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DULUTH, the county seat, first settled in 1850-51, platted and named in 1856, was incorporated as a town May 19, 1857, as a city March 5, 1870, and received a new city charter March 2, 1887. "In 1868, Duluth, Portland, and Rice's Point, until then three separate organizations, were consolidated, and all assumed the name of Duluth." Later the city area was extended on the west to include Oneota and Fond du Lac and eastward to Endion, Lakeside, and Lakewood. The city has had a post office since 1857, and its union depot served several rail lines including the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railroad, Great Northern Railway, and Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad (Soo Line).
The choice of the name of this city is narrated by Hon. John R. Carey, as follows: "In February, 1856, . . . Rev. Joseph G. Wilson, of Logansport, Ind., then sojourning at Superior as a home missionary, under the home mission board of the New School Presbyterian Church, was appealed to, to suggest a name for the future city. Mr. Wilson, who that winter lived with the writer and his family, informed me that he was promised two lots by the proprietors in the new town, in case he would suggest an appropriate name which they would accept. He asked for any old books in my possession, which might mention the name of some early missionary or noted explorer in the Lake Superior country, but I had then but a few books and not of the kind required. Mr. Wilson set about his task to earn the reward of the deed of the two lots in the great city. He visited the homes of citizens that he expected might be possessed of a library, and in his search found among some old books belonging to George E. Nettleton, an old English translation of the writings of the French Jesuits, relating to themselves and the early explorers and fur traders of the Northwest. In this he ran across the name of Du Luth, along with others of those early traders and missionaries who visited the head of the lake in the remote past. With other names, that of Du Luth was presented by Mr. Wilson to the proprietors at their meeting one evening in the home of George E. Nettleton, and after discussion of the relative merits of the several names submitted, the name Du Luth was selected" (MHS Collections 9: 254). On the first plat of Duluth, surveyed by Richard Relf and recorded May 26, 1856, the name appeared in its present form.
Daniel Greysolon, sieur Du Luth, was born at St. Germain Laval near Roanne, France, and died at his home in Montreal, February 25, 1710. His surname was otherwise variously spelled, as Du Lhut, Du Lhud, and Du Lud. It seems most suitable to adopt the spelling here first given, which, written as a single word, is borne in his honor by this great city, built on or near the site of his convocation of many Indian tribes in the early autumn of 1679.
With seven Frenchmen, Du Luth made the canoe journey to Lake Superior in 1678 for the purpose of exploring the country farther west, occupied by the Dakota and Assiniboine, among whom he spent the next two years, endeavoring to bring them into alliance with the French for fur trading. In the summer of the second year, 1680, Du Luth met Father Louis Hennepin and his two French companions and secured their liberation from captivity with the Dakota of Mille Lacs.
The sobriquet of Duluth, "the Zenith City of the Unsalted Seas," was originated by Dr. Thomas Foster (1818-1903), who established the first newspaper in Duluth in 1869. It was an expression in an enthusiastic speech by Foster at a celebration of July 4, 1868, by Duluth and Superior people in a park on Minnesota Point. It has been sometimes erroneously attributed to a very famous speech in Congress, January 27, 1871, by James Proctor Knott (1830-1911), who was a member from Kentucky, ridiculing Duluth in connection with the bill for a land grant to the St. Croix and Lake Superior Railroad company.
"Twin Ports" is a name frequently used for these adjoining great cities of Duluth and Superior, as the term "Twin Cities" is applied to Minneapolis and St. Paul.