May 26, 1856: The First Platting of Duluth

On this day in what had just become the town of Duluth, the future city’s first streets were platted, centered on the base of Minnesota Point. Recollections of early Duluthians tell that the town received its name at a picnic on Minnesota Point organized by proprietors George and William Nettleton on a lovely summer day in 1856 where “various names for the new town were proposed and Mr. Wilson at last proposed ‘Duluth.’” Mr. Wilson was Reverend Joseph Gaston Wilson, a native of Ohio who had arrived in Superior the previous year to teach at the Presbyterian Sunday School.  Wilson was well prepared. The Nettletons had offered him two lots in their new town if he could find an appropriate name for it. On George Nettleton’s bookshelf Wilson discovered an English translation of a book by Jesuits describing the efforts of French missionaries and explorers in North America. There he read about the exploits of Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Lhut, who once proclaimed that he “feared not death, only cowardice and dishonor.” Wilson’s tale of du Lhut’s adventures and his anglicized suggestion of “Duluth” were enthusiastically received by the community’s early claim holders. Witnesses remembered anointing the choice with the popping of champagne corks and a toast, as the sun set, to Duluth, destined to become “Queen of the West.” Learn more about Duluth’s namesake here and the 1850s towns that formed early Duluth here.

Clarence Rosenkranz’s depiction of Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Lhut landing at Onigamiinsing (“Little Portage”) on Minnesota Point in 1679, which originally hung on the Greysolon Tea Rooms of Duluth’s Glass Block Store. (Image: Duluth Public Library)