March 17, 1886: Namesake of Superior’s Barker’s Island first visits the Head of the Lakes

On this day in 1886, according to the Inland Ocean News Captain Charles S. Barker first visited the Head of the Lakes to explore business interests in Duluth and Superior. Superior historian Judith Liebaert explains that the thirty-seven-year-old travelled to Superior “at the behest of a group of business leaders in the community, including officials of the Northern Pacific Railroad.” Barker’s’s father had improved and enlarged the Erie Canal, and in Syperior Charles Barker would do the same for the Duluth and Superior Harbor. While newspapers described him as “a humble and hardworking man, more concerned with getting the job done than with any notoriety,” he soon found plenty of it. He and his crew were repeatedly charged with illegally dumping dredged material, and from 1892 to 1893 found himself in dispute with the City of Superior over collection of over $95,000. Legend has it that Barker was so upset with the city he began intentionally dumping dredged material in front of Fairlawn, the home of then-Superior mayor Martin Pattison, and spoil the view from the house as a gesture of his ill-will. That Island, of course, is known today as Barker’s Island. Read more about Captain Barker, and much more about Barker’s Island, here.

This relief depicting Captain Charles S. Barker adorns his tombstone. (Image: Heidi Bakk-Hansen)