Dick Palmer: From shipping clerk to president, his legacy put meat on the table

This story begins, "Sometime back in history, when men were men and boys became men in a hurry, our good neighbor had a decision made for him that culminated in 57 years of business experience ...."...

This story begins, "Sometime back in history, when men were men and boys became men in a hurry, our good neighbor had a decision made for him that culminated in 57 years of business experience ...."

Duluth, in those days, was a hub of diversified activity, most with a homemade flavor. We reflect on yesteryear in this area because from the confidence and leadership of so many, Duluth was known as the Zenith City of the Unsalted Seas for good reason.

Hiram A. Elliott was born on April 4,1897, in a small farm house on Superior's east side. He had an older brother and later a sister. When Hi was about 5 years old, dad purchased an 80 acre farm on Superior's south side where he raised dairy cattle. Hi, of course, was too young to milk the cows, but in his early growing years he learned to ski on barrelhoop skis, hunted, fished and snared rabbits which he sold for 20 cents each to Berthiaume Brothers store. That helped support the family during the less than best of times.

Farming was not all that good because of area competition and the weather didn't always cooperate. Hi attended local schools until he was 14 and then a decision was made for him that changed his life forever . . . and it was a good decision, especially for the economy of this area.

Hi's uncle Hiram R. Elliott, a few years before Hi was born, had purchased a meat packing plant in Duluth from J. B. Stuphin and G. F. Swift and renamed it Elliott Packing Company. It was a small operation, but it did handle a full line of beef, pork, lamb, veal, processed hams and bacon. The sausage business was also popular and growing. Uncle Hiram needed some summer help and 14-year-old Hi was hired in the shipping department. Hi's father reasoned that Hi was the "least useful" around the farm and so Hi left the farm to the expertise of his older brother.


At Elliott's, the meat was shipped to area grocers by horse-drawn wagon and in 1912, Elliott's purchased its first motorized truck. Here was a typical day for Hi. He delivered a wagon load of meat to the West Duluth Incline, located around 64th Avenue West and Grand. The meat was put on the incline car and carried up the hill to Bayview Heights where Ivan Stewart was waiting for it with his horse and wagon. Ivan owned the WHM Stewart grocery in Proctor. Today, Ivan's grandson is the owner and manager of the Super One Foods store in International Falls.

Hi became a salesman for Elliott's and traveled by train from Duluth to Webster, Wis. When the train stopped along the route to drop off freight, Elliott quickly made calls to area grocers. Once he got back too late, and the train had left the station. He hired a railroad handcar and 10 miles later caught up with the train and continued his journey. Indeed, those were the days. He was making $15 per week at the time and used part of it for room and board. The rest went to mom and dad.

Hi moved quickly with the company because he was cheerful and got along with everyone. On Saturdays, Hi went downtown to the American Exchange Bank and picked up the payroll. He had a $7,000 bag full of $20, $10 and $5 gold pieces that he carried to the streetcar, without escort, and rode with to the plant on Oneota Street. Can you imagine doing that today?

Grandpa had a business partner named Warren Mendenhall. He was another force in the growth of Duluth. He owned a men's clothing store downtown that he ultimately sold to Ed Livingston, the founder of Livingston's Big Duluth at 222 W. Superior St. The Budgeteer offices are currently at that location.

Hi became president of the Elliott Packing Company in 1947. During those many years at Elliott's, Hi was a director of the Minnesota Liberty Insurance Company and the Minnesota Arrowhead Association. He was honored in 1953 as one of Minnesota's outstanding executives by the St. Paul Foundry Company. He was a member of Glen Avon Presbyterian Church, a Mason, Scottish Rite and Shriner, a member of the Isaac Walton League, Ducks Unlimited and active in 4-H activities.

His leadership at the Elliott Packing Company provided hundreds of jobs in this area. Hi was a member of the Rotary Club of Duluth and had perfect attendance for over 56 years.

Hi Elliott was one of many Duluthians who worked hard, through the good and the bad years, to contribute to this area with business and cultural expertise.

He is part of Duluth's positive history.

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