September 28, 1873: Thomas Harvey absconds with construction payroll 

On this day in Duluth in 1872, the Duluth Minnesotian reported that Thomas Harvey of the Comstock & Harvey Brownstone Company had skipped town with $8,000 meant to pay laborers building the Banning Block and the Hunter Block in downtown Duluth. Comstock & Harvey had leased Michael Chambers’ brownstone quarry in Fond du Lac to obtain the stones for the buildings, and Harvey’s departure left Comstock in debt to the tune of $10,000, roughly $180,000 today. Harvey had been considered an honest and upright citizen, and at first his departure caused more concern for his safety than for the money, but soon stories of dishonesty spread through town, along with reports that he had been seen in his native Canada. The paper reported Comstock & Harvey owed money to “bankers, merchants, tug captains, masons, plasterers, carpenters, quarrymen, laborers [150 of them], blacksmiths, harness makers, deguarian artists (photographers), and private gentlemen.” The firm was forced into bankruptcy, and work on the buildings was not completed until January, 1875. The Minnesotian said that Harvey’s theft either directly or indirectly affected every business in Duluth and that, as they build their city, Duluthians should look upon the incident as a lesson in whom to trust. Read more about Duluth’s lost brownstone industry, which includes the stories of other quarrymen of questionable character, here, and the park Duluth built on the site of Chambers’ estate here.

The Hunter Block. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)

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