October 18, 1881: Episcopal leaders meet to establish St. Luke’s Hospital

On this day in Duluth in 1881, leaders of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church first met to establish St. Luke’s Hospital. It was an appropriate date: October 18 is St. Luke’s Day, and Luke is often called “our beloved physician.” Like St. Mary’s Hospital, St. Luke’s was started when an outbreak of typhoid threatened Duluth. Recently seven men had died of typhoid “in the basement of one of the hotels.” St. Paul’s Reverend J. A. Cummings had an idea for a hospital that would include several community churches financed by ten men contributing $200 each. According to historian Walter Van Brunt, “Nine men had agreed, but when [former mayor] A. M. Miller, then the wealthiest man in Duluth, refused to contribute a cent the project seemed lost. Mr. Miller claimed that there would be no head of an institution in which all the churches were interested, and suggested that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church take up the plan, and he would be willing to contribute an amount equal to that of the other nine men.” After that first meeting by Duluth’s Episcopal Church elders, Cummings took charge of an old blacksmith shop—rented for $25 supplied by by C. H. Graves, another former Duluth mayor— located along the east side of Third Avenue West above Superior Street. He furnished it with a few chairs, three beds, and a stove donated by British officials at the Duluth emigrant station. His first patient was a destitute old man who was treated for free. Cummings placed an ad in local papers and within a week housed twelve patients. Three years later the hospital relocated to a larger space at Second Avenue East and Fourth Street that could accommodate thirty-eight beds. A. M. Miller’s will left a handsome sum to the city of Duluth for use to start a non-denominational hospital in the Zenith City, but the money wasn’t spent until the 1930s when Miller Memorial Hospital—later Miller-Dwan—was first established.

The 1881 St. Luke’s Hospital. (Image: Duluth Public Library)