The History of Gilbert, Minnesota (through 1922)

The Village of Gilbert was not incorporated under its present’ articles until 1909, but it may be considered to have had its beginning in the mining location that began to grow, in 1892 or 1893, in the vicinity of the Genoa mine. The location assumed the incorporated village status, as the Village of Sparta, in 1896. It took the name Gilbert when, eleven or twelve years later, other mining developments had brought about a veering of the population to the vicinity of the Gilbert group of mines, and it also became necessary to clear the Sparta townsite.

Discovery of Ore at Genoa Mine.-A Detroit company owned the land in section 34-58-17 originally, and in 1892 formed a company to prosecute mining explorations on their land. “They named the property the Detroit, and did not meet with very great success, their work having been done too far to the north. Later on a lease was obtained by John T. Jones, Nat Moore and Duncan McVichie, and after finding a considerable ore body they sold out to the Minnesota Iron Company.” A lease, of October 15, 1895, from the Detroit fee-owners, Murphy, Door and Flynn, to the Minnesota Iron Company concerned the east half of the southeast, and the sw. of sw. of section 34-58-17.

Another lease to same company, from the Security Land and Exploration Company (October 19, 1895), referred to the sw. of nw. and nw. of sw. of 34-58-17. Both leases were transferred from the Minnesota Iron Company to the Genoa Iron Company on November 18, 1895.

The first shipment of ore from the Genoa mine was made in 1896, 17,136 tons being shipped in that year. More than eight million tons have since been shipped from the Genoa, which is still on the shipping list. In 1907 it stopped, and did not resume operations until 1910. That, and the closing of the adjoining Sparta mine in 1906, may have been contributing factors in the decline and ultimate extinction of the Village of Sparta, and the founding of Gilbert. The chief factor, of course, was the necessity of clearing Sparta townsite of surface property, so that the ore body underlying it might be worked.

Organization of Sparta Village.-When the Genoa mine began to ship, in 1896, it seemed that a community of importance might develop there. G. G. Hartley, of Duluth, appeared to be convinced of it. He platted the townsite of Sparta, and lots sold rapidly. It also seems that no time was lost in circulating a petition in the location, so that corporate powers might early be obtained. The petition bears date of August 7, 1896, and was signed by J. Bruce Richardson, Mike Mattson, Charles Wollin, and others, the paper praying for the incorporation of the 61.7 acres “platted and recorded, as the ‘Plat of Sparta,’ in the office of the Register of Deeds.” Two hundred persons were then resident in Sparta, stated the petition, which statement and others was sworn to on August 7, 1896, by A. W. Fuller, A. R. Anderson and H. T. Rogers. The petition was filed with the county auditor on August 13th, was considered and approved by the county commissioners on August 20th, and on September 26, 1896, a public vote was taken, “at Anderson’s Store, lot 45511, block 8, townsite of Sparta.” Sixty-three votes were cast, fortythree being for incorporation.

Election for village officers took place without undue delay. The close proximity of the stronger City of Eveleth, however, affected the development of Sparta detrimentally; and when the Oliver Iron Mining Company began to mine ore actually under the townsite, a movement was started to bring about the moving of Sparta, or of part of that village, to one of the other mining locations of the district. The Gilbert, Hobart, and other mines then opening pointed to Gilbert as the logical site for the new community-center, and a townsite was surveyed. Sparta at that time was a village of one thousand inhabitants, it has been stated, and had its own electric-light and water plants. Nevertheless, it was destined to fade, and pass away entirely during the next few years, the last act being in 1911.

Sparta Dissolved.-On February 8, 1911, “one-third of the electors of the Village of Sparta, as voted in last election for village officers” signed a paper, stating that “at the last election, on March 8, 1910, there were only eleven residents and legal voters in the village, practically all the residents “having removed elsewhere.” The application pointed out to the county authorities that it was “an unnecessary and unwarrantable expense to maintain a village government and organization for the benefit of so few.” They, therefore, “prayed” that the village be dissolved. It was soon afterwards announced that a special election would be held on February 20, 1911. It was duly held, and the voting was unanimously in favor of dissolution of the village.

Three votes were cast, none being against. Hence, the end of Sparta.

Platting of Gilbert Township.

A townsite company, known as the Gilbert Townsite Company, was formed in 1907 by four Eveleth residents, W. J. Smith, J. A. Robb, C. E. Bailey and D. W. Freeman.

The townsite of eighty acres was platted on liberal lines by men of broad vision, so that today the principal thoroughfare, Broadway, is literally a broad way, and eventually, with better buildings, will compare favorably with the principal thoroughfares of other principal range cities. Upon the townsite, originally, was a heavy stand of pine timber, but probably it was mainly “cut-over” land in 1907, on August 7th, of which year the first lots were offered for sale. The lots on the main street were rapidly bought by business people who came from Sparta and other places. The lots in the residential sections could only be obtained subject to a provision forbidding the carrying on of any obnoxious or undesirable occupation thereon, forfeiture of property being the penalty for violation. All licensed houses were restricted to the business section. Therefore the village of Gilbert began its existence under good auspics.

Donation of Lots.-The townsite company donated several lots for public purposes. Two lots were apportioned to the village for village hall and jail, an entire block was given as site for school, and several lots then, or eventually, went gratuitously into the possession of religious organizations.

The First Building.-The concreted block, known as the Bailey Block, on Broadway, was the first building erected in Gilbert, it has been stated; and in view of its size, it was certainly a courageous undertaking to carry through in a village that, in reality, did not then exist. It has a frontage of 300 feet, and has held to the original plan, which was to utilize the ground floor for stores, and. the upper floor for flats and offices. At present, the greater part of it is used as living quarters of teachers employed in the public schools. It also houses 456the plant of the Gilbert “Herald.” The second building erected was for John Praznik, and the third for John Francel.

Moving of Sparta.-The Bailey Block was ready for occupancy in 1908, and soon afterwards the business people of Sparta began to move their places of business to Gilbert, so that mining operations might begin on Sparta townsite. Some of the residences were also then moved to the new site, though it seems that logging operations in Gilbert had not yet been completed, and mining in the vicinity of Gilbert had not assumed full proportions. Many of those who moved from Sparta in 1908 are still living in Gilbert; among the more prominent Gilbert citizens who formerly were residents of Sparta are: John N. Carlson, John A. Juten, Mike Kohler, Anton Erchal, Anton Indihar, Pete Cosgrove, Mike Kraher, John Conner, A. E. Mclnnis, Patrick Murphy, Dave Moykhenen, Nester Laine, John Keeren and Sam Keller.

Organization of Gilbert.-The first attempt to secure corporate powers and privileges for the growing village on Gilbert townsite occurred in 1908. John Siegel and twenty-nine other residents signed a petition of March 4, 1908, date, seeking corporate powers over the Gilbert townsite and over an enormous additional area. In all they sought to make the bounds of the incorporated village-to-be 2,240 acres, the petition specifying sections, 22, 23, 24, and the northern half of section 25, “including the sw. qr. of se. qr., and se. qr. of sw. qr. of section 23,” which had been “platted into lots and blocks as shown on the ‘Plat of Gilbert’ recorded with the Register of Deeds on August 8, 1907.” The petition stated that at the time of circulation of it, the population of the area for which incorporation was sought was 433 persons.

The census was taken on March 4, 1908, that and other statements made’ in petition being sworn to by Louis Larsen, John Francel and John Siegel.

First Election.-On March 6, 1908, the petition was considered by the county commissioners, who at once approved it, and ordered election to be held “at Sweet and Barrett’s Drug Store, lot 4, block 11, of Gilbert townsite, on April 7, 1908.” They appointed John Siegel, Clinton 0. Welch and Ant. K. Kapeller to act as inspectors of election.

Ninety-four persons voted, according to their report of election, sixty-seven being in favor of incorporation.

Remonstrance.-On April 6, 1908, the day before election, a remonstrance was filed with the county authorities by C. E. Moore, who stated that he was then general superintendent of the Pitt Iron Mining Company, which operated the La Belle Mine, situated on the nw. qr. of ne. qr. of section 24. He protested against the inclusion of the northeast quarter of section 24 in the area incorporated, reasoning that it “is unplatted and is about one mile east from the platted portion of the village,” also “that the said ne. quarter is not so conditioned as properly to be subjected to village government … being simply mining property.” The remonstrance appeared to have some justification, it being pointed out that the mining property, though so far from Gilbert townsite, was included, but that the Gilbert location, which adjoined the townsite, was not included, notwithstanding that there were forty-five dwelling houses on the location, which then had a population of 500.

First Village Officials.-The remonstrance did not delay the organization of the village, apparently, for the records show that the voting for village officials took place on April 25, 1908. Those elected 457were: D. F. Caine, C. H. Matthews, Joseph Brula and John Siegel, trustees; Frank Vertin, clerk. The salary of the village clerk was $35 a month, as the records of the first council meeting state. At that meeting John W. Carroll was appointed street commissioner at a salary of $2.50 a day. He and the village marshal were probably the hardest-worked of the first officials. The marshal was Charles Murphy, who was to receive a salary of $70 a month.

The first business before the council was the consideration of an application by Victor Steh for permission to sell intoxicating liquors in the village. He was granted a license for $500.

First Village Hall and Jail.-The Gilbert Townsite Company donated lots 1 and 2, of block 15, to the village for village buildings, and sold one lot adjoining lot No. 3, block 15, to the municipality for $150, on the understanding that the lots would be used as sites for village hall and jail. A jail, of brick construction, was soon afterwards built at a cost of $1,500.

Ouster Proceedings.-The remonstrance of the Pitt Iron Mining Company led to proceedings before the courts. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota, and Judgment of Ouster was entered at the October, 1908, term of court, the attorney- general declaring the incorporation “illegal and void from its inception.” He ordered that D. T. Caine, president; C. F. Liscomb, clerk; M. M. Sweet, treasurer and purchasing agent; C. H. Matthews, Joseph Brula and John Siegel, trustees, be ousted from office.

Reorganization.-On April 5, 1909, another petition praying for incorporation was prepared. It was signed by J. B. Thompson, C. O. Welch and S. T. Bonino, and others, and instead of seeking powers over thousands of acres merely asked for the incorporation of the platted portions of sections 23 and 26, in all only 143.29 acres, 78.29 acres in section 23 and 65 acres in section 26. In that area at that time lived 491 persons.

The petition was approved by the board of commissioners on April 6, 1909, and the question came before the voters for decision on April 29, the election place being the storeroom “of the building of C. E. Bailey, lot 6, block 11.” The count showed that, of fifty-five votes cast, only two votes were against incorporation.

The subsequent election brought into office M. A. Masterson, as president; and soon the village developed into a permanent prosperous state.

The sixty-odd acres adjoining the original townsite was known as the “First Addition to Gilbert,” also as the “Sparta Addition.” It was “owned by the Oliver Iron Mining Company, and platted so as to accommodate the people whose property the corporation had purchased at Sparta.” Increase in Area and Wealth.-In 1914 the municipality sought to annex much adjoining land, planning to embrace within the municipal boundaries almost the whole of the eastern halves of sections 27 and 34, approximately three-fourths of section 35, all of section 26, the western half of section 25, and the original two “fot ties” in section 23. The petition was dated January 24, 1914, and census then taken showed a population of 590.

Opposition to Annexation.-Undoubtedly mining interests looked upon the proposed annexation with disfavor, as the addition would increase the taxable resources of the municipality by about five million dollars, almost the whole of which was mining property. Maybe it was at that time that the mine owners were so active in opposition to 458municipal aims in Gilbert. The “Gilbert Herald,” on September 9, 1920, stated: “The development of Gilbert from an embryo town to its present status has been marked by more or less strife and trouble, the most marked being at the time of the annexation of certain mining company property to the Village of Gilbert. Mining Company police at that time did all in their power to scare people away from the land in question, and on the day of election Mining Company police were in evidence everywhere. This fight was won by the village, and village revenue from taxes was greatly increased.” Annexation Gained.-The petition of January 24, 1914, came before the commissioners at their February session, and election was ordered to be held on February 21st “at Malta School House.” It showed that a majority favored the annexation, sixty of ninety-four votes being in favor. One vote was spoiled, and thirty-three votes were registered against the addition.

Most Recent Increase.-One other addition has come, that covered by Village Ordinance No. 31. At the request of the owner, the Oneida Iron Company, the se. qr. of se. qr. of section 23 was annexed on January 16, 1917.

Village Presidents.-The chief executive of the Village of Gilbert for the last seven years has been Dr. Frederick Barrett, and much that is commendable in the development of the municipality has been due to his guidance of civic affairs. He is the son of one of the pioneer newspaper editors in the Vermilion range, and his activities will be referred to elsewhere in this record of St. Louis county. Gilbert’s first president, M. A. Masterson (unless one considers D. T. Caine entitled to first place) was succeeded in that office by Peter Cosgrove, who held the mayoralty for two or three years, from 1910.

Present Village Officials.-The present members of the village administration are: Frederick Barrett, president; A. dW. Indihar, clerk; A. E. Mclnnis, municipal judge; R. E. Anderson, attorney; T. W. Flannigan, M. A. Moykkynen and Sam Keller, trustees; J. J. Hurley, fire chief; John P. Shean, chief of police; Karl Fredericksen, village treasurer.

Village Hall.-The present village hall stands on lots 13 and 14 of block 8, and is, as it should be, one of the best buildings in the village. It was completed in 1915, and is stated to have cost $30,000, seemingly a low figure for a brick and stone building of its class and size.

Fire Department.-The Gilbert Fire Department had its beginning in 1909, a record of that year stating: “An abundant supply of water is obtained from the Gilbert mine, for domestic use and for fire protection, and a volunteer fire company, recently organized,-is being drilled for service by an experienced fireman.” The force is still of volunteer class, forty-five residents serving the village, which regularly employs a fire chief and three truck drivers. The village owns a combination fire truck.

Water Supply.-A recent review stated that “The village of Gilbert has the best equipped and most modern water plant, for its size, in the state of Minnesota. It has a duplicate pumping system, three Pittsburgh Gravity Filters, with a capacity of 750,000 gallons; two high and two low-pressure pumps, with a capacity of 750,000 gallons per day; wash pump, chlorine and chemical machines. The pumps are of the Alberger centrifugal type. Electric power is used thrdughout the plant. The supply of water is taken from a well, located at the pumping station, Ely Lake, and is chemically treated, coagulated, filtered and treated with chlorine before it is delivered for public consumption.

A much higher standard of purification is maintained than is required by the state law.” Gilbert has 6 miles of water maines, 78 hydrants, 500 taps, a 100,- 000-gallon steel storage tank, and 212 street valves.

Thomas J. Conner is superintendent of the Light and Water Department. He receives a salary of $200 a month. The present members of the Water, Light; Power and Building Commission of Gilbert are: Anton Erchul, president; H. A. Radermacher and Jack Piri, commissioners; John Palki, secretary.

Electricity is supplied to the village by the Northern Power Company more economically than the municipality could generate power.

GILBERT WATER PLANT Transportation.-Gilbert is favorably situated, being served by two railways, the Duluth and Iron Range’, and the Duluth, Missabe and Northern. Also it is served by an electric road, the Mesaba Railway Company running an hourly service between Gilbert and Hibbing. Then, there are several good motoring roads in the Gilbert district; autobusses run west to Virginia, and in the other direction on to Biwabik and Aurora. One regular autobus service connects Gilbert with Duluth, the journey being accomplished over the Vermilion trail in about two and a half hours. Also Gilbert is on the route of the Babcock highway, while going southwest from Gilbert a good road connects with the Miller trunk.

Agriculture.-Gilbert is the logical center of what may eventually prove to be an important agricultural district of St. Louis County. To the east of Gilbert the land has been rapidly settled, and is being cleared with determination and encouraging results. As an instance of the agricultural development, a brief sectional review is here quoted. The review, in part, states: “The Hutter district is located to the east of Gilbert and contains nine square miles, which up to 1913 was entirely undeveloped. No roads, land selling for $5 an acre. At this writing there is a road on each section line, land is selling at from $25 to $50 an acre, and some has sold at as high as $100 an acre. Over one-half of the district is under cultivation. The drainage is natural, traversed by the Embarrass River. and its tributaries. The district has fifty farmers, and 460they have: portable saw mills; six stump pullers, four or five buying one together; four binders, two threshing machines, two stock companies, with twenty-lye members each. Three binders are owned co-operatively. Their buildings are very good, and practically every farmer has a root cellar, to carry potatoes and root crops over the winter.” Another agricultural district east of Gilbert is known as the St.

Louis River district. Many of the 160-acre farms in these districts have now more than one-half of the acreage cleared. One settler, Herman Bodas, with only sixty acres cleared, raised, in 1919, 1,000 bushels of potatoes, 200 bushels of oats, 40 tons of hay, 50 bushels of wheat, and 50 bushels of rye.

Therefore, Gilbert administrators may, with reason, expect that a measure of its permanent prosperity will come from the agricultural development of suitable land within its sphere. Those interested in the growth of Gilbert are cognizant of the possibilities that lie in agriculture, and are doing all possible to foster the industry in its vicinity.

Agriculture is on the school curricula, and each year a fair is held at Gilbert under the auspices of Independent School District No. 18.

The Annual Fair of 1920 was the seventh held, the majority of them most successfully held.

It has been asserted that “there has been more real farm-home building in this section of St. Louis County in the past five years than in any other location on the Mesabi range.” Among the successful’ homesteaders and agricultural pioneers should be named Nick Lief, Matt Lake, Herman Bodas, Isaac Frantz, Gust Eklund, Matt Peterson, Sam Knutti, Dan McKenzie, Max Shuster, Oscar Emberg, Oscar Koski.

A farmers’ market and warehouse was established at Gilbert in 1917, the market master being Hans Line. The building covers a ground site of 75 by 200 feet.

Churches.-One of the first public buildings erected in Gilbert was meant to serve as a union church, all church societies and organizations being free to use it for their services, pending the construction of separate churches for the several denominations. The Gilbert Townsite Company donated sites tt three church societies, Presbyterian, Catholic and Swedish Lutheran, and eventually, in conjunction with the Oliver Iron Mining Company, donated two lots to the Methodist society.

Gilbert now has four church edifices, the Catholic, Presbyterian, Swedish Lutheran and Methodists owning their own buildings. All the churches are well established.

Schools.-School history of what is termed “The Gilbert District,” but officially is recorded as “Independent School District No. 18,” should properly begin with the Sparta school. Soon after the village began to assume residential character, it became necessary to provide educational facilities. At the outset, “a school was opened … in a private building, and C. G. Fulton was employed as the first teacher. A substantial school building was erected in 1899, and it served as the Sparta school until that village passed out of existence.

At one time eight teachers were employed.

When the removal of Sparta was decided upon, and Gilbert began to take form, school facilities at that point became a need, and eventually an imperative need. School facilities were first afforded the people of Gilbert in the fall of 1908. Then three rooms were rented, and three teachers employed. When the Independent School District 461No. 18 was formed in 1909, the schools had an enrollment of about 500 pupils, and employed 25 teachers. In 1919 the enrollment was 1918, and 95 teachers were employed.

The following is a review of the school district from the year of its establishment to 1920, the review being by one of the officials of that district. It begins: “The Gilbert School System, known as Independent School District No. 18, started under its present organization at the time that old Sparta was moved to the present site of Gilbert. The village of Gilbert was incorporated in 1908. Previous to that time the management of the schools in the district had been divided into two separate parts, the one at Sparta and the one at McKinley.

“The school district comprises two townships, extending eighteen miles north and south, three miles east and west at the northern and southern ends, and six miles east and west across the middle. The middle part of the district comprises the locations and villages of Genoa, Gilbert, Elba, McKinley, Hutter and Belgrade.

“Previous to the present organization there were five schoolhouses in the district. The one at Sparta was a large building and had some high school work. The one half way between McKinley and Elba, commonly known as the McKinley-Elba school, was about the same as the one at Sparta. Besides these two large buildings there were three primary schools, located at McKinley mine, McKinley village, and the Elba location.

“When the village of Gilbert was formed the first school to be erected was the red building, known as the Primary School. At that time it was supposed to be large enough to house the children of the district for a good many years, and was designed to be used as a grade and high school building, with an auditorium in the third floor.

The village of Gilbert grew so fast, however, that it was found necessary, only a year and a half later, to erect another building. This building was a much larger one and became the high school. The primary building from that time on has been used strictly as a grade building, and at presept the auditorium in the third floor has been divided into class rooms.

“The High School building is one of the most beautiful buildings to be seen anywhere. It was erected at a cost of approximately $125,000, and was completed in 1911.

“In 1916 the schools had grown so fast that it was decided to 462erect a structure which is now known as the Technical Building. This houses a gymnasium each for the boys and girls, a modern swimming pool, an automobile repair shop, a mechanical drawing room, forge shop, print shop, agricultural laboratory, science laboratories, and an atypical department for special courses. It was erected at a cost between $60,000 and $70,000.

“Mr. C. L. Newberry is the man largely resposible for the success of the schools during this expansion period. He held the position of superintendent for nine years, and started in on ground floor before sidewalks were built in Gilbert. During the latter part of his administration, a modified Gary system was adopted, which gave a richer curriculum to the schools and which has since been modified to meet the changing needs of the district.

At present three new buildings are being constructed, one at Hutter in a farming district, which will cost approximately $55,000, and which will provide for the 125 children who live on the farms.

It is modern in every way, and has desirable living quarters for the teachers in the upper story.

“A grade school is about to be finished near the site of old Sparta.

This school is known as the Malta school, and will house about one hundred children, all below the fifth grade.

“A splendid semi-fireproof brick structure is under process of construction in the village of McKinley. This will be finished in about a year. It will be large enough to take care of four or five hundred children. In addition to school room facilities, which include a manual training and domestic science department, it will be provided with a splendid gymnasium and auditorium, and will add much to the comfort of the people of the village of McKinley.

“The school buildings of the district are valued at approximately $500,000, and are all well equipped and cared for. There are twelve buildings in all. The smallest one is a one-room school, located in a farming community on the St. Louis River, about twelve miles south of Gilbert. This community is growing so rapidly that it will probably be necessary to enlarge this structure within a year or two.

“Schools will open August 30, 1920, with an enrollment of probably more than two thousand pupils, and a force of ninety-six teachers and supervisors to take care of them.

The schools are operated in as modern and up-to-date manner as possible. The school board is’ composed of men who are energetic and progressive, who give their time freely to the welfare of the schools.

“Living conditions for teachers are no better in Gilbert than in other towns of the range, and to remedy this trouble the school board has recently leased a large building, known as the Bailey Block, and is fitting up very comfortable living quarters. This will no doubt add to the efficiency and comfort of the teachers.” The block upon which the Gilbert High School stands was donated to the school district in 1909 by the townsite company. The high school was opened on March 1, 1911, and rapidly advanced. It “became a state high school in that year, being the only school in the state of Minnesota to be raised to this rank in so short a time, and without passing through the lower ranks of the state schools. On September 1, 1912, the Gilbert High School was placed on the accredited list of high schools by the North Central Association of Colleges.” There is also a normal training department at Gilbert. It was organized in 1913 by Superintendent C. L. Newberry. There were nine pupils in the department in the first year. Since its establishment the Gilbert Normal School has sent out sixty-four teachers, and “there has not been one failure,” it is asserted.

The members and officers of Independent School District No. 18, in 1920,’were: K. K. Tibbetts, formerly of Virginia, superintendent; Russell Johnson, principal (at Gilbert); A. K. Kapeller, auditor; Dr. J. C. Farmer, McKinley, clerk; Walter M. Webb, chairman of directors; F. P. Rutherford, treasurer; P. R. Cosgrove, P. A. Walstrom and C. G. Fulton, directors.

The district is administered as economically as are most other range districts. The expenses of all are heavy, so that it is fortunate the taxable wealth is much. The school levy of Independent School District No. 18 in 1919 was $300,035.21. The teachers are comparatively well paid, the thirteen male teachers averaging $164 a month; and the average monthly salary of the female teachers is $120. This, with the conveniences and economies of the “teacher’s hotel” at Gilbert, and of teacherages in outside schools, indicates that’ the remuneration to teachers is satisfactory.

Banking.-Good banking facilities are afforded the people of Gilbert by the First National Bank of Gilbert, which was organized in 1908, with an initial capital of $25,000. It opened for business at 121 North Broadway, and there remained until June, 1912, when, having absorbed the First State Bank of Gilbert, the banking quarters of the national bank were moved to the old quarters of the state bank. There the business of the First National Bank has since been conducted, although not without some notable changes. The old building was torn down, and the present artistically-decorated bank building erected in 1920. The capital was increased in March, 1920, to $30,000. There is also a surplus of $25,000, and the average deposits are about $500,000. Alfred Hoel, the present president of the banking institution, became its cashier in 1912, taking the place of J. C. Faith.

In 1913 he was elected vice president, and in 1916 became president.

To his conservative direction is mainly due the standing of the bank today. The other directors are: T. A. Flanningan, M. G. Kraker, C. B. Hoel, vice presidents; D. W. Freeman and H. E. Griswold, directors; John Seman, cashier.

Merchandising.-Gilbert has not many stores, but one at least Vol. 1-30 465 H n ;T A P-q p4 U) cl 04 Xl .

must have mention, for it is a noteworthy commercial enterprise.

The Kraker Mercantile Company conducts an up-to-date department store at Gilbert. It is asserted that the store does a larger business than any other store of its class on the Mesabi range, that it does a business of from $200,000 to $300,000 a year.

Newspaper.-Gilbert is well served by the Gilbert “Herald,” a weekly newspaper ably edited by D. A. Craig, a forceful writer of conscientious type. The paper was established in 1908 by P. E. Darling, of Eveleth. It later passed into the possession of Messrs Hoel and Colvin, the former eventually selling his part-interest in it to a stock company formed to continue its issuance. In course of time E. J. Anderson became the possessor of all the stock not owned by N. J. Colvin. A change came in December, 1919, when Editor D. A. Craig, of the Buhl Advertiser, and formerly a newspaper editorowner in North Dakota, acquired an interest, having Messrs Colvin and Hoel as partners, or fellow-stockholders. The paper is a live organ, and endeavors to serve its community to the utmost.

Commercial Club.-The Commercial Club of Gilbert is an active organization of fifty members. The present officers are: Alfred Hoel, president; A. E. MacInnis, vice president; A. W. Indihar, secretary; H. A. Radermacher, treasurer.

Summer Resorts.-There are two ideal summer resorts within easy distance of Gilbert. Eshquagama and Ely lakes attract many.

The former is seven miles from Gilbert, and is ideal in lake and forest scenery, the stately pines one passes when approaching the lake adding indescribably to the charm of the spot. Ely Lake has many summer homes on its banks; it is officially known as Cedar Island Lake, and as such was the subject of much controversy and expensive litigation some years ago, the surveyor who originally mapped that region mapping Cedar Island Lake where dry land was, and where, in this dry land, eventually was discovered valuable deposits of ore, over the possession of, or right to which, controversy developed between mining explorers, lumbermen, and squatters.

Mining.-The Gilbert Group of Mines might be considered properly to include all mines from McKinley to Ely Lake, but the McKinley mines will be dealt with in the chapter devoted to that village and Biwabik, therefore this will briefly review the history of mining developments in the east and southeast of section 58-17, from the Elba to the Genoa mine.

The first mine was, as before stated, the Genoa. The Detroit company formed to carry on explorations there was, apparently, the Detroit Iron Company, which was organized on February 15, 1892, with an authorized capital of $3,000,000. J. T. Hale, J. M. Root and F. E. Kennedy, princpals. James T. Hale was very actively interested in the Gilbert region at that time. A lease was secured by him in July, 1892, from Murphy, Robinson and Flinn, of Detroit, and T. E. Dorr, of Saginaw,’ Michigan, giving him mining rights in sections 23 and 24, on a basis of 35 cents royalty, for bessemer, and 25 cents for non-bessemer ore mined. In August, 1892, J. T. Hale transferred leases of some land in sections 23 and 24 to the McCaskill Mining Company, of which he was one of the principals.

Then of section 34 lands, the fee-owners, Murphy, Robinson, Flinn and Dorr leased the eastern half on June 1, 1893, to Simcoe Chapman, James Sheridan and Geo. W. Buck, on a 35-cent and 25-cent basis.

Two’ years later land in the same section passed from same feeholders to Minnesota Iron Company, on a 25-cent basis for first two years, 467after which the royalty was to be 30 cents, with a minimum of 50,000 tons. That lease, a month later was transferred to the Genoa Iron Company.

The Sparta mine, which is included in the Genoa-Sparta, and is now owned by the Oliver Iron Mining Company, was explored by G. A. St. Clair in 1896. He stripped the ore body and began mining the ore by the milling system in 1897, when 66,722 tons were shipped.

The Sparta Iron Company was formed, but it seems that it became financially embarrassed, for the Sparta Iron Company pledged its leases to Sam Mather on March 18, 1898, “for money advanced.” Eventually the operation of the property passed entirely to Pickands Mather and Company. The last ore mined at the Sparta was in 1907, the total mined, including the small quantity shipped in that year, being 1,244,197 tons. Subsequently, the property passed to the Oliver Company, which owns the Sparta townsite.

The Malta mine, situated in section 35, was explored in the ’90s.

The fee-owners, Murphy- Dorr and Flinn, gave a lease of nw. qr. of nw. qr. of section 35 to G. A. St. IClair, on December 17, 1898, on a 25-cent basis, with a first-year minimum of 50,000 tons. ‘Only 28,615 tons were shipped from the Malta mine prior to 1900. No ore has been shipped from the Malta, or the Malta Annex, since 1916, and the total quantity mined to date has been 1,290,326 tons.

The Gilbert mine embraces an immense ore body in section 26.

Early part of the property was explored by Louis Rouchleau and part of the land was acquired by the Minnesota Iron Company and part by the Consolidated. In 1906 the Oliver Iron Mining Company thoroughly explored the tract, with suprising results, proving an immense ore bed of excellent grade. Stripping operations began in 1907 under the direction of A. J. Sullivan and Captain R. R. Trezona.

Shipments began in 1907, when 100,178 tons went to the docks. Nothing has been shipped since 1916, up to which time 1,643,223 tons had been mined. The ore still available at the Gilbert, and the Gilbert- Chicago No. 2 reserve mines, both Oliver properties, is 11,694,921 tons of bessemer and non-bessemer ores.

Adjoining properties on the east are the Pettit and Schley mines, and east of the Schley is the Hobart, which it adjoins. The Pettit was first explored by David T. Adams, John T. Jones and Niel Mc- Innis, but although they found ore, the difficulties of mining were such that they relinquished their hold on the property, leaving to others the problem of overcoming the excess of water, the ore body being overlaid, in parts, by what seemed “an almost bottomless bog.” Captain Harry Roberts took the property and put down a working shaft. He also had to abandon mining, and eventually the property was taken over by the Republic Iron and Steel Company. The first shipment, 17,278 tons, was made in 1902. Mining has been constant, and increasing ever since. Shipments to end of 1919 have been 2,101,876 tons, and there is almost as much still available. The Schley mine, also owned by the Republic Iron and Steel Company, began to ship in 1910, and has yielded 692,484 tons to end of 1919. About five million tons are still available.

The opening of the Hobart mine by the Rhodes Mining Company somewhat relieved the pumps at the Pettit. However, early in the operations of the Rhodes Mining Company at the Hobart it was thought that, in addition to the seeping of water form the Pettit and Schley forties, the water was constantly seeping into the workings of the Hobart from the lake bordering it on the east, and Captain 468Alfred Martin, superintendent, considered that the excessive dampness would continue until the lake had been pumped dry. The first shipment, 975 tons, was made in 1906, and with the exception of about 7,000 tons mined in 1907, no shipments were made from the Hobart until 1919, when 48,409 tons left for the docks. The property is now one of the Hanna Company’s mines, and it has about two and a half million tons available. The Mariska mine, section 24, belongs, in fee, to Robinson and Flinn. First shipment was in 1907, and the last in 1911, less than 100,000 tons in all. It has 250,000 tons available. The LaBelle mine, section 24, adjoins the Elba, and is now, in part, classified as the Elba-LaBelle mine. The LaBelle was explored in the ’90 s, but not developed until 1902, when the first shipment was made. It was then operated by the Pitt Iron Mining Company, the superintendent of which was C. E. Moore, who instituted such strenuous and successful proceedings to, prevent the inclusion of that property in the taxable area of the village of Gilbert, in 1908. The LaBelle is now operated by the Hobart Iron Company (Pickands Mather and Company), and is on the shipping list, although up to date, however, not much more than 500,000 tons have been shipped from this mine. From the Elba mine, adjoining, 3,140,314 tons were shipped up to end of 1919, but there is very little shown as still available. The Elba is on land originally owned by the Pittsburg Land Company. It, and the adjoining Corsica mine, were explored by David T. Adams and Niel McInnis, and on March 26, 1895, the Elba Iron Company was organized, with capital of $100,000, to operate it. The principal stockholders were J. H. Chandler, James Belden, E. L. Merriman, L. T. Beecher and C. W. Hillard, all of Chicago, but the main office was at Elba location, in 58-17. The property was opened as an underground mine in 1898, and since has been a regular producer. The Corsica mine was opened in 1902, and it and the Elba both came under the direction of the Minnesota Iron Company, and eventually passed to Pickands Mather and Company, present operators.

The Oliver Iron Mining Company owns what is designated by them the “Elba No. 1 and No. 2 Reserve,” a proved ore body of two and a half million tons. It is entirely distinct, however, the Elba property being in Gilbert village, section 26. It has never been worked. And the same company has, in section 24, another reserve of like extent. That is designated the “Oliver Reserve,” and is undeveloped.

Approximately 1,000 men are employed in the mines of the Gilbert group, and in view of the immense reserve of ore it cannot be said that the district has yet reached its full development in mining.

For many decades, probably, mining will be the premier occupation and interest of the people of Gilbert. Mining surely gives it its present enviable state in financial resources.

Taxation.-In 1908 the taxable property within the village of Gilbert could only bear an assessed valuation of $980,730. In 1919 the assessed valuation had increased to $5,480,041. The total levy for all purposes in 1908 was $24,812.47. The total levy in 1919 was $415,415.91.

Population.-In the vast area (2,240 acres), for which corporate powers, as the village of Gilbert, were sought in 1908, there were only 433 persons living. In 1910 the federal census credited Gilbert with a population of 1,700, while during the last decade Gilbert has had a more rapid increase in population than any other incorporated 469 470place on the Mesabi and Vermilion ranges has experienced. The 1920 census-taking disclosed that Gilbert’s population then was 3,510.

General.-The village is well governed, and there is no indication of extravagant use of the taxable resources it has. When civic improvements are planned it is with the intention of providing needed facilities. In execution the best workmanship and materials are asked for, but such stipulations often prove more economical in the end, even though the initial outlay might be greater. Shoddy is not favored in the Iron Range cities and villages of Minnesota. The range territory is criticized by southern sections of Minnesota, and charged with municipal extravagance, but if put to the test it would probably be found that the better materials outwear the cheaper by much more than the proportionate difference in original cost. The criticism does not particularly apply to Gilbert, where many needed public improvements have been postponed during these last few abnormally-strenuous years. The recent paving of the main street was the only public work of consequence undertaken during the period of stress.


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