The city of Superior sits at the junction of U.S. Highway 2 and U.S. Highway 53, and is the county seat of Douglas County, Wisconsin, USA. As of the 2000 census, it had a population of 27,368. The city is located just north of and adjacent to both the Village of Superior and the Town of Superior. Incorporated as a city on September 6, 1854, Superior is located at the western end of Lake Superior in northwestern Wisconsin. Bordered by St. Louis Bay, Superior Bay and Allouez Bay, it is also framed by two rivers: the Nemadji and the St. Louis. Superior, and the neighboring city across the bay, Duluth, Minnesota, form a single metropolitan area called the Twin Ports and share a harbor that is one of the most important ports on the Great Lakes. Both cities have museum ships (SS William A Irvin in Duluth and SS Meteor in Superior) devoted to the local nautical heritage.
The early history of Superior and Douglas County is a story of the Native American. The first-known inhabitants of what is now Douglas County were Mound Builders. These were an advanced group of people that appeared on the shores of Lake Superior sometime after the last glacier receded. They mined copper in the Minong Range and at Manitou Falls on the Black River. They pounded this metal into weapons, implements, and ornaments, which were later found buried in mounds with their dead. Their civilization was eventually overrun by other tribes, mainly of Muskhogean and Iroquois stock, and disappeared as a distinct culture in late prehistoric American times.
The first-known white men to visit the area were the French. In 1618, Stephen Brule, a voyager for Champlain, coasted along the south shore of Lake Superior where he met the Ojibwa. Upon returning to Quebec, he carried back some copper specimens and a glowing account of the region. In 1632, Champlain’s map appeared showing “Lac Superior de Tracy” as Lake Superior and the lower end shore as “Fond du Lac”. Soon after, fur trading companies established settlements, while missionaries came bringing the first touches of civilization.
For more than a century, the Hudson's Bay Company, followed by the Northwestern Fur Company in 1787 and later, the John Jacob Astor Fur Company, maintained trading posts with the Native Americans. With the coming of settlement, however, the voyager and fur trader faded into the misty twilight of a romantic and historic past.
Douglas County lies on one of the major water highways used by early travelers and voyagers of inland America. This water trail, the Bois Brule-St. Croix River Portage Trail, was the most convenient connecting link between Lake Superior and the Mississippi River. The Bois Brule and St. Croix River systems were only separated by a short portage over the Continental Divide near Solon Springs, Talahassee. The northward traveler used this water trail to take him to Lake Superior, while the downstream traveler could use it to go southwest to the Gulf of Mexico, unhindered by portages, by using the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers. This waterway was also an important route in the Wisconsin fur trade, particularly when the French War with the Fox Indians closed the more southern routes. Spurred by the prospect of lucrative shipping and iron ore industry, businessmen from Chicago and St. Paul laid claim to the site which became the city of Superior, and plans began for the plotting of a great city.
The first log cabin in Superior was erected in September of 1853 on the banks of the Nemadji River, paralleling the breaking of ground for the locks and ship canal at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. This brought the dawning of a new age for the infant city, Superior. Immediately there was eagerness for a railroad from Lake Superior to the Pacific Coast. This was later realized with construction of the Northern Pacific, and the dream of a rail and water highway from coast to coast was born. In 1889, the booming settlement at the Head of the Lakes would soon be named the county seat for Wisconsin’s 4th largest county. Named for Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, famed opponent of Abraham Lincoln, Douglas County became the site where its largest city and county seat, Superior, would be located, and money was pumped into the city’s shipping and railway industries.
The University of Wisconsin-Superior (UW-S) is a public liberal arts college and offers a range of undergraduate and graduate programs that combine a liberal arts education with professional training. Originally opened as a state Normal School (teacher's college), UW-S was formally combined into the University of Wisconsin System in 1971.
UWS Yellowjacket athletic teams compete in one of the country’s NCAA Division III conferences. Teams travel to games and tournaments throughout Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. Athletic facilities include the new state-of-the-art Health & Wellness Center, with gymnasium, field house with indoor track, fitness center, weight room, swimming pool and training room. The campus also offers Wessman Arena for hockey, an outdoor track, baseball field and soccer field.
The Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) offers a combination of skill development and technical education. Over 2,200 students enroll each year at the school and there are 40 full-time faculty employed. WITC has labs with up-to-date technologies for a hands-on-experience technical education. There are more than 50 programs and certificates available. WITC also provides workforce training, technical assistance and customized training.
The Superior School District has one high school, one middle school, and six elementary schools with a total enrollment of over 5,000 students. Superior Senior High School currently enrolls more than 1,500 students; the mascot is the Spartan. Over 1,400 students are enrolled in the Maple School District’s high school, middle school and two elementary schools. St. Croix has over 360 students one high school and one elementary school. A variety of schools aimed at faith-focused education are available in Superior ~ Douglas County as well, including Catholic education at Cathedral School, the Protestant-based Maranatha Academy and Twin Ports Baptist School.
Superior is the episcopal see of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Superior. The Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior is the mother church of the diocese.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 55.4 square miles (143.6 km²), of which, 36.9 square miles (95.7 km²) of it is land and 18.5 square miles (47.9 km²) of it (33.36%) is water.
There are several parks in the city, including the second largest municipal forest in the United States. Pattison State Park is a short distance south of the city, and contains Big Manitou Falls, the highest waterfall in the state at 165 feet.
As of the census of 2000, there were 27,368 people, 11,609 households, and 6,698 families residing in the city. The population density was 740.9 people per square mile (286.1/km²). There were 12,196 housing units at an average density of 330.2/sq mi (127.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.26% White, 0.68% Black or African American, 2.23% Native American, 0.84% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.26% from other races, and 1.69% from two or more races. 0.83% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 15.8% were of German, 13.6% Norwegian, 10.9% Swedish, 9.3% Irish, 7.2% Polish, 6.9% Finnish and 5.3% American ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 11,609 households out of which 27.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.3% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.3% were non-families. 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.91.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.7% under the age of 18, 12.9% from 18 to 24, 27.9% from 25 to 44, 21.6% from 45 to 64, and 15.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 92.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.8 males.
Superior has a population of 27,368 and is the largest municipality in Douglas County, which has a total population of 43,708. It is situated in a metropolitan area that includes the 86,918 residents of Duluth, Minnesota, just across the St. Louis Bay. The transportation industry is robust and accounts for more than 1,000 jobs. The Duluth-Superior port is the largest in the Great Lakes and welcomes both domestic and foreign vessels. In 2004, the port’s busiest year since 1979, more than 41.4 million metric tons were shipped out of the port. Shipments are on the increase, railroads are busy, and trucking firms are hiring, exploring new markets and investing in warehousing in Douglas County. Growing area manufacturers include FenTech, Inc., a company dealing with vinyl manipulation and fenestration, Charter Films, a producer of plastic films, Genesis Attachments, manufacturer of shears and grapples, and Amsoil, a producer of synthetic motor oil and lubricants.
Employment Facts (2002) in numbers of employees:
Construction/Mining, 1,130; Manufacturing, 1,190; Transportation/Public Utilities, 2,750; Wholesale Trade, 1,210; Retail Trade, 4,020; Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, 500; Service, 5,350; Government, 3,440;