horses to the right as well. Wilson then turned sharply to try to pass on the left, but the road was wet and slippery. His car spun completely around and crashed into an iron trolley standard, which cut through the center of the car and pinned the two men. Wilson never regained consciousness and died of internal injuries. He was a 22-year department veteran, and was survived by a wife and three children. His funeral was said to have had a larger attendance than any prior funeral in Duluth’s history, except for Chief Black’s, 13 years earlier. A memorial fund for the benefit of his family raised a minimum of $6,859.66 from people all over the area.” That would be close to $79,000 in today’s dollars.

Duluth Fire Department Chief Charles Wilson. (Image: Duluth Public Library)