The History of Chisholm (through 1922)

Chisholm High School. (Image: Zenith City Press)

The Village of Chisholm did not take corporate being until 1901, and the townsite, of 120 acres, was not platted until early in that year, but its potential history may be said to have begun when Frank Hibbing first came into township 58-20, in 1891, on a prospecting trip. A. M. Chisholm will, of course, be deemed the direct founder of the village, but it came into existence because of the mining development in its vicinity, and that mining activity, in its exploring phase, began in 1891.

Original Landowners in T. 58 N., R. 20 W.To go back to early records. M. H. Hull and William Boeing, in 1882, employed M. H. Alworth, of Duluth, “to explore lands offered for public sale for the United States government in the Duluth, Minnesota, district,” and in December, 1882, Messrs. Hull and Boeing “furnished the expenses for the purchase of 7,544.35 acres, costing $22,560.50, all expense included.” The greater part of the land, which, of course, was bought because of its “stand” of timber, was in townships 57-20 and 58-20.

Possibly, Wellington R. Burt, of Saginaw, acquired timber land in 58-20 also at one of those early sales. He had land in sections 13, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 31, 32, 33 and 34, which eventually passed (December 29, 1891) under mining lease to Frank Hibbing. C. L. Ortman leased thirteen “forties,” in sections 11, 12, 13, 14 and 35 to Frank Hibbing and M. H. Alworth, on February 23, 1892. Frank Hibbing, A. J. Trimble, and M. L. Alworth leased several “forties” from M. B. Hull in 1892, the land being in sections 14, 15, and 22, of 58-20. The Foster Lumber Company, of Milwaukee, on February 2, 1892, leased to Alworth and Trimble “lands in 58-20.” One of the principal mining explorers in township 58-20 was E. J. Longyear, and among the pioneers must be included Joseph Sellwood, Harry Roberts, D. M. Philbin, J. H. Pearce, M. L. Fay, and D. T. Adams.

Other pioneers will be named later in this chapter. Most of the rmining properties passed eventually to the Oliver Iron Mining Company, and, although all of the original explorers and promoters did not profit much by their labors, the majority of them did not invest much, excepting their labor, in the enterprises. One timber cruiser, named Larraby, came to Chisholm before ore was discovered, and paid, it is stated, only one hundred dollars for two “forties” upon which there was little pine. Eventually, it was proved that the eighty acres contained a deposit of ten million tons of iron ore.

Mineral Wealth of Balkan Township.Balkan Township, up to 1918, had shipped more than forty-five million tons of iron ore, and in the forty-eight properties explored, up to that time, it was estimated that there still remained more than two hundred million tons of ore. Possibly, the township holds just as great a quantity unexplored.

The mining companies are not disposed nowadays to “show up” more ore; they have more than they need for many decades to come. Although forty-eight mines have been explored, not a ton of ore has been shipped from twenty-six of them, although some were discovered fifteen or twenty years ago, and many have immense reserves. The mines of Balkan township with unworked deposits in excess of 5,000,000 tons are: The Alworth Reserve, 7,000,000 tons; Burt, No. 5 Reserve, 12,000,000 tons; Dunwoody, 12,000,000 tons; Forster. Reserve, 7,000,000 tons; Hartley, 6,000,000 tons; Hartley-Burt-Palmer, 16,000,000 tons; Hartley-Burt Reserve, 15,000,000 tons; Humphreys, 5,000,000 tons; Leonard and Leonard, (Burt), 8,000,000 tons; Monroe, 30,000,000 tons; Monroe (Tener), 9,000,000 tons; Nile Reserve, 7,500,000 tons; Pontiac, 12,000,000 tons; and West Mesabi, 7,000,000 tons.

Oliver Mines.Thirty-two of the forty-eight mining properties are operated by the United States Steel Corporation, through its subsidiary company, the Oliver Iron Mining Company. These are: Burt (3), Chester, Chisholm, Clark, Crescent, Croxton, D’Autremont, Duncan, Forster, Glen (2), Hartley-Burt-Palmer, Hartley-Burt, Humphrey’s (2), McGilvary, Monroe, Monroe (Tener), Myers, Niles, Oliver Reserve (3), Pillsbury, Pettit, Pontiac (2), St. Clair, South Meyers, Twin City.

Shenango Properties.The Shenango Furnace Company operates the Pillsbury No. 2 Reserve, Shenango, South Tener, and Tioga Mine.

Hanna Mines.The Hanna Ore Mining Company operates the Alexandria mine, the Alexandria-Snyder, the Leonard, and the Leonard-Burt, three of them large mines.

Other Mines.The Tod-Stambaugh Company owns the Billings and the Dunwoody, both large mines; the Pearce Mine was operated until 1913 by the Meridan Iron Company; the Jordan until 1910 by the Inter-State Iron Company; and the West Mesabi is a reserve deposit belonging to the International Harvester Company.

Principal Mines.The principal mines brought to the shipping stage are the Chisholm, Clark, Glen, Leonard, Monroe, and Shenango.

All have yielded from three to nine million tons since the year of development.

On 1919 Shipping List.3,296,604 tons of ore were shipped from mines of the Chisholm group in 1919, the active mines being the Glen, Clark, Chisholm, Chester, Hartley-Burt, Duncan, Leonard, Tioga, Shenango, Dunwoody, and Billings. The Wellington and Frazier properties of the Oliver Iron Mining Company will also be soon on the shipping list.

It will be at once appreciated by a reading of the foregoing that Chisholm is now in the hey-day of its prosperity. It is one of the most active of Range towns.

Early Mining History.The mines of the Chisholm group, because of their importance, justify more space being given to a description of them than is available in this work. However, it is hardly proper to pass on to municipal history of Chisholm before briefly reviewing the history of some of the earliest mines. The Chisholm mine was not the first to be explored, and developed. It was explored by A. M. Chisholm, and others, in 1899, and leased to the American Mining Company, subsequently passing to the Oliver Iron Mining Company. Up to the end of 1919 it has yielded 6,772,910 tons, and has shipped continuously since it was first opened as an underground mine, in 1901, in which year 34,573 tons went down to the docks.

Clark Mine.The Clark mine was explored by the Clark Iron Company, and leased to the American Mining Company. It came onto the shipping list in 1900, with 63,071 tons, and up to the end of 1919 had given 6,586,528 tons. There was much litigation over the ownership of this property at one time, but now it belongs to the Oliver Company.

Monroe and Monroe-Tener Mines.The Monroe and Tener mines Vol. 1-32 49i  of the Oliver Company have yielded a couple of million tons of ore, since 1905, and have immense reserves. The Tener mine was explored by David T. Adams, and the Monroe by the Monroe Iron Company, later leased to Corrigan McKinney and Company, and the Chemung Iron Company. They were operated as underground and open-pit.

Glen Mine.The Glen mine was explored by E. J. Longyear, in 1896, and leased to the Lake Superior Consolidated Mines in 1901.

It first produced in 1902, then yielding 23,875. Up to 1919 (end), 4,398,921 tons have been won from the Glen mine, at first by underground mining, but by open-pit mining from, about, 1909. It is an Oliver property.

Croxton. The Croxton mine was opened in 1902 by Joseph Sellwood, and later leased to the Rhodes Mining Company, still later by the Pittsburg Ore Company. All its available deposit was exhausted by 1914, having yielded 1,335,187 tons up to then.

Leonard.The Leonard mine was explored by A. M. Chisholm and Harry Roberts. It was leased to the Great Northern, and began to ship in 1903 as an underground mine, later adopting both methods.

D. M. Philbin was the first superintendent. It is now owned by the Hanna Ore Company, is on the active list, and his yielded, to end of 1919, 10,877,931 tons.

St. Clair.The St. Clair mine was one of those early discovered, and came onto the shipping list in 1903, being then an underground mine, operated by the Oliver Iron Mining Company. It has not been operated since 1905, although there is a large body of ore in the property.

Shenango Mine.There are two mines of that name in Balkan township, one in section 27, and one in section 22. The property was opened in 1904 by the Shenango Ore Company, and has yielded more than nine million tons.

Hartley and Hartley-Burt-Palmer.The Hartley mines, including the Hartley-Burt Reserve, are immense properties. The Hartley first came onto the shipping list in 1907, and by 1909 was “an open-pit over a mile in length.” The Hartley-Burt-Palmer ships in some years more than a million tons, and the three mines have an aggregate reserve of thirty-seven million tons.

Pearce Mine.The Pearce mine is referred to, not because of its magnitude, but because Capt. J. H. Pearce, its discoverer, was the original promoter of the townsite of Chisholm, it has been asserted, afterwards “selling out his interests therein to A. M. Chisholm, who was associated with him in exploring of the Pearce mine.” M. L. Fay, of Virginia, was also interested in that mine, which was leased to the Bradford Mining Company, and later taken over by the Meridan Iron Company. It entered the shipping list in 1902, and the last shipment was in 1913, only 462,532 tons in all.

Platting of Chisholm Townsite.Captain Pearce may have been the first to think of platting a townsite at Chisholm, he may even have been alone in the original surveying and platting, but it is evident that if he did begin the undertaking independently, he was soon joined by several others. The Chisholm Improvement Company was organized and incorporated in 1901. It owned the townsite, and the company consisted of W. J. Powers, A. M. Chisholm, John Costin, Jr., and Capt. J. H. Pearce. One review (1907) states that “Mr. Chisholm, in company with Capt. J. H. Pearce and other range men, promoted the Chisholm Improvement Company, and later bought out 498  the interests of others until now he is sole owner of the lots remaining unsold.” First Houses.Chisholm began in the Clark and Chisholm locations.

The “first residences in town were those of Mr. Ledoux and Mr. Hayes.” The first store was that of Mr. Hermanson, a general store; the second, that of Charlie Stein. “Mr. Tetzlaff had the first meat market, and Mr. Hayes the first restaurant. The Grant Hotel was built in 1901.” Petition to Incorporate.During May, 1901, a petition was circulated among the legal voters of the 496 persons then living on portions of sections 21, 22 and 28, of township 58-20, which was then part of the township of Stuntz. The petition sought from the county commissioners permission to hold a special election in that territory to decide whether the residents wished to have corporate government, or did not. The paper was signed by a sufficient number of the freeholders, the first to sign being WV. C. Northey, superintendent of the American Mining Company. Following his are the signatures of H. Kinney, \V. L. Churchill, and John H. Pearce, and of many others.

CHISHOLM IN 1907 Oath was taken, on June 5, 1901, by George W. Myers, Harry Thomas, and W. C. Northey, the men sworn vouching for the accuracy of the statements made in the petition, which was filed with the county officials on that day. On June 8, 1901, the commissioners met and approved the petition. They ordered a special election to be held “at the office building of Chris. Swenby, situated upon the e. one-half of sw. quarter of sec. 21, township 58-20,” on Tuesday, July 23, 1901.

They appointed Harry Thomas, Samuel Orr and William Gerth to act as inspectors of election, and in due course these men reported that at the polling 126 votes were cast, 118 of which were in favor of incorporation.

First Election.In view of the voting at special election, the commissioners ordered election of officers. The voting brought into office: W. C. Northey, as president of the Village of Chisholm; Chas. E. Stein, as recorder; George W. Meyers, Harry Thomas, and Herman Tetzlaff, as trustees. All the original officers, however, resigned before the end of their terms, the president and two trustees resigning on October 23, 1901. George W. Meyers was then elected president.

He was re-elected in 1902, but resigned in August. The first village treasurer was A. H. Geiser; the first attorney, John P. Morrow; the first marshal, Adolf Belanger, who also was street commissioner.

Early Growth.An electric-lighting plant was built “across Longyear lake,” by Mr. Costin, in the first or second year, but it was burned in 1903. It “was replaced by a plant built by Mr. Crowly.” “The second year after Chisholm was started, there was but one telephone in the town. This was a pay-station, located at Bateson’s.” 499  “The first school, a frame structure, was built in 1902. There were two teachers.” “In 1905, sewers were put in four blocks on Lake Street,” and in that year an addition of eighty acres, designated the North Side addition, was platted, making the platted townsite 200 acres.

Position in 1907.A description of Chisholm in 1907 reads: “It is * * beautifully located on a charming body of water, known as Longyear lake. Chisholm is now a community of five or six thousand souls, and is rapidly growing. It is already provided with, perhaps, the finest and largest city-hall building on the range, while a splendid lot of school and church buildings dot the townsite. The business section is compactly built for a distance of four blocks, and the business men are enjoying a fair share of the general prosperity. The demand for residence property is ever increasing, and two additions were recently platted and added to the original village, in order to meet this demand. Chisholm already supports two weekly newspapers-the Herald, W. E. Talboys, editor, and the Tribune, Oscar La France, editor. … Chisholm supports two banks, both in flourishing condition-the First National and the Miners State.” Chisholm Destroyed.In many local periodicals, and at least one county history, will be found extensive reviews of the great fire, which almost completely gutted the business section of Chisholm, in 1908, but the following review, by Leona Train, an eleven-year-old Chisholm school girl, is worthy of inclusion in this compilation.

She wrote: “On the fifth of September, nineteen hundred eight, a little spark glowed out in the woods, four or five miles northwest of town. The dry grass and winds helped it on, until finally it was a large fire.… The flames grew larger, and quickly burned the dry leaves and twigs. On and on they came, until they reached the town. The first few houses burned, but still the fire could not be checked. The firemen worked hard, but their efforts were useless.

“In the town the people rushed here and there. Some carried beds and odd pieces of furniture. In their hurry, many forgot money, jewelry, clothing, and other valuables, and only took pillows, chairs, clocks, and less important articles. A few took as much clothing as they could carry.

“I was so excited I jumped up and down. Mother ran upstairs and down, snatched a few things and threw them into a suit-case.

This, with our winter coats, was locked in a vault at the bank. Mother took a blanket on her arm for me, and we rushed out into the street, which was crowded with people hurrying away.

“One lady, running down the street, carried a bird cage. The bottom had fallen out, and the bird had escaped, but she clung to the cage.

“My cousin, Miss Chase, was staying at our house. She put on three skirts, in order to save them, and left forty-five dollars in a purse on a hall radiator. We’ saw one lady carrying three puppies, while two babies were crying at her skirts.

“The smoke was so dense that one could hardly see, and the wind nearly took us off our feet.

“On Lake Street there was the wildest confusion. People were hurrying about, some scantily clothed, many without coats. We went to the High School, the only brick building in Chisholm at that time. From there we could see the flames destroying the town.

I can remember it well, even though it has been seven years since. It was a beautiful sight, but also a very sad one. Many people lost all their property in this fire. As the fire came nearer, we all left the schoolhouse and went to the Clark mine. Here a relief train was made up of box cars, which took us to Hibbing.

“When we arrived there, the people were very kind and came to meet our cars. They were very hospitable, and even strangers asked us to come to their house for the night. … “When the fire was almost out, we went back to our unfortunate .city. Only a few houses remained, my cousin’s house and our’s among them. There were but two or three business houses left.

“The bank was supposed to be fireproof, but when we got back only the vault and part of the wall were standing. The vault was so hot from the fire that it could not be opened for three days. The contents were not injured.

“Relief trains came from Duluth. The first one was loaded with provisions and blankets, and reached here about noon, the day after 501  the fire. Neither of the school houses was burned, and here the local relief committee began to house and feed the people. Each family was given food and clothing, according to the size of the family. A great many slept and ate in the schoolhouse. The kindergarten was dining room and kitchen combined.

“The men hastily built rude shacks for the people to live in until better ones could be had. I can remember that there was a family of six living in our woodshed.

“Soon the soldiers of the Home Guard from Hibbing arrived, to keep order in the town. Many times in the night I was awakened by the sentry calling off the hour in a loud voice, or by the stern exclamation of the picket: “Who goes there?” In the midst of it all, many seemed to take their loss cheerfully, and often laughed and joked.

“One night mother and some friends were returning from school when they heard someone call out: ‘Halt! Who goes there?’ Looking ahead they saw that the sentry had challenged an old cow, which was taking a night stroll.

“After enough of the shacks had been built to accommodate all of the homeless people, the men began to rebuild the business section temporarily.” Chisholm had been almost completely razed. Had it not been for the ruins of the few brick buildings, which served as landmarks, it would have been somewhat difficult to trace the sites of other buildings.

Among the homes saved were those of G. L. Train, C. R. Woods, J. H. McNiven, D. C. Hackett, Edward Freeman, Leon Taylor, and John McDavid. The last-named was postmaster, and, the postoffice having been destroyed, he used his front room and porch as a postoffice, the mail box being a laundry bag, hung on the porch.

“The mail was sent to Hibbing to be stamped and sent away.” The militia stayed for about eight weeks, and the people of the county and state contributed unstintedly to the relief fund. Edward Freeman, now of Virginia, was chairman of the temporary and permanent local relief committee, the other members of which were Colin Munro, J. H. McNiven, Geo. L. Train, and J. P. Vaughan.

W. F. Pellenz, Jr., was chairman of the state relief committee, and a noteworthy fact in connection with the work of distribution of relief was that, by good management, the state committee eventually turned back a surplus to the donors, that being, is asserted, “the only case known of wholesale relief resulting in a sum less than the whole amount contributed being spent.” Chisholm Rises Again.Chisholm, however, soon obliterated all trace of the fire, and of the serious set-back it had had. Within a year, its buildings and residences were such as one would expect to find in an average village of that class and population. Writing in, about, August or September, 1909, the “Virginia Enterprise,” in a special magazine edition, stated: “Few places of equal population have ever been so completely obliterated within a few hours’ time as was this prosperous town of 6,000 people.

“But the marvelous feature of Chisholm history does not pertain to its sudden and complete destruction so much as to the unprecedented vigor and determination exhibited by its inhabitants in the rapid and substantial rebuilding of the city. What the elements can destroy in a few brief moments usually requires many years of planning and labor and sacrifice before it can be replaced in as good condition as formerly, while the people in many towns which have suffered losses of far less relative extent, have been too greatly discouraged to even undertake the reconstruction of their homes and places of business.

“In this case, however, the ashes of the demolished buildings had not grown cold before many of the former owners were making vigorous preparations for rebuilding on a more substantial and durable basis. The business men and public officials of Chisholm are entitled to great credit for the determination and foresight which they exhibited in the face of disaster and discouragements, and the unanimous decision that a system should be adopted and adhered to which would make the reconstructed city one of the safest, most durable, comfortable and convenient in the state. An ordinance was passed, prohibiting the use of any but fireproof building material on the main street. … “As a result of these measures, there was a uniform and spontaneous renewal of building activity such as had never before been witnessed on the range, and which can find few parallels anywhere.

In ten months this latest Phoenix of Minnesota had risen from its ashes and become a city of greater proportions than ever before.

There was an increase during that period of at least 25 per cent in its population, while the residences and other buildings not only increased in number, but there was a decided improvement in the character and appearance of the buildings of all kinds.

“The main business thoroughfare has just been graded, and new walks laid. There is a municipal water plant, with five miles of water mains, and three and one-half miles of sewers. … Streets and buildings are lighted by electricity, and an electric power plant is 503  contemplated. The splendid village hall, destroyed in the fire, is now being rebuilt, at a cost of $50,000.” Altogether seventy brick buildings were erected in nine months.

There were two village schools, and two location schools, and two churches, Roman Catholic and Methodist Episcopal.

Village Limits in 1910; Valuation; Tax.The village limits in 1910 were: Sections 21, 22, and 28; the e. half se. qr. section 29; the sw.nw. section 27; and the s. half nw. qr., of section 23; all in township 58-20. This included: the original townsite; the Northern addition, platted in 1905; the Second addition, platted in 1906; the Geary and Sicard additions, platted in 1906, a total of 275 acres platted.

There were nineteen mines within corporate limits; the assessed valuation was $11,700,000; and the tax 13.9 mills.

In 1913, the Carlin Plat, se.sw. of section 16, and the, section 16, of 58-20, was added.

Taxation.In 1902, the assessed valuation of Chisholm was $1,233,076. In 1919, it was $15,440,425. The total tax in 1902 was $21,455.52. In 1919, the tax levy was $1,030,233.99, or a total of 67.2 mills, 17.6 mills of which were for school purposes.

Chisholm in 1920.Chisholm has gone healthily forward, and many public works of recent establishment have added to the good repute of the place as an up-to-date municipality. Its public improvements include five and a half miles of concrete paving, and one mile of creosote block; seven miles of sewers; eighteen miles of water main, with hydrants on every block for fire protection; two city parks, with bandstand, and seating capacity for 1,000. One of the parks, the O’Neil, was dedicated on Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Homecoming Day, September 1, 1919, on which day occurred “the unveiling of the living memorial, donated by the Chamber of Commerce, a granite shaft on which is chiseled: “Erected in honor of the men and women of Chisholm who served in the military and naval forces of the United States of America in the World War, by the Village of Chisholm, Township of Balkan.” Village Presidents Since 1901.The succession of presidents of the Village of Chisholm since it was incorporated in 1901 is as follows: 1901, W. C. Northey, until October 23rd; 1901-02, G. W. Meyers, from October 23, 1901, to August 13, 1902; 1902, W. E. Talboys, from August 19, 1902; 1903, Wm. Grant; 1904, M. F. Marion; 1905, Wm. Grant, until February 8, 1906, when he died, and was succeeded as president by W. J. Stuart; 1906, R. S. O’Neil, who was president also in 1907 and 1908; 1909, Chas. Neally; 1910, E. H. Nelson; 1911, same; 1912, Joseph Austin; 1913, D. C. Hackett; 1914, J. E. Austin; 1915, Henry Fugere; 1916 and 1917, Dr. E. E. Webber; 1918, Dr. Nelson; 1919 and 1920, Joseph Austin.

504  Village Officials, 1920.C. L. Bergeron, D. C. Hackett, and Mike Talus, trustees; C. M. Tramontin, clerk; J. Krause, assessor; Frank Gouze, treasurer.

Municipal Judge.The office of municipal judge was established in 1906, Edward Freeman becoming the incumbent on May 1, 1906.

He was succeeded in 1911 by W. A. Masters, who is still in office.

Some of the Ordinances.Ordinance No. 1 governed the sale of intoxicating liquors in the village. Ordinance No. 9, passed June 20, 1902, granted to the Mesaba Telephone Company for an unstated period, and, apparently without payment, the right to “maintain lines of telephone and telegraph” within the village. Ordinance 53, passed June 14, 1911, granted to the Range Power Company permission to operate in Chisholm “a plant or system for the furnishing of electric light and power, for public and private use, grantee being permitted to charge private consumers a maximum rate of eleven cents per one thousand watts. Ordinance No. 56 covered grant to Mesaba Railway Company, which in 1911 negotiated for franchise to operate motor railway “in and over the streets” of Chisholm for twenty-five years.

Ordinace No. 84 was “to establish and regulate a Board of Health.” It was passed in 1917, but it must not be inferred that village was without a health department until that year. The first health officer was appointed in 1902, Dr. A. B. Kirk.

Village Hall.The village hall still in use is the one built in 1909. It is adequate for the purposes of the council, police and fire departments.

Fire Department. The first fire department was composed of volunteers, twenty-four in number. A. L. Bergeron was the first fire chief, being appointed, or elected, in 1902. Mike Kealy was fire-chief in 1908, the year of the great fire. The fire department is now a paid and regularly employed body of twenty-six men, under Chief Alfred McAlpine. The equipment includes motor-driven engines, two pumps, one of 500 gallon size, hook and ladder, and 12,000 feet of hose.

Public Library. The Chisholm library is a distinct credit to Chisholm. It is not so large as those of some of other incorporated places of the Range, but is, nevertheless, an artistic and well-constructed building, is well furnished, and in library service compares favorably with other libraries of the county. It is not a Carnegie library, the people of Chisholm preferring to establish one with their own money, and so have an institution that could be adapted, without restriction, to the needs of the residents, as such needs developed.

The building, which is situated on the corner of Lake Street and Third Avenue, was built in 1913-14 at a cost of $37,000. It was opened to the public on May 15, 1914. In the first year, the library had 4,679 volumes, including works in seven languages-Swedish, Finnish, Servian, Italian, Croatian, Slovenian, and English. Periodicals of many languages are filed. There are now about 12,000 bound volumes available for circulation, and the general opinion is that the institution furnishes a well-planned and adequate service. Miss Margaret Palmer has been librarian since the building was opened, and has a good place among librarians of St. Louis County, being wellread, experienced and interested in the work. Her assistant librarians are: Lillie Lilliequist, Winnifred Lewis, Mrs. H. Talboys. The present directors are: W. B. Brown, president; Ernest Drew, secretary; A. F. Drotning, treasurer; C. E. Berkman, George Anderson, A. W. Graham, Mrs. R. S. O’Neil, Mrs. J. J. Hayes, and Mrs. F. E. Downing, directors.

Churches.The first church seems to have been the humble log church, built for the Catholic denomination of the mining locations.

It was built in 1901, or 1902. The Catholic congregation met, however, before that little church was built. The priests came from Hibbing and Eveleth, the Rev. J. F. Gamache, of Hibbing, being one of the first. After the Central School building was erected, in 1901, services were held in it for a time.

The log church was soon replaced by a beautiful church building, erected on First Avenue and Hemlock Street. A clergy house adjoins it. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is at present served by Rev. J. E. Schiffer.

The Methodist Episcopal Society was probably the next to build a church. They were strong, the society consisting of sixty-four members in the first year of the existence of Chisholm. The first Methodist Episcopal Church building was also of logs, and was built practically without expense, saving in labor, which cost the church nothing, as the men worked without pay. The first church was erected in two weeks, on the corner of Oak Street and Second Avenue.

The Methodist Church, possibly, was the first to be established; it certainly was organized much before the platting of the townsite, or one statement made relating to it must be incorrect. The “first Methodist minister was the Rev. C. E. Jones,” it was stated, and further that “he was minister in Chisholm for three years. He died on March 15, 1901.” The Methodist Episcopal Church at Chisholm has maintained a proportionate increase since its organization, and now has more than three hundred members. Rev. E. F. Stidd is pastor.

Then, there are several other churches in Chisholm, but, unfortunately, data cannot be given regarding them, further than the Greek Catholic, St. Nicholas, Russian Orthodox, St. Peter and St. Paul, and Serbian churches have regular Sabbath services. The Finnish Methodist is an active church, M. Lehtonen, pastor; and the same may be said of the Swedish Lutheran. Also there is the B ‘nai Zion, Hebrew temple.

Lodges.There are many lodges of fraternal and patriotic orders in Chisholm, including Masonic, Elks, Moose, Pythias, Woodmen, Oddfellows, Yoemen, Eastern Star, Rebecca, Spanish War Veterans.

The most recent addition is the American Legion Post, which it may be pardonable to select for review, seeing that space does not permit a reviewing of all. Press-Lloyd Post, No. 247, of the American Legion was organized on March 15, 1920, and began with a membership of 200, or soon afterwards grew to that strength. It has good quarters in the public library. Frank Talus is commander of that post, J. A. Sorby, adjutant.

Community Building.Arising, perhaps, out of the spirit engendered by mutual stress and community of interest during the period of war, 1917-18, came the decision of the people of Chisholm to permit the issuance of bonds to the extent of $650,000, so that a community building might be erected in the village, the building to serve all public purposes, excepting those of school and church. The building will provide for village hall, law court, public library, public market, and many other public services, and undoubtedly will be an ornament to the municipality.

Banking.The First National Bank of Chisholm was organized 506  in April, 1905, with a capital of $25,000. Its first officers were: A.

M. Chisholm, president; J. F. Killorin, vice-president; George L. Train, cashier. Its first bank building was a frame structure, on the north side of Lake Street. In July, 1905, it absorbed the State Bank of Chisholm, and the consolidated bank, under its national name and status, moved to new quarters at the corner of Lake Street and First Avenue. The building was of brick, and during the next year or two was enlarged, but it was gutted by fire on September 5, 1908, only the vaults remaining. They fortunately resisted the fire. The bank officials then constructed an 18 by 22 feet wooden building, for temporary banking quarters, and there did business until 1909, when the present bank building was opened. The building was erected at a cost of $30,000, is of brick, and has served the needs of the banking house adequately. The present officials are: Gust Carlson, president; R. Maturi, vice president; G. L. Train, cashier; J. Osbolt, assistant.

While the capital has remained unchanged, there is a surplus and undivided profits of $100,000. The institution is a member of the Federal Reserve banks.

The Miners State Bank of Chisholm also was organized in 1905.

Its original capital was $10,000. It is still the same, but it has a surplus and undivided profits reserve of $22,000. It has some big accounts, being the depository for the Independent School District No. 40 (Chisholm), and its average deposits are about $550,000. It owns its own bank buildings, corner of Lake Street and Third Avenue.

Its original directors included S. R. Kirby and W. M. Pratt; the present officias are: S. R. Kirby, president; J. A. Redfern, vice president; Frank Gouze, cashier; O. L. Baldrica, assistant.

The youngest of the Chisholm banks is the Chisholm State, which was organized in November, 1914, and opened for business on January 14, 1915. Its capital is $25,000, with a surplus now of $10,000. Its well-adapted banking quarters are at Lake Street and Second Avenue.

The present officers are: B. M. Magnusson, president; H. P. Reed, vice president; J. WV. Gabrielson, cashier; 0. M. Johnson, assistant.

It is stated that the three Chisholm banks have combined deposits of $2,340,000. That indicates strikingly the prosperity of the place.

Publicity.The newspapers of course are a constant means of publicity, and public-spirited editorship of a local organ is invaluable; but a community is governed in great measure by the public spirit manifested by its business men, as evidenced by the aggressiveness or otherwise of its chamber of commerce, or such like trade organization.

Chisholm is fortunate in having a wide-awake chamber of commerce, of about fifty members, most of whom co-operate to the full in the prosecution of any measure decided upon as good by committee, or in open session. Its influence in bringing to success many recent important measures indicates the strength of their organization, which in spirit has succeeded to the mission of the Chisholm Improvement Company, the townsite owners. The present officers of the Chisholm Chamber of Commerce are: W. E. Bates, president; Clyde Blough, C. M. Tramontin, Ernest Drew, and E. I. Casey, vice presidents; W. B. Brown, secretary; W. L. Galloway, treasurer; Alger R. Symes, legal advisor; W. E. Bates, Ernest Drew, C. Blough, C. M. Tramontin, F. G. Harris, Anton Tancig, E. I. Casey, Morris Peck and J. H. McNiven, directors.

The local Kiwanis Club is one of the aggressive and progressive forces of Chisholm. The present officers of the club are: J. P. Vaughan, president; J. H. McNiven, vice-president; Alger R. Symes, secretary; W. E. Bates, treasurer; Willard Bayliss, E. I. Casey, Joseph Austin, Arthur Mattson, Frank Gouze, Oscar LaFrance and Rev. E. F. Stidd, directors.

Newspapers.The Chisholm “Herald” was established in the first year of Chisholm, in November, 1901, by W. E. Talboys, who was first postmaster, and mayor in 1902. Frank G. Harris became’ editor-owner on January, 1906. On February 22, 1909, W. A. Masters became owner, the printing plant, of course, having been destroyed in the fire of 1908. About that time the “Tribune,” which had been founded in 1904, by Oscar LaFrance, was acquired by E. A. Rydeen.

The two papers were eventually merged, and thereafter published as the “Tribune-Herald,” which today is the leading journal of the place, a weekly, with a circulation of twelve hundred copies.

W. B. Brown is the present editor-owner.

The “Mesaba Miner” was established in 1911 by Oscar LaFrance, who narrowly escaped losing his life, as well as his “Tribune” plant, in the fire of 1908. The “Mesaba Miner” has been regularly published since its establishment, and is a weekly, of independent character.

Population.The population of Chisholm at the time of incorporation, in 1901, was 496. In 1910, the census credited Chisholm with 7,684 residents, and the last census-taking, 1920, revealed that Chisholm had grown to a population of 9,039, thus taking fourth place among the incorporated places of St. Louis County. Chisholm will undoubtedly advance steadily, in view of the fact that there still remains within its zone more than four times as much available iron ore as has been mined during the last twenty years. And its, agricultural development will come steadily, maybe not in the immediate vicinity of the village, but within its sphere of trading.

Organization of Balkan Township.Although Chisholm became a special election and assessment district until 1903, it remained within the boundaries of Stuntz township until 1913, when all of township 58-20, excepting the southernmost tier of sections, was detached from Stuntz township, and added to Balkan.

Agriculture. In Balkan township north of Chisholm some rich agricultural land is being developed. In the immediate neighborhood 508  of Chisholm, the landscape is clearly indicative of the glacial grind, and the land may be too stony for cultivation, but to the north, and into township 59-20, the land pays well for clearing, and eventually Chisholm will be an important marketing and agricultural trading center. A farmers’ Co-operative Association, was recently organized, and now has more than fifty members, one of the most active members being Frank G. Harris, former publisher of the Tribune-Herald.

Hospital.Chisholm has a well-equipped municipal hospital, which was established at a cost of $12,000. And there are other good hospitals of private character in Chisholm.

Schools. School history in Chisholm began soon after the establishment of the incorporated village in 1901. In that year, or in 1902, the first school building, a frame structure, was erected, “on a clearing now known as the corner of Central Avenue and Hemlock Street.” It became known as the Central School, and seems to have survived the fire of 1908, but was completely destroyed by fire on the night of January 7, 1912. The first superintendent of the school district was J. F. Muench, now superintendent of the Mountain Iron district.

Mr. Muench was in Chisholm for five years, being succeeded in 1907 by J. P. Vaughan, who has been superintendent of that ever-growing school district ever since, and has brought it to a high standard of educational excellence.

In 1907, a high school building, of brick, was constructed, at a cost of $100,000, and it was destined in the next year to serve as a refuge for residents rendered homeless by the fire which almost razed Chisholm. It was remodelled in 1918, at a cost of $230,000, and is now known as the Washington School. It has thirty-five rooms, three full floors and basement, and has an auditorium capable of seating 750.

In 1911, the Lincoln School, at Chisholm, was erected. It cost $115,000, and was completed just in time to accommodate the school children of the Central frame school, which was burned down on January 7, 1912. On January 8th the Lincoln School was opened. It is of three floors, with eighteen grade rooms, also kindergarten, manual training and domestic science departments.

In 1914 the Chisholm High School building now in use was erected. It is one of the most artistic of the range school houses, where can be found the finest schoolhouses of northern Minnesota.

It cost about $275,000, and covers a site 212 by 142 feet, and provides for a wide high-school scope of subjects. There is the ordinary academic course, and a wide range of vocational departments. There is a gymnasium 52 by 78; a swimming pool 18 by 60 feet; shower baths; cafeteria, and many other conveniences that one, who is unaware of the completeness of range schools, would be surprised to find.

The other schools of the district are the Monroe, the Theodore Roosevelt, now under construction, the Myers, the Shenango, and the Balkan.

The Monroe School was erected in 1907. It was then a two-room frame building. In 1910, its capacity was doubled, and another enlargement became necessary in 1911. It now has ten rooms.

The Theodore Roosevelt Grade School will have been completed before this history is published. Construction began in 1920, contract price being $300,000. It will provide for 600 school children.

The Myers School, of frame, was built in 1903, and enlarged in 1906. It has six rooms.

509  The Shenango School, built in 1911, at the Shenango location, is a two-room building. It is well equipped.

The Balkan School, a two-room frame building, with a teacherage, was erected in 1911. It is about to be enlarged.

Much more could be written regarding the service of the schools of Independent School District No. 40, but it would be somewhat tautological.

This may be said of the Chisholm district-that it ranks with the best in the county.

School District No. 40 is responsible for public school education in practically the whole of Balkan township. It has four frame and four brick schoolhouses, the whole valued at $845,235 in 1919. The total enrollment for the school-year 1919-20 was 3,402. The district in that year employed nineteen male teachers, and 108 female, the average monthly salary of the former being $190, and of the latter $139, for the school-year of ten months. In addition to the ordinary day schools, there is a school farm, where practical instruction in agriculture is given. And one excellent feature of the service instituted and maintained in School District No. 40 is a night school for adults.

In such a cosmopolitan center, where seemingly all nations meet, such a school is of great value, tending to more rapidly Americanize the foreign-born and foreign-speaking portion of the population. To the range schools go children of thirty-nine nationalities, it was recently stated; and in a great number of cases the parents are illiterate -at least as to the English language-and apparently eagerly accept the free night-school education offered them. It is asserted that the enrollment in the Chisholm night school last year was in excess of 900.

The present directors and officials of Independent School District No. 40 are: E. H. Nelson, president; Ernest Drew, clerk; George K. Trask, treasurer; Fred Hurt, W. A. Masters and Clyde Blough, directors; J. P. Vaughan, superintendent.


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