The Ely Miner

Ely miner (Ely, Minn.) 1895-1986 Browse the title

In 1865, gold found on Lake Vermilion in Saint Louis County, Minnesota, spawned a gold rush to the region. Although the amount of gold found proved insignificant, miners discovered an abundance of iron ore, leading to the development of the iron mining industry in north central Minnesota. The Vermilion Iron Range, spanning Tower, Minnesota to Ely, Minnesota, was developed in the 1880s, and the Mesabi Range, spanning Babbitt, Minnesota to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, followed in the 1890s. Before the development of these ranges, the Ojibwe people occupied this land; “Mesabi” is an Ojibwe word meaning “giant mountain”. The iron mining and lumber industries attracted unskilled workers and immigrants from Scandinavia, Canada, Ireland, Finland, Slovenia, Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Wales, Croatia, Austria, and Italy to this area.

The Ely Miner debuted on July 24, 1895. Founded by Peter Schaefer, it was published in Ely, Minnesota, a town located in northeastern Saint Louis County. Ely became an iron and lumber shipping point through the Duluth, Mesabi and Iron Range Railway. Schaefer had previously worked for the Vermillion Iron Journal and the Ely Iron Home, and his leadership in the newspaper field made him known as the “nestor of the journalistic fraternity of the Minnesota ranges.” Schaefer operated the Miner as an eight-page, politically Republican newspaper, published weekly on Wednesdays. It aimed to print “all the mining, local, land office, lumbering and other news that will come within our notice.” Agricultural and horticultural advice columns and personal and political news from a local to international scale were also featured. In 1901, the Miner’s printing office was expanded and a new gasoline engine and job press installed. Publication switched to Fridays at this time. By 1907, the Miner was officially registered as a mining newspaper.

Schaefer, and the Miner, expressed hostility to organized labor and pro-labor action on the Iron Range. In 1907 Mesabi Range miners organized the first major mining strike in Minnesota, protesting poor wages and working conditions, and ethnic discrimination. An article in the Miner’s July 26, 1907 issue reports an anti-strike meeting of miners and businessmen (including Schaefer) who viewed the strike as a symbol of the “red flag of anarchy,” and reprints this group’s list of anti-striker resolutions. During the Mesabi Iron Range Strike of 1916, coordinated by the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), one Miner headline read: “Not Wanted Here: Vermillion Range will not tolerate I.W.W. Agitators and will keep them out if possible.”

While editor of the Miner, Schaefer also served as the city clerk of Ely for three years and as a deputy clerk of the district court. In 1898, George Wescott, editor of the rival Ely Times, filed and won an injunction preventing Schaefer from securing the city printing contract, due to Schaefer’s affiliation with the local court. Schaefer operated the Miner until his death on October 26, 1944. The Ely Miner continued publication until 1986 when it folded.