Minnesota's Lake Superior Shipwrecks
History of Minnesota's Lake Superior
Exploration and Fur Trade (1650-1840)
The pre-contact history of the Lake Superior is poorly understood in Minnesota due to a scarcity of known archaeological sites. No prehistoric archaeological sites have been excavated and only three prehistoric sites are recorded along Lake Superior in the Minnesota archaeological site files. The early history of the region is thus largely based on adjacent areas of the Superior shore in Canada and Wisconsin.
At the time of contact between Native Americans and Europeans, the Cree may have controlled most of the western Superior shore with Dakota present in the south and Ojibwe in the north. By 1700, the Ojibwe controlled much of the region. French explorers entered the Lake Superior country in the mid-1600s. French fur posts were soon established in the far north where Grand Portage became a major trading center. Anglo-American traders re-used the French sites along Grand Portage and also established posts near Duluth.
The appearance of French explorers on Lake Superior predates the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Only a decade after the initial French settlement at Quebec in 1608, the French reached the waters of Lake Superior. By 1650, the French were engaged in mapping the Midwest. They reached the upper Mississippi River in the mid-1670s, and claimed that vast territory for King Louis XIV.
Etienne Brule is credited with the European discovery of Lake Superior before 1620. He may have traveled on the Lake as far west as Isle Royale. Raymbault visited the St. Marys Rapids in 164l, learning about the Dakota (Sioux) who lived beyond its shores. A few years later, Groseilliers and Radisson ventured further west. They wintered near Chequamegon Bay in 1654. They visited the "Head of the Lakes" (present-day Duluth area) that year and again in 1660. They were believed to have been the first Europeans to travel on Lake Superior. Groseilliers and Radisson were accompanied on their return voyages by flotillas of Indian canoes packed with furs.
Fr. Rene Menard visited western Lake Superior in 1661. Another missionary, Fr. Claude Allouez, explored the northern and western shores of Lake Superior in the mid-1660s. He contributed to a 1670 Jesuit map that accurately showed details for the first time. Louis Jolliet discovered the important water route from Green Bay to the Mississippi River in 1673. Daniel Greysolon, Sieur DuLuth ventured to the St. Louis River in 1679. He then journeyed overland to Mille Lacs and the Mississippi River. He not only explored much of the area between Kaministiquia (present-day Thunder Bay, Ontario) and the Mississippi, but made alliances with several Native American tribes and opened trade for the French.
These Frenchmen and a handful of others sought to extend Louis XIV's claims to New France. They traveled across the wilderness principally by water in small undecked vessels such as canoes or batteaux. Although many of their routes are known to modern historians, no remains of their frail craft have been found.
Several of the French explorers were aware of the ancient Pigeon River portage and its strategic importance. DuLuth established a post at nearby Kaministiquia in 1683, though no post was erected on the Pigeon River itself until decades later. Pierre de La Verendrye and his sons built Fort St. Pierre at Rainy Lake on the portage in 1732, and Fort St. Charles at Lake of the Woods a year later. These were the first white settlements in present day Minnesota. The first post on the bay at Grand Portage was erected soon afterward. The significance of Grand Portage to the later fur trade is well known. Its importance in the exploratory period suggests a strong potential for remnants of the boats of that era to be found in or near Grand Portage Bay.
By 1720, French speculators and exploring parties had ventured all over the Midwest. By this time they had achieved a solid familiarity with the geography of the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence and Mississippi River basins, and most of the connections and portages between the great watersheds. They had traveled all the way from the Atlantic to the prairies, and from the Canadian Shield to the Gulf of Mexico. After 1720, the French stabilized their trade with the natives, though their exploration slowed. Some further exploration occurred toward the Rocky Mountains and the Saskatchewan country in the 1730s. During the latter part of the 1820's, international conflicts diverted French attention and financial resources.
The British moved forward in exploration after 1763. Alexander Mackenzie pushed north and west from Grand Portage to the rim of the Arctic Ocean in 1789, venturing across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific in 1792. David Thompson explored parts of Minnesota, the Dakotas, and eventually (in 1809) crossed the Rocky Mountains and followed the Columbia River to the sea. Zebulon Pike, Lewis Cass, Stephen Long, and Henry Schoolcraft mapped out Minnesota's geography in United States government employ between 1805 and 1820. By 1820, the exploratory period had ended. Most mapping thereafter dealt with boundary clarification and embellishing details of the territorial landscape.
Several factors brought the fur trade to the Great Lakes in the early decades of the 16th century. The fashion for beaver hats generated a demand for pelts. French trade for beaver in the lower St. Lawrence River had led to the depletion of the animals in that region by the late 1630s. As a result, the French searched further and further west for new resources and new routes, making alliances with the Native Americans along the way to trap and deliver their furs.
By the mid-17th century, Brule, Nicolet, Groseilliers, Radisson, DuLuth, and other Frenchmen had mapped out the major watersheds of the middle west, won the trust of important native tribes, and established a handful of posts in the wilderness. Native tribes around the Great Lakes quickly recognized the value of European trade goods such as hatchets, axes, kettles, knives, and firearms, and were eager to trade with the Frenchmen. After 1675, competition increased with the English, the Dutch, and the Iroquois to the south, while the new and powerful Hudson's Bay Company had a foothold in the north. The French, therefore, continued to move westward.
DuLuth negotiated an agreement with the Dakota at Izatys (Mille Lacs) in 1679, which opened much of the upper Mississippi region to the French. By 1700, they had established a handful of posts from Lake Peoria on the Illinois River to Kaministiquia and Lake Nipigon. Their couriers controlled the region south and west of Lake Superior. The forts at Kaministiquia and Lake Nipigon attracted trade from the far north, competing with the Hudson's Bay Company.
LaVerendrye arrived on Lake Superior in 1730 to develop routes and expand native trade deeper into the west. He erected Fort St. Pierre at Rainy Lake in 1731 and Fort St. Charles at Lake of the Woods in 1732. He reached into the Mandan country of the Missouri watershed in 1738. LaVerendrye brought the Grand Portage trade up to a level that was competitive with that of the Mississippi-Wisconsin-Fox River route. Twenty years later, the French established posts in the Lake Winnipeg district to prevent the tribes in the northwest from trading with the English. With Lake Winnepeg under its control, French trade routes extended all the way from Montreal to Lake Athabasca and the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
In the Treaty of Paris of 1763, the French lost all their territory east of the Mississippi River. Though technically the land was controlled by the British for just 20 years, the fur trade remained in British hands until after the War of 1812. The business centered on Grand Portage, Michilimackinac, and La Pointe. The trade was managed by the Hudson's Bay Company and its newly-organized rival, the North West Company. The North West Company was composed of a loosely-knit group of partners and was head-quartered at Montreal.
From 1768 until 1804, the North West Company brought hundreds of traders and voyageurs to their headquarters at Grand Portage to exchange west-bound trade goods for east-bound pelts. Their July rendezvous was the once-a-year meeting with the "northwesters" before the voyageurs made their way back down the Lakes to Montreal. Grand Portage was a natural meeting place. It was located as far west as the canoes could travel in one season and still get back to Montreal before the Lakes froze up. It was also the terminus for the original route into the heart of the west, and was situated on a great bay where large numbers of canoes could find shelter. In the 1790s, the fort at Grand Portage had 16 buildings, including dwellings, a great mess hall, a counting-house, warehouses, a canoe-shed, and a long dock.
The fur trade on the Lake was traditionally carried out in birch bark canoes and wooden batteaux of varying descriptions. Twenty-four-foot North canoes were employed for the western traffic because they were light, easily portaged, and sufficiently maneuverable for the frequent rapids. Thirty-six-foot Montreal canoes were used on the open Lakes. After about 1700, they were supplanted by pine-plank batteaux. Double-ended York boats were used on the major rivers of western Canada after about 1780. Small sailing craft, known as Mackinaw boats, were also in use by this time. After 1770, a number of merchant sailing ships were built on Lake Superior to expedite transportation between Sault Ste. Marie and the western end of the Lake. Most of these were schooners ranging in size from 40 to 85 tons. Most were built at Point aux Pins, just above the Sault. Between 1778 and 1811, at least ten such craft were built for the various partners of the North West Company. Two or three were built for the Hudson's Bay Company, and at least five for the American Fur Company, between 1817 and 1840. Fewer than three or four vessels were in service on Lake Superior at any one time up until the 1820's.
After 1792, the North West Company established several posts on Minnesota rivers and lakes, and in areas to the west and northwest, for trading with the Ojibwe, the Dakota, and other native tribes. The first of these posts was located at the present site of Superior, Wisconsin. Known as Fort St. Louis, it became the head-quarters for North West Company's new Fond du Lac Department. It had stockaded walls, two houses of 40 feet each, a shed of 60 feet, a large warehouse, and a canoe yard. During this time there were more than 40 British fur posts within the present boundaries of Minnesota. Key northern Minnesota posts were located at Vermillion, Sandy, Leech, Cass, Red, and Rainy Lakes and, of course, Grand Portage.
As a result of Jay's Treaty in 1794, the North West Company relocated its headquarters from Grand Portage to Kaministiquia. The company's Fond du Lac Department headquarters was moved from Superior to Leech Lake in 1805. The Company continued to operate other posts all over Minnesota and upper Wisconsin for another ten years, despite titular United States control of the territory.
The American Fur Company was organized by Austrian-born John Jacob Astor in 1808. The Company began trading at the Head of the Lakes in 1809. In 1817, it erected a new headquarters at present-day Fond du Lac, on the St. Louis River. There, portages connected Lake Superior with Lake Vermillion to the north, and with the Mississippi to the south. Active trade was carried on until the failure of the fur trade in the 1840s. By then, the trade had shifted westward. When John Aitkin took charge of the "Northern Outfit," he relocated the headquarters to Sandy Lake.
In 1834, the American Fur Company undertook commercial fishing operations on Lake Superior to bolster their sagging profits. Fishing stations were established at Fond du Lac and Grand Portage, both of which had been virtually abandoned. Nearby, La Pointe (Wisconsin) was the center of the Company's fishing business. Four to five thousand barrels of fish were shipped annually from the three sites during their heyday in the mid-1830s. The 111-ton schooner John Jacob Astor was built for the firm in 1835 to transport fish and supplies. Three similar craft were added in the next few years as the volume of the trade grew.
The fur industry began to decline in the 1830s, due to depletion of fur-bearing animals and declining markets for furs in Europe. The Panic of 1837 led to the ultimate failure of the American Fur Company. The firm had begun diversification some years earlier, and managed to stave off dissolution until 1842. The North West Company merged with the larger Hudson's Bay Company in 1821. That firm survived by concentrating all of its attention on Canada's northernmost territories, where the trade was most lucrative and transportation cheapest. The Company still thrives today.
The old posts were abandoned one by one. The North West Company's old Fort St. Louis was abandoned by 1815. The fort at Grand Portage was used as a fishing station in the 1830s, but it reverted to a quiet Ojibwe village by 1842. Fond du Lac was operated by the Missouri Fur Company between 1842 and ca. 1847. Then it, too, was left idle. Kaministiquia's post survived until the amalgamation of the North West and Hudson's Bay companies. It was abandoned thereafter in 1821 in favor of transport by way of Hudson's Bay.
In Minnesota, the Native American fur trade collapsed by the 1840s. Subsequent commerce in furs has been sustained largely by individual trappers operating in the Mississippi headwaters. During the 1850s, the industry centered around Mendota.
Associated Water Craft
As far as is known, no aboriginal or European exploratory water craft have been found in Minnesota's Lake Superior waters, although the existence of such craft cannot be discounted. The sites of principal fur posts on Lake Superior merit systematic survey due to the high probability of material culture being present along the shoreline and in submerged environments. North West and American Fur Company sites on Superior Bay, the Fond du Lac, Encampment Island, Grand Marais, and Grand Portage, all have promise, particularly the Fond du Lac and Grand Portage locations, because of the long occupation and the intensity of activity there. In addition to tools, trade goods, and other portable artifacts, there is a possibility that remnants of batteaux or mackinaw boats and the tackle (such as anchors) from the larger schooners exist. One vessel from the fur trade period is believed to have wrecked in Minnesota waters. The schooner Madeline was reportedly crushed by drifting ice in the mouth of the Knife River in April, 1838.
Settlement & Fishing on Lake Superior (1854-1930)
The collapse of the fur trade around 1840 was followed by a period of quiet in northern Minnesota, ending almost two centuries of trade between the Cree, Dakota, Assiniboine, and Ojibwe on the one side, and the French, British, and Americans on the other. Though the voyageurs' canoes and batteaux disappeared from Lake Superior, a limited commercial fishery was left behind by the fur companies. A handful of schooners served the lake trout and whitefish trade, operating out of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, LaPointe, Wisconsin, and Michipicoten, Ontario. Seasonal fishing appears to have persisted at Grand Portage, Isle Royale, Grand Marais, Encampment River, and perhaps Fond du Lac, where the American Fur Company had fished in the 1830s. The white fishermen were, however, just itinerants in the Native American's domain.
The LaPointe Treaty of 1854 ceded to the United States the entire Minnesota shoreline of Lake Superior, and white speculators were quick to move in. Attracted by rumors of copper and gold, scores of Yankee "land-lookers" moved to nearby Ontonagon, Michigan, and Superior City, Wisconsin, in 1852 and 1853 in anticipation of a treaty which would open up for their exploitation all of the rich resources which belonged to the Indians. During the weeks of negotiations leading up to the Treaty, some of the speculators paddled secretly up the North Shore to preempt claims in the most promising locations.
With adoption of the Treaty in September, 1854, dozens of men staked their claims along the North Shore, principally where copper was thought to be, and at the mouths of the larger streams. Many preempted land around Duluth, where several town sites were platted. Richard Godfrey went to Grand Marais and built a small shack to engage in fishing and trading. A man named McIntyre staked a claim at Knife River for the R.B. Carlton Company, where a miner named John Parry also preempted land. Several men also built cabins at Beaver Bay. In the next two years, there were settlers or preemptors at Buchanan (east of Knife River), Burlington Bay (Two Harbors), French River, Stewart River, and Silver Creek, in addition to the locations settled in 1854 and the older trading post at Grand Portage. Commercial fishing was practiced at several sites. The 1857 census indicates ten fishermen in St. Louis County and 89 in Lake County. Steamboats also made occasional calls to the wilderness locations.
Most of the claims were abandoned in the Panic of 1857. Copper was found at Talmadge, French, Sucker, and Knife Rivers in small amounts. The settlers at the Beaver Bay colony survived the lean years because the industrious Wieland family developed successful farms there. The North Shore did not recover until geologist Henry Eames began the "Vermilion Gold Rush" in 1865. Most of the men who came in that era were prospectors or land-cruisers trying to stake claims to mineral lands for outsiders, thought a few were fishermen or trappers. There were very few women at first. Many of the adventurers married Ojibwe women.
When construction started on the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad in 1869, Duluth began a period of spectacular growth. The population grew from 14 families in January, 1869, to 3,500 people by July of that year. A large percentage of the newcomers were Scandinavian immigrants. This marked the beginning of a flood of Swedes, Norwegians, and Finns to Minnesota. Soon there were sawmills, grain elevators, and warehouses on the waterfront, and homes all over the hillside. Steamboat lines from Buffalo, Detroit, and Chicago began making regular calls at Duluth, and the development of its magnificent harbor was begun. The Wielands erected a water-powered sawmill at Beaver Bay in 1869. They bought the 65-foot schooner Charley to trade with other Lake Superior communities. Beaver Bay was for many years the largest community between Duluth and Port Arthur. In 1871, Henry Mayhew and Sam Howenstine arrived in Grand Marais to found a village and begin a commercial fishing enterprise. The 1873 Panic put an end to the growth, however. After the Panic, Duluth's population shrunk to 1,300 souls.
Recovery took several years. In 1879 and 1880, confidence and stability returned. Conditions were ripe for genuine and sustained prosperity. Duluth grew very quickly as grain began to flow eastward from the prairie states, requiring expanded harbor facilities, huge new grain elevators, and a large workforce. Two Harbors was settled and developed as Minnesota's first iron ore port, bringing hundreds of laborers there, and to the mines far to the north. Railroads stretched from the Head of the Lake to the south, east, and west.
Duluth's growth, along with its rail connections to St. Paul and the West, brought passenger and package freight steamers, laden with merchandise and foodstuffs from the East, to the local docks daily from the lower Lakes. "Feeder lines" of smaller ships were established to run from Duluth to Port Arthur on the North Shore, and to Houghton and Hancock on the South Shore, supplying the needs of the outlying communities and transporting people all along the shores. The small lines also provided a market for fresh fish caught at many of the smaller ports.
In 1879, Duluth had 35 commercial fishermen. By 1885, 195 fishermen operated five steam tugs and nearly 40 Mackinaw boats out of Duluth, and there were dozens of others on the North Shore. Cooley & Lavaque and the Duluth Fish Company ran "collection steamers" up the shore to supply the fisherman at remote locations, as well as to pick up barreled whitefish and trout. These swift little craft enabled the fishermen to concentrate on fishing and roam far from the market points in search of their prey. The fish were sold in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Chicago, Kansas City, and St. Louis. This efficient system sustained a large number of Norwegian families on the North Shore. The Duluth Evening Herald, June 1, 1888, commented:
The Booth Packing Company are now receiving fresh fish at the rate of about 100 tons per month, the fishing on Lake Superior having become good...The (T.H.) CAMP brings in nearly ten tons each trip from Isle Royale and the North Shore. Duluth is now hauling more fresh fish then all the (other) Lake Superior ports combined.
In 1889, A. Booth & Sons bought out Cooley & Lavaque, gradually taking over the collection business. They ran a series of different steamers on both the North and South Shores during the next decades, including the A. Booth, Hunter, and Hiram R. Dixon, during the 1880s and 1890s, and the larger Liberty, C.W. Moore, Bon Ami, Easton, and America around the turn-of-the-century. The 185-foot America was a favorite from 1902 until its accidental loss at Isle Royale in the spring of 1928. Until completion of the North Shore Highway (U.S. Highway 61) in 1926, the America was the only link with civilization for all the fishing folk along 200 miles of rugged and isolated shoreline. The America brought the groceries, mail, salt, ice, barrels, and all the other necessities, and took away all the fish that could be harvested from the big Lake.
Commercial fishing flourished at the Head of the Lakes during the early decades of the 20th century. The industry was dominated by Norwegian immigrants, though a number of Swedes and Finns were also involved. The annual catch varied over the years. The all-time high came in 1915, when nearly 10,000 tons were recorded at Duluth alone. The catch dwindled after the 1920s, so that many fishermen were forced to find other sources of income. By 1930, the yield dropped below 4,000 tons; it has since fallen below 1,000 tons. Whitefish dwindled in numbers in the 1890s, and were supplanted by lake trout in the commercial fishery. Predatory lamprey eels and over-harvesting nearly wiped out the trout in the 1950s. Finally, sports fishermen successfully lobbied for legislation that was unfavorable to the commercial fishing industry. A 1975 government report indicated that there were 137 full-time commercial fishermen in the Great Lakes and 2,800,000 sports fishermen.
During the 1870s, a trail was slashed through the woods along the North Shore. A wagon trail was established by 1880. The Duluth & Iron Range Railway was constructed between Duluth and Two Harbors in 1889, although a real road was not completed all the way up the shore from Duluth to Grand Portage and Port Arthur until the mid-1920s. The road dramatically changed the lifestyles of North Shore residents. It brought to an end their dependence on the collection steamers and enabled them to transport their fish by truck. It also brought tourists in ever-increasing numbers. Some of the fishermen began building resorts and renting cabins to supplement their income. The infusion of permanent settlers along the Minnesota North Shore ended around 1900. Since that time new arivals have been primarily summer residents whose permanent addresses are in the Twin Ports (Duluth-Superior) or the Twin Cities.
Associated Water Craft
While no remains of vernacular fishing craft have been found underwater in Minnesota, several areas have a high probability for such finds, including the sheltered harbors at Grand Portage, Grand Marais, Beaver Bay, and Two Harbors. The sidewheel steamer Lotta Bernard dates from the days of early North Shore settlement. It was lost on the Lake off Encampment River in October, 1874. Some abandoned fishing craft which have Minnesota connections have been reported at Isle Royale. The schooner Stranger foundered somewhere in Lake Superior after drifting in a helpless condition from Grand Marais harbor in December, 1875. The Wieland's schooner Charley is thought to have wrecked at her dock in Beaver Bay in May, 1881. The collection steamers Isle Royale, A. Booth, Mary Martini, and Liberty were all lost off of various North Shore locations. The first two are likely to retain full outfits of tools and equipment. There are also underwater components to historic fishing sites which merit study at places like Little Two Harbors, where fishing equipment has been reported by sport divers.
Minnesota's Iron Ore Industry (1880s-1945)
The Vermilion Range
One of Minnesota's most enduring symbols is mineral wealth, specifically iron ore. As early as 1734, French adventurer LaVerendrye was told of iron west and northwest of Lake of the Woods, in what was later known as the Atikokan Range. In 1807, John McLoughlin, a Hudsons Bay Company representative at Grand Portage, commented on large quantities of iron ore in the region. Following the War of 1812, a series of border disputes occurred between the U.S. and the Great Britain. These disputes resulted in systematic surveys of northern Minnesota in the 1840s and 1850s. With the surveys, the first rough concepts of the mineral districts began to emerge.
Joseph N. Nicollet surveyed parts of Minnesota between 1836 and 1843. He reported iron sulfides and described for the first time the "Missabay Heights," using the Ojibwe name for the great ridge which extended nearly a hundred miles across northern Minnesota. Government surveyors under David Dale Owen conducted scientific surveys between 1848 and 1850 and described iron ore in a U.S. Geological Survey report published in 1852. Territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey considered the potential mineral wealth of the region when he asked for a road to Lake Superior in his first message to the territorial legislature in 1849. In 1860, as Governor of the State, Ramsey referred to copper and iron ores "known to be of singular purity."
In 1864, two survey commissioners reported "precious ores" abounding in the northeastern part of the state. A year later, Governor Stephen Miller sent surveyor and geologist Henry H. Eames to learn further details of the mineral sites. Eames found iron 50 feet to 60 feet in thickness near Lake Vermilion. Eames also reported veins of gold and silver-bearing quartz nearby, touching off the "Vermilion Gold Rush" of 1865. Little gold was found, but the 15 mining companies which had incorporated to exploit it got congressional appropriations for a road all the way from Duluth to Vermilion Lake in 1869. This road through the forests had lasting value to the region. The only other road tributary to Duluth at that time led south to St. Croix.
In the Fall of 1865, Duluth pioneer George Stuntz joined in the hunt for gold. Near Vermilion Lake he found a great iron outcrop where the Soudan Mine was later developed. He brought back samples to Duluth and unsuccessfully approached a number of people for financial support in exploiting the ore. Samples were sent to the Paris Exposition in 1867. That same year, the Smithsonian Institution sent out at least 100 boxes of the ore to various institutions for study. A reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, October 25, 1865, described "immense beds [of iron ore] hundreds of feet in height...enough to supply for a hundred years all of the furnaces of the entire world." A correspondent for the St. Paul Daily Press, reported in December 23, 1867, that "vast fields of the richest iron ore are said to exist upon the shores of this [Vermilion] Lake, and some specimens brought down...show that the report is not unfounded." Nevertheless, the ore deposits went untapped for another 20 years.
In April, 1875, Duluth banker George Stone approached financier Charlemagne Tower of Philadelphia with a proposal to invest in the mineral lands. Tower held extensive interests in the Northern Pacific Railroad, and was aware not only of the stories about Minnesota iron ore, but also of the beneficial effect that mining might have on the railroad, as well as the investment potential for ore reserves of the magnitude described at Lake Vermilion.
Tower's surveyors spent a month examining the Lake Vermilion site and portions of the eastern Mesabi Range. After studying the best of the Vermilion Range's hard hematite ore and the poorest of the Mesabi's lean magnetite, they dismissed the Mesabi locations and recommended further study of the Vermilion. Some of the Vermilion samples they obtained had an iron content of 69 per cent. Due to the lingering effects of the 1873 Panic, the depressed market for iron and the difficulties of transporting the ore from the Range to faraway mills, Tower moved cautiously on the venture. By 1880, market conditions had improved. The value of ore rose from $5.50 per ton in 1878, to $9.25 per ton two years later. The demand for ore grew so quickly that steel makers worried about exhausting Michigan and Wisconsin reserves. Tower recognized that someone else would buy up the Minnesota mineral lands if he did not. With Stone acting as his Duluth agent, he began to acquire properties.
George Stuntz, the government surveyor, devalued much of the land by describing it as swampland, favoring Tower's plans. Stuntz also helped select much of the 20,000 acres that Tower bought between 1880 and 1882. Meanwhile, Stone successfully lobbied a special tax bill through the Minnesota legislature, intended to encourage mining in the state. In lieu of all taxes and assessments, the bill established a royalty of one cent per ton of iron ore shipped. This produced a windfall for Tower and provided a strong incentive for later Mesabi investors. During 1881, Tower sold off 40 percent of his Vermilion property to Marquette mine operator Edward Breitung. The partners agreed to share the costs of further land acquisitions, railroad construction, and harbor development. Tower, Stone, Breitung, Stuntz and others, incorporated the Minnesota Iron Company in 1882.
Tower commissioned Stuntz to survey possible rail routes from the mine site to Lake Superior. Stuntz recommended a 70-mile route to take the ore to Agate Bay, approximately 25 miles north of Duluth. Through Stone, Tower gained control of the charter for the Duluth & Iron Railway Company, which had been incorporated in 1874 by Duluth and Ontonagon, Michigan, businessmen, but never built. Along with the railroad, Tower got the company's generous land grants, amounting to ten sections of swampland for each mile of track actually built, which could be selected anywhere within ten miles of the right of way. Tower transferred ownership of the railway, 17,666 acres of St. Louis County land, and 2,840 acres of Lake County land to the Minnesota Iron Company.
Construction of the Duluth & Iron Railway began in the summer of 1883 at Agate Bay. Six hundred laborers pushed across swamps, filled deep ravines, bridged flowing streams, and blasted away rock ridges in their path. They completed 20 miles of track before winter. A settlement soon developed at the terminus of the line, where previously a single pioneer had resided. The Duluth Daily Tribune, June 12, 1883, observed the explosive population growth with some amusement:
There are but eight or ten houses and tents at Agate Bay, and seven of them are occupied by saloons. The railroad work is going forward rapidly, and the influx of men to the place is great. The hotel, now building by the railroad company is going ahead rapidly. Two Harbors, the name given the place, is destined to be quite a town.
Early communication with Duluth and other communities at the time was entirely by lake. Supplies were brought in the same way, since there were no roads to Agate Bay (renamed Two Harbors after 1883). After 1880, several steamboats ran up the shore from Duluth on weekly or twice-weekly schedules. Regular service was inaugurated in 1883 when the steamer R.G. Stewart began daily runs, at a round trip fare of $1.50. A wagon road opened along the north shore to Two Harbors within two or three years, but not until 1887 were rail connections made between the two towns. Three locomotives were brought to Two Harbors by barge in the Fall of 1883. Ten more locomotives and scores of rail cars arrived by the same means in the next years.
Under the supervision of Mr. Breitung, construction of two 552-foot, gravity-style wooden loading docks began on Two Harbors. Pile-driving problems delayed construction of Dock Number 1, but Dock 2 was completed in the summer of 1884. Dock 1 was finally completed a year later.
In the spring of 1884, 140 men were employed at the new Soudan Mine near the fledgling town of Tower. By June there were 540. By the time the rail line to the mine was completed, the crew had accumulated a large stockpile of ore. The train was quickly loaded for the return trip. The first cargoes of Minnesota ore, consisting of 2,818 tons of "Vermilion Lump" hematite consigned to George and Samuel Ely of Cleveland, were loaded on the steamer Hecla and the consort-barge Ironton on August 1, 1884. Total shipments from the mine during 1884 amounted to 62,124 tons.
The Ely brothers soon became exclusive agents for Tower's ore. During 1885, the company shipped 277,075 tons. The following year, they shipped 307,949 tons. The Carnegie interests of Cleveland purchased the ore in consignments of 100,000 tons at a time. By 1886, the Minnesota Iron Company liquidated debts incurred during its first year. In 1887, in fulfillment of one of the original conditions of the state land grant, the company constructed a rail link from Two Harbors south to Duluth, connecting it to the nationwide rail system. By that time, the company had 95.7 miles of track, 26,800 acres of property, 13 locomotives and 340 cars, extensive shops and loading facilities at Two Harbors, and five open-pit mines at Tower. It ranked as the third largest iron mining firm in the nation.
The quick success of the company and the purity of its ores attracted the attention of major steel producers. Henry H. Porter, a Chicago railroad magnate with heavy interests in the Illinois Steel Company, headed a syndicate whose participants included John D. and William Rockefeller (Standard Oil Company), Marshall Field (a Chicago merchant), Cyrus McCormick (a farm implement manufacturer), and Jay C. Morse (Union Steel Company). Porter's syndicate acquired 25,000 acres of land to the northeast of Tower's property, hoping to somehow squeeze Tower out. In 1886, they approached Tower with a proposal to purchase the Duluth & Iron Railway Company. Soon afterward they proposed to purchase the entire holdings of the Minnesota Iron Company. When they resorted to more aggressive tactics, the elderly Tower agreed to sell to the syndicate for $8,500,000. At the time, the deal was described as "the largest transaction in the way of a cash sale that has ever taken place."
Porter immediately reorganized the Minnesota Iron Company, mechanizing some of its operations, adopting underground mining, and developing the new Chandler Mine near present day Ely, where he built a new 21-mile rail spur. The company opened the Pioneer Mine in 1889, the Zenith Mine in 1892, and the Savoy and Sibley Mines in 1899. The Chandler proved to be the most productive of the firm's mines, yielding 7,027,830 tons between 1888 and 1901, which represented 43.9 percent of the Vermilion Range's output. The Vermilion Range was highly successful. From 1892 through 1952, the range produced at least one million tons annually, with the exception of only a few years. During 1902, its peak year, the various mines shipped a total of 2,084,054 tons.
The loading facilities at Two Harbors were improved in the early 1890s. The port handled more than a million tons of ore annually. Docks 3 and 4 were built at Two Harbors in l892 and 1893. Dock 5 was constructed two years later. By 1896, some 2,000 ships called at Two Harbors each year, and the tonnage had reached 2,000,000 tons. Docks 1 and 2 were rebuilt and lengthened in 1903 to accommodate the demands for more tonnage. The old wooden docks were replaced with three concrete ones in 1907, 1911, and 1916.
The Mesabi Range
Expeditions in the 1830s and 1840s brought back a general knowledge of northern Minnesota's geography, but it was David Dale Owen's survey between 1848 and 1850 that provided the first comprehensive details of the country. In the expedition's first year, the survey team recorded the ores around Vermilion Lake. In 1849, they found thin layers of ore at Gunflint Lake. Fur trader James Whitehead reportedly sank a shaft on the Mesabi Range near the present city of Grand Rapids in the early 1850s while representing St. Paul interests, but nothing is known of the enterprise. The Hanchett and Clark surveys of 1864 focused on Vermilion Lake. They referred briefly to deposits of magnetic iron north of Duluth but did not investigate its extent. Henry Eames found magnetic ores southeast of Vermilion Lake and at the Prairie River (the eastern and western ends of the Mesabi), but he was more interested in copper and gold, and attributed little value to the discovery. It was not until 1875, when Albert Chester investigated the region's minerals for Charlemagne Tower, that the Mesabi was examined again. Chester dismissed its importance because he had seen only the leanest of its ores at the eastern end of the Range. Because of the unfavorable Eames and Chester reports, the Mesabi remained undisturbed for another 15 years.
Christian Wieland of Beaver Bay, a member of Eames' 1865 expedition, was impressed with what he saw at the eastern end of the Mesabi. He approached Ontonagon and Duluth friends, who formed a syndicate in 1870 to explore the area and perhaps acquire land. Syndicate member Peter Mitchell searched the area, gathered samples, and dug test pits. In 1872, the group bought up 9,000 acres of land near present Babbitt. In 1875, they incorporated the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad Company to transport the ore they expected to find, but they failed to follow through on their scheme. Ultimately, the Minnesota Iron Company's Charlemagne Tower gained control of the railroad's charter and its land grants. Syndicate members then formed the Mesaba Iron Company in 1882 to develop their properties, but nothing came of it and they eventually sold off their lands.
The Lewis Merritt family of Duluth began searching northern Minnesota for minerals in 1888, after one of the family's seven brothers stumbled onto iron deposits near present Mountain Iron. They conducted systematic searches from the Canadian border to Grand Rapids on the Mississippi River, charting surface formations and recording places of magnetic attraction using compasses with dip-needles. Based on their observations, the Merritts acquired mineral lands through purchases and leasing. After four years, they had mapped out 500 square miles of Itasca, Cook, Lake, and St. Louis counties. They began excavating test pits at the most promising locations. On November 16, 1890, the Merritts' crew encountered the first body of soft ore on the Mesabi Range at present Mountain Iron. John E. Merritt in a speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the discovery of Mountain Iron recalled the discovery:
I remember just how beautiful that ore was, glinting blue there under the deep green of the pines. But I am unable to describe to you just what this No. 1 pit meant to us. It was a dream come true, the fulfillment of a hope long deferred, an urge to greater effort, a satisfying fact that nature had yielded to us the great secret she had guarded through all the ages.
Shortly thereafter, the Merritts found ore at Biwabik, McKinley, and other nearby locations, while other parties were making their own discoveries. Frank Hibbing searched farther west and found a rich ore body. He leased several large tracts and incorporated the Lake Superior Iron Company. The holdings of this firm later included the Hull, Rust, Mahoning, Burt, and Sellers Mines, which were eventually combined into the world's largest open-pit mine. The town which later bore Hibbing's name was called the "Iron Capitol of the World." In 1891, Hibbing discovered ore ten miles to the north and east, in what is now Chisholm.
Towns were founded all over the Range as new discoveries brought more mines, more companies, and more men into the region. Mesaba Station, Mountain Iron, Hibbing, and Biwabik were the first towns. Virginia was laid out in 1892, 20 miles east of Hibbing. It quickly earned the title of "Queen City of the Range." It was later to serve as headquarters for the Virginia & Rainy Lake Lumber Company, which ranked for a time as the world's largest white pine mill. Eveleth was platted in 1893, four miles south of Virginia. Author David Walker in Iron Frontier observed that:
In the first three years of the 1890s the major communities and many of the significant Mesabi mines were located through the efforts of hundreds of individuals. Capital had been raised, often within Minnesota, to finance exploration and begin mining operations, and the people who would make the region one of the most ethnically diverse in the United States had begun to arrive.
Faced with the problem of getting their Mesabi ore to market, the Merritts tried to convince existing Duluth railroads to build a branch to the Range, but they were met with disinterest. In February, 1891, the Merritts incorporated the Duluth, Missabe & Northern Railway Company. They worked out an agreement with the Duluth & Winnipeg Railroad to haul their ore from Stony Brook Junction (Brookston) to Duluth, and made plans to lay Duluth, Missabe & Northern tracks from the Junction to the mines, a distance of 48.5 miles. According to the ten-year pact, the Duluth & Winnipeg would "furnish and maintain at its own cost ... all necessary terminal facilities on Lake Superior ... including sufficient and suitable docks for the cheap and convenient handling of the iron." A usable portion of the dock was to be available by August 1, 1892. The Duluth & Winnipeg Railroad chose a dock site in Superior rather than at Duluth.
Before construction of the railroad began, the Merritts signed an agreement to lease their Biwabik property to Sharon, Pennsylvania, steelmaker Peter Kimberly, who agreed to mine at least 300,000 tons of ore annually at a royalty of $0.50 per ton. Three months later, the Missabe Mountain Mine near Virginia was leased to Henry W. Oliver of Pittsburgh. Oliver agreed to mine a minimum of 200,000 tons in 1893, and 400,000 tons thereafter, for a $0.65 per ton royalty. He organized the Oliver Iron Mining Company in September, 1892, to undertake the project.
The railroad connections between Allouez Bay and the mines were completed in October, 1892. On October 18, a special Duluth Missabe & Northern train with one ore car made the trip down the gentle grade to Duluth with the first Mesabi ore. The Duluth Evening Herald, recorded its lading as "twenty tons of dark brownish purple soft ore ... which assays a trifle better than sixty-five percent iron ... consigned to Leonidas Merritt." On November 11, the first cars crossed onto the new dock at Allouez Bay and dumped 198 tons of ore into the waiting Barge 102. The dock was only partially complete at the time.
By the Fall of 1892, the Merritts' Duluth, Missabe & Northern Railroad served almost all the working mines on the Mesabi Range. The Merritts were anxious to bring the greatest benefits of their success to the Duluth side of the harbor, as had always been their intent. Lon and Alfred Merritt sought financial support from Charles Wetmore of New York City, an associate of John D. Rockefeller, and vice-president of the American Steel Barge Company. Wetmore proposed that the Barge Company assist the Merritts in raising capital in exchange for the exclusive right to transport the Merritt's Mesabi ores for a period of 15 years. Lon Merritt signed the agreement with Wetmore on December 24, 1892. With new capital, construction of the rail lines and ore docks began early in 1893. The whole complex was ready for use by July, 1893. The 2,304-foot dock, largest on the Great Lakes, received its first ore on July 22, 1893.
The beginning of 1893 began as a banner year for the Merritt interests. Their combined enterprises controlled 116.83 miles of rail lines, as well as magnificent new loading facilities, 18 brand new locomotives, and 1,318 rail cars. During 1893, the Duluth Missabe & Northern Railroad hauled more than 500,000 tons of ore. By the end of 1893, however, the Merritts suffered terrible losses due to the unforeseen financial panic which engulfed the nation. Business reversals and bank failures touched off the disastrous Panic of 1893, which brought widespread layoffs and plant closures. The Merritts were badly overextended. Before the rail line and the dock were completed, they found themselves unable to get credit to purchase materials or to meet payrolls. According to Frank A. King in The Missabe Road: The Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway, "That they built well is not to be disputed; that they built too well may be argued; that they built too much too quickly soon became apparent."
In December 1892, John D. Rockefeller bought $500,000 worth of Duluth Missabe & Northern Railroad bonds. In July of the following year, Lon Merritt and Charles Wetmore approached Rockefeller for his direct support of the troubled Mesabi enterprises. An agreement was concluded whereby all of the Merritt-Wetmore properties were combined under the Lake Superior Consolidated Iron Mines. Rockefeller put up $2,000,000 to keep the enterprise in operation. As the depression deepened, the Merritts tried unsuccessfully to raise more money. With creditors pressing them on all sides, the brothers sought a buyer for their shares in the Consolidation, turning reluctantly to Rockefeller in December, 1893. They offered to sell him their stocks at $40 per share. Rockefeller declined. In January, the Merritts lowered their price to $10 per share. Rockefeller bought them out for $900,000.
In The Truth About Mr. Rockefeller and the Merritts, Rockefeller's aide, Frederick T. Gates, said:
The Merritts weathered the storm of '93, but in January, 1894, their Minnesota creditors, not Mr. Rockefeller, forced the Merritts to sell their holdings to whomsoever would pay the most money for them. It so happened that Mr. Rockefeller, having some knowledge of the Missabe Range and believing in its future value, was willing to pay more for the Merritt stocks than anyone else. For that reason alone, after offering their stocks widely to capitalists and iron magnates, the Merritts sold their holdings to Mr. Rockefeller.
A more sympathetic author, Paul De Kruif in Seven Iron Men asked:
When the Merritt brothers, some of them, sold their Consolidated stock to Rockefeller in January, 1894, what did it bring? ...Wasn't it all of $900,000? Yet the value of their ore properties...might be reasonably estimated at three hundred and thirty-three millions of dollars...
In 1896, Rockefeller leased all of his Lake Superior Consolidated Iron Mines properties to the Carnegie Steel Company. Before that, however, Rockefeller had begun improvements. The rail lines were overhauled and improved, and a second dock was built at Duluth in 1896. By 1899, the Duluth Missabe & Northern was short of dock capacity again, and a third dock, larger than either of the two earlier ones, was built. In 1899, the Great Northern Railroad acquired a line to the Mesabi Range. They also bought the old Duluth & Winnipeg docks on Allouez Bay in Superior. A second large dock was added there that same year. The Great Northern became a major Mesabi carrier. Numerous other changes were made to the mines, railroads, and docks between 1896 and 1901, resulting in greater efficiency and economy. Mesabi productivity grew from 436,938 tons in 1893 to 1,994,868 tons in 1896, reaching 3,888,941 tons at the turn-of-the-century. By 1900, tonnage from the Vermilion mines was 4,014,375. Within two years, however, the Mesabi would surpass the Vermilion in output and rank as the world's largest ore producer.
During the early days of the Mesabi's development, its ore was hauled in wooden freighters with consort-barges, or in the novel steel "whalebacks" built at West Superior, Wisconsin. These ships measured about 300 feet in length and could carry approximately 4,000 tons of cargo. Development of the Mesabi Range occurred concurrent with dramatic changes in shipbuilding technology. By the turn-of-the-century most new ships were steel 500-footers. The introduction of larger vessels revolutionized the carrying trades and made it possible to haul bulk cargoes at a fraction of the old rates. This contributed to the primacy of Lake Superior's mines, which by 1900 produced 75 percent of America's iron ore.
The methods of handling ore also changed. When the Minnesota ranges first opened up, "gravity-style" loading docks had proven their utility and were in general use. They superseded older, more labor-intensive methods of loading ships. Unloading on the lower Lakes was accomplished with steam-powered Brown hoists during the 1880s and early 1890s, but these required large gangs of dock workers to shovel the ore into the hoist's big buckets. Brown improved on the original designs, adopting a clamshell rig that could remove about 90 percent of the cargo mechanically. In 1899, George H. Hulett introduced a new unloader at Conneaut, Ohio, which could remove almost all the ore quickly and without manual labor. Each Hulett rig could unload more than 1,000 tons per hour.
Another economical feature of the Lake Superior iron ore trade was its ability to bring coal through the Lakes from Ohio ports on return trips. This made it possible to underwrite some of the costs of ore transportation. The first coal was shipped to the Head of the Lakes in the late 1870s. By 1887, the tonnage reached 1,000,000 tons annually. In the 1920s, coal receipts topped 12,000,000 tons per year, but then began a slow decline until they stopped entirely in the 1960s. Nevertheless, for many decades the coal market proved profitable for ore shippers.
In 1897, Rockefeller organized the Bessemer Steamship Company to carry ore from the Mesabi and Vermilion mines in which he held interests. He began to build modern ships of the largest dimension and contracted to carry Carnegie's ore as well as his own. In 1898, Henry Oliver, in cooperation with Andrew Carnegie, organized the Pittsburgh Steamship Company and built five large steel ore carriers to free them from dependence on Rockefeller's ships. By 1899, their fleet included eleven steamships and two tugs. They also had six more steamers under construction. Rockefeller's shipbuilding program was equally ambitious. In 1899, his Bessemer fleet included ten modern steamers and twelve steel barges. More were also building for that fleet. The rival Minnesota Iron Company, with its holdings on the Vermilion Range, had organized the Minnesota Steamship Company in 1887. By 1899, they owned nine steamers and seven consort-barges, though all were much smaller than the modern Bessemer and Pittsburgh ships. Competition grew between the industrial giants.
The Cuyuna Range
Iron ore was suspected in Aitkin and Crow Wing counties as early as the 1830s. Crow Wing lumberman Cuyler Adams mapped out magnetic deflections to locate iron, in the late l880s, but he was unable to interest backers due to the relatively low quality of the ore (20-30 percent iron) and the difficulty of transporting it. Adams formed the Orelands Mining Company in 1903. He leased land near Rabbit Lake in 1907 to the Rogers Brown Ore Company, which began mining operations at what became the Kennedy Mine. By the Fall of 1908, there were 34 different parties with interests in the new Range. Land values soared. The Cuyuna Range proved to be 68 miles long, with different ore types than the Vermilion and Mesabi Ranges. Most of the Cuyuna ore was sandy, containing 20-30 percent manganese. Most of the ore was buried under glacial drift from a few feet to 150 feet in depth. Unlike the ores of the Vermilion and Mesabi Ranges, Cuyuna ore required washing or concentrating at the mine sites before it could be shipped.
The nearest rail link to the Range was at Deerwood, where the Northern Pacific passed about six miles from the mine. The Soo Line was built from Deerwood to Cuyuna, Crosby, and Ironton in 1910. New ore docks were built on the Bay at Superior in 1913 for Cuyuna ore. Northern Pacific built rail lines into the Cuyuna in 1912. From a single mine, Cuyuna tonnage totalled 147,649 in 1911. By 1920, there were 29 mines on the Cuyuna Range, producing 2,191,528 tons. During World War II the United States was unable to obtain manganese ore from traditional sources in Russia and India. The demand for Cuyuna ore increased sharply during the next decades. Following a record 3,714,000 tons in 1953, Cuyuna production dropped. Mining ceased by 1977. Cuyuna ore was shipped from the Soo Line docks on St. Louis Bay in Superior, and from the Northern Pacific's docks on Superior Bay at the other end of town.
United States Steel Corporation
At the turn-of-the-century, a few large corporations dominated the United States steel business. The top three producers were Carnegie Steel, Federal Steel, and National Steel. Two of these three firms also dominated Minnesota mines.
The Carnegie-Rockefeller Lake Superior Consolidated Iron Mine Company had 34 working mines, including eight on the Mesabi Range and four on the Vermilion. The others were on the Marquette, Gogebic, and Menominee Ranges in Michigan. The company also controlled the Duluth, Missabe & Northern Railroad and its loading docks at Duluth. H.H. Porter's Minnesota Iron Company dominated the Vermilion Range and controlled three mines on the Mesabi. It also operated the Duluth & Iron Range Railway along with its facilities at Two Harbors. Minnesota Iron was bought out by Illinois Steel in 1896. It was reorganized as Federal Steel two years later and financed by banker J.P. Morgan.
The early 20th century brought recovery from the 1893 Panic. Markets for iron ore were stimulated, heating up competition between steel makers. J.P. Morgan held investments in several steel companies. He perceived that increased competition would ruin some of them. Therefore, he planned a colossal merger. Morgan bought out Carnegie's holdings for $492,000,000. Then he purchased Rockefeller's Lake Superior Consolidated Iron Mines, the Duluth, Missabe & Northern Railroad and the Bessemer Steamship Company, for $8,500,000 in cash and $80,000,000 in stock in the newly formed consolidation, United States Steel. In exchange for securities in the Corporation, Morgan eventually gained control not only of the Carnegie and Rockefeller operations, but also of Federal Steel, National Steel, American Bridge, American Sheet Steel, American Steel Hoop, American Steel & Wire, American Tin Plate, National Tube, and the Oliver Iron Mining Company. The assets of the Corporation included 78 blast furnaces and rolling mills, vast holdings of iron ore, coal, and limestone, over 1,000 miles of railroad, and a Great Lakes fleet of 112 ships. With the capacity to produce 7,400,000 tons of finished steel annually, the "Steel Trust" controlled three-fifths of the nation's steel business.
One firm which was not bought out by J.P. Morgan was James J. Hill's Great Northern Iron Ore Properties. Hill controlled 39,000 acres of land on the Mesabi Range, valued at $100,000,000 in 1907. United States Steel regarded Hill as a formidable rival, since his ore holdings were almost as extensive as the Corporation's. U. S. Steel leased Hill's properties in 1907 to gain control over his ore, paying royalties more than twice as high as on other leases. Great Northern became a major iron ore carrier, second only to the Duluth, Missabe & Northern.
The two mining railroads, Merritt's Duluth, Missabe & Northern, and Tower's Duluth & Iron Range, were both prosperous at the time of the merger. In 1901, the Duluth, Missabe & Northern controlled 72 miles of track between Duluth and Mountain Iron, with another 50 miles of spurs, as well as a sorting yard at Proctor, three large ore docks at Duluth, 37 locomotives, and 3,877 rail cars. The Duluth & Iron Range owned 68 miles of track between Two Harbors and Tower, as well as the 26-mile line to Duluth, a 21-mile link to Ely, and 30 additional miles of track to various Mesabi locations. The company also owned five docks at Two Harbors, 70 locomotives, and 3,635 rail cars. U.S. Steel did not consolidate the two railroads until 1938, though significant improvements were implemented immediately, including laying heavier track in selected sections, and replacing wooden docks with larger ones of concrete and steel. U.S. Steel's Pittsburgh Steamship Company fleet was upgraded with the sale of some of the older and smaller carriers and construction of newer, larger ships. The firm began with 112 ships acquired from eight different predecessors in 1901. Over the next ten years, four vessels were lost, 26 were sold, while 21 were built or purchased. Between 1911 and 1920 three ships were lost, 18 sold, and 18 built or acquired. The fleet never included a wooden ship.
With its enormous capital (authorized at $1,404,000,000) and extensive resources, United States Steel brought a high level of efficiency to the management of its Minnesota mining operations, and to the steel industry in general. Productivity increased dramatically as mining, rail transport, loading, shipping equipment, and milling operations were upgraded.
The Heyday of Minnesota Iron Ore Production
During the 1890s, Minnesota ore production reached 43,000,000 tons. Between 1900 and 1910, tonnage soared to 208,600,000, nearly five times that of the previous decade. From ports on Lake Superior and northern Lake Michigan, iron ore was transported on Great Lakes bulk carriers to Lake Erie ports, as well as to South Chicago, Illinois and Gary, Indiana on Lake Michigan. In 1910, iron ore comprised approximately one half of all bulk cargoes shipped on the Great Lakes. Mesabi tonnage during the 1890s was 13,900,000, while Vermilion Range output totaled 19,500,000 tons. The Cuyuna had not yet come into production. After the turn-of-the-century, Mesabi production surpassed the Vermilion. Vermilion tonnage averaged 8,000,000 tons annually through the 1930s, then climbed during the wartime years to 17,000,000 tons.
Mesabi production rose to more than 20,000,000 tons annually during World War I, and again in World War II, though it dropped to a fraction of that figure in the inter-war years. The two World Wars created enormous demands for steel for shipbuilding, munitions, and industrial expansion in the Unites States and Allied nations. During the war years, the Twin Ports expedited methods of cargo handling. In one 72-hour period, 77 vessels loaded at Duluth and Superior docks. Since World War II, demand has remained high, though the supply of ore has decreased. Mesabi output continues at approximately 20,000,000 tons per year. Vermilion production dropped steadily after a 1953 peak. The last Vermilion ore was shipped in 1963. Cuyuna production never attained the levels of the other Minnesota ranges. It averaged 1,000,000 to 3,500,000 tons until mining ended in the mid-1970s. Korean War production in 1953 consumed 21,500,000 tons of Vermilion ore, 28,000,000 tons of Mesabi ore, and 3,700,000 tons of Cuyuna ore.
Beneficiation of Ores
The demands of the wartime years led to eventual exhaustion of Lake Superior's richest iron ore reserves by the mid-1950s, although there remained enormous quantities of leaner ores which had not yet been tapped. As early as 1907, a beneficiation plant was built at Trout Lake on the western Mesabi Range for washing and concentrating low-grade sandy ores. In 1913, Professor Edward Davis of the University of Minnesota's Mines Experiment Station began developing techniques to extract iron from the hard taconite rock which covered much of the northern part of the state. By 1952, there were 68 beneficiation plants in Minnesota for crushing, washing, screening, and otherwise improving the quality of the ore. In 1946, the Reserve Mining Company developed a taconite mine at Babbitt and a processing plant at Silver Bay on the North Shore, utilizing Professor Davis' patented technique. A town was laid out for the company's employees. The plant began shipping concentrated taconite pellets in April, 1956. Most of the pellets were shipped out of Duluth-Superior and Two Harbors, but Silver Bay developed quickly as a major shipment point. A second port facility was built north of Silver Bay at Taconite Harbor in 1957. By 1970, only 34,000,000 tons of the 54,000,000 tons of taconite produced in Minnesota passed through the Twin Ports.
In 1965, processed taconite constituted one-fourth of the iron ore consumed in the United States and Canada. It soon became impractical to mine or ship the older high-grade ore, because the taconite proved so economical and so uniform. In 1967, taconite shipments surpassed those of natural ores. By 1979, there were eight taconite plants operating or under construction across northern Minnesota. Several of the existing ore docks were being modified to load the new pellets. The supply of processed taconite is expected to satisfy the needs of American industry for many generations to come. Through 1977, total United States output of iron ore was calculated at 5,400,000,000 tons. Mesabi's output amounted to 3,000,000,000 tons, or 58 percent of the whole.
Associated Water Craft
Not surprisingly, the iron ore business has resulted in numerous archaeological resources, both on land and in the waters of Lake Superior. From the earliest days of the Vermilion Range's production, accidents have occurred along the North Shore of Lake Superior, although the majority of the ships involved were recovered and returned to service. The tragic storm of November, 1905, claimed 78 lives and disabled or destroyed 18 ships, primarily at the western end of Lake Superior. Several of these ships were never salvaged; at least one was never found.
Most of those craft were iron ore carriers, although nearly all were in ballast at the time of their loss. The earliest Minnesota wreck connected with iron mining was the 65-foot schooner Charley, owned by the Wielands of Beaver Bay. Although the schooner was not engaged in the ore business, its owners were among the first Minnesota residents to purchase lands for mineral rights. The schooner wrecked at Beaver Bay on May 10, 1881. The small schooner Criss Grover was well known in Lake Superior mining towns as a "powder boat." Although it carried blasting powder regularly, the Criss Grover was enroute to Duluth for lumber when it was lost near Split Rock on October 24, 1899. The larger, 200-foot schooner Samuel P. Ely wrecked at Two Harbors on October 29, 1896, while entering port to take on ore. Its wreckage still lies where it struck the west pier during a storm. The steel whaleback steamer Thomas Wilson sank in a collision outside of Duluth harbor on June 9, 1902. It lies with its holds full of Mesabi ore in 70 feet of water. The wooden freighter Hesper, battered in a storm, sank north of Beaver Bay (at present day Silver Bay) on May 3, 1905, while it was enroute to Two Harbors for a cargo of ore.
The storm of November, 1905, drove several large steel steamers ashore in Minnesota waters. Most were ore-carriers. The steamer Mataafa wrecked on Duluth's North Pier early in the afternoon of November 29, taking nine men to their deaths. The Mataafa was salvaged the following spring and survived for another 66 years. The 500-foot steamers LaFayette, Crescent City, and William Edenborn all wrecked along the North Shore, along with the steel barges Madeira and Manila. The LaFayette and Madeira were total losses. The LaFayette left most of its hull at Encampment Island. The Madeira lies scattered around Gold Rock. The other vessels were laboriously salvaged. The wooden barge Amboy was lost in the same storm at Thomasville. Though it was engaged in the ore business, the Amboy carried an upbound cargo of coal when it wrecked.
The last total loss of an ore-trade vessel was the April 28, 1914, foundering of the 240-foot Benjamin Noble. The Noble was not an ore carrier, but it was hauling steel rails for the Great Northern Railroad when it plunged unexpectedly to the bottom. Its entire crew of 20 men went with it. More recent accidents have involved ore freighters, but none resulted in the total loss of the vessel.
Northern Minnesota Lumbering (1870-1930s)
Thick forests of pine, fir, spruce, cedar, birch, and aspen covered much of what is now northern Minnesota when the first Europeans arrived. Many years would pass before the forests were commercially exploited, despite the thriving lumber market in New England. Minnesota's woods were too far removed from the major markets to tap until several factors combined around 1890. The westward flow of migration and settlement, the exhaustion of Michigan's forest resources, and the comparative wealth of Minnesota's forests, finally led to the development of the region as the world's greatest producer of forest products, at least for a while.
When the LaPointe Treaty opened northern Minnesota to white settlement in 1854, speculators and investors were initially attracted by rumors of copper and gold deposits. The Sault Locks which were under construction at the lower end of Lake Superior also promoted Lake Superior settlement. Speculators pre-empted claims at convenient locations. Townsites were platted all the way from the Canadian border to the Head of the Lake at Duluth. While some of these settlements did succeed, the rich minerals never materialized, and the Panic of 1857 led to the abandonment of most claims. Some settlements had small sawmills to support local construction needs. Like the townsites, most of the mills shut down and disappeared after just a few years.
At Duluth, Superior City, and Beaver Bay, the sawmills found a growing market for their products. In the early 1860s, they began shipping lumber to other towns on the Lake, such as LaPointe, Copper Harbor, and Marquette. During the Civil War period, at least one local mill was shipping lumber to Cleveland. The industry still basically operated on a subsistence level, supplying purely local needs. When Marquette, Michigan, suffered a disastrous fire in June, 1868, it created a large demand for lumber. Construction of the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad in 1869 and 1870 also spurred the market.
By 1874, there were three steam sawmills, a planing mill, and a sash factory in Superior, as well as three steam mills and two planing mills in Duluth, and a water-powered mill at Beaver Bay. Southern needs were supplied by Minnesota pineries around Stillwater, St. Anthony's Falls, St. Croix, and Winona. Settlement of the Red River Valley, and concurrent building of the Northern Pacific Railroad to that region in the early 1870s, created a new market for northern Minnesota lumber. As a result, eleven mills were operating in Duluth and Superior by 1883, grouped largely on Rice's Point and Connors' Point inside the harbor. Construction of the numerous grain elevators in Duluth during the early 1880s required enormous quantities of lumber. Logs were rafted to the mills from the Nemadji and St. Louis Rivers, and from several nearby Lake Superior streams. The cut of the Duluth District for 1886 was 160,000,000 feet of lumber, of which one-third was cut in the mills.
By 1880, Michigan's lumber industry had logged off most of the white pine in the Saginaw, Muskegon, and Manistee valleys of the lower peninsula. Some of the largest operators bought timber lands in the upper peninsula, and in Wisconsin and Minnesota. They moved to Grand Marais, Marquette, Michigan, and Ashland, Wisconsin. By 1890, huge new mills were built in Superior and Duluth. Between 1885 and 1890, the total cut for Twin Ports' mills increased fifteen-fold.
With the arrival in Duluth of such major firms as Mitchell, McClure & Company and Merrill & Ring, some significant changes developed. The bulk of Duluth's shipments were no longer sent to the western markets by rail. They were shipped down the Lakes in steambarges with tows to Chicago, Buffalo, and Tonawanda, New York. The in-glorious little steambarges ("lumber hookers") often towing three or four lumber-laden barges across the treacherous lakes at six to eight miles an hour, were ripe for disaster from storms, fogs, or collisions.
In 1894, fifteen lumber mills were in operation in Duluth with 3,700 employees. Seventeen mills operated in Superior, employing 4,000 individuals. Duluth's cut that year exceeded 220,000,000 feet of lumber, and Minnesota ranked third in the nation for lumber production. By the late 1890s, most of the pine lumber along Lake Superior's south shore had already been harvested. The industry turned its' attention to the north shore. There, the logging was more difficult due to the height of the land, the deep gorges, and the frequent rapids and waterfalls. Firms operating on the north shore built railroads into the woods to get their logs down to the Lake. Then the logs were rafted down to the mills in Duluth. Before long, the north shore was criss-crossed with railroad lines.
Mitchell & McClure began rafting out of Castle Danger in 1890. The Schroeder Lumber Company of Ashland started shipping rafts from Cross River in 1892. Alger, Smith & Company built their headquarters at Knife River in 1898, extending their rail lines almost 100 miles into the woods. They rafted logs from Knife River and Pigeon River to Duluth until 1919. Merrill & Ring organized the Split Rock Lumber Company in 1899 to raft logs from the Split Rock River to Duluth. The estate of Thomas Nestor shipped huge rafts from Gooseberry River to Ashland, Wisconsin, and Baraga, Michigan, from 1900 until 1909. Many logs were brought to the mills entirely by rail, since the Duluth, Missabe & Northern and the Duluth & Iron Range railroads had direct links with much of northern Minnesota's woods. In 1902, 150 carloads of logs rolled into Duluth daily on the Duluth & Iron Range alone.
The turn-of-the-century marked the peak of Duluth's lumber industry, For a short time the harbor ranked as the world's greatest lumber market. In 1899, a record 940,000 tons of forest products (462,000,000 feet) left the port. Mitchell & McClure cut 54,000,000 feet. Merrill & Ring cut 51,000,000. Such an intensive cut rate could not be sustained for long. The industry began a steady decline after 1900 due to depletion of the forests, increased transportation costs, and growing competition from the Pacific coast and southern lumber industries.
Although the industry had begun to decline, the first years of the 20th century were the busiest ever for the north shore. Duluth's production averaged more than 400,000,000 feet annually until 1906. The north shore district produced a record one billion feet in 1902. The cut declined after that, dropping to 12,000,000 feet by 1924. The total volume of lumber shipped from Duluth between 1891 and 1924 was 7,722,452,000 feet, valued at $129,285,842.
In 1925, only one lumber mill remained in operation in Duluth, although lumber products continued to be shipped out of the harbor through World War II. Until the 1940s, pulpwood was cut for the paper industry at several north shore locations and rafted from the Gooseberry, Red Cliff, and Pigeon Rivers, Chicago Bay, and Sugar Loaf Landing to various mills. It is still shipped by rail and truck from all over the region.
Associated Water Craft
There are a number of sites along the Minnesota North Shore where pilings and cribs from old loading docks, rafting sites, log flumes, and dams may be preserved in Lake Superior's cold waters. Many sites can be seen from the air. Others have been located by sport divers. The remains of a small dam has been reported at Stewart River. Cribs from the old Alger & Smith dock at Knife River are still intact. There are steel rails lying in 40 feet or 50 feet of water off the Gooseberry River where they were once used to haul logs down to a rafting impoundment. The lumber steamer Belle P. Cross is wrecked very near the same location. Hundreds of pilings from the mills on the St. Louis River can be seen at low water. The 285-foot pulpwood carrier Harriet B lies submerged off of Two Harbors. There are also several tugs, steamers, and barges from the lumber era burned or sunk at Oliver, Duluth, Lester River, Knife River, Colvill, and Taconite Harbor. The Harriet B. is believed to be relatively intact. The Belle P. Cross was among the first of its kind.
Railroads and Agricultural Development (1870-1940)
Though the climate and geography of the Lake Superior region are not conducive to agriculture, one of the world's greatest grain ports is located on Lake Superior's western shores. Duluth-Superior harbor has ranked as America's greatest grain shipment port for many decades. It is still among the foremost. The port is only a trans-shipment point. The millions of bushels of grain handled there are grown far to the west in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Montana. From Lake Superior, the grain is shipped eastward to Buffalo and Erie.
When Minnesota's North Shore was opened to white settlement in 1854, a stable farm economy was already developing in the southern part of the state between the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. Some looked at the St. Louis River at the Head of the Lake and saw the potential for a great port. With the tide of migration across Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, they envisioned the movement of rich farm produce from warehouses to fleets of big ships docking at Duluth. The completion of the Sault Locks at the other end of Lake Superior promised to bring the ships of the world to Duluth's waterfront.
The Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad was chartered at St. Paul in 1857, ostensibly to haul grain from southern Minnesota to the yet undeveloped port of Duluth and then down the Lakes. It was hoped that grain traffic could be attracted away from the rail routes running Minnesota's produce eastward through Milwaukee and Chicago. A land grant to the State of Minnesota in 1864 encouraged construction of a rail link between St. Paul and the Head of the Lakes. William L. Banning of St. Paul, Minnesota, attracted Philadelphia financier Jay Cooke to the venture.
In 1866, Cooke invested in timber lands in northern Minnesota. In the next years, his Western Land Association acquired titles to 7,000 town lots around Duluth and 4,000 additional acres in the vicinity. Construction on the railroad began in 1867 at the southern end of the 160-mile line. Cooke erected great storage elevators in St. Paul and Duluth and committed his resources to diverting grain shipments to the Lakes route through Duluth. The railroad was completed in August, 1870. The "propeller" Winslow loaded the first wheat cargo from the railroad within the month. In October, the R.G. Coburn loaded the first wheat cargo from Duluth's newly completed Elevator A. The port was on its way to wealth and success. In Walter Van Brunt's, Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota: Their Story and People, early Duluthian, R.S. Munger recalled the exuberance of the day:
I left St. Paul, where I had been in business, in January 1869, and made the trip over the old military road in two days and three nights... At the time there were fourteen families in Duluth, and all gathered together in a little hamlet at the base of Minnesota Point... The Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad was building toward Duluth, and I was satisfied that the place had a future. My judgment was verified by events; by the 4th of July, 1869, there were 3,500 people in the place, and still they were coming.
In 1870, while the Lake Superior & Mississippi was still under construction, Cooke persuaded the Northern Pacific Railroad to build a line westward from Duluth to Moorhead. The new line guaranteed stable and permanent prosperity for the harbor and the infant community at the Head of the Lakes. Ironically, the effort to attract southern Minnesota grain failed. Within five years, however, the Red River Valley had been settled and was producing the finest wheat in the United States. Duluth was well situated and would soon be properly equipped for transporting the wheat to market. Its modern elevators with great storage capacity could load the largest ships on the Lakes speedily and economically.
In 1878, Canadian-born capitalist James J. Hill and others purchased the bonds of the bankrupt St. Paul & Pacific Railroad. They incorporated as the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba, and resumed railroad construction which had been halted by the Panic of 1873. By 1878, the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba had pushed across the Dakotas to Great Falls, Montana. It was renamed the Great Northern Railroad in 1889. By 1893, it reached Seattle, 1,816 miles from St. Paul. Theodore Blegen in Minnesota: A History of the State summarized the significance of railroad development:
The prosperity of railroads, as of the State, hinged on people. They opened lands, built towns, forwarded trade, and strengthened the economy. Railroads eased the conveyance of immigrants, gave jobs, sold land, conveyed goods to trading centers, carried products to markets, and helped people to keep in touch with the world they had left behind.
When the 16-foot deep Weitzel lock was built at Sault Ste. Marie in 1881, channels at Duluth were deepened accordingly. Ships could now be loaded much deeper than before, resulting in greater operational efficiency and a decrease in freight rates. Duluth gained a strong advantage over rival Lake Michigan ports. During the early 1880s, scores of new, larger vessels were constructed at Lakes shipyards to haul grain from Duluth's docks. In 1880, the largest grain carriers on the Great Lakes were under 260 feet in length with the capacity for about 80,000 bushels of grain. Ten years later, 320-foot steel ships with 120,000 bushel capacity were beginning to appear. By the turn-of-the-century, 500-foot steel giants had been developed with the capacity for up to 400,000 bushels. During that 20 year period, the efficiency of waterborne transportation dramatically increased. Freight rates dropped by 50 percent.
By the end of 1885, Duluth had eleven large elevators. Another was under construction across the bay in Superior. Eleven major railroads had connections with the port. Farms in the Red River Valley produced more than 56,000,000 bushels of wheat. More than one-fourth of it passed directly through Duluth-Superior Harbor. The Canadian lakehead ports of Fort William and Port Arthur were beginning their ascendancy as well, following completion of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. By 1910, the Canadian ports surpassed Duluth-Superior harbor. In more recent years, twice as much grain has been shipped from the Canadian ports as from the American ports. In 1891, Duluth operated 13 elevators and shipped 20,000,000 bushels of grain, mostly the famous hard spring wheat. Another ten elevators were in operation in Superior.
Grain production diminished somewhat at the turn-of-the-century. By 1909, however, wheat shipments at Duluth-Superior rose to more than 54,000,000 bushels with a value of $55,200,000. Between 1919 and 1935, the United States and Canada (exclusive of Russia and China) shipped one-third of the world's grain. Duluth-Superior harbor handled nearly 20 percent of all the grain that was shipped on the upper Lakes. By World War II, the Twin Ports operated 25 elevators with a combined storage capacity of 50,000,000 bushels. Just after the War, grain shipments set a record of 4,100,000 tons that would hold for the next 30 years.
Initially, flour milling developed as a significant part of the harbor's commerce in 1889. By 1895, no fewer than eight mills were operating in Superior, with two in Duluth. Railroad competition stiffened and tonnage dropped off after 1894. By the 1920s, shipments of flour from Twin Ports mills was negligible.
In 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway expanded U.S. grain markets overseas. Total shipments through the Seaway between 1959 and 1975 averaged 3,000,000 tons annually of which 38.5 percent went to international buyers. Expansion to foreign markets resulted in diversification of U.S. grain shipments. Barley, corn, and oats comprised 43 percent of the record 9,800,000 tons (396,400,000 bushels) shipped from the Twin Ports in 1973. In 1940, those products had accounted for just four percent of grain shipments. A record 5,300,000 tons of wheat were shipped in 1940, of which 1,500,000 tons were destined for markets abroad, and 2,400,000 tons for Canada.
Presently, 14 modern grain loading berths with ten different elevator systems operate in the Twin Ports. Annual shipments average 400,000,000 bushels (approximately 10,000,000 tons). Approximately 20 percent of the grain products arrive via trucks, while the remainder is still transported from the prairies by rail. The wheat is still largely produced in the Red Valley, though the farms no longer grow wheat exclusively, as they did in the post Civil War years. Today, the crops show greater diversification and include sugar beets, potatoes, soybeans, flax, and barley. The Twin Ports are expected to remain the grain capital of the American Great Lakes as well as one of the most important ports in the nation.
Associated Water Craft
Duluth is the only grain port on the Minnesota Lake Superior shore. There are no known terrestrial sites within this context, except at Duluth. No submerged components of historic grain docks are known at Duluth, with the single exception of portions of concrete and brick foundation work from historic Elevator A (1870), which lie along the shoreline at the foot of 4th Avenue East. The site has been disturbed by demolition and later use of the area as a scrap yard. Distinctive yellow bricks easily identify the site. Only one shipwreck in Minnesota waters, the steamer Onoko, is known to have been carrying grain at the time of its loss. The Onoko has enormous historical significance beyond its association with the grain trade. The Onoko was the first iron-built bulk freighter on the Great Lakes. It is prototypical of modern bulk carriers. The wreck of the Onoko sank in 200 feet of water approximately six miles east of Knife River in 1915. The Onoko was built for the grain trade. It reportedly earned a fortune for its owners with its enormous capacity and efficiency. Relatively little is actually known about the technology and methods of the ship's construction.
North Shore Tourism and Recreation (1870-1945)
In 1846, New York journalist John St. John in A True Description of the Lake Superior Country, Its Rivers, Coasts, Harbours, Islands, and Commerce wrote:
To the traveler...let me say a few words. Take a bark canoe, which two or three trials will make you at home in, for they are much easier to get the "hang" of than most persons suppose; go to the adjacent islands, run into the caverns and grottos which cannot be reached in any other way. If you are in pursuit of pleasure, whether lady or gentleman, you can find it in the Lake Superior region, provided you can be pleased with grand scenery, water-falls, lakes and mountains...
Travel in those days was not for the timid, but during the next decades, dozens of others would venture forth, encouraging city-dwellers and hay-fever sufferers to discover the unspoiled grandeur of Lake Superior country.
When the Sault Locks were completed in 1855, at least a dozen of the finest steamboats on the Lakes began service to Lake Superior ports carrying passengers and freight. In the first year, 149 steamers passed through the locks, carrying 8,295 passengers and 5,690 tons of cargo. Ships like the low-pressure, fast-sailing steamer Illinois, with its "new and splendid upper cabin," made "Grand Pleasure Excursions" from Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Collingwood, Ontario, and Chicago for all the principal ports around the Great Lakes on both the American and Canadian coasts. Some lines after 1870 went all the way down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal.
Besides the scenery, attractions at Duluth and the North Shore included agate hunting, tenting, "authentic Indian ceremonies," hunting, fishing, and carriage-tours. Travelers were offered a variety of gems and minerals, crafts, stereopticon views, and autographed photographs at "bargain prices." Few of the large steamers called at way-ports, but local boats ran up the North Shore, connecting tourists with hunting and fishing camps. Brook trout were caught in great numbers in the streams of the North Shore. The Superior Chronicle, July 24, 1855, advertised "Mackinaw boats and bark canoes ... provided with trusty crews, well acquainted with the North and South Shores and all the fishing points on the Lake," available "for Fishing and Pleasure parties."
During the 1860s, passenger ships arrived at Duluth on an average of three per day. The number increased during the 1880s and 1890s, while the size and capacity of the ships also grew. The Anchor Line built three 235-foot iron passenger liners in 1871 for the Duluth route. Anchor Line steamers India, China, and Japan, earned the sobriquet of "the Triplets." A round trip fare in 1880 cost $26. In 1893, James J. Hill's Northern Steamship Company built the 385-foot ocean style passenger steamers Northland and North West. Fast and luxurious, they were also the Lakes' first ships employed exclusively for passenger service. In 1911, the peak year, 80,000 passengers traveled to Lake Superior. After 1920, the number of passenger cruise ships diminished with the advent of "motor-cars." Very few cruise ships were still in service after World War II. The last of those, the South American, was retired after the 1966 season.
Scores of small coastal steamers, excursion boats, and ferries ran along the North Shore, primarily out of Duluth and Port Arthur, after the mid-1870s. The Duluth Lake Transportation Company operated the steamers Manistee and Metropolis at the western end of the Lake during the 1870s and 1880s. Holt's Line ran the Dove and Ossifrage to North Shore communities and Isle Royale. Singer's White Line ran up the shore and to the Apostle Islands with the Bon Ami and the Mabel Bradshaw in the 1890s. Booth's U.S. & Dominion Transportation Company operated several steamers connecting ports all the way to Sault Ste. Marie at the turn-of-the-century. All these lines provided passenger service on the local level.
The North Shore resort industry developed from the small passenger service running out of Duluth. Fisherman Charlie Nelson built a second-story addition on his Lutsen home in 1893 to house his frequent guests. During the last years of the 1890s, many of the visitors began returning as paying guests. Before long the hotel income was rivaling the profits from his commercial fishing. Ole Brunes of Chicago Bay (Hovland) found himself entertaining so many sports fishermen that it became profitable to offer boarding. He added on to his house and later built small cabins. By the turn-of-the century, there were cabins at Lutsen, Hovland, and Grand Marais.
Completion of the North Shore highway coincided with the decline of commercial fishing in the late 1920s. All along the shore, impoverished fishermen built cabins and resorts during the late 1920s and early 1930s, as more and more midwestern Americans began touring in private automobiles. Gooseberry Falls State Park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps personnel in the late 1920s. Split Rock Lighthouse became the nation's most-visited lighthouse. The highway system facilitated access to Boundary Waters sites such as Kabetogama, Namakan, and Kettle Falls, where major resorts have thrived since the 1920s.
Recreational boating followed quickly on the heels of North Shore tourism. Traditionally, canoes and small fishing skiffs, 12 feet to 16 feet, have been the most commonly used boats. Since the 1960s, however, larger powerboats and increasing numbers of sailboats are seen. A recent survey indicates that nearly half the boats employed on Lake Superior are sailboats with an average length of 27 feet. The average powerboat is 24 feet long. Thirty-nine percent of the boats in the sample were owned in Duluth-Superior. Fourteen percent were owned in the Twin Cities.
Adapted from the National Register's Multiple Property Documentation Form(MPDF) "Minnesota's Lake Superior Shipwrecks A.D. 1650-1945" by: Patrick Labadie, Brina J. Agranat and Scott Anfinson.
Minnesota's Lake Superior Shipwrecks
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