May 21, 1846: Birth of Duluth pioneer and historian Walter Van Brunt

On this day in 1846, future Duluthian Walter Van Brunt was born in Beloit, Wisconsin. He first moved to Duluth in 1869. He acted as Duluth’s first city clerk and an agent for two steamship lines, Leopold and Austrian’s line from Chicago and Beatty’s Canadian line from Sarnia, Ontario. IN 1870 he became Duluth’s first city clerk, and three years later tried to save a local townsite from floating away. In the early 1880s he helped incorporate Duluth’s Board of Trade and founded the Duluth Telephone Exchange Company. A biographer described Van Brunt as “a man of the genuine type, democratic in thought and action, unostentatious and frank in expression-one who speaks as he thinks, without desire to offend or to excuse, and with a kindly interest in his fellows, poor as well as rich.” He would become the secretary of the Old Settler’s Association and was dedicated to “searching for and preserving” the history of St. Louis County. Van Brunt edited Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota: Their Story & People, published by Chicago’s American Historical Society in 1922.

Walter Van Brunt. (Image: Duluth public Library)