The History of Virginia, Minnesota (through 1922)
By reason of its geographical position fundamentally, but for other reasons also, the city of Virginia rightly is termed the “Queen City of the Mesabi Iron Range.” She has since the ‘nineties been the centre, the metropolis, of the range, one might say of the ranges, for she is recognized as the business metropolis of the Vermilion as well as the Mesabi range. Hibbing is becoming increasingly conspicuous, and is notably aggressive, but the general impression a stranger in Virginia gets of things municipal, social and civic is that Virginia is, and long has been, the established leader among the communities of the range territory.
Mining. As is the case of course with all communities of the Mesabi range, the history of Virginia begins with mining explorations, and it is therefore proper to review the history of mining in the Virginia district before writing about civic affairs.
Among the early explorers of the Mesabi, those that are known to have passed over and noted the Virginia “loop” and suspected its mineral value in the ‘eighties, were members of the Merritt family, David T. Adams, and John McCaskill. It is hardly possible now to decide who was the first to begin actual explorations, in the way of test-pit sinking. One record indicates that “the first exploratory work (in the Virginia group) was done on the Ohio” by a company in which Dr. Fred Barrett, of Tower, Thomas H. Pressnell, of Duluth, and others were interested. Winchell states that “the first pit in ore in this township, 58-17, was sunk on the southeast quarter, northeast quarter sec. 8, by Captain Cohoe, and discovered ore at a depth of thirteen feet. This was in March, 1892, and was the Missabe Mountain mine.” It is generally supposed that the first ore discovered in the Virginia district was at the Missabe Mountain mine, but David T. Adams writes: In the winter of 1890-91, I made a trip into township 58-17, in the interests of Humphreys and Atkins and myself, and camped for ten days on section 4 … north and east of the present city of Virginia. During my ten days’ stay in that township I located every deposit of ore in the Virginia hills, from the Alpena and Sauntry, in section 5, down to the Auburn, in section 20, and I brought back the minutes with the deposits well marked, including the minutes of the lands where Virginia stands. All of the lands containing deposits that could be acquired in some way were acquired by Humphreys, Atkins and myself, including the lands upon which stands the city of Virginia.
In the spring of 1891 I engaged the services of John Owens, then of Tower, to erect exploring camps on the nw, qr. of the nw. qr. of section 9, now the Commodore, which was the first exploring camp built in township 58, range 17. Explorations on this property ensued, with Mr. Owens in charge of the men, and in the second test-pit, of a series which I had located to be sunk, the first ore in this township was discovered. A little later, I discovered ore on the s. half of the sw. qr. of section 4, now the Lincoln mine, but the discovery was in the low lands, and, on account of the water, the work, was abandoned for the time being.
The next discovery in that township was made by the Merritt Brothers, on the ne. qr. of section 8, now the Missabe Mountain mine, and the next discovery was by me, on the sw. qr. of the nw. qr. of section 9, now the Lone Jack. Next following were the Norman mine, by Louis Rouchleau; the Minnewas, by the Merritts; the Rouchleau Ray, by Louis Rouchleau; the Moose, by John Weimer; the Shaw, by Gridley and Hale, and the Auburn, by Captain N. D. Moore. Meantime, Frank Hibbing reported a discovery of ore on the w. half of the sw. qr. of section 31, of 58-20. These discoveries were made in rapid succession and furnished undisputed evidence of the existence of vast deposits of iron ore in the taconite formation, and the great possibilities of the Mesabi range, and did more to establish the Range solidly in the minds of the people throughout our country than all that was said and done previous thereto. It then became everybody’s game, and everyone for himself, to do the best he, or they, could in acquiring options and raising money for developments, and explorations along the range became general. In the meantime Captain Edward Florada, who was left in charge of the explorations on the Cincinnati when I started work at Virginia, took an option on the Missabe Mountain from the Merritt brothers, and succeeded in interesting the late Harry Oliver in the option. The entry of Mr. Oliver on the range further stimulated explorations, and thereafter proved the nucleus of the Oliver Iron Mining Company.
Another record reads: “The first ore actually discovered in the district (Virginia) was on the Missabe Mountain mine, now known as the Oliver, by Captain John G. Cohoe.” Supporting that statement, Mr. Fred Lerch, who has resided in Virginia since 1892, writes: “The first ore discovered in the Virginia district was by Capt. John G. Cohoe. He was conducting exploration work at Biwabik.” Captain Cohoe, by the way, was sent to Biwabik in August, 1891, and in ten days “had ten pits in ore” at the Biwabik mine. He might possibly have gone over to the Virginia district soon afterwards.
Captain Florada was a mining man of experience in the Michigan ranges at the time ore was discovered on the Mesabi, and presumably was in the Biwabik district in 1891. However, a review written in 1909 of his activities in Minnesota mining includes the following paragraph regarding his part in pioneer mining in Virginia district: In 1892 he turned his attention to prospecting on the Mesabi range, where a few deposits of ore had been recently located. Here he met the late Henry W. Oliver, by whom he was engaged to locate and open an iron mine. A series of brief investigations on the part of Mr. Florada sufficed to convince him that the property now known as the Missabe Mountain mine was what he was seeking, and he proceeded to strip and develop the same, in which he retained an interest for several years.
The same 1909 publication makes the statement quoted below, as to the coming of John Owens to Virginia: Early in 1892, Mr. Owens went to Virginia, and engaged in exploration work for Mr. A. E. Humphreys and associates. He took charge of a force, which by test-pitting located the famous Commodore mine, then known as the New England.
Another, and an earlier review of Mesabi mining states, regarding the Commodore, or New England, mine: The Commodore mine … has the distinction of being the first property in the Virginia group on which actual development work was done.
It was explored in 1891-2 by A. E. Humphreys and associates.
So that the records are somewhat conflicting. The fact is, all the prospectors were more concerned in finding and developing ore properties than in keeping the historical record correctly, in those exciting and strenuous early years on the Mesabi. So, we will now pass on to brief reviews of the individual mines of the Virginia district, beginning with the Missabe Mountain Mine. This mine is situated on “indemnity school lands belonging to the state.” The first pit on the property was sunk on the se. qr. ne. qr. of section 8, by Captain Cohoe, “and discovered ore at a depth of 13 feet” in March, 1892. Captain Cohoe was employed by the Merritt brothers, who had secured the mineral lease 575 from the state, on a royalty of 25 cents a ton of quantity mined. Fred Lerch gives the information that Captain Cohoe “located the southeast corner of the quarter section … took three hundred paces to the north, three hundred paces to the west, and located his test pit, which encountered ore at a total expense of $35, a remarkably cheap discovery, when one considers that the Missabe Mountain mine originally had about sixty million tons of ore, worth today about $100,000,000.” However, the Merritt brothers “had their hands full;” they had more ore “in sight” than they knew what to do with, which perhaps explains why they were willing to let a proved mine in that early day of the Mesabi pass to another. They leased, or subleased, the property to Henry W. Oliver, through Capt. Ed. Florada, on the basis of 65 cents a ton royalty, 25 cents of which would have to go to the state. That transaction was the making of the Mesabi, for Henry W. Oliver became interested in Mesabi ore at the opportune moment—at the time when the peculiarities of the Mesabi ore made it problematic whether it would eventually prove to be worth anything at all to the finders. Oliver had furnaces of his own, was well known to steel men, had the co-operation of Frick, and so was able to push past the obstacles that might have made other steel men become indifferent to Mesabi ore, and refuse to exert themselves to adapt their furnaces to the peculiarities of the raw material. Oliver was “in it” and he just had “to go through with it”; he had to make his mining investment good. He did so, and incidentally made the Mesabi, becoming by far 576 the largest operator on the range. (See Chapter XVIII, reviewing the main epochs of Mesabi mining history.) One record states that the Missabe Mountain mine was found “a few months after the Biwabik discovery.” The Biwabik mine was proved in August, 1891, by Captain Cohoe, who also sank the proving test pit at Missabe Mountain mine. Missabe Mountain Iron Company was incorporated by the Merritts on January 27, 1892, the capital being $3,000,000, and the incorporators Leonidas and John E. Merritt and K. D. Chase. On March 2, 1892, the company was granted a state lease, No. 59, on the usual royalty basis presumably. It has been stated that the Merritts expected “to spend $150,000 in exploration” on the Missabe Mountain property, but that “they actually spent only $41.” How it happened that Henry W. Oliver, a steel manufacturer of Pittsburgh, made the journey to the Mesabi range at all, at a time when only local speculators were “grubbing around,” must it seems be attributed to his interest in national politics. He happened to be “present at the nomination of Harrison (for the presidency) in 1892, and as he was in Minneapolis he made a side trip to the new Mesabi range, the fame of which was being noised among ore men. From the nearest railroad station on the Duluth and Iron Range it was thirty miles across country to the new field, a fearful trip, to be made in a buckboard, through swampy woods, over corduroy roads, churned hub-deep with the hauling of many teams. With Mr. Oliver were George T. Tener and C. D. Fraser, also of Pittsburgh, among the ablest of his lieutenants whom he was even then gathering about him.
They visited the Cincinnati mine, at that time the nearest to a mine on the Mesabi. … They lodged at the Cincinnati location, and then Tener and Fraser, in their misery, refused to go another foot.
Oliver went next day to the Missabe Mountain Iron, and was so impressed with its possibilities that he leased it forthwith on a 65 cent royalty.” The leasing agreement was a good one for the Merritts; it gave them a little ready cash, with more soon to follow, the lease of August 1, 1892, calling for an advance cash payment of $75,000 by Oliver to the Missabe Mountain Iron Company, $5,000 upon signing of lease, $45,000 in equal monthly installments over the next three months, and the balance before operations began in 1893, in which year Oliver was to mine 200,000 tons. The lease was to run to January 1, 1903. Oliver was not a wealthy man, but he “caught the fever” when he reached the range, and risked the future. He was a good business man but somewhat speculative. A mutual acquaintance, meeting a friend of his while traveling, once asked: “Is he rich or poor this year?” Oliver had experienced many vicissitudes in the course of his business career; “he had made and lost fortunes.” When he invaded the Mesabi, it is said he was “fairly rich.” A year later, when the mine was shipping, he was “desperately poor.” And in the “Pittsburgh group are men today who remember how the Missabe Mountain shipped 300,000 tons in 1893 without a cent.” Still in that year nobody seemed to have money, and men on the mining range considered themselves fortunate if they were “grub-staked.” After securing the Merritt lease to the Missabe Mountain mine, in August, 1892, Oliver went on quickly with his plans, and on September 30, 1892, the Oliver Mining Company, with an authorized capital of $1,200,000, was incorporated, the principal promoters being H. W. Oliver, H. R. Rea, G. E. Tener, E. D. Reis, C. D. Fraser and Edward Florada, the last-named having been given charge of mining operations. How Oliver drew into co-operation with him the most powerful steel men of America is told in the Mesabi general chapter.
In 1894, in consideration of “very large output,” a minimum of 400,000 tons a year, Oliver was able to get the Lake Superior Consolidated Iron Mines, John D. Rockefeller’s mining subsidiary, which had succeeded to the Merritt interests on the Mesabi, to reduce the royalty to 25 cents, with, presumably, an additional 25 cents for the YAWKEY MINE state treasury. The first year of shipment was 1893, when 123,015 tons were mined. In 1894 the output was 505,955 tons, the Mountain Iron and Missabe Mountain mines standing well out from the other twelve producing Mesabi mines of that time. Regarding the Missabe Mountain Mine, in early 1895, Winchell wrote: 578 Including the 1 cent tax, the income to the state from this mine has amounted to $163,532.20 in two years. This mine has been developed and its wonderful record made, under the direction of Capt. Ed. Florada and Capt A. J. Carlin. A greater depth of ore has been proven here than at any other point on the Mesabi, a vertical drill hole 320 feet in ore having failed to pass through it.
One need not wonder why, with such evidence before them, mining men were enthusiastic in the early nineties, as to the future of Mesabi mining.
Captain Florada was not the man who introduced the steam into Mesabi mining, but it was he who first demonstrated its great value in Mesabi operations. Bridge’s “The Inside History of the Carnegie Steel Company” makes reference to the astounding work of the steam shovel at “the first Mesabi mine secured by Mr. Oliver, pointing out that 5,800 tons of ore were mined and loaded into cars by one steam shovel in ten hours,” and that the output for one month was 164,000 tons. Continuing, he wrote: This was the work of only eight men. Three such machines … mined from its natural bed 915,000 tons of ore during the season of 1900, working day-shift only.
Still, notwithstanding that it was the second-largest shipper in the first year, the Oliver Mining Company had only taken about three million tons out of Missabe Mountain Mine up to the end of 1917.
The mine resumed its old activity in 1918, however, and by the end of 1919 the total quantity mined had reached 5,368,615 tons. Still, the present rate of production could continue for many years, for there is about fifty-five million tons still available. F. R. Mott is general superintendent, and W. A. McCurdy, superintendent.
A. E. Humphreys, and his associates, including Atkins and Adams, “secured a lease on what were known as the Nelson lands, belonging to the C. N. Nelson Lumber Company, of Cloquet.” As before stated, the explorations were directed by David T. Adams, with whom was Neil Mclnnis, and it is said that “ore was shown up on the Ohio and the Commodore within a few days after the first discovery on the Missabe Mountain.” “It was explored in 1891-2, and at that time known as the New England” Mine, stated one record. Humphrey’s company, the New England Iron Company, subleased the property to James Corrigan on November 11, 1892, on the basis of 55 cents royalty, with a first year’s minimum of 50,000 tons. The operations were in the hands of Corrigan, Ives and Company at the outset, the firm later becoming Corrigan, McKinney and Company. In June, 1893, the property passed to the Franklin Iron Company, Franklin Rockefeller being president of that company, and Thomas Goodwillie of Iron Belt, Wis., secretary. There being a heavy overburden, the mine was worked by a shaft, and in 1893 exceeded the minimum, 65,137 tons being mined. Whether the operation by the Franklin Iron Company was merely “a working agreement,” or not cannot be decided from the papers now available. The Commodore and Franklin mines, which adjoined, were both in 1894 under the superintendence of Capt. John Harris, and Winchell recorded that they were then “owned and operated by Messrs. J. Corrigan, P. McKinney and F. Rockefeller.” The Franklin property however “became involved financially,” and passed into the possession of John D. Rockefeller, and was later acquired by the Republic Iron and Steel Company, which corporation still owns the Franklin Mine. The Commodore Mine, however, passed to Corrigan, McKinney and Company, under the superintendence of E. D. McNeil, who in 1907 started the heavy task of stripping the overburden.
The mine is still owned by the McKinney Steel Company, and E. D. McNeil is still general superintendent.
The Commodore mine has yielded 6,421,911 tons, to end of 1919, having been consistently operated since it became an open-pit. it is now, however, near the end of its proved supply.
The Franklin mine was opened in 1893, in which year 46,617 tons were shipped. The Franklin Iron Company seems to have been handicapped financially and eventually the property passed from Franklin Rockefeller to John D., his brother. The former was so hard-pressed for ready money in 1893 that, according to Fred Lerch, analytical chemist of Virginia, he could not meet, on due date, an account of $250 but then had to ask Lerch Brothers to accept a note, payable in sixty days, for the amount. The Franklin, with other mines, including the Union, Victoria and Bessemer, passed ultimately into the operation of the Republic Iron and Steel Company, present operators. IC. T. Fairbairn was manager of the mining interests of the Republic Iron and Steel Company in 1907, and Capt. Wm. White general superintendent of the Franklin group. In 1919 the Republic company’s mining affairs, which had reached out to the westward and now included several important mines of Kinney and Nashwauk districts, are directed by Francis J. Webb, with T. A. Flannigan, general superintendent. The Franklin mine has yielded 2,241, 761 tons, to end of 1919, but seems to have reached nearly to the end of its available deposit.
The Union mine was opened in 1900, and in four years shipped 296,424 tons. There was idleness for a few years, and then for some years the output was not appreciable. In 1912, however, more than 200,000 tons came from the Union, which ever since has maintained that volume of production. To end of 1919 the total of shipments was 2,278,229 tons. At present rate of production the proved deposit will be exhausted in a few years.
The Victoria was opened in 1893 by Corrigan and Rockefeller, passing to the Republic Company eventually. No ore was shipped from it until 1906, and the total up to end of 1919 was only 637,300 tons, with very little still available.
The Bessemer was opened also in 1893 by same parties. It is not now on the shipping list. The last shipping year was 1915, when 49,459 tons were mined, the property having yielded altogether 1,238,540 tons.
The Ohio mine was one of the first to show activity, if not the first to produce ore. It was probably already certain to the promoters that ore was in the property when they, on January 7, 1892, formed the Ohio Mining Company, of $1,000,000 capital, to mine it. Identified with the promotion were: James E. Campbell, of Columbus; E. D. Sawyer, of Cleveland; W. J. Hilands, of same place; C. F. Nestor, of Lancaster, Ohio; R. S. Munger, M. R. Baldwin, T. H. Pressnell and J. K. Persons, of Duluth; S. R. Ainslee, of Chicago, and Fred Barrett, of Tower. The last-named was the pioneer newspaper editor of both ranges, having conducted the “Vermilion Iron Journal” for some years before founding the first Mesabi Range newspaper. He, however, was enthusiastically prospecting on the Mesabi range almost from the beginning of mining at Mountain Iron.
Regarding him one writer stated: Those were the days of many prospective millionaires, and Dr. Barrett fondly imagined that he was one of them. Although he died without reaching the goal of his ambition, he was richer than any mere money-grubber 580 that ever lived, for he possessed a wealth of human kindness, an inexhaustible fund of humor, and one of the noblest hearts that ever beat in sympathy for others.
The compiler may, perhaps, be pardoned for so diverting. As to the Ohio mine, Winchell wrote in 1895: “Leases and sub-leases have been made and forfeited upon this property, and its exact status at present is unknown to the writer.” It seems that two parties had a lease to the property, and both subleased to the Ohio Mining Company. S. R. Ainslee, of Chicago, leased to the Ohio Company on March 29, 1892, at a royalty of 25 cents. And’ on June 13th, following, James Sheridan and John B. Weimer, who seemed to have established some right to the property, leased it to the Ohio Company at 65 cents, with 150,000 tons minimum, and $15,000 advance royalties. Trouble seems to have followed the promoters. On March 31, 1894, the decree of court forfeited interests of Sheridan and Weimer in Ohio Mining Company’s lease, “in default of lease of June 24, 1892.” Weimer, however, was, from the beginning, involved in the attempt to exploit the mine. They found the ore, but before mining decided to strip the property. Before they could complete that work, the money panic of 1893 set the Ohio Company on the inactive list.
John B. Weimer had undertaken the stripping contract, but he failed for a like reason. Then followed the years of deflation, the period in which Mesabi ore could not be mined at a profit. Eventually, it became evident that small independent companies could not live, and the Ohio stock was swept into the Rockefeller holdings, passing eventually with his other property to the U. S. Steel Corporation’s mining subsidiary, the Oliver Iron Mining Company. The mine has only been worked spasmodically. Up to 1900, 540,514 tons had been mined; in 1900 the output was 172,597 tons; but no more was mined until 1905. Eight hundred thousand tons was worked in 1907, but since that time the mine has only been worked during one year, 1916, when the shipment was 23,665 tons. It must therefore be considered as one of the reserve properties of the Oliver Company, there being about four million tons still available.
The Lone Jack mine adjoins the Ohio. The property was owned originally by Alonzo J. Whiteman, of Duluth, who seems to have leased it (or sold it) to John T. Jones and D. T. Adams.
Another account states that it “was owned by A. J. Whiteman, who sold it before iron was discovered. A lease was taken by David T. Adams, James Foley and associates, who explored it and soon found ore.” The Merritts also were interested in it originally, a lease passing from them to N. D. Moore and J. F. Foley, thence through Humphreys to Lone Jack Iron Company. The Lone Jack Iron Company was formed July 24, 1892; the incorporators were A. E. Humphreys, George E. Milligan and Arthur Howell; and the capital was $500,000.
Two inclined shafts were sunk preparatory to mining by Captain Foley, but the properties were brought into the Merritt group to be consolidated, when the Merritts were struggling to extricate themselves from their financial difficulties. They failed and their options passed to Rockefeller. The properties also eventually became his, by purchase from D. T. Adams and others. Eventually, the Lone Jack came under the control of the Oliver Iron Mining Company, present owners.
Less than 200,000 tons have been mined since 1900, and there is still as much in the mine as has been taken from it. The available deposit is 2,329,356 tons; the quantity mined is 2,206,292 tons.
Lincoln and Higgins Mines.
The Wyoming Iron Company was formed on April 22, 1892, with a capital of $300,000. The organizers were Frank Cox, S. WV. Eckman and W. F. Gore, and the result of their operations were the Higgins, Tesora and part of the Lincoln. The company sub-leased the ne. of nw. of sec. 9-58-17 to John T. Jones on a royalty of 50 cents and 25,000 tons minimum.
John T. Jones and his associates explored the Lincoln, which adjoined their Commodore property. Later they disposed of their lease to the Inter-State Iron Company, the mining division of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company. The mine, however, did not come onto the shipping list until 1902, when 87,908 tons were shipped. It has been continuously operated ever since, averaging about 250,000 tons a year, at which rate there is enough proved ore to last for about another seven years. C. T. Fairbairn was the mining manager when shipments first began, Thomas Pellew succeeding him in 1906. They were working four shafts in 1907, and it was then the best equipped underground property in the district. The Lincoln still belongs to the Interstate Iron Company, Mark Elliott being general superintendent and J. H. Mclnnis, assistant general superintendent.
The Higgins mine passed to the Oliver Mining Company in 1897 or 1898, Capt. John Gill becoming superintendent for the Oliver Company in 1898. The mining was somewhat more difficult than at some other mines, at the Missabe Mountain for instance. The first shipment from the Higgins was made in 1904. The surface was stripped and the mining carried on both by milling and by steam shovel, although owing to the steep grade the ore mined by steam shovel was not taken direct from the mine but dumped through a chute, and then hoisted in the shaft. About a million and a half tons have been taken from the mine, and about eight million tons still remain.
The Higgins Land Company was the original owner, paying $1.25 an acre, in 1887, for 11,661 acres on the range.
The right to explore and mine was sold to Louis Rouchleau, the lease being of July 11, 1892, from F. W. Higgins, of Olean, to Louis Rouchleau, who sub-leased to the Minnesota Iron Company. The company opened the mine in 1894, and “was the second to adopt the ‘milling’ method” of open-pit mining, the process being to strip off the overburden and mill the ore down through a winze into cars in the mine, from which the ore was dumped into skips and hoisted. The first superintendent was’ Capt. John Armstrong. By the end of 1898, 421,132 tons had been shipped. Eventually the mine passed, with the consolidation, into the control of the Oliver Iron Mining Company, but with the exception of a few thousand tons in 1907, nothing was mined from the Norman from 1898 until 1908, when the Oliver Company worked it “in connection with the Lone Jack, Ohio and Oliver (Missabe Mountain).” The Norman was a very deep and narrow mine, and as the open-pit mining proceeded furiously (as it did in 1908, 1909 and 1910, the three years averaging a million tons a year), the mine developed the appearance of a deep gully. The feeholders were concerned at the method of mining, and brought suit to set aside the lease, alleging that the Oliver Company was “wasting the ore, and hurting the mine.” A compromise was effected, much to the financial advantage of the feeholders, it is believed. The lease was to expire on-March 31, 1913, and just prior to that time a much richer ore bed was discovered beneath the other. The total shipment to end of 1919 was 6,481,788. tons.
The Rouchleau-Ray mine is one of the great mining properties of the Mesabi. Not a ton has yet been taken from it, but the proved deposit is 23,953,707 tons. F. T. Higgins and Giles Gilbert were the feeholders, and mining right was granted to Rouchleau, of Duluth, the Rouchleau-Ray Iron Land Company being formed. The deposit was proved, to an extent, but no attempt was made to mine the deposit, probably because of the money panic of 1893, and the flatulency of market in 1894 and 1895. On November 20, 1895, however, the Rouchleau-Ray Land Company, together with feeholders, gave H. V. Winchell an option to purchase the nwine for $1,125,000. For a ninety-day option $125,CC0 was paid, and it transpired that the interested party was the Lake Superior Consolidated Iron mines, then owned by John D. Rockefeller. “Just before the option expired, the company asked for an extension of time, which was refused.” That meant the saving of a few hundred thousand dollars to Rockefeller, for about a year later he purchased the property for $750,000. The mine, of course, passed with the other mining property of John D. Rockefeller, to the Steel Corporation in 1901.
It has since lain dormant in the control of the Oliver Iron Mining Company.
A mile to the southward of the Northern is the Auburn, which was originally known as the Iron King. The property was explored by Nat Moore, for A. E. Humphreys and others.
Soon it was leased by the Minnesota Iron Company, on a 30-cent 1b sis, and “under the direction of Capt. George W. Wallace became an example of the best results that could be obtained from the milling process.” The Auburn was considered in 1894 to have “one of the finest plants and locations on the range.” In 1894, 110,809 tons were shipped. Nothing has been mined from the Auburn since 1902, and up to that time a total of 2,143,028 tons had been shipped, leaving still available 1,793,917 tons. It is a reserve property of the Oliver Iron Mining Company.
Other Important Dormant Mines.
The history of several other important mining properties in the Virginia district is similar to that of the Norman and Auburn, in that there are enormous deposits available, but unworked. The Great Western and Great Northern properties were partly explored by the Merritts; the Great Western Reserve belongs to the Oliver Company and is considered part of the Auburn; not a ton has been mined of 5,108,305 tons available. The Moose is another Oliver property from which nothing has been taken of the proved deposit of 8,688,651 tons. From the Shaw, adjoining, nothing has been mined of 5,703,195 tons available. The Minnewas mine has given 68,084 tons of its 11,313,710 deposit. The Sauntry has a deposit of 18,573,108 tons, and not a ton of shipment is listed, while another undeveloped portion has a reserve of 6,628,395 tons, according to the Minnesota School of Mines statistics. From the Alpena mine, classed on the shipping list as the Sauntry-Alpena mine, and including shipments from the Sauntry mine, 9,193,272 tons have come since the two mines were first opened, and there is a reserve of about three million tons. These mines all belong to the Oliver Iron Mining Company, or are leased to them.
The “Moose was first explored by A. E. Humphreys. Later John B. Weimer secured an option on it and made further explorations but lost it. The property was afterwards sold for $400,000 and was cheap at the price.” The Shaw, adjoining the Moose, was one of the earliest exploitations.
The Shaw Iron Company, capitalized at $3,000,000, was organized on December 19, 1891, by D. W. Scott, J. E. Davies and R. H.
Palmer. It was a Merritt promotion, the first officers being: D. W.
Scott, president; A. R. Merritt, treasurer; A. J. Tallow, secretary; Alfred, E. T. and C. C. Merritt, and H. T. Hildebrand, directors.
Their operations, however, did not reach the producing stage, and that has not yet been reached by their successors.
The Minnewas Mine was explored by Louis Rouchleau, and developed as an underground mine by Captain Cohoe and Capt. Phil Scadden in 1893, in which year 13,858 tons were shipped.
The Sauntry.-The Sauntry property was explored “in the early days by a man named McDonald, for the Musser-Sauntry Lumber Company, of Stillwater. It was later sold to the Oliver Iron Mining Company for $750,000, and in the spring of 1900 stripping operations began, William Montague being then superintendent, and Otis Wasson, captain. “After considerable overburden had been moved, the work was discontinued, and the property has been idle since” stated a 1907 review.
The Alpena.-The Alpena adjoins the Sauntry. It was explored by Capt. M. L. Fay, for the Yawkey interests, “who sold it to the Steel Corporation.” The Minorca.-Captains M. L. Fay, J. H. Pearce and Harry Roberts discovered ore on the Minorca in 1900. They afterwards sold the lease to Pickands Mather and Company, “the first two receiving $30,000 each, and the latter $65,000.” The mine was opened in 1901, and became a shipper in 1902. Captain Joseph Roskilly was in charge. The mine was worked steadily until 1915, at the end of which year there was only an available deposit of 25,000 tons. Nothing has since been shipped and Pickands Mather and Company have given up the lease.
Larkin Mine.-This mine, as the Tesora, was explored by Capt.
M. L. Fay, and the Tesora Mining Company was formed to operate it, Captain Fay and W. H. Yawkey, the fee owner, constituting the company. They sank a shaft in 1906, with the intention of mining the ore, but an opportunity came to lease it, which they did to the New York State Steel Company, the mine then being changed in name to the Larkin, under which name it has since been known. Mining began in 1906 and ended in 1913, a total of 204,837 tons being mined.
No further quantity has been proved up.
Onondaga.-The Onondaga mine, a small property, was operated by the Republic Iron and Steel Company for six years, which ended in 1913, but only about 200,000 tons have been mined.
Columbia Mine.-The Columbia mine, north of the city of Virginia, was explored for A. E. Humphreys and his associates in 1900.
They sold the property, or the lease, to the Inter-State Iron Company.
A shaft was then sunk, and shipments began in 1901, but mining had to be abandoned because of “the great volume of water encountered.” Another attempt was made in 1905, but only 1,500 tons had been mined when mining ceased. Nothing has since been done with the property which eventually, presumably, will be made to yield its four million tons deposit. The Inter-State Iron Company still controls the property.
Quantity Still Available in the Virginia District.-It has been stated that there must be at least three hundred million tons of ore still unworked in the Virginia district, and the probability is that when that quantity has been mined more will still be available. Mining cannot be claimed to be carried on to the limit of production at present, but from the Virginia group in 1919 about 2,500,000 tons of ore were shipped.
Mining is not the only industry of Virginia, by the way, but it is undoubtedly its mainstay.
MUNICIPAL HISTORY Growth of the “Queen City.”
Virginia was “nothing but a dense and untracked forest in 1892″; in 1920 it was the fifth city of the state.
In 1892 its bank deposits were almost nil; in 1920 they were $4,300,000.
In 1893 it had the use of one room for school purposes; in 1920 the cost of one school only, of the fourteen owned by the Virginia school district, was about $1,500,000. There are as many teachers today in the Virginia schools as there were pupils in 1893. In 1892 there was one little portable sawmill; in 1920 Virginia could be proud of the fact that within the city limits is the largest white pine mill in the world. In 1893 about 230,000 tons of ore were shipped; in 1920 about two and a half million tons were mined, at which rate of shipment the ore deposits already proved in the Virginia district will last, probably, for more than another one hundred years. Virginia had one building for public purposes in 1893-church, lecture hall, concert room, community center; today there are a dozen substantial church 585 buildings, some millions of dollars worth of school structures, a $275,000 courthouse, a $60,000 library, four theatres, a “sky-scraping” office building, a $100,000 opera house, and a couple of good hotels.
Virginia hadn’t a foot of paved highway in 1893; in 1920 she had more than sixteen miles of paving and twenty-six miles of sidewalk.
In 1892 the total assessed value of Virginia was $4,640, upon which the total levy was $38.05; in 1919 the total valuation of the city of Virginia was $16,873,834 and the total taxes $1,525,394.59.
By these outstanding comparisons may be gauged Virginia’s advance to metropolitan status in little more than a generation.
The Beginning.-Mining developments in the “Virginia Loop” of the Mesabi range during the spring and summer of 1892 made it quite evident to the mining explorers that a communal centre must soon develop near the mines. While in the first excitement and uncertainty of mining exploration, little thought was paid to more than emergency shelter, but with the ever-increasing discovery, and the rapidly-increasing number of men engaged in the preliminary, the matter of townsite, and the advantage that would accrue from the promotion of one, soon demanded consideration and recognition.
Planning the Townsite.-One alert group of explorers and promoters, those associated with A. E. Humphreys, early came to that opinion, and proceeded to select and to secure the most favorable site for a village. These men were A. E. Humphreys, David T. Adams, John Owens, G. W. Milligan, Frank Cox and Neil Mclnnis.
Several other mining men, among them O. D. Kinney and George W. Buck, were interested in helping the project forward, but the men directly concerned in the promotion of the townsite company were Humphreys, Adams, Milligan, Eckman and Cox. The Virginia Improvement Company was organized by these men on July 12, 1892, the company being capitalized at $50,000.
Finding a Name.-Regarding the early planning of Virginia David T. Adams writes: It would seem to some people an easy matter a townsite to arrive at a name for in that country, especially at a time when the entire country was in its natural state and covered with timber, but, foolish as it may look, it seemed hard for the promoters to decide among themselves. Each proposed a different name, and insisted that their’s was the only one, and before a name was agreed upon considerable dissension arose among the promoters.
I had previously selected the place for the townsite; the idea was mine from the first. I engaged the services of M. E. Cook, an engineer of Duluth, to survey the townsite. I had everything done in my own way, and there was no complaint from the promoters, and for these reasons I thought I was entitled to the sole right of giving it a name. I proposed the name “Humphreys,” in honor of A. E. Humphreys, but the name was rejected. I believe Mr. G. E.
Milligan stated that, as the town was in a virgin country, and the first to be platted on the range with any prospective future, a name at least suggestive of the virgin country should be found. After two or three days of deliberation I believe I suggested the name “Virginia,” thinking it an appropriate name that would answer all purposes, as it would still be in honor of Mr. Humphreys, as Virginia was his home state, and would also be suggestive of the country.
Hence, the name “Virginia” was finally agreed upon. Thereafter, on July 12, 1892, the Virginia Improvement Company was organized by myself, G. E.
Milligan, A. E. Humphreys, Frank Cox and S. W. Eckman, and the original plat of Virginia was filed for record, on September 13, 1892. Then the lots were ready for sale.
Sale of First Lots.-We rented a vacant storeroom in Duluth, hung up a large plat on the wall, with maps showing the deposits of ore which had been developed up to that time around Virginia, and where others could be found, and then advertised the lots to be sold at public auction. The sale took place, with Captain Carr, of Charleston, West Virginia, as our auctioneer, and the first lots sold in the townsite of Virginia were sold that way.
586 The first lots on the townsite were sold at “prices running from $300 to $400 per lot.” The timber “was slashed out along what is now Chestnut Street … and a few rough buildings erected that fall.” The work of clearing the townsite was in charge of John Scott.
At about the same time the Virginia Light and Water Company was organized by Messrs. O. D. Kinney, A. E. Humphreys and George D. Buck, by which early promotion it seems clear that the projectors believed that the town planned would soon develop into a place of importance and of profit to holders of public utilities.
Petition to Incorporate.-In September, 1893, a petition was circulated among the people resident in the district and it was signed by forty-four men. The petition was addressed to “the County Commissioners of the County of St. Louis, State of Minnesota,” who were “prayed” to approve of the necessary legal formalities being taken to effect the incorporation of land “regularly laid out and platted” and as shown on the plat filed in the office of the Registrar of Deeds on the 13th day of September, 1892. The petition stated that census taken on September 14, 1892, showed that “on said day the resident population of said territory so sought to be incorporated was found to be 181;” and the petition asked that the proposed village be designated as the village of “Virginia.” The signers were Richard O’Neal, M. J.
Grady, John Hoy, Dougal Johnson, John Byrne, Mike Hines, Geo. Morris, John Gibbins, Pete Johanson, Ole Sattos, John Nossorn, Isaac Koski, Frank Neddon, Ole Anderson, George M. Rees, J. R. Humphrey, H. Vanhorn, Hugh McMahon, P. J. Foley, Chas. Johnson, Thomas Huartson, William Bradley, James Hill, John Haley, James Ryan, Alex. Cain, Louis Rood, Fred Rossom, Will A. F. Williams, Joe Elliott, N. A. Beatty, Tom Short, John Thorsby, John Graham, John Elfstrom, Peter Elfstrom, G. A. Peterson, James Graham, Peter Berglund, Nupifti Jappila, Wm. Harvey, Chas. French, Robert McGruer, P. W. Scott.
The regularity of petition, and accuracy of its statements were vouched for by P. W. Scott, Thomas Short and Robert McGruer, on September 19, 1892, on which day the paper appears to have been presented to the county officials.
Petition Granted.-At the October session of the Board of County Commissioners the petition was considered and approved; whereupon the county commissioners ordered election to be held, to ascertain the will of the residents, on the 12th day of November, 1892, “at the store building of E. C. Burk, situated upon lots numbered 32 and 33 in block 21 of the Town of “Virginia,” according to the recorded plat thereof.” P. W. Scott, Thomas Short and Robert McGruer were appointed “to preside as inspectors at such meeting and election.” Notices of Election were posted “at the sawmill and boarding house of J. E. Sher, situated in block 9 on Wyoming avenue; … at the office of the Virginia Improvement Company, on lot 32, in block 19, on Chestnut Street; … at the store of E. C. Burk; … at the Hotel of Nels Anderson, situated on lot 15 in block 26 on Chestnut Street; … at the office of Nigro and Librock, situated upon lot 8 in block 24, on Chestnut Street, all in Virginia.” The meeting, or preliminary election, was duly and regularly held, and sixty-five ballots were cast, sixty-four being “For incorporation; yes,” and one “no.” First Election.-Accordingly, the county commissioners ordered an early meeting of voters, so that village officials might be elected, and the incorporation completed. The election was held on Tuesday, 587 December 6, 1892. The following-named residents were elected to constitute the first village administration: John Owens, president; Howard Filegal, George Liebrock and John F. Towell, trustee; John F. Burke, recorder, and Neil Mclnnis, treasurer.
Virginia a Railway Station.-One day after the election took place Virginia was, on December 7, 1892, given the facility of railway connection, the spur of the Merritt railway, the Duluth, Missabe and Northern, being completed from Wolf Junction to Virginia on that day. Thereafter, the growth of the village was very rapid.
Growth had been almost impossible before, because those who wished to reach the place “were compelled to travel to the west along ‘tote roads’ which were almost impassable” all the way from Mesaba station, a stopping place on the Duluth and Iron Range railroad. It was the only point on a railroad from which any of the Mesabi expeditions could start, and there was such a tremendous rush of exploring parties, and such a heavy traffic developed by their operations, that in the early nineties the only corduroy road became almost impassable.
In the late summer of 1892 the Duluth, Missabe and Northern reached Mountain Iron, which made the road much shorter for the people of Virginia; still that road soon reached the state in which it was a hardship to have to walk or ride along it, and much traffic was impossible. So it is possible to “imagine the joy that abounded when the first sixteen cars of miscellaneous freight reached Virginia on the afternoon of December 7, 1892. Part of the freight brought in by the first train was the machinery for the waterworks plant.” A little later the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad also reached the city.
First Frame Store Building.-Tradespeople began to flock in, and temporary buildings gave place to “some of more substantial character.” “Every line of retail business was soon represented.” “One of the first frame buildings was put up by the Maas Hardware Company, on the northwest corner of Chestnut street and Central avenue.” First Sawmill.-One of the great inconveniences experienced by the early settlers was the lack of lumber for building purposes. The only means by which it was possible to get any lumber at all was by “importing it from other places,” at considerable trouble and expense.
However, this was soon partly remedied, John Owens bringing in a small portable mill, which he placed “on the shore of Virginia lake,” near where the Primary school building later stood. John Owens had many tasks to do at that time, and in the saw milling business he took into partnership a man named Robert McGruer, who operated the mill, which was soon working at full capacity. Even then, it could not cope with the demand for lumber, and when the place really began its first spurt, in the fall of 1892, the little mill could not hope to cope with the requirement. However,, relief was in sight, for it appears: The first of October, 1892, the news was heralded throughout Virginia that Finlayson and Company, of St. Paul, had purchased 50,000,000 feet of pine in the vicinity, and had decided to erect at once a large sawmill on a site leased from the Virginia Townsite Company. This meant the employment of at least 100 men in the sawmill itself.
It does not seem, however, that this larger mill was “at once” erected, otherwise it probably would have met the same fate as Owens’ mill, which was destroyed in the fire which also destroyed the village of Virginia,,in June, 1893. The Finlayson mill was in existence and operation in 1900, when it was also burned, at the time of the second razing of the city. For some years prior to its destruction in 1900, 588 however, the Finlayson mill was in the possession of Moon and Kerr.
A Distinguished Early Visitor.-W. J. Olcott, who later took over the direction of the mines owned by Rockefeller, and eventually became president of the Oliver Iron Mining Company stated, in 1908: I remember my first visit to Virginia, in 1892, when there was only one small log building there, and that was on the hill near the Missabe Mountain mine. Some people reported before I made the trip that the ore on the Mesabi range was no good, and would never be merchantable. However, I went on horseback from Mesaba station, on the D. & I. R., through to Hibbing, took my samples from test-pits, and found high-grade ore.
He probably never expected that near the log hut at the Missabe Mountain mine would grow the fifth city of the whole state within a generation.
First School.-Although School District No. 22 was not organized until February 1, 1893, there is record that a term of school was held “in the winter of 1892-93″ and that eighteen children attended the school in that term. The school-house “was a one-roomed frame building,” heated by wood stove, the fuel “to feed it being chopped off the timber on the lot.” A school history, written in 1904, makes the following statement regarding the first school: “There had been a school, taught by Sarah Gleason, from March, 1893, to June of the same year, in Herman Niculou’s house, which house was later burned. It was located on lot 7, block 20.” Conditions That Prevailed in Early Virginia.-There was no church building in Virginia before the fire of 1893, but Crockett’s Opera House,.which was one of the first halls to be built on the range, was available for any public meeting. It went the way of all other burnable property in Virginia in 1893. In the winter of 1893, a two-story frame building was built by William Hayes. It became known as Hayes’ Hall, and in it were held all public meetings, and indoor gatherings, church services, minstrel show, dog fights, socials, bacchanalian carousals, and gambling events. On the ground floor of Hayes’ Hall the village barber had his shop, fronting the sidewalk; the central rooms were used as a saloon; and in the rear were gambling dens, it appears, while “back of that was the Enterprise office.” The upper floor was, seemingly, unfinished, the floor being of loose boards. Here, the public meetings were held. At one end “was a platform on trestles”; the trestles, however, were beer kegs. When church service was held “beer kegs were rustled together” in sufficient number to provide seating with planks. The first minister of the Gospel to hold services in that environment was, it is said, a Presbyterian, who came from Tower, the Rev. E. N. Raymond, a worthy pioneer minister, who knew the Greek Testament well, but knew men just as well. The story has it that when he first came in, on a Saturday evening, he saw several groups of men, all much engrossed in games with cards. He stayed with them for an hour or so, and actually “took a hand.” Before he left, the men had “warmed” to him, so that when he invited them “upstairs to church meeting next day” many promised to come, and it seems “all the men attended.” It was not an unusual occurrence in those early days for a miner to “ride up to a saloon bar on horseback;” and when the village streets were graced with lamp-posts, it was not uncommon to see a line of drying clothes hanging between posts on Chestnut Street.
That was the period in which Virginia was what some people still Vol. II-6 589 imagine mining villages of the Mesabi range must be. But the period, fortunately, was soon over, and the civic dress and social standard of Virginia of today are as well ordered as an eastern city of very much longer establishment might expect to prevail.
Fire Department Organized.-Albert E. Bickford was one of the men who saw Virginia through her “pioneer stage of crudity,” and helped it through, if one may judge from the fact that he has been city clerk for twenty-two years. He was not long in recognizing that the greatest danger was of fire, there being such a stand of resinous timber around the little village. He organized a volunteer fire company on March 10, 1893. C. W. Musser, in his “Virginia in the Great State of Minnesota,” writes, regarding it: … in March, 1893, … nearly every able-bodied man in town assembled in the rear of William Hayes’ saloon, and organized Virginia’s first fire-fighting squad.
The first chief was E. W. Coons; the first secretary, P. J. Ryan; and the company was no doubt of service in the following June, though they could not save the village. The Virginia Fire Department Relief Association was organized in May, 1895, and is a strong fraternal and financial body.
The First Fire.-The first check Virginia was destined to experience was in June, 1893, when it was “swept off the map,” or at most had no more visible property above the surface than the twisted and half-molten remains of what hardware their residences, now ashes, once contained. The “Virginian,” industrial edition, of August 30, 1907, reports the catastrophe as follows: By June 1, 1893, Virginia had become the most important town on the range. There were over fifteen developed mines in the vicinity of the village, and the town had a population of almost 5,000 people. But in the midst of the season of growth and prosperity came a blow which was a severe check upon the development of the town. On Sunday, June 18, 1893, a terrible bush fire was raging southwest of the village. It was a very hot day. Everything was dry and parched as it possibly could be. A strong southwest wind had begun to blow, and this drove the flames directly towards the town, and forty minutes after the first shanty in the outskirts of the village had begun to burn there was nothing left of Virginia, the metropolis of the range. No doubt this catastrophe discouraged our early citizens and many of the faint-hearted left the town never to return, but there were others who had the bravery, the pioneer strength, hope and spirit, that caused a larger and more beautiful Virginia to rise from the ashes of the old.
It was a disaster, a catastrophe, but not a holocaust, as that word is generally understood; it was not a calamity like that which came to Hinckley in the same year, or like that which swept property and life from many parts of Northern Minnesota in 1918. Property was gone, but Virginians still lived, and it was only a question of time before she would recover. As a matter of fact, the recovery was quick, notwithstanding the hard times of that year. And times certainly were hard.
Depression of 1893.-The depression experienced in Virginia in 1893 was, by the way, not in the slightest degree caused by the forest fire, though such incinerating of their possessions made the hard times harder to bear. But the money stringency was a national, indeed a world-wide, condition. The full force of it was felt about mid-summer, when the state of things, financial, in Duluth was tragic.
On the range, there was even less money. Clearing House certificates were in places the only currency. In Virginia, instancing one case only, things must have been desperate. The Lerch brothers had come 590 to the range, with good connections, in December, 1892, and soon had as much ore analyses to make as they could handle. But work did not bring them money. The Oliver Mining Company owed them about five hundred dollars for chemical analyses made, and had to confess itself unable to pay until “new blood was injected into the company.” “Times were so hard in the winter of 1893-94″ that George Lerch “accepted a position in St. Paul, making brick for the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad Company.” But even that did not bring the money he thought he might be able to send to his brother in Virginia, who had remained there to “hold onto” the business. Indeed, the railroad company could not pay him at all “until the following spring.” However, through the winter Fred Lerch went on with the making of analyses, but when he had reached the realization that he “owed for ten weeks board, and saw no way of paying it,” he became ashamed, took an ax, and “went batching” in the woods, staying there until he had chopped enough to barter for a bushel of potatoes.
Other men had experiences similarly precarious. Common labor brought only. $1.10 at the mines-the few that were being then operated and payment oftener than not was in kind.
However, as with all things, time brought a change. The national and local state purse improved, and there was soon a very visible improvement in the village of Virginia.
First Telephone Company.-Virginia soon had advanced so far in metropolitan conveniences as to have telephone service. In 1894, Messrs. Talboys and Campbell, of Eveleth, strung a wire from their general store to the home of one of the partners. Soon afterwards, they opened a branch store in Virginia, and they wanted it connected with Eveleth, so a private wire was run between the two villages.
So many people wanted to use the wire that it occurred to some alert residents of Virginia that the franchise was worth acquiring.
So Kinney and Griggs finally organized a telephone company, which grew and grew, until it was quite a valuable business when sold to the present company. The city of Virginia now has about sixteen hundred telephones.
Leading Hotel.-It was probably in 1894 that the McGarry Hotel was built. Fred Lerch, writing about the hotel, states: This was a three-story frame building, located on the site of the present Lyric Theatre. P. H. McGarry, who is now a state senator, was the proprietor.
He was a jolly landlord, and he specified, in placing an order for the main heating stove, that he wanted one that would heat a forty-acre lot, when the thermometer was forty below zero. The stove took pieces of cordwood four feet long.
Community Building.-Mr. Lerch also makes reference to “a community building,” which perhaps was the same building as that hereinbefore referred to as Hayes’ Hall. The Lerch brothers arrived in Virginia on December 10, 1892, and Mr. Lerch writes: We began business as analytical chemists on the second floor of what may be called today a community building, located in the center of the town, on the site now occupied by the First State Bank. On the first floor, which consisted of two rooms, one for office purposes and the other for sleeping quarters, were located the real estate firm of Kennedy and Gleason, the village president, and the village marshal. This room was also used on Sundays by Reverend Raymond, Presbyterian minister, who came from Tower.
These were the first church services held in Virginia.
Virginia Becomes a City.-An attempt was made in January, 1894, to annex to the village about four hundred acres of land in sections 7 and 8, and election was ordered to be held “at the office of the New Virginia Hotel” on March 1, 1894. However, the election does not seem to have supported the wish of the petitioners. Possibly the election was not held.
However, in the following year the village proceeded to incorporate as a city, under the so-called Probate Law of 1895, and included then within its limits the western half of southeast quarter of section 8. One local record reads: In 1895, the citizens of Virginia demanded a city charter. All the steps in securing this right were now complete, with the exception of some documents which had to be made out and signed by Judge Ayers, of Duluth. A committee, composed of E. S. Smith, M. C. Palmer and Dr. Stuart Bates, was then sent down to Duluth to see the judge. Mr. Ayers had been ill for some time, and asked the committee to postpone the matter, but the Virginians did not take kindly to the hint. Mr. Palmer fixed up the papers himself, and all the judge had to do was to sign them. Consequently, on the 7th of February, 1895, Virginia became incorporated as a city. The first city election was held on the first Tuesday in April. In this election Robert McGruer led the Citizens-Democratic party, while the Republican forces were led by Dr.
Bates. The Citizens party won a complete victory. Mr. McGruer was elected mayor, by a majority of 163, Mr. J. R. James was elected treasurer, and E. S.
Smith recorder. Under the city charter elections were held annually, two aldermen served each of the four wards. Each served two years, and one alderman was elected from each ward every year.
A new ,charter was adopted in 1902, and another mode of government, that known as the “Home Rule” charter, took effect in June, 1909. The charter was again amended in 1914, and even once more, final readings of a new charter being made in November, 1920.
“Important features of the new charter are built largely around the principle that only the mayor and the city council can legislate.” Mayoral Succession.-The chief executive of the village and city administrations from the beginning of Virginia have been: John Owens, president of village, December 6, 1892, to April 1, 1894; Stuart Bates, to April 15, 1895; Robert McGruer, first mayor of the city, to April 15, 1896; J. C. Jackson, to 1897; P. W. Scott, to 1899; M. C.
Palmer, to 1901; A. N. Thompson, to April 15, 1902; Wm. H. Eaton, from April 15, 1902, to January 1, 1904; M. L. Fay, to January 1, 1906; Wm. H. Eaton, to January 1, 1908; A. Hawkinson, 1908-12; M. A.
Murphy, 1912-14; Michael Boylan, 1914-19; and Wm. M. Empie, 1919.
Second Fire, 1900.-Not many municipalities have to experience such complete wreck as has come twice to the city of Virginia. The second fire occurred, and was worse than the first fire, in one respect.
Virginia was more valuable in in 1900 than she was in 1893, although the people of the healthy young city were probably better able in 1900 to bear the calamity than they had been in the precarious state in which all things were in 1893. The “Virginian,” August, 1907, reviewing the second fire, wrote: From the time when Virginia became incorporated as a city, up to 1900, the city was enjoying unrivaled prosperity. New mines were constantly being developed, together with the older and larger ones. Two sawmills were in operation, and many other minor industries had now gained a firm foothold in the town.
But just at this time, when Virginia’s future seemed brighter than it ever had been before, a second fire destroyed the main business district of the city, June 7, 1900. Through carelessness in handling the shavings burner at the old Moon and Kerr mill, a blaze was started which in a short time had the whole sawmill in flames. The day was very hot and everything as dry as it possibly could be. This, together with a strong west wind, carried the flames directly towards the town, and when one of the many flying sparks fell on the dry shingles of a building in the very center of the city, the work of destruction had begun. At sunset, there was nothing left of it but one vast space of smoldering ruins. It must have been hard for the citizens of Virginia, when they walked up and down the streets of their city that evening.
They were homeless, penniless, with poverty staring them in the face, but not discouraged. They had the bravery, the strength, and the spirit of ’49, that carries everything before it. And almost before the smoke of the fire had cleared away the citizens had begun to rebuild a new and greater Virginia upon the ruins of the old. And today, Virginia stands forth as the best built and most beautiful city in northern Minnesota.
One advantage-it perhaps may be so termed-came to Virginia, as the result of the second fire. It was soon afterwards decided that Virginia should forever be spared a repetition of the fire, at least as far as the more important part of the city was concerned.
It was resolved that nothing inflammable would be permitted to be erected on Chestnut street, all structures being required to be of brick, stone, or concrete. As a consequence, Virginia is “today one of the most substantially built cities in the state.” Lumber Industry.-The lumber industry which was the cause of the second fire at Virginia has, notwithstanding that calamity, been a boon to the city. The first sawmill of W. T. Bailey was erected in 1895, and found employment for thirty-five men. The mill was enlarged in 1907. John Owens ran the shingle mill of Moon and Kerr’s mill until that was destroyed, and later he had another.
In 1902, Plummer and Ash built “an immense sawmill.” Later, the property was transferred to the Virginia Lumber Company. In 1904 the company erected a large planing mill plant, which found employment for an additional hundred men. In 1907, a large new lath mill was erected by the same company. In that year the Virginia Lumber Company had on its payrolls, in “Virginia and vicinity,” about 1,500 men.
The company eventually was absorbed by the Virginia and Rainy Lake Company of recent years, which has been such a factor in the development of Virginia. The company was mainly responsible for giving Virginia its fourth railroad, and for the development of tributary territory north of Virginia. The company built a logging road to the northward, which eventually passed to the Canadian Northern Railway Company. The Great Northern Railroad built into Virginia in 1902, and in that year the first surveying was done on the route of the logging road, the Duluth, Rainy Lake and Winnipeg Railroad.
The present Virginia and Rainy Lake Company is a merger of the Weyerhaueser and other large lumber interests. Its sawmills at Virginia cover 300 acres, and Virginians are probably right in claiming that it is the “largest white pine lumber plant in the world,” for its capacity is 300,000,000 feet a year. Thomas S. Whitten is the general manager, and F. H. Gillmor, superintendent of logging. Their operations are enormous, both in logging and in lumber. In sawmills at Virginia, in full operation “carry 1,500 men and women on their payrolls,” and during the logging season the company finds employment for another thousand or two men; in fact, it can generally find work for all the “lumberjacks” and mill hands that apply.
During the recent readjustment of the lumber market, they had to reduce operations considerably, but curtailment of operations is a very unusual happening with that company.
Church History.-The meeting place of the Reverend Raymond, pioneer Presbyterian minister, has already been referred to. It seems that the first service he held in Virginia was in April, 1893. Soon afterwards he organized a Presbyterian society in Virginia and remained “several years as its pastor.” 594 The first church meetings were held “in a small building on Walnut street, between Cleveland and Central avenues, which was also utilized for a time as a schoolhouse, and for holding meetings by other denominations.” The “street leading to this building is described as having been almost impassable, on account of the mud, at times, and ladies and children were often in danger of getting mired on the way there.” It was not long after the fire of 1893 that the Presbyterians built a small church near their present place of worship. “This was the first building constructed expressly for religious purposes.” The First Methodist Church Society was organized in 1893, by W. H. Easton, then a student at Queens College, Kingston, Canada.
(Think this should be Kingston, Ontario. There is such a college there, but I never heard of another in Montreal.) During his pastorate, the “old First Methodist Church building of Duluth was secured,” through the influence of the Merritt family. It was removed to Virginia, “and set up on the site of the present First Methodist Church, where it stood until 1907, when it burnt down.” It was soon replaced by a substantial brick church, which cost about $18,000 to erect, and at the time was “one of the most conspicuous of many fine churches in the city.” It was dedicated September 27, 1908.
The Catholics were active in Virginia from the beginning of its settlement. Previous to the 1893 fire, Father Mavelle, who was then stationed at Cloquet, “began holding occasional services in Virginia, the first meetings being held in private houses.” In 1894, “a small church was built at the corner of Wyoming Avenue and Poplar Street, which building later formed part of the Polish Catholic Church.” In 1895, Archbishop Appleby, of the Episcopal Church, came to Virginia, and organized an Episcopal Church Society, the members gathering for the first service at the residence of W. H. Eaton.
Those were the main church activities of the early days of Virginia, and laid the foundations of many of the strong church organizations of Virginia of today.
In 1920, Virginia had the following strong church societies, all with places of meeting and worship, and most of them with resident pastors: The Finnish Apostolic; the Adventist, Rev. H. Christiansen; the Swedish Baptist, Rev. Carl Bergstrom; the Lady of Lourdes, Catholic, Rev. Father Limmer; St. John the Baptist, Catholic; St.
Paul’s, Episcopal, Rev. J. G. Ward; English-German, Lutheran, Rev.
Walter Melahn; Finnish Lutheran, Rev. M. E. Merijarvi; Norwegian Lutheran, Rev. J. E. Reinertsen; Swedish Lutheran, Rev. Samuel A.
Johnson; First Methodist Episcopal, Rev. A. H. McKee; Norwegian Methodist, Rev. J. Laurenz; Scandinavian Mission, Rev. F. J. Hjelm; Salvation Army; Scientist; Jewish B’nai Abraham; Finnish Unitarian, Rev. R. Lappalla; First Presbyterian, L. W. Gade; People’s Church, Henry Clark.
The Young Men’s Christian Association has also since June, 1919, maintained an establishment in Virginia, and plans to extend to other parts of the Range territory, erecting huts somewhat similar to those of the war-service plan. They also hope soon to have an adequate “city industrial building.” General secretary is R. H.
Risdon; president, A. B. Coates; vice-president, J. D. Lamont; secretary, Ralph C. Pickering; treasurer, C. E. Hendrick; directors, Thomas S. Whitton and Alex. Reid.
Banking History.-The First National Bank of Virginia was originally organized as the Bank of Virginia, in 1892, by O. D. Kinney and E. Z. Griggs. The pioneer bank was a private banking house, and was comparatively strong when, in June, 1893, its building was destroyed with the other buildings of the village. Again, in 1900, the bank property was destroyed by fire, but these losses did not materially affect the stability of the corporation. In 1903, however, it was decided to place the banking business under national banking laws, and with that object the First National Bank of Virginia was chartered, the original capital being $25,000. On July 25, 1905, this was increased to $50,000, its present capital. The first officers were O. D. Kinney. president; E. Z. Griggs, vice-president; B. F. Britts, cashier; W. H. Cole, R. R. Bailey, E. B. Hawkins, and J. R. James, directors. Eventually Pentecost Mitchell became president, and was still president in 1920, when the other officers were: S. R. Kirby, Dr. C. B. Lenont and B. F. Britts, vice-presidents, and A. E. Shipley, cashier. In 1913, the present conspicuous bank and office building was erected. It is a five-story concrete and steel fireproof building.
The ground floor is devoted to banking purposes, and the upper floors rented for offices. The fine building cost about $125,000 to erect.
The State Bank of Virginia was organized in 1911, the capital being $50,000. First directors were: Douglas Greeley, F. H. Wellcome, C. H. Rogers, C. E. Hendrick, J. E. Hanson, H. O. Johnson and C. E. Moore. There has been no change in this directorate. The first officers were: Douglas Greeley, president; C. E. Hendrick, vice; Peter Western, cashier. Succession of cashiers is as follows: H. V.
Peterson, J. I. Frasa and H. W. Pribrow, present cashier. The capital is still the same, but the surplus is $10,000, with $4,515 undivided profits.
597 The American Exchange Bank of Virginia was incorporated in March, 1904, as a state bank. Its original capital was $25,000, but this was increased to $50,000 on July 1, 1907. At that time the directorate was: W. H. Cole, president; J. D. Lamont, vice-president; D. W. Stebbins, cashier; C. T. Fairbairn, D. B. McDonald, A. Hawkinson, Fred Lerch, W. J. Sincock and E. J. Bush. It will thus be seen that the bank had a strong mining and municipal support, and was thus destined to grow into the bank it became.
Another bank, the Farmers and Merchants State Bank, was organized, with good prospects, and a particular field, on January 1, 1917. The bank devoted its efforts mainly to the developing of a connection among agriculturalists in the Virginia sphere, the land to the north of Virginia beyond the range, and along the Canadian Northern system, being rapidly converted into excellent agricultural properties. Farming, therefore, is becoming increasingly important.
The Farmers and Merchants State Bank began with a capital of $50,000, and soon had a surplus of $10,000. On May 30, 1920, its deposits totaled to $400,000. Directors then were: Andrew Grande, president; B. J. Kelsey, vice-president; C. T. Eckstrand, cashier; Joseph Christopherson and E. J. Larsen, directors.
The banks of Virginia, in August, 1920, had total deposits of $4,300,000, which gives indication of their business prosperity.
Light and Water.-The light and water utilities are now municipally owned. Originally they belonged to the Virginia Light and Water Company, which was organized by O. D. Kinney, A. E. Humphreys and others, in 1892. The first installation of water pipes was done in the spring of 1893, and an electric light plant installed in 1894. The plants grew with the city, and met its requirements fairly well. Just prior to the reorganization, in 1909, the officers of the company were: 0. D. Kinney, president; B. F. Britts, vice-president; Geo. W. Buck, secretary; E. Z. Griggs, treasurer; 0. H. Griggs, manager.
In July, 1909, the company became the Virginia Electric Power and Water Company, and proposed an issue of $70,000 bonds, to meet cost of extensive improvements planned. The officers of the new company were: 0. D. Kinney, president; 0. H. Griggs, vice-president and general manager; E. Z. Griggs, treasurer, and G. W. Buck, secretary.
Virginia “was one of the first towns in Northern Minnesota to adopt the policy of municipal ownership of public utilities.” In 1913 the city purchased the plant of the Virginia Electric Power and Water Company, and for several years the municipal operation of the plants showed a net profit of about $80,000 a year. The plants have been considerably enlarged and include “a complete heating and extension system,” constructed in 1919, at a cost of $350,000. The “Seventh Annual Report of the Water and Light Commission” of Virginia, October 1, 1920, shows that the surplus assets above liabilities of the city in these public utilities is $729,280.89.
Public Improvements.-In 1894, the “White-Way” of Virginia consisted of “some fifteen arc lamps,” of which possession “the citizens boasted”; in 1920, Virginia had upon its streets 155 white-way standards, each having five lamps, and about 175 other street lights.
Other comparisons are equally striking. In 1894 there were seventeen hydrants; in 1920, the city owned 141. In 1894 there were four blocks of water mains; in J920 there must have been much more than twenty miles of water mains; its storm sewers alone extended for thirteen miles, and there were eighteen miles of sanitary sewer in 1918, the 598 both laid at a cost of $328,000. According to the “Minneapolis Daily News,” October 19, 1918, Virginia had “the biggest sewage purification plant in the world,” built at a cost of $125,000. It is, without doubt, the largest in the state. Virginia has sixteen miles of paving that cost $742,000; twenty-three miles of sidewalk, laid at a cost of $117,000; there are more than seven miles of bitulithic pavement, and a greater length of creosoted wood-block pavement, and some concrete paving. The sidewalks are of cement.
The municipal authorities, at a time when coal was scarce, established a municipal wood yard, securing “stumpage at $2.00 actual cost for wood to be cut in lengths to feed furnaces.” There is a fine municipal band; the city has seventy-five acres of park land. The only possession it really lacks, in order to be a well-balanced city of the highest grade, is an appropriate city hall.
CITY HALL, BUILT 1905 City Hall.-The Virginia City Hall was built in 1904-’05. Its site cost $600, and the building was completed in the summer of 1905. There is additional unused ground adjoining and perhaps, some day, it will be used to give the space necessary for the erection upon it and the other two lots a city hall commensurate with the standing of the city. The unused lot was acquired in 1905, at a cost of $700.
It is now worth $10,000, at least. The original cost of the city hall was $15,139.16, and a like amount was spent in remodeling the structure in 1910.
Parks.-”The city owns 55 acres of part property, in Olcott and South Side parks, among the finest in the state,” records the “Minneapolis Daily News.” “Its park board maintains more than 35 miles of boulevards and has planted more than 10,000 trees. Olcott Park is known as one of the play-spots of the range. Its zoo is a feature that draws visitors from all sections. … It contains elk, deer, grizzly bear, timber wolfs and coyotes; … foxes; water fowl, cavies, and everything to make a complete zoo. All the parks are equipped with playground apparatus, while a wading pool for the children is a feature at Olcott Park.” Olcott Park was leased from the Great Northern Mining Company in 1910, for ten years, one of the conditions of lease being that the land was “to be used strictly for park purposes,” and that no exhibitions for compensation were to be permitted. Apparently, the lease has been extended, for the original term has expired, and the city is still in possession. Olcott Park has cost the city, it is said, about $75,000. The pleasurable service it gives is well worth the expense.
Public Library.-Albert E. Bickford, in his “Financial History of Virginia,” 1911, writes: In 1905, Andrew Carnegie granted the city of Virginia the sum of $10, 000 for the purpose of constructing a library building in his name in this city, providing that the city would purchase or provide a suitable site … and levy for the maintenance of the library annually a sum equal to 1 per cent of the donation … . The library was constructed at a cost, originally, of the amount of the grant.
The library grew rapidly in service and requirement, and in 1911 Andrew Carnegie was asked to grant more money so that the building might be enlarged, or another built. Another was built in 1912, out of it, it is said, “city funds,” the new building and site costing $65,000. It gives a valued service, having about 20,000 volumes, with an annual circulation of about 90,000. There is also now a branch library on the north side of Virginia. The first library building is now used as a freight office by the Canadian Northern Railway Company at Virginia.
The first library was opened in 1907; the first librarian was Miss Dunnigan. The City Public Library building, opened in 1912, had as its first librarian Miss Newhard, present librarian is Miss Grace Stevens. In addition, two men’s reading rooms are maintained by the library board, on Chestnut street.
Fire Department.-The volunteer company, formed in 1893, was disbanded in 1908, when the city organized a salaried Fire Department, with A. F. Thayer, chief. A new fire-hall was built at a cost of $16,000 at that time. It was enlarged in 1914. During about fifteen years of its existence, the volunteer company consisted of from twelve to twenty men, and a chief, the firemen receiving $5 a month for their services, and the chief proportionately low.
Court House.-One of the magnificent buildings of Virginia is the District Court House, which was erected in 1910, at a cost of $275,000, and is now to be doubled in capacity, a much needed enlargement.
Virginia was the first city on the range to have a county court house, and it was established, it is believed, mainly through the initiative of Judge Bliss, who was then superintendent of the Virginia Public schools. He noted that all juvenile offenders had to be tried in the Juvenile court at Duluth, and the contact that necessarily came between the erring juveniles and older, more hardened, offenders was, he thought, not conducive to improvement of normal conduct of the juveniles. He called a public meeting. It was held in the auditorium of Roosevelt school, Virginia, and eventually brought action by the state legislature, with the consequent establishment of the district court houses. Judge Martin Hughes was the first to hold district court in Virginia. He held his first session in the Municipal Court 601 room, but in the following year the present Court House building was erected Post Office.-Virginia has a very fine Federal building, erected recently, the first on the ranges.
Cemeteries.-There are two beautifully-kept cemeteries, the Greenwood and Calvary, the latter being the Catholic place of burial.
They embrace forty acres.
War Record.-Virginia has an enviable and worthy war record.
She sent more than fifteen hundred of her young men into the national service when the call came in 1917 and 1918, and many of them made the Supreme Sacrifice. (Reference to their individual records is made in another chapter.) And when the pressure was greatest, the people in the home sector, the residents of Virginia in general, indeed in whole, co-ordinated their efforts in war work. The local Red Cross Chapter had more than 5,000 members, and under.
the “chairmen” of the various departments, Mesdames West, Kimball, Lerch, Hultquist, Malmberg, Colgrove, and others, accomplished very much. Douglas Greely gave much of his time to the direction of Red Cross work, and Virginia’s contributions to the various Liberty Loans aggregated to well over $5,000,000. The issues for welfare service were also liberally subscribed to. It was a period in which Virginia, like most other patriotic communities, strove to outdo its neighbor in national service. That spirit, in the aggregate, brought the overwhelming of the German resistance eventually, and Virginia might well be proud of its record of personal service, during the national period of stress.
Population.-The population of Virginia in September, 1892, was not more than 181. By June, 1893,.it is said, the population was about 5,000. The blotting out of the village by fire then reduced the population, by exodus, very considerably. It had not recovered even by 1900, when the federal census figures credited the city with only 2,962 inhabitants. In 1910, the population had increased to 10,473; and the last census, 1920, disclosed that Virginia then had 14,022 residents.
Its trading, however, is with much larger population, Virginia being the “shopping-centre” of both the Mesabi and Vermilion ranges.
Publicity.-The city is well served by two good daily journals, the “Daily Virginian,” and the “Enterprise.” The latter is the older paper, having been founded in 1893, before the fire, by F. B. Hand and W. E. Hannaford. The “Enterprise” is the oldest of existing range newspapers, and from the time of the fire, in 1893, until 1908, its quarters were in what became known as “the Tar Paper Shack,” which of course it was. The owners lost a printing plant worth about $10,000 in the first fire. A. E. Bickford, city clerk, was on the staff of the “Enterprise” in the early days. The other paper, the “Virginian,” dates from May, 1895. It was founded by Wm. R. McGarry, who published the paper for the first four or five months. Since October, 1895, the paper has been owned by the Cuppernull family, David E. Cuppernull, who was “one of the best-known journalists on the range,” holding the direction for the greater part of the time.
Ransom Metcalfe was at one time part-owner of the paper. The “Virginian,” too, lost its plant in one of the big fires of the city, that of 1900. Both newspapers have up-to-date plants today, and are well edited.
Hospitals.-Virginia has five hospitals. The Virginia Hospital, conducted by Dr. C. W. Miller, was established by him in 1893 on 602 Wyoming Avenue, and then had accommodations for forty patients.
It was a private enterprise. The Lenont Hospital was built in 1903, by Dr. Charles B. Lenont. It was modernly equipped and could accommodate thirty patients.
It became necessary for the city to have a “pest-house,” or detention hospital, soon after the twentieth century came in. The first attempt made was the renting of the “old David Kelly house in block 53,” in 1901. A year later, the city bought the house, paying $700 for it, and the rental of $300 for the previous year was taken in part payment. It continued as the “pest-house” until 1909, when the Detention Hospital was erected on leased land in section 18. The building cost the city $2,495.45, and the furnishing only $357, and the nurse-caretaker, “a man of considerable age, and who wants a home,” being paid $2.00 a day when he only occupied the place, and an additional dollar a day when he had patients to nurse and cook for. So that city funds were not extravagantly used for that purpose. As a matter of fact, the public funds of Virginia have been carefully husbanded one must acknowledge, when comparison is made with use of public funds in other range municipalities. And during the last administration, Virginia has shown an even greater inclination to “retrench.” The one great expense is for schools, and, having regard to the bearing education will have upon the Virginia of the next generation, the school authorities are justified in endeavoring to provide the highest standard of public education possible.
Educational Progress.-The first school has been already referred to. The enrollment was eighteen, and there was one teacher.
In the 1919-20 school year the enrollment was 3,653, and there were 148 teachers. The expense incurred in the first term of school did not exceed, probably, $100, whereas the school levy for the purpose of Independent School District No. 22, which is the Virginia district, was $619,839.40 for the year 1919-20. So that the progress made has certainly been substantial.
School District No. 22 was organized on February 1, 1893. The first directors were: John F. Gleason, Neil Mclnnis and Jared D.
Taylor, Mclnnis being treasurer and Taylor clerk. One early review reads: The district, when first organized and which until 1903, included Eveleth, found it quite difficult to float a loan of $10,000 with which to begin business.
Many moneyed men did not have the faith in the Mesabi Range iron prospects that they now have. Many men of wealth, who looked over the country at that time, shook their heads and said that the whole northeastern part of the state was not worth $10,000. Through the faith and efforts of Mr. E. Z. Griggs the district secured the loan of $10,000, and thus struck its natural pace, which has been a lively one up to the present.
As there was difficulty in raising the fund, it seems probable that it was not available before the fire of June, 1893, occurred. After the fire, there was no school until November of 1893, and school was then opened in the Methodist Church, the one brought from Duluth through the munificence or interest of the Merritt family. It was a trying emergency arrangement for the teachers. Thomas Rowley, principal, taught in the main building. Miss Mae Gill taught a hundred pupils in the Sunday School room, in the spring of 1894.
There were no books or blackboards, and the room was so small that she had to “take the children in half-day sessions.” Thomas Rowley was succeeded by George Raymond, while the school was still conducted in the Methodist Church. However, better conditions came eventually, the Central School being built in 1894, at a cost of $14,000. In 1896, another was built, the Franklin, at a cost of $1,500.
It was enlarged in 1904, at a cost of $1,000. The Primary building was erected in 1898, and the Homestead in 1903; the former cost $7,000, and the latter only $500. The Homestead School was of logs, and was built in an outlying agricultural section. Finnish farmers constituted that small sub-district, but their children had to be provided with the means of education, and it was quite impossible to transport them to the Virginia schools. There were no roads, and when Judge Bliss, then district superintendent, visited the school, he had to go on horseback, or on a sled. By the way, the first teacherage put into operation on the range was at the Homestead School, the teacher finding it just as difficult to get to and from Virginia as other people, of course, and therefore, having no.option but to remain near her school. But that little school ultimately gave a good demonstration of the value of the public schools in the Americanizing of the alien population. Nine out of ten of the pupils, probably, spoke only Finnish when they first entered the log schoolhouse; in eight years, it had a class ready for high school-a class of bright, apt and promising Americans. Judge Bliss, who never took a vacation while he was superintendent, was especially interested in the evolution of the foreign element into citizens of good American spirit, and instituted several unique ways of effecting that purpose through the pupils of the Virginia schools, and by the establishment of night schools. Virginia was the first to start such work on the range.
In 1904 the Roosevelt School building was erected, at a cost of $65,000, and it became the High school. Then came the Johnson and Farmstead schools in 1907, and the Higgins in 1908; the Technical High, Northside and Southside schools, in 1909. A larger school became necessary on the Southside in 1915, and was then built, at a cost of $55,000. An appraisal of the school property of the Virginia district, made in 1914, showed the total valuation of real estate to be $167,200; of buildings, $468,000; of equipment, $89,244; of text Vol. II-7 605 books, $10,000; of supplies and library, $5,000. The last official appraisal, made for the county board of education, school-year 1919-20, showed school property of Independent School District No. 22 to be $1,590,562. That includes the first section of the Technical High School, $250,000, but not all of the expense incurred in constructing the recent additions to that imposing block of school buildings.’ The enlargements were begun in 1917, and were not completed until 1921.
It was estimated that the total cost, when complete, would be about $1,500,000. The Vocational, or Technical High, is a marvel of school architecture, and its scope and efficient direction enable Virginia to maintain its proper place educationally among the wonderful school districts of the Mesabi range. The main Virginia School is so vast in its equipment, scope, departments, and possibilities, that the compiler of this record would not attempt a detailed description. It could not be properly given in the space he has available. However, it should be recorded that “the master mind of this advanced system of education was P. P. Colgrove,” the school superintendent. The architect was Carl E. Nystrom, of Duluth.
In all, there are fourteen schoolhouses in Independent School District No. 22, five of brick and nine of wood. The present superintendent is E. T. Duffield, a capable educator and an efficient well-paid executive. All salaries are high; the male teachers of the district during the school-year 1919-20 received an average salary of $197 a month, and the women teachers $147.
District No. 22 is responsible for public school-work in township 59-17 and part of 58-17. Until 1904, District No. 22 had authority over the. Eveleth schools also, but it was rather an unsatisfactory arrangement. Virginia, the richer place, and consequently a heavier taxpayer, did not feel that it was getting a proper share of the school levy. There were other reasons also, and in the last years of the undivided district, when J. H. Hearding, a man of strong personality, was school director, Virginians were especially uneasy, believing that Eveleth had a stronger representation on the school board. However, with the organization of Independent School District No. 39, and the separation of Eveleth from Virginia, the latter had what she wanted, and with the election of Joseph Roskilly, director, Robert E. Bailie, and Chas. C. Butler clerk, Virginia held full sway over her own schools, and over the whole of her school levy.
Many able men have served on the Virginia school board since that time, but space is not here available to name them. But the Board of Education, in 1920, consisted of: R. J. McGhee, clerk; W. T. Irwin, treasurer; C. R. Johnson, chairman; A. E. McKenzie, H. A. Ebmer and A. Hawkinson, directors; E. T. Duffield, superintendent.
The superintendents from the beginning have been: Thomas Rowley, 1893-94; George Raymond, 1894; Bert N. Wheeler, 1894-98; William Park, 1898-1901; S. W. Gilpin, 1901-04; Lafayette Bliss, 1904-1914; P. P. Colgrove, 1914-20; E. T. Duffield, 1920.
The Virginia school system is in keeping with its buildings, which probably, as a group, cannot be excelled by those of any other place of like size in the country, off the Mesabi range. Hibbing has a more expensive high school building, it must be admitted, but if one groups the schools of St. Louis County, there is not much doubt that they will favorably compare with those of any county of any state of the Union. The finest educators of the country are attracted to the range schools, which offer far better salaries than universities 606 can offer its professors; and, consequently, the standard of education is excellent.
Virginia’s Advantages.-Albert E. Bickford tersely described some of the outstanding features of Virginia, in 1920. His summary reads, in part: The taxable valuation of Virginia … is $17,000,000 … The city has … 26 miles of cement sidewalks ** *; 8,000 hand-planted trees, … about fifty acres of parkland … … the largest white pine sawmill in the world; the best automobile roads in the northwest; … the finest line (trolley) in the states … many dependable iron ore mines; a large farmers’ market place; aviation field … ; five hospitals; eighty acres of experimental school farm; the purest and coldest water in the state … ; a new and up-to-date detention hospital; a most improved incinerator plant; an $8,000 band stand … the best band in the state; twelve miles of sanitary sewer, and absolutely the largest sewage disposal plant in the state; four miles of storm sewer … .; four strong banks; two daily papers … ; all of the fraternal lodges of modern times; eighteen churches … ; the finest grade schools and vocational schools in the United States * * ; one large flour mill; three creameries … ; a splendid class of merchants; four railroads … ; four … theatres, and a $100,000 opera house * * and … the Best People on Earth.
Virginia certainly had a definite and conspicuous place in the county and state.