History of Biwabik, Minnesota—including Merritt and McKinely (through 1922)

The township of Biwabik, 58-16, will always be one of the historic townships of St. Louis County, because it was in it that the second merchantable blue ore of the Mesabi range was discovered, following which there was such a frenzied rush of mining exploration and exploitation that within a couple of years companies to the number of more than a hundred, and with an aggregate capital of more than $200,000,000, had been organized, mainly in Duluth, the majority of them destined to become seriously crippled, and some to pass out of existence altogether, during the stress of the financial panic of 1893. However, the mines did not pass away, and, although the efforts of the initial explorers may not have brought them personal profit, they have brought to the county a wealth which places it first of all the county divisions of the State of Minnesota.

Of the three incorporated places of Biwabik Township, the Village of Merritt was the first to be established and incorporated. That village, however, is not little more than a memory. However, the Villages of McKinley and Biwabik, which were incorporated in the same year, (1892), may both now be considered to be well-established communities of permanent character, for while their development has not been rapid, the immense deposits of ore now lying dormant and unworked within range of those villages must, when operated, as they will be eventually, bring renewed activity and prosperity to these centers of trading and domiciliation.


Ore at the Biwabik mine was discovered in August, 1891, and at the Cincinnati almost simultaneously. Other discoveries quickly followed. In the fall of 1891, David T. Adams discovered a deposit on the Kanawha, northeast of the Biwabik, while Juldge J. T. Hale and his brother Benjamin, located the “pit of ore on the Hale, adjoining the Kanawha on the east.” Townsite Platted.–As a result of these discoveries, 0. D. Kinney, Joseph Sellwood, Judge Hale, and others, who owned the fee of the Hale, Kanawha, and considerable other land in that vicinity, conceived the idea of establishing a townsite on the hill between the Hale and the Biwabik group of mines,” stated a review written in 1906. “It was named Merritt, in honor of the Duluth family by that name that had done so much to bring the attention of the world to the possibilities of the range, and who had taken the initiative in providing it with its first railroad. But, strange as it may seem, the Merritts were not pleased with this, because they had not been consulted, and nearly all the members of the family avoided the town in their trips over the range, and would travel a long distance in order not to be compelled to stop in the place over-night. The Village of 431Merritt developed like magic, notwithstanding, and by the spring of 1892 had all the earmarks of a thriving and prosperous town, the first on the range.” Whether the antipathy of the Merritts had any part in the placing of the railway station a mile or two west of Merritt cannot be more than conjectured, but certain it is that the decision not to give Merritt a railway station had a definite part in the destiny of the village, although other causes, logical and unavoidable, contributed to the decadence of the pioneer place. The “Vermilion Iron Journal,” of February 11, 1892, issue, refers to the platting of Merritt, reporting that “its streets are now being cleared,” adding that Hon. O. D.

Kinney, Judge J. T. Hale, and Capt. Joseph Sellwood are owners of the Merritt site,” also that “in all probability another townsite will be platted somewhere north of the Biwabik, contiguous to the more western properties, such as the Canton, Chicago, Camden, and McKinley,” and stating that “The Canton Company will be the prime movers in this project.” Thus, evidently, the Merritt family was not interested in the promotion of a rival village to Merritt. What ended Merritt’s chance of winning a place among the cities of the Mesabi range was a disastrous fire, which almost wiped the budding village off the map. Dr. Barrett, editor of the “Vermilion Iron Journal,” had established a weekly paper called “The Mesabi Range,” at Merritt, in May, 1892,-the first newspaper of the Mesabi, of course,-and his sub-editor later wrote of the place thus: “Merritt was doomed to die, as the result of the establishment of the rival town of Biwabik in the fall of 1892, and a disastrous woods fire, which practically wiped the village off the face of the earth, on June 18, 1893. Disheartened and discouraged by the fire loss, the lack of promised railway facilities, and the decreased business, on account of the completion of Biwabik, many of the residents moved away, while several went to Biwabik together with the … “Mesabi Range.” And Merritt was dead.

Another account stated that after a station had been established “a mile or two west of the original town, and when the present townsite of Biwabik was laid out there, a general exodus took place, many of the buildings being moved bodily from Merritt to Biwabik, and in a year or two more the former townsite.was entirely abandoned.” Organization.-Even though the Village of Merritt is now, to all intents, nonexistent, it is perhaps fitting to somewhat extensively review its history, seeing that it was the first village of the Mesabi Range to seek and obtain the dignity and privileges of corporate government.

Such a position was the ultimate result of a petition circulated among the residents ‘of the townsite of Merritt in March, 1892.

The petition was sworn to on March 23, 1892, by Arthur A. Hosford, Thomas Donelly and William L. Hill, and was signed by a majority of the legal voters resident on the townsite of Merritt, whereon lived, according to census taken on March 22, 1892, 217 persons. Corporate powers were sought over “the lands laid out and platted as the ‘townsite of Merritt,’ as filed with the Register of Deeds on February 15, 1892, se. qr. sec. 2, and lot 8, sec: 1, township 58-16,” in all about 65 acres.

The county commissioners met on April 5th, and approved the petition. Election was ordered to be held on May 10, 1892, “at the hotel of P. H. McGarry, lot 9, and 10, block 40, Town of Merritt.” Notices were posted at “the hotel of Cogin and Johnson, office of L. W. Mining Co.; saloon of Frank Hayes; Post Office building, 432corner Central Avenue and Main Street; and at the hotel of P. H.

McGarry.” Ninety-nine votes were cast at that election, all voting in favor of the incorporation.

The Village of Merritt is still officially an incorporated place of St. Louis county, but its place in county records is quite unimportant.

Hibbing Village figures on the Tax Sheet of 1919 with a valuation of more than eighty-four millions. The valuation of Merritt in that year was $9,540, which is of real property only. There is no personal property.


In order of establishment, the Village of McKinley should be next reviewed. Pettit and Robinson were the fee owners of the greater part of the lands in the vicinity of McKinley, and the first potential happening in that vicinity was the erection of a small sawmill, by the Mesaba Lumber Company, upon, or near, what became the townsite.

That was in 1891, the sawmill evidently being merely for use in the erection of a mining camp in McKinley, or at other places in township 58-16. John McKinley had leased quite a lot of land from Pettit and Robinson and from Hill and Bliss, the land in section 8 (upon which McKinley eventually was platted) belonging to the former. And it was on section 8 that the McKinley brothers, John William and Duncan, began to explore for iron ore. They discovered ore on the McKinley mine in December, 1891, and soon afterwards it became certain that there would be rapid developments, and much building and clearing of land, at that point. Therefore, in the spring of 1892, the small sawmill was replaced by a larger one.

Townsite Platted.-In August, 1892, the townsite of McKinley, consisting of eighty acres, was platted, and about that time a census was taken of persons living in the immediate vicinity. The census showed that there were 189 residents in an area of 360 acres, over which the McKinley brothers and others sought to get permission to establish corporate government. A petition to that effect was in August, 1892, circulated among and signed by the voters of that section, and its statements were sworn to on August 29, 1892, by E. A.

Taylor, R. A. Lowe and J. F. McClellan, Jr. Petitioners wished the Village of McKinley, when incorporated, to embrace “the s. half, sw. qr., and sw. qr. of se. qr. of section 8; and the nw. qr. of section 17; and the east half of ne. qr. of section 18, in all 360 acres, all in township 58-16.” It described the plat as of forty acres (other records show it as of eighty acres).

The petition was approved by the county commissioners at their session of September, 1892. They ordered notices of election to be posted: one at “the boarding house of the McKinley Iron Company, sw.-sw., sec. 8; one at the Logging Camp on sw. qr., se. qr., sec. 8; one at J. Ford’s boarding house, lot 6, block 3, plat of McKinley; one on the store building of S. L. Johnson, lot 1, block 24, and one on the store of D. M. McKinley, lot 5, block 15, plat of McKinley,” calling upon all legal voters to assemble at the store building of Duncan McKinley, Jr., lot 6, block 15, plat of McKinley, on October 12, 1892, to vote on the question of incorporation. The election brought 127 to the polling place, and every vote was in favor.

First Election.-Consequently, as soon as possible, an election of village officials took place. Those elected to constitute the original Vol. I-28 433administration of the incorporated Village of McKinley, for the first year, from October 27, 1892, were: D. J. Cameron, president; R. A.

Lowe, recorder; B. F. Berdie, treasurer; E. A. Wierman, Chas. Hill, and D. W. Braithwaite, trustees; Frank Knell and Henry Flynn, justices; C. Flynn, constable.

Outstanding Events.-S. L. Johnson opened the first store at Mc- Kinley.

Mining operations were suspended in 1893.

The first school was opened in 1893.

The village hall was built in 1905.

Mining was again resumed, under the Oliver Mining Company, in 1907, when the presence of steam shovels on the McKinley property gave promise of municipal activity once again for the village.

Mining at the McKinley ceased, however, in 1909.

Water Supply.-The first water plant was established early in the administration of Ed. Olson, a well being driven near the shore of the lake that borders the townsite. Adequate supply of good drinking water was thus available, and arrangements were planned whereby additional supply could be readily obtainable from the lake in case of fire emergency. A volunteer fire company was early organized, and suitable equipment bought. Fire and Village Hall was also built during the administration of President Ed. Olson, and two years later a brick jail was built adjacent to the hall. The second water plant was built four or five years ago, during the administration of J. P. Ahlin.

Churches.-McKinley has only had one church building. It was opened early by the Roman Catholic Church, but services have not recently been held in it, and it is understood the building is owned and claimed by Anton Skoda’s widow. It is occasionally used for public gatherings.

Bank.-McKinley once had one, but the business of recent years did not justify its continuance at McKinley, so the banking houses of Biwabik and Gilbert now share the service to McKinley.

Old Residents.-W. G. Dundas settled in the village in 1892, in which year, or before, S. L. Johnson came. Jack Smuk is also one of the pioneers. George Lestic came in 1893.

First Building.-It is asserted that the Mesaba Lumber Company put up the first building in McKinley, that now owned by Frank Klink, of Virginia.

Townsite Company.-Of course, the main reason for the “marking time” of McKinley is the inactivity of the important mines of the vicinity. When they resume work at the McKinley, things municipal will brighten in the village. Nevertheless, it is stated that one hindrance to the advancement of the place is the disinclination of Pettit and Robinson, owners of part of the townsite, to dispose of lots. It appears that in 1907 there was a division of interests in the townsite, the Pettit and Robinson interest taking that part of the townsite under which ore had been discovered, and the McKinley Townsite Company the balance. William McKinley was the president of the townsite company, which has always been eager to sell lots. The Pettit-Robinson interests, however, still hold to their lots.

Hospital.-Dr. J. C. Farmer, who settled in McKinley in 1900, acquired the hospital conducted formerly at the village by mining companies. He maintained it, as a private hospital, until he died, February 9, 1921.

434Boundaries Increased.-Petition, dated February 10, 1915, signed by five of eighty-one residents upon 1,880 acres of adjoining land, in sections 8, 18, 17, 19 and 20, asked that said 1,880 acres be annexed to the Village of McKinley. Election to determine the wish of the majority, was held on March 6, 1915. Eleven voted in favor of annexation, and only ifive against.

On March 30, 1916, on petition of the Lake Superior Consolidated Iron Mines and the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad Company, owners of the land affected, certain parts in section 8 and section 17 were brought within the village boundaries, Village Ordinance No. 27 providing for it.

Presidents of Village Since Establishment.-The succession of chief executives since the first election, in 1892, brought D. J. Cameron into office as village president, has been as follows: 1893, H. L.

Darms; 1894, D. J. Cameron; 1895, S. L. Johnson; 1896, H. J. Millbrook; 1897, H. H. Salmon; 1898, H. A. Kamke; 1899, Wm. White; 1900, Wm. White; 1901-06, Ed. Olson; 1907-09, J. C. Farmer; 1910-11, W. G. Dundas; 1912-14, J. H. Northey; 1915-17, J. P. Ahlin; 1918, J. H. Northey; 1919-20, M. Lestic. The present village clerk is John Gnall. Treasurer, Emil Berg. Council, John Starc, John Tomatz, and Matt Smuk.

Assessment.-To an extent, the development of McKinley is indicated by the tax duplicate. The assessed valuation for the year 1892 was $6,120. In 1919, the assessed valuation of the real and personal property in McKinley totalled to $533,697.

Population.-A truer indication, however, is conveyed by the census figures. In August, 1892, there were 189 persons living within what became the limits of the village. The federal census for the three decadal compilations, 1900, 1910, and 1920, were: 1900, 262; 1910, 411, and 1920, 395 persons.

The outlook for the village of McKinley is not immediately promising. Nevertheless, the indications are that at some future time McKinley will again take on substantial growth.


The Village of Biwabik was incorporated soon after McKinley assumed that state of government. The Village of Biwabik began to take shape in the early part of 1892, as has already been described in this chapter, and when it became known that the railway station would not be at Merritt, but nearer to the Biwabik mine, on section 2, building activities began in proximity to the proposed site of the station.

The earliest operations on the Biwabik and other mining locations were accompanied by serious inconveniences and physical hardships.

Frank S. Colvin, still of Biwabik, and still a lumber dealer, was on the Mesabi Range probably before ore was discovered. In 1890, he was bookkeeper for the Mesaba Lumber Company, which was then logging in the vicinity of the Duluth and Iron Range Railway.

He was bookkeeper and manager of the company-store at Mesaba station, where the company had a sawmill at that time, and used to cross’ over to Mountain Iron, where the Merritts, in the winter of 1889-1890 established an exploring camp, which they maintained steadily until ore was discovered there, in November, 1890, soon after which important happening Mountain Iron may be considered to have assumed the status of a mining location, in 1892, becoming 435an incorporated place. When Mr. Colvin reached Mesaba station, in 1890, the only “route of travel on the Mesabi range was a trail extending from Mesaba to Mountain Iron, which had been cleared out by the Merritt brothers and other prospectors, for the purpose of hauling supplies to their camps.” Mesaba was the fitting-out center from which the expeditions started, and “a round-trip from Mesaba to Mountain Iron” would consume three days. One of the stoppingplaces was just north of the present site of the Village of Biwabik.

At that point there was a good spring, which probably explained why travelers stopped there while passing west over the range.

Indians Encamped at Biwabik.-And that, in all probability, was the reason for the favoring of the spot as a camping place by Indians.

Mr. F. C. Colvin, pioneer resident, rode over that trail, on horseback, “before there was any Biwabik thought of,” and it is stated that Indians encamped on the Biwabik location during its first year, and inquisitively, perhaps questioningly, watched the test-pitters, and the ever-increasing number of white people settling on the hitherto almost untrodden uplands.

Rush of Prospectors.-With the discovery of ore at Mountain Iron, and in 1891, at more than one place in township 58-16, there was a rush of “prospectors and speculators to the range, and most of them walked or drove from Mesaba, which assumed “quite a metropolitan appearance within a few days,” according to Mr. Colvin.

“There were no less than thirteen ‘hotels’ at that place, and there was an enormous demand for camping and building supplies, as well as other accommodation during the following winter, no less than 150 teams sometimes waiting in line for loads. Prices of all kinds went soaring, and the services of a man and team were worth fifteen dollars a day.” Early Inconveniences.-The first ore taken from the Biwabik mine “was taken out on sleds over the Vermilion trail, to be sampled at Duluth.” The first consignment of beer received at the Biwabik location was, it is stated, floated down the Embarrass River, on a boom, from Tower.

Planning of Biwabik.-However, as the year 1892 advanced, conditions improved. The townsite of Merritt had been platted, there was prospect of railway connection, from two directions, before the end of the year, and the mining developments were assuming such proportions that other villages were bound to soon come into existence.

Merritt grew rapidly, after the townsite was platted, but another townsite was planned “somewhere north of the Biwabik (mine) as early in 1892 as February, and when the news came that the railway station would be a mile or more west of Merritt, merchants and others of that place quickly began to gather, with their goods, some with their buildings too, at the new townsite.

The First Store.-The first store built at Biwabik was that of A. P.

Dodge. It was opened in the summer of 1892. H. G. Seeley quickly followed, establishing a grocery store, the first on the Mesabi range,.

He came over from the Village of Merritt, carrying a sack of flour upon his shoulder, it appears. A retail lumber yard was established in Biwabik also, in the fall of 1892, the enterprise of D. W. Freeman, and Colvin and Robb. “Their first supplies were drawn from Mesaba with teams, and the first shipment of freight over this branch of the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad consisted of seventeen carloads of lumber for this firm.” 436Incorporation Wanted.-The Village of Biwabik rapidly took shape, and inSeptember some of the principal residents began to think of bringing the community affairs into a proper state of corporate government. A census showed that 287 persons were living on the townsite and in the vicinity.

Petition Circulated.-In September, 1892, a petition was circulated in the vicinity of the townsite, and signed by thirty-two residents, the first to sign being H. Spence. The paper petitioned the county commissioners to approve of the incorporation, as the Village of Biwabik, of: “the s. half of sw. qr. of section 2, twp. 58-16, which land had been platted and recorded as the ‘Plat of Biwabik’; the e. half of se. qr. of sec. 3, and the ne. qr. of sec. 3, twp. 58-16; and the s. half of the se. qr. of sec. 34, twp. 59-16, all the land being adjacent to the tract platted.” Commissioners Approve.-The petition was filed with the county officials on October 4, 1892. It had been sworn to on September 23, 1892, by Henry C. Kennedy, Carroll Corson and Dudley W. Freeman, and was considered by the county commissioners at their next meeting. They found the paper to be regular “in form and execution,” and approved it. Consequently, they set a date on which the residents in the territory should vote upon the question. They caused to be posted in public places their order that election be held on November 10, 1892, “in the front room on the ground floor of A. P.

Dodge’s general merchandise store, situated on lot 1, block 33, townsite of Biwabik.” On that day 116 residents voted, every vote cast being in favor of the incorporation.

First Election for Officers.-Accordingly the next public business was the holding of an election to bring into office the first village administration. Notices of election were posted on the 21st day of November, 1893, by Dudley W. Freeman, the notices calling upon “the legal voters residing in said incorporated village of Biwabik to meet in the front room, on the ground floor, of that certain building occupied by A. P. Dodge, as a general-merchandise store, and situated on lot No. 1, in block 33, in the town of Biwabik” … at 9 o’clock in the forenoon of Friday, the second day of December, 1892, to organize … and to elect officers for said village of Biwabik.” First Village Officers.-On election-day, most of the residents gathered at the polling place, as the number of votes cast indicates.

The judges of election were M. J. McIntyre and W. L. Hill, with Thomas Summers as clerk. In due course, the judges declared that the under-stated had been legally elected: A. P. Dodge, president; Frank Fabor, Wm. B. Cameron, and John Jacobson, trustees; Jas.

A. Robb, recorder; Theo. Fifer and John Kassler, constables; A. C.

Olson and H. C. Kennedy, justices; and F. S. Colvin, treasurer. The candidates, and votes cast were: For president, A.. P. Dodge, 135 votes: Carroll Corson, 120 votes; for recorder, J. A. Robb, 123 votes; for trustee: Frank Fabor, 130 votes; W. B. Cameron, 133 votes; John Jacobson, 130 votes; Burton Hurd, 121 votes; Matt Prettner, 124 votes; F. A. Dailey, 123 votes; for treasurer: F. S. Colvin, 132 votes; aW. A. Housel, 123 votes; for justice of the peace: H. C. Kennedy, 135 votes; M. C. Brown, 122 votes; A. C. Olson, 128 votes; Emery Stern, 120 votes; for constable: John Kassler, 170 votes; Theo. Fifer, 133 votes; Mike Mead, 122 votes; Fredk. Erickson, 75 votes.

The election, although held at the store of A. P. Dodge, does not appear to have been held at the same “store of A. P. Dodge,” as that 437at which the first Biwabik township election was held “on May 25, 1892. The township election was held “in the store of A. P.

Dodge, … north-east quarter of section three,” but the village polling place, although at the store of A. P. Dodge, was at lot 1, block 33, townsite of Biwabik, which must therefore have been within the “south half of sw. quarter of section 2,” that being the original townsite. As a matter of fact, Dodge moved his store from the mining location to the Village of Biwabik very soon after that place was platted, in 1892.

First Council Meeting.-The first matter brought before the council for consideration and disposition at their first meeting had connection with licensing of houses in which intoxicating liquors might be sold. Applications for such license were presented to the council by Wm. L. Hill, Andrew Wilson and Jos. Watson, Joe Scala and Matt Judnich, Joe Smoke and John Bottle, Frank Fabor, Eric Erickson and Oscar Hermanson, and by Joe Jacobson.

Early Economies.-The highest-paid municipal officer in 1892-3 was probably Theo. Fifer, who, according to one council minute, “was appointed village marshal, at a salary of $75.00 a month.” In 1893, the council bought fifty cords of wood, paying $2.00 a cord for slab wood, and $2.50 for Tamarack.

The early council meetings were held in the office of Robinson and McCarthy, the council agreeing, in March, 1893, to pay that company a rental of $4 a month for the use of that office.

In March, 1893, a committee was appointed by the village council “to communicate with an engineer, and if not to exceed one hundred dollars to have grade on streets established.” A jail was built in 1893, at a cost of $353.89, “and lumber and work.” On May 1, 1893, Thomes Scadden (or Seadden) was “granted the right to erect poles and establish a telephone system” in the village.

Water Supply.-What was certainly not an insignificant outlay, even though it may bave been an economy, was the placing of an order, with the Crane Ordway Company, of Duluth, to furnish the village with “pumps, boiler, and pipe and hose for water supply,” for the sum of $2,754, the equipment to be furnished in 1893. That system served the village until 1908, when a complete new water and sewage system was established, the service extending to all parts of the village. The water supply was obtained from the shaft of the Biwabik mine, by an arrangement mutually advantageous, to the village and the mining company. The water was forced into an elevated tank, giving a pressure of sixty pounds to an inch in all parts of the village, under normal circumstances, but capable of increasing this pressure, in case of fire, to 100 pounds.

Fire Department.-The Biwabik Fire Department has come somewhat into prominence during recent years, not only in Biwabik, but throughout the Mesabi range, because of the prowess of the Biwabik Volunteer Fire Department Team, which carried off championships at recent meets, or tournaments, of the Iron Range Volunteer Firemen’s Association. The Biwabik Volunteer Fire Company may be said to have had its “baptism of fire” in the serious forest fire which blotted out at least two other range villages (Virginia and Merritt) in June, 1893. Biwabik “was saved by the strenuous efforts of its inhabitants, who were well organized for the purpose by Wm. Cameron.” 438There is little reason to doubt that Biwabik was saved a catastrophe similar to that wihch same to Virginia mainly through the determination and resolute leadership shown in the exciting emergency by Mr. Cameron. By one account: Mr. Cameron, the village president, mounted a horse, and, with two revolvers strapped to his side, ordered every house and business place closed, and every man, woman and child out to fight the fire. Barrels were placed around town, and every building had one person, or more, on the roof, with a pail of water and a gunny-sack, or a ‘blanket, ready to put out any fire that might start. One man afterwards asserted that he counted one hundred roofs on fire at one time.

In the next year, the Biwabik Volunteer Fire Company was BIWABIK PARK officially organized, with the following members: F. Faber, W. W.

Browne, C. A. Bernick, W. S. Robbins, F. Senrick, R. Metcalfe, F. A.

Daily, H. S. Latham, D. W. Freeman, J. C. Poole, J. M. Wilcox, J.

Maenz, J. A. Robb. Apparently, they received one dollar a call for their services. The fire-fighting apparatus was improved from time to time, and in 1909 consisted of three hose carts, with 2,500 feet of hose and “extension ladders in sufficient number to reach the top of any building in the town.” With the building of the new village hall, a brick and concrete structure, in 1908-09, the fire department had better quarters, a portion of the village hall being set apart as a fire hall, with fireman’s dormitory, and other conveniences. And latterly, the interest shown by the firemen in the contests of the Firemen’s Association tournaments, which have been regularly held for eleven years, has increased the efficiency of the local fire-fighting body, and established an enviable measure of prestige for Biwabik, in that respect.

Village Hall.-The original humble quarters of the village administration were soon removed to a building especially planned to serve 439 as municipal headquarters, and ultimately to the fine brick and concrete hall, built in 1908-09, at a cost of $12,500. It is two stories in height, is 41×65 feet, and has served as council chamber, municipal court, police headquarters, fire hall, and administrative offices, since that year.

General Improvements.-The last fifteen years have brought many improvements and public facilities to the people of Biwabik. A more economical and reliable lighting system was established in 1909, “arrangements having been made by which the steam from the boilers of the Biwabik mine could be used to generate electricity for lighting the town,” the arrangement enabling the village to charge private consumers “on a sliding scale of eight to twelve cents per k. w.

hour,” which was not possible under the former system of an independent village lighting plant. The village is well-lighted by arc and incandescent lamps. There is a moderately good park system, although parks are not so necessary in Biwabik as in some other places, for the wild woods are very near.

Community Hall.-One of the noteworthy economies of the Biwabik municipal authorities was the acquiring, by the village from the school district, of an old school building, of frame construction.

It had become useless for school purposes, but the city fathers saw a useful community service to which it could be put. And they bought the building for the sum of $1.00. When remodeled, so that it had open sides “all the way around,” it was set in an open space, and an excellent dancing floor put in. Since that time, it has been a community center, with dances weekly during the season.

Hospital.-The Biwabik Hospital was one of the first to be established on the Mesabi range. The original Biwabik Hospital was established by Dr. William H. Magie, of Duluth, soon after the village came into being, in 1892. The building was destroyed by fire in 1905, but soon afterwards replaced by a more convenient two-story hospital building, the main part of which is 30 by 54 feet, there also being a wing 30 feet square. Dr. C. W. Bray has directed the hospital since 1899.

Banking.-The First National Bank of Biwabik was organized in 1907, with a capital of $25,000. It opened for business on May 27th, and its deposits quickly reached to $223,000. A set-back came before the end of that year, the financial panic in the autumn lowering it deposits seriously. They now (1920) stand at more than double that figure, and, although, the capital is still the same, the surplus is $8,000.

The First National Bank has absorbed one other banking institution; it owns its own substantial bank building, which was erected in 1913 at a cost of $42,000, with fittings; and it has stood in good repute, as a conservative banking institution since its establishment in 1907.

The first officers of the bank were: F. B. Myers, president; N. B. Shank, vice president; T. E. Gray, J. C. Poole, H. B. Seeley and F. B. Olson, directors, the last-named being cashier. The present officers are: J. C. McGivern, president; Dr. C. W. Bray, vice president; J. A. Talle, J. E. Lunn and A. B. Shank, directors, with A. B. Shank, cashier.

The bank it absorbed was the State Bank of Biwabik, which was established in about 1903, and, ran until November 1907, when consolidation took place.

441However, the first bank organized in Biwabik was that established in 1892 by Frank A. Dailey. The next to be organized was the Bank of Biwabik, a private banking house established by F. B. Myers in 1900. It was taken over by the State Bank of Biwabik in 1903.

Education.-School District No. 24 has the direction of education over a somewhat large area, its boundaries extending into four townships, T. 58 and 59, of range 16, and 58 and 57 of range 15. It centers however in Biwabik, in which village probably live most of the 749 scholars enrolled for school-year 1919-20, in which year the 3 school buildings, one frame and two brick, were valued at $540,000.

The present teaching staff consists of five male and 37 female instructors, certainly a far greater, and probably a much more efficient, staff than that which served the village of Biwabik in the little MAIN STREET, BIWABIK schoolhouse sold to the village for one dollar, and now used as a community dance hall. Salaries probably are more substantial in these days, the average salary of the male teachers in 1919 being $230 a month, the female teachers averaging $126 a month.

There are three schools now in use, the oldest having been built in 1907, at a cost of $80,000. When built it became the high school of the district, and the people of Biwabik were proud of it. The present Horace Mann School, with its natatorium, showers, auditorium, and other modern school-building “adjuncts,” has carried Biwabik forward, in the matter of schools, quite satisfactorily. The school has the largest swimming pool in the state, i. e., of schoolbuilding pools, and the school cost approximately $200,000. to build.

The other brick school is the Washington.

The Biwabik High School is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, its graduates thus needing no further preparatory, or matriculating, examination for admittance to associated colleges.

442The school district has been well administered, and many of the prominent residents of Biwabik have given much time to its affairs.

The school district officials at present are: DeWitt Adkins, superintendent, an educator of good repute on the Range, where can be found some of the best and highest-paid public-school educators of the United States; L. R. Christensen, clerk; Dr. C. W. Bray, treasurer; J. F. Hildebrand, chairman of directors.

Library.-Biwabik has no public library, of Carnegie or other foundation, but the village is moderately well served by the library of the high school. That library has five thousand volumes, and is open to the public.

Taxation.-In 1892 the taxes levied in the village of Biwabik totalled to $120.46. In 1919 the levy was $257,589.33. The school district required a substantial part of this. The assessed valuation of the village of Biwabik has increased from $14,691 in 1892 to almost four million dollars in 1919.

Population.-In 1892 there were 267 persons living in Biwabik.

In 1900, the federal census figure for the village was 1,299; in 1910, the population was 1,690; and in 1920, the compilation showed that Biwabik had a population of 2,024, a healthy increase, notwithstanding that it did not reach the estimate of some of its well-wishers.

Addition to Boundaries: Municipal Changes.-A resolution to reincorporate the village of Biwabik was passed on March 11, 1909, at a meeting of the council two days after the question had been put to the public vote. The special election was held “in the fire hall of the new village hall” on March 9th, and resulted in 112 votes being cast for reincorporation, and only 14 against.

Under the new administration, there were several additions made to village boundaries. Ordinance No. 26, passed December 16, 1909, covered the addition to village of a “strip of land known as the William Smith property.” Ordinance No. 29, passed January 29, 1910, added “certain land commonly known as the Hugh Glass property.” Ordinance No. 30, March 26, 1910, annexed the C. J. Eklund property.

Ordinance No. 34, adopted September 24, 1910, added “the nw. quarter of sw. quarter of section 2, twp. 58-16.” An addition of 2,659 acres to village limits was decided by election held in Detention Hospital, on April 3, 1915, 38 votes being cast for annexation, and nine against.

Village Officials.-The present village officials are: J. C. McGovern, president; N. P. Riley, Oscar Erickson and Dr. L. E. Spurbeck, council; J. F. Goldthorpe, clerk; P. J. Halliday, treasurer.

Publicity.-Biwabik had a well-established newspaper. The “Biwabik Times” was founded in 1907, by E. A. Koen, and he held ownership until April 1, 1919, when the paper and up-to-date printing plant was purchased by C. L. Hedeen, its present editor-owner. It is a six-column eight-page weekly, six pages home print. The plant includes a modern linotype machine, and a cylinder press.

Churches.-Biwabik has three churches, the Roman Catholic, Methodist and Congregational. Up to two years ago there was also a Union church organization.

MINING IN BIWABIK TOWNSHIP Biwabik Mine.-The Biwabik was the first mine, in township 58-16, to definitely “show up” ore. That was in 1891, about eight or nine months after ore had been discovered at the Mountain Iron mine. Excitement followed the discovery of blue ore at the Biwabik, 443Cincinnati, Hale and Kanawha in 1891, although it was, of course, known to a few experienced lumbermen and explorers that indications present on the Mesabi range confirmed the predictions of cruisers and surveyors that rich beds of ore lay on the M\esabi.

George R. Stuntz was on the range with Professor Chester in the ’70s.

Some geologists passed over it earlier. David T. Adams explored it, or part of it, in 1883, and was then convinced that it would prove to be rich in iron ore. Later, he mapped the range from east to west.

And he was actually exploring in township 58-16 when Captain Kehoe discovered a brownish, and yellow ocherous ore on the Biwabik. Apparently, David T. Adams discovered blue ore, on the Cincinnati, before it had been taken from any other test-pit on the Mesabi range.

He also mapped the Mesabi range in the ’80s.

However, probably the first to discover ore in township 58-16 was John McCaskill. He was early on the range, and following the course of the Mesabi upland had traced the Virginia loop, to show the trend of which he made a rough map. He was a Canadian explorer of experience, and on what later became the Biwabik property, Mc- Caskill had, unaided, dug a test-pit, “bottomed it in ore, took out specimens, threw the rest of the Ore into a creek, and covered the pit over with brush.” The Biwabik property was originally owned by W. D. Duggan, who had made a cash entry at $1.25 an acre, on March 9, 1883. Later, it passed to John M. Williams, of Chicago, who owned it, presumably, at the time John McCaskill sank his pit and found ore. It has proved to be a wonderfully productive mine, having yielded about thirteen million tons of ore. Yet, McCaskill profited little, or nothing, by his discovery. He and his partner, Daniel Sellers, seem to have made haste to secure the mining lease, and Sellers then, it has been stated, took specimens of the ore to Major Hoover, at Duluth. The lastnamed interested John McKinley, who “subleased the property at an advance” from Sellers and McCaskill, paying $5,000 therefor. The arrangement was subsequently the subject of litigation, “Williams claiming that McKinley had only a percentage of the sublease.” According to one account, McCaskill was not a party to the subleasing.

At about this time, Duluth was becoming more and more excited over the possibilities of profit in the development of the new ore field, and many capitalists and explorers were active. They had very much stronger faith in the Mesabi, however, than that shown by outside financiers and mining men. Those at a distance even ridiculed the claim that iron could be found on the Mesabi, in worth-while quantities. They figured that it was a freak formation, at best, and scarcely worth spending money on. C. B. King, who occupied an office with M. B. Harrison at Duluth in the fall of 1888; and began to get enthused with some of Harrison’s faith in the Mesabi, was at last prevalied upon to endeavor to interest some of his moneyed Michigan friends in the exploitation of the field. He even went to the Elys, of Cleveland. “They turned it down, hard. No iron on the Mesabi-couldn’t be in that formation.” The Merritts, and the Biwabik Mine.-However, Duluth men were not idle. Far from it. The Merritt brothers, in particular, pushed forward the exploitation. They centered their efforts on their Mountain Iron property, in township 58-18, but on one occasion, while on their way to Mountain Iron, they turned aside and found McCaskill’s “pit in ore,” on section 3-58-16, just as he had described it. That was in the summer of 1891. The Merritts had been very much en- 444grossed in the opening of their own property at Mountain Iron, where they had discovered ore a year earlier, and where they had established a permanent camp. But they nevertheless kept the Biwabik property well in mind, and not long afterwards were able to take up the work on that property also. In August, 1891, the Merritts secured a tenday option on the Biwabik property, and began to explore and prove the property, with desperate energy. “They worked night and day to get in their ten-day limit. At the end of that time, they had ten pits in ore, and the option was taken up,” McKinley selling his interest in the property to the Merritts for $30,000. John E. and Wilbur J. Merritt were in charge of the camp, and the test-pitting crew was directed by Captain Kehoe.

The U. S. Geological Survey XLIII states that ore was discovered on the Biwabik property in August, 1891. Regarding the discovery and dispositions made of the property soon afterwards, David T. Adams, who was exploring in the vicinity at the time, writes: Captain Kehoe started explorations for the Merritt brothers on the Biwabik … His first work was on the northerly feather edge of the deposit, and the material encountered in his first few pits was a brownish or yellow ocherous ore. About the same time, I started explorations for A. E. Humphreys, George G. Atkins, and others on the Cincinnati, in the nw. corner of the sw. quarter of the nw. quarter of section 2-58-16, and I encountered a blue ore in my first pit, after passing through about thirty feet of surface, which was the first commercial blue ore discovered on the Mesabi range. Captain Kehoe then moved his works to the south and started a pit almost due west of my No. 1 pit on the Cincinnati, and after passing through about thirty-five feet of surface and brown ore, he encountered blue ore on the Biwabik. John T. Jones happened to be there at the time, and saw the first bucket of the ore hoisted out of the pit, and he rushed to Duluth and secured a sub-lease on the Biwabik, in favor of the late Peter L. Kimberly, before Kehoe had a chance to report the find to the Merritt brothers.

Such an arrangement does not seem to quite agree with some official records. The sub-lease from the Biwabik Mountain Iron Company, the Merritt Company, to Peter L. Kimberly, of Sharon, Pennsylvania, is dated April 23, 1892. It covered the “ne. of ne. and se. of ne. of sec..3, and nw. of nw. of sec. 3, 58-16,” terms being “a royalty of 50 cents on 55 per cent ore, with a 300,000 minimum after January 1, 1893,” the sub-lease to run to January 1, 1903, with privelege of extension, and with option to buy outright, within ninety days, for $600,000, the sub-lease, however, being subject to the J. M. Williams claim against the McKinley lease.

It would seem that the Merritts had determined to explore the Biwabik property a year, almost, before blue ore was discovered on it; indeed, before they had discovered ore on the Mountain Iron land.

The Mountain Iron Company was incorporated on July 11, 1890, by Lon Merritt, J. T. Hale and R. H. Palmer. The capital was $2,000,000 (authorized), and directors were Lon, Alfred, C. C., A. R. Merritt, M. B. Harrison, K. D. Chase, R. H. Palmer and W. H. Rogers, Leonidas Merritt being president, Alfred Merritt, treasurer, and J. T. Hale, secretary. The Biwabik Mountain Iron Company, with an authorized capital of $2,000,000, was formed three months later, by Lon Merritt, E. H. Hall and J. J. Wheeler, and many others of the Merritt family were identified with that company.

Another account of those early days of the Mesabi states: “Next to the. opening of the Mountain Iron Mine the first actual development work done on the Mesabi range was in the Biwabik district.” “Explorations were commenced in this neighborhood in the winter of 1890-91, and in the spring of 1891 deposits of low-grade ore 445were found on the Biwabik, Cincinnati and Hale. Continuing the work of test-pitting, and going farther to the south, in the fall of 1891 Captain John G. Kehoe found high-grade ore on the Biwabik.

On the same day, David T. Adams, who was exploring the Cincinnati, also found a deposit of merchantable ore. There was great rejoicing then, but it afterwards turned out that there had been an error in the survey, and that the ore found by Adams really belonged to the Biwabik property. However, the finding of merchantable ore led to renewed activity in explorations. The Canton Company, an offshoot of the Minnesota Iron Company, owned the property to the west of the Biwabik, and the work of test-pitting was begun there in the fall of 1891, with the result that more ore was shown up, while the Merritts also discovered pay dirt on the property north of the Canton, known as the Duluth. On all these properties, the ore is a part of one vast deposit, one of the largest and best on the range. In the fall of 1891, D. T. Adams discovered a deposit on the Kanawha, northeast of the Biwabik, while Judge J. T. and Ben Hale located the pit of ore on the Hale, adjoining the Kanawha on the east.

Biwabik Ore Company: First Steam Shovel on Mesabi.-“Among the enterprising mining promoters who early became interested in the range were the late P. L. Kimberly, of Sharon, Pa., and John T. Jones, of Iron Mountain, Mich. In the fall of 1891 they organized the Biwabik Ore Company, and secured a lease of the great Biwabik property from the Biwabik Iron Company, which had been organized by the Merritts. They immediately began the work of development.

and to John T. Jones is due the credit of conceiving the idea of stripping the overburden from the ore and mining the ore with steam shovels, with the result that in 1893, the first year of actual shipments from the range (4,245 tons were shipped from Mountain Iron mine in 1892), the Biwabik led all others with a total output for the year of 151,500 tons. No railroad had reached the district when these men took hold, and they conceived the idea of bringing a steam shovel overland from Mesaba Station, which job was accomplished under the direction of Captain Arthur Stevens … It was a monstrous undertaking, owing to the almost impassable character of the road for twelve miles, but it was successfully accomplished, and the shovel was put to work, with indifferent results, owing to the difficulty of operating a steam shovel without a railroad to bring in the necessary supplies. After the shovel had dug out an approach to the ore body, a contract was let to Fitzgerald and Sisk to strip the overburden, so that the shovel could be employed in loading ore. This firm started in with teams and wheeled scrapers, but found this process so slow that they tried steam shovels, and, not being practical shovel men, soon threw up their contract. Then the firm of Drake and Stratton took hold of the stripping problem in 1893, and made a success of it. They took a contract to move a million yards of earth, and additional contracts later. It was the success of their operations at the Biwabik that led to the adoption of the steam shovel method at many range properties. But with all the success of the Biwabik Ore Company in demonsrating the practicability and economy of mining with steam shovels, -troublous times came with the panic of 1894 (1893). It was impossible to sell the ore at a profit, and there was practically no demand for ore at any price, with the result that only 90,048 tons were shipped that year (1894)-at an actual loss-it was 446impossible to borrow money to carry on the operations, and the Biwabik Ore Company went on the financial rocks. The next year, the property was taken over by the Biwabik Bessemer Company, which was composed of Tod Stambaugh and Company, of Cleveland, and A. M. Byers, of Pittsburgh, under the arrangement that when the mine showed a balance on the right side of the ledger, it would be turned back to the original lessees.” Evidently the Biwabik Ore Company was feeling the financial stress in 1892, for on September 14, 1892, Peter L. Kimberly assigned to Thomas H. Wilson: of Cleveland, “trustee for Tod Stambaugh and Company,” his lease of the Biwabik property, as security for a loan of $250,000. The president of the Biwabik Bessemer Company, which succeeded the Biwabik Ore Company, on June 26, 1894, was John Tod.

Winchell’s Review (1895).-Horace V. Winchell wrote “The Iron Rangers of Minnesota” as a guide for the members of the Lake Superior Mining Institute, shortly before they gathered on the Mesabi range for their third annual meeting, which was in 1895. His review of the operations at the Biwabik mine reads as follows: “The Biwabik mine was the first opened up in August, 1891, by Capt. J. A. Nichols, who also found the Mountain Iron deposit, and who may be styled the father of Mesabi mining. Mr. Wilbur Merritt was in actual charge at the time ore was first discovered. In April, 1892, the Biwabik Mountain Iron Company leased the e. half, ne. qr.

sec. 3 and the nw. qr., nw. qr. sec. 2, 58-16, to P. L. Kimberly, and associates, who formed the Biwabik Ore Company … A large amount of money was expended in explorations, under the direction of Mr. J. T. Jones, and the steam shovel method of stripping and mining was adopted. An electric light plant was provided, locomotives and tracks purchased, and a large amount of work done. The severe winter of 1892-3 and the financial stringency combined to defeat all estimates and plans; and a smaller quantity of ore was marketed in 1893 than was hoped for, atlhough the output made broke all records for the first year’s shipment.

“The Biwabik Bessemer Company took possession in 1894, and made new contracts for mining large quantities of ore. Heavy stripping and various difficulties forced the contractors to assign, and again the output was far below the requirements.

“The ore is unsurpassed in quality by any on the range … Careful estimates of the amount of ore on the property have been made and published, from which it appeared that there was known to be more than twenty million tons of ore on these three ‘forties.’ Subsequent explorations increased this about 20 per cent. The average depth of overburden is about 30 feet, and the average thickness of the ore about 75 feet. The ore body is half a mile long on this property, nearly one-quarter of a mile wide, and shaped like a wedge, with its sharp edge at the north and its thick edge at the south, with a thickness of over 100 feet. … “The first lease, at a 30 cent royalty, is now owned by the Lake Superior Consolidated Iron Mines, and any forfeiture of the sub-lease would give this company what is in many respects the most desirable mine on the Mesabi. In order to come out even on the royalty paid (50 cents) and payable this year, there must be a production of 658,452 tons in 1895.” Biwabik Mining Company Organized.-Evidently, the output did not reach this yearly total, for during the next five years it mined 447 o < ˇ H 0 0 ˇHH 0z HHˇ H -ˇ z z H 0 Honly about 1,800,000 tons. However, there was a reconstruction in 1898, when tie Biwabik Mining Company, a Tod-Stambaugh Company, was formed, and the mining development proceeded on a sounder basis, at a reduced royalty. The property is still controlled by the Tod-Stambaugh Company, and operated by the Biwabik Mining Company, and it has been continuously worked, in one year shipping more than a million tons. Altogether, the Biwabik mine has yielded to end of season of 1919, 12,793,623 tons, and has still about five million tons avaiable.

Regarding Steam Shovel Operations.-While credit for the introduction of the steam shovel on the Mesabi range must be given to John T. Jones, it seems that he was not the first to think of it in connection with the problem of mining Mesabi ore. The pioneer newspaper of St. Louis County, north of Duluth, was the “Vermilion Iron Journal,” published at Tower by Dr. Fred Barrett, who also became the pioneer newspaper editor and publisher of the Mesabi range.

Issue of February 11, 1892, of the “Vermilion Iron Journal” reviews the important work then proceeding on the Mesabi. Regarding the operations of the Merritt brothers in township 58-16, Dr. Barratt wrote: “The Biwabik Mountain Iron Company controls hundreds of acres of iron property, but its 160 acres in section 3, 58-16 … is known as the Biwabik mine. It is at present the furtherest developed property on the Mesabi, and its test-pits show an immense ore body practically in sight.” Regarding steam shovels and stripping operations, Dr. Barrett wrote, in that issue: “Captain J. G. Kehoe, a mining man from California, is now superintendent of the Biwabik, and informs us that the dump cars are soon to be shipped, in order to get them to the property from the railroad before the snow leaves.

It is the management’s intention to soon commence stripping, both at the Biwabik and a the Mountain Iron in 58-18, in order that shipping may be commenced as soon as railroad facilities are provided, next August. Captain Kehoe states that stripping and other arrangements will be so planned that the steam shovel will commence its work on the south side of the ore body.” Cincinnati Mine.-The Cincinnati mine, at which David T. Adams discovered blue ore before, or almost simultaneously with, Captain Kehoe at the Biwabik, did not show a large ore body, and of about 900,000 tons proved, only 152,075 tons has been mined from it, the last shipment being in 1909. The Cincinnati Iron Company, capitalized at $3,000,000, was formed by A. E. Humphrey, Geo. J. Atkins, James T. McHale and John McKinley, of Duluth, Mr. Humphrey bringing in other southern capitalists. And “at the time of the craze in Mesabi iron stocks in Duluth, in 1892, the Cincinnati stock sold at $6.25 per share, on which basis the lease on the mine was worth $750,000. Winchell wrote, regarding the Cincinnati, in 1895: “This mine is on the eastern end of the Biwabik deposit, in section 2-58-16 … The property was sub-leased in 1892 to Messrs F. A. Bates and H. P. Barbour, who organized the Standard Ore Company, and mined 26,372 tons of ore in 1893, at a royalty of 55 cents per ton.

No ore was mined in 1894, and part of the property passed back into the hands of the fee owners.” Captain C. R.’Hoffman, from Virginia, was one of the first superintendents at the Cincinnati, which is now owned by the Biwabik Mining Company (Tod-Stambaugh Co.).

The Canton Mine.-The Canton mine was discovered on land which had for many years been in the ownership of the Canton Iron Company, a subsidiary of the Minnesota Iron Company. The Can- Vol. I-29 449ton mine embraced the sw. qr. of ne. qr. of section 3, 58-16, and the Canton Iron Company, stated Winchell, many years earlier had “acquired title to a large tract of land in 59-16 (58-16) and the vicinity. This particular tract was among the lot. Had the selection been one township farther south, or southwest, they would have included several of the best mines on the Mesabi range.” Captain Edgar Brown was in charge of the explorations, which began about November, 1891. Barrett wrote: “He and his associates have contract with the Canton people to show up 500,000 tons within a year, in which case he is to receive 5 cents a ton royalty on that amount.” In 1893 the mine began to ship, being then operated as an underground mine by Captain John F. Armstrong, with two shafts, one down to the second level by 1895. In 1893 24,416 tons were shipped, in 1894 213,853 tons, and it was then stated that as much more could have been mined had there been a market for it. The ore was of low grade, and there being no demand for it, work was discontinued in 1896. It is one of the fee mines of the Oliver Iron Mining Company, and its known deposits have since 1896 been allowed to lie unworked, a reserve of three million tons.

Duluth Mine.-The Duluth (or Berringer) mine, originally part Biwabik, was situated in nw. qr. of ne. qr. of section 3. It was opened in 1893, and in that year year shipped 37,626 tons of excellent ore.

The property was leased to the Duluth Ore Company at a 50-cent royalty, and 100,000 tons annual minimum output. Under the direction of Dr. J. A. Crowell, of Iron Mountain, Michigan, and F. R.

Whittlesey, the system of stripping and milling was in that mine first adopted and put into operation, states Winchell, adding that the year 1893 was filled with failures, and that this was one of them. The ore could not be sold. The royalty was payable, nevertheless, and the fine property, together with all that had been put into it, was sacrificed. It passed to the Rockefeller interests, and eventually to the Steel Corporation, to be operated by its subsidiary, the Oliver Iron Mining Company. After four years of idleness, work was resumed in 1898, and continued steadily to the year 1910, since which year it has been inactive. There is, however, only another 80,000 tons shown as being available. When it passed into the control of the Oliver Company, Capt. Wm. Carmichael was in charge, and operated by the milling system, the surface having been removed.

Williams Mine.-The Williams (formerly North Cincinnati) mine is a small one, of underground operation originally. It has always been operated by the Thomas Furnace Company, with C. M. Mac- Kenzie its superintendent for some years. Spasmodically, it comes onto the shipping list, appearing in 1919, after a lapse of five years.

It has only given 252,427 tons altogether to date, and has half as much still available.

Cass Mine.-The Cass mine is another somewhat similar property, also operated at one time by the Thomas Furnace Company. Originally it was operated by Joseph Sellwood, and was discovered in 1900 by Captain Fay. The first shipment was in 1903, and the last in 1907, 241,343 tons in all.

Chicago Mine.-The Chicago Iron Company was organized, by Minneapolis men, in the early nineties, to explore some land west of the Canton Company’s lands. They had rights over 750 acres in sections 3, 4, and 9, and Captain Florada, of Crystal Falls, Michigan, was sent to take charge of the explorations, at the Holland mine, on section 4. After they had abandoned the working, John B. Weimer procured a lease, deepened the shaft and started to drift to the north.

When within thirty feet of the ore body he also gave up, owing to lack of funds. J. C. Holland eventually, in 1903, discovered the deposit, with the aid of a diamond drill. The property was stripped, and the <first shipment made in 1905, 158,484 tons. The property was later operated by Swallow and Hopkins, with J. S. Rayburn superintendent, and small quantities have come from it during recent years, but there is only a reserve of 60,000 tons now.

Hale Mine.-The Hale mine is a mile east of the Cincinnati. It is now known as the Hector mine, and, although it proved to be an unimportant property, its history is interesting. Hale had what might be called “a roving commission,” M. B. Harrison offering him a one-tenth interest in any ore lands he might discover and secure the leases of for him. That was soon after the McCaskill discovery, or perhaps after C. C. Merritt had (in the late eighties) returned to Duluth with specimens, and news, of an outcrop of taconite and banded ore he had encountered on the Mesabi, at Mountain Iron, while engaged in the Duluth and Winnipeg Railway survey for M. B. Harrison.

J. T. Hale was also identified with many of the Merrit Company, and was secretary of the first, the Mountain Iron Company.

He made a trip to Mountain Iron with the Bradleys, and was there a few days after Captain Nichols had struck ore. Possibly it was at, about, that time that he went to McCaskill, and said that he could handle anythink McCaskill might have. According to the narrative, McCaskill said: “If you won’t tell anybody, I’ll show you something.” He led Hale to the Biwabik test-pit he had covered with brush. Hale was eager to handle the property, but McCaskill explained that it was “already under consideration with McKinley.” “All right,” said Hale. “Do you know of any more?” “Any quantity of it,” replied McCaskill, showing Hale maps he had roughly made.

Hale and McCaskill co-operated first at the Hale mine, and later in many other larger properties.

The Hale deposit was a small one, of pocket nature, lying close against the green schists, but, owing to the low grade of ore, it was rarely worked at a profit in its early years. The ore in the Hale was discovered by Benjamin Hale, acting for his brother, James T., and others, very soon after ore had been struck, in August, 1891, at the Biwabik. The mine passed to the Bates family, and was opened under the direction of A. C. Bates, shipments beginning in 1893, when 3,616 tons were mined. The ore went mostly to the Thomas Iron Company. Benjamin Hale was succeeded in the exploratory work by Capt. E. E. Florada, in February, 1892, after four pits had been sunk, the deepest bottomed in 50 feet.

Experimenting with Clam-Shell Grab at Hale.-It was at the Hale mine that the Bates family first installed the clam-shell grab system of mining, in 1895-6, and made a failure of it. In 1897, a contractor named Dorwin undertook to mine it, and also failed. Joseph Sellwood worked the property from 1898 to 1902, then abandoning it. In 1906 G. A. St. Clair started drilling on the property, and found another body of ore, at a lower level. A shaft was sunk, and 130,000 tons were mined in three years, 1909-11. Since then nothing has been mined, and no reserve is shown to be available. The mine is now owned by the Inter-State Iron Company (Jones and McLaughlin Steel Company).

Ajax Mine.-The Kanawha (now known as the Ajax) mine was explored in the winter of 1890 and through 1891 by David T. Adams, 451acting for A. E. Humphreys and George G. Atkins, and ore was found in 1891. It was abandoned in 1904, and A. G. St. Clair then took it over, and mined about forty thousand tons during the next two years, steam-shoveling the deposit. It is now owned by the Federal Consolidated Mining Company, but has not been worked since 1906.

Bangor and Syracuse Mines.-The Bangor mine, as well as the Syracuse, bordered Lake Embarrass. They were explored by G. A.

St. Clair. Difficulty was experienced in sinking shafts, owing to quicksands in the overburden, and several plans were unsuccessfully tried, before a New York firm of contractors tried to sink by the use of compressed air at the Syracuse. A circular steel and concrete shaft was sunk at the Bangor by the same firm of contractors, the intention being to take out the sand with a clam-shell dredge, while the shaft lining settled from the top. Shipments did not begin, from the Bangor, until 1910, but from that year until the end of 1918, the mining was steadily pursued, 1,152,047 tons being mined. Then the mine was closed and allowed to fill with water. There is still a large body of ore in that mine, the available supply being estimated at two million tons. Pickands, Mather and Company have operated the Bangor since the first endeavors were made to sink a shaft. The Syracuse mine began to yield ore in 1907, and was closed in 1908. Only 7,872 tons have been shipped of a proved body of ore reaching almost to three million tons. That property is owned by R. M. Bennett.

McKinley Mine.-The McKinley, which lies about a mile from the village of McKinley, in the direction of Biwabik, was discovered in 1891, or early 1892. The “Vermilion Iron Journal,” of February 11, 1892, stated: “John, William and Duncan McKinley, of Duluth, who have associated with other New York and Chicago capitalists, control the fees of 20,000 acres of lands, in various portions of the Mesabi.

Their explorations at present are confined to the south half of the nw. qr. of section 8, 58-16. Pit No. 1 is down 40 ft. and 20 ft. in ore.

West of No. 1 about 350 ft. is No. 2, where ore was struck at depth of fifteen ft., and is now bottomed in 51 ft. of ore. Southwest of No.

2 about 450 ft. is No. 4, which is bottomed on ore at depth of 24 ft. … The ore found on the McKinley is said to be slightly better in metallic iron than that at other locations.” C. M. Pettit and J. M. Robinson, of Minneapolis, on October 16, 1891, gave a lease to John McKinley for the sw. of nw., and the w. half of sw. of sec. 8, and also land in sections 17 and 18, of twp.

58-16, on the basis of 30 cents royalty and 10,000 tons yearly minimum.

The lease to eleven forties in sections 8, 17, 18, was confirmed to William and John McKinley, on April 6, 1892, by the Minnesota Loan and Trust Company, which had interest in the Pettit-Robinson lands, under trust deed, to secure loan of $210,000, the trust company confirming the lease provided half of the royalties were paid to them.

The McKinley Iron Company, capitalized at $5,000,000, was organized May 25, 1892, by William and John McKinley, James Charnley, and others, and the McKinleys might have eventually profited much by their enterprise, had they not unfortunately become involved with the Merritts during the financial stress of 1893, which saw their property and the immense interests of the Merritts pass into the control of the Rockefellers.

Pioneers at McKinley: Passing of Property to Rockefeller.- Elisha Morcom, of Tower, had had charge of the initial exploration and shaft sinking, after Duncan McKinley had first discovered ore, 452which Winchell states was in December, 1891, and considerable preparatory work was done in 1893 in preparation for the coming of the railway. Shafts had been sunk, levels run, and hoisting plant and pumps installed, but not a ton of ore had been mined, for shipment, when the trouble with John D. Rockefeller came. It appears that “the McKinleys were unfortunate in combining their property with the Lake Superior Consolidated Iron Mines.” In further explanation, the same report continues: “John McKinley was one of the most persistent laborers in the early days to induce capitalists to build a railroad to the range. He knew that in order to make ore lands of any value a means of transportation must be provided. So, in order to encourage the Merritts, who built the Missabe Road, he put his mining lands in with theirs, and the whole were mortgaged to John D. Rockefeller for funds to build the railroad. So the MIcKinley mine went to him, under foreclosure, with the others.” There was litigation for some years, but it was confirmed to the Rockefeller interests, and was eventually one of the properties transferred to the Oliver Iron Mining Company when the great merger of Rockefeller and Carnegie interests came.

The McKinley an Open Pit (1907)-The Oliver Company, in February, 1907, started to make the McKinley an open-pit mine, using two steam shovels. There was an immense quantity of overburden to remove, and work of stripping continued during that and the next year, under the directions of Capt. William Carmichael, superintendent also of the Duluth Mine.

The First Shipment from McKinley.-The first shipment of ore from the McKinley mine was in 1907. Nothing has come from it since 1909, and, altogether, only 109,086 tons have been mined from it since it was discovered twenty-nine years ago. The deposit available is estimated to be 2,0C0,000 tons, and some day the McKinley mine will again swell the population of the village of that name.

Roberts Mine.-The Roberts mine, for some time known as the Atlas, and now as the Emmett mine, adjoins the McKinley, on section 8. It was worked in the ’90s by Capt. Harry Roberts, the Roberts Mining Company being organized in June, 1896, by Harry Roberts, of Duluth, John H. Bartow, of Cleveland, and William White, of Biwabik. It was thought to be only a small deposit, and after a few years was considered to be almost exhausted. Still, although it was inactive from 1902 fo 1910, it has since been operated with fair regularity by the Bowe-Burke Mining Company.

The Belgrade.-On section 9 is the Belgrade mine, a Pickands Mather property, opened in 1908, since which year it has yielded over a million and a half tons, and shows a million tons still available.

It was at one time known as the Kellogg mine.

The Belgrade was explored by Captain Fay, for the Yawkey interests, in 1906, and soon afterwards the property was leased to the New York State Steel Company.

The Monica.-The Monica mine, adjoining the Belgrade, on section 9, was opened at, about, the same time by the Republic Iron and Steel Company, and 469,723 tons of ore were mined up to 1912, when the mining company surrendered the lease.

The Ruddy.-The Ruddy mine, owned by the Yawkey interests, is situated on the nw.-sw. of section 3, adjoining the Canton. A. L.

Warner, of Coffin and W\arner, Duluth, was exploring in the nwv.-se., section 3, just south of the Canton, in 1892. However, the Ruddy 453 454is of comparatively recent exploration, the first shipment being in 1910. It is a small mine.

The Wills.-The Wills mine, a small property, on sections 17 and 18, on the McKinley townsite, began to ship in 1902. The last shipment was in 1918, and only about 60,000 tons has come from the mine since it was first opened. It is owned by Pettit and Robinson.

The Wisstar.-The Wisstar mine, on the other side of McKinley townsite, first came onto the shipping list in 1918, and 275,000 tons of ore have been shown up on that property, which is operated by the Wisstar Mining Company (Clement K. Quinn and Company).

The Corsica.-The Corsica mine, on section 18, was explored by David T. Adams and Neil McInnis. It was opened in 1901, when 26,838 tons were shipped. Three million tons have come from it since that year, and five million tons are still available. It is a Pickands Mather property, L. C. David being general superintendent of that and the adjoining Elba mine.


  • Van Brunt, Walter, ed. Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota Vols. 1 – 3. The American Historical Society. Chicago: 1922.
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