May 31, 1856: Charles Chester establishes homestead along creek

On this day in 1856, Charles Chester established a homestead along Chester Creek above what is today Fourth Street. Very little is known about Chester, except that the creek was named in his honor because he was the first to build along it. In Woodbridge & Pardee’s 1910 “History of Duluth and St. Louis County” Duluth pioneer Sidney Luce lists among Duluth’s early settlers “Charles Chester and reputed wife, afterwards the wife of James Edwards, of Superior.” Later Luce writes that “Up to 1860 two or three small houses had been built a couple of blocks below the Culver house, one of which was the property of Charles Chester.” According to Luce, the 1859 home of J. B. Culver, who would become Duluth’s first mayor in 1870, stood “near the crossing of Second Avenue and East Second street.” So Chester may have owned more than one property in Duluth. It is thought that Chester left Duluth by 1860 in the wake of the Financial Panic of 1857 and moved to California to look for gold. The census data from 1870 and 1900 show him living in Oakland. If this is the same Charles Chester that Luce wrote of, he was born in Illinois in 1829 and had an actual wife (presumably his second), Carrie, who he married in 1896. According to census records Chester was a widower by 1910 and died in Oakland on December 29, 1913. In 1903 Duluth officially renamed Garfield Park “Chester Park” not so much to honor the pioneer, but because most Duluthians already referred to the park, centered on Chester Creek, as Chester Park. Read the history of Chester Park here.

A Lithographic postcard of “The Glenn” within Chester park, ca. 1905. (Image: Zenith City Press)