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to Nashwauk, in Itasca County. Historically, Mountain Iron (Mt. Iron) is the point where the Mesabi `begins.'

It was Professor H. H. Eames, state geologist, who first reported the presence of iron in connection with his report in the mid-1860s from the Vermilion area, where he was looking for possible gold. And early prospectors searching in vain for gold also reported that iron was to be found every time they dug into the earth. Such reports led to the first systematic exploration of the Mesabi in 1875, under Professor Albert H. Chester, whose report suggested, however, that the Vermilion region was richer in iron than the Mesabi. While the Mesabi was ignored and forgotten for a few years, digging began at Vermilion. In 1882 it was announced in Duluth that Charlemagne Tower had decided to build a railroad to the Vermilion mines, a railroad which would cross the Mesabi Range. Immediately afterwards (15 January 1882) the Mesabi Iron Company was formed, following reports that red earth had been found everywhere that the railroad had to excavate for the rail bed. A new search for the iron began, with the most enthusiastic searchers being the Merritt brothers, John McKinley and Frank Hibbing.

The Merritt story goes back to Lewis Merritt and his wooded homestead at Oneota, near Duluth. In his treks through the wilderness he had come across this red earth and had told his seven sons that someday it would mean much to Minnesota. When Lewis Merritt died in 1880, his sons roamed far and wide over that remarkable upland, which the Chippewa Indians called the Missabay. In time the Merritt brothers bought tools and wagons and hired men to clear a road from Tower to Mesabi. Then they began to probe into the earth, with an expert, J. A. Nichols, to evaluate their finds. Their industry led to success when they found the first real Mesabi lode on 16 November 1890: the samples of ore proved to be 6417c pure iron.

The next developmental phase which began immediately followed the pattern common to mining areas : doubt and firm conviction joined in a daring gamble, demanding personal and financial sacrifices, then the mining `fever' phase, the dream of riches overnight, the buying and selling of shares, with more expended than produced, with the speculation ending at last in a crash, taking many with it into ruin. Then the strong, serious financiers enter the picture, and with their capital the work progresses and expands, bringing a phase once more with moments of jubilation for some, scenes of tragedy at times for others.


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