The serious business of moving a town

One hundred years ago, Hibbing was in the serious business of moving a town. The Colonia Hotel, seen here, was heading south. It began the trip on August 24, 1920, and was still on the wheels on September 17, 1920. Smaller buildings made the trip much more quickly. Looking at pictures of the move reminds us of the ingenuity and hard work that went into this move. From the time a building was approved to move, through the moving process, to the time it was placed on its new foundation, the intelligence involved was impressive. What a history our town holds!

A new year is beginning! And not only a new year, but also a new decade!

Joe and I thank you for reading the Years of Yore page throughout the past year. We hope it has been as interesting and fun to read as it has been for us to create it. Best wishes to you and yours throughout 2020!


One hundred years ago, the town of Hibbing was about to embark on a truly momentous new decade – the decade that saw the town begin to move lock, stock and barrel!

The new town site was carefully planned. By the first week of 1920, the Oliver Iron Mining Company and their powerful District Manager, Michael Hogan Godfrey, “the man who moved Hibbing,” announced that building contractors with headquarters in Minneapolis, C.F. Haglin & Sons, had been awarded a contract for at least ten new buildings in the new town. 1920 was shaping up to be remarkable.

Now, 100 years later, in 2020, “Years of Yore,” will often include stories about what was happening in Hibbing as the town began its move. So many changes were occurring in our town. For the people who lived here in those years, they watched a remarkable happening take place. In some engineering textbooks, the move of Hibbing is considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th Century!

In the past 100 years, the Hibbing Daily Tribune has often published brief articles or just a sentence or two about early events in Hibbing. As we begin a new year, here are some of those facts gathered together to get everyone ready for the anniversary of the beginning of the great move.

~ Mary Palcich Keyes

Long before there was a Hibbing, the St. Paul Pioneer & Democrat newspaper, in 1859, observed that it was a “cold, bleak and inhospitable region” up this way.

Frank Hibbing entered this district in 1892 and discovered valuable ore deposits. The following year, a town-site was platted and the Village of Hibbing was incorporated. From then on, the story of this town is one of astonishing progress.

Included in the original incorporation of Hibbing in August 1893 were the following mines: part of the Mahoning, part of the Rust, Penobscot, part of the Northern Pacific holdings, the Sellers, Burt, Pool, Day, Laura, Morris, Webb, Susquehanna, Boeing, Philbin and a part of the Longyear.

Mrs. Charles Gourdette was the first person who died in Hibbing after incorporation. She died in the autumn of 1893 of typhoid fever, a rare disease in the area in those years. There was no cemetery at that time and so the coffin was carried on a path that joined Hibbing to the Leighton lumber camps. In the woods, forty rods (one rod, a surveyor’s tool, equals 5 ½ yards) off the trail, a cemetery was staked off.

The Hibbing Sentinel (Hibbing’s first newspaper) on February 8, 1894, reported: “We are pleased to record the fact that the Hibbing Waterworks plan is a success. Within two weeks men will be working on the reservoir.”

In that same issue was this sad information: “James H. Norton, the carpenter who built the McGuire Building on Center Street and later froze his feet so badly near Wolf that he was taken to a hospital in St. Paul, died there Tuesday morning.”

In the Sentinel on March 15, 1894, citizens learned that “The bank building is ready for occupancy and will be opened as soon as the vault arrives.” This was Hibbing’s first bank which at the time was called the Bank of Hibbing. It would later be known as the Lumbermen’s and Miners’ Bank.

The Sentinel also reported, on June 30, 1894, “R.F. Berdie commenced the work of grading Pine Street this week, and a rocky job it is, too!”

On July 14, 1894, the Sentinel was proud to announce that “the largest ore body in existence is right here at Hibbing, and consists of an entire Section, three forties. We refer to the Mahoning Iron Company’s property.”

It was a year later, August 1895, that the Sentinel announced the publication of a State of Minnesota census bulletin. The newspaper reported to its readers that “Hibbing is in the list with a population of 1,085.” It added, “Since the census figures were sent to the State, Hibbing has gained fully 300 more individuals.”

The next year, on New Year’s Day 1896, the newspaper said that Hibbing was greeting the year with the “grand opening of the Fountain Theater” and a new medic in town, “Dr. M.H. Manson from Minneapolis.” Also noted was that D.C. Young and Daniel Akerbund were “going to erect substantial business blocks.”

One month later, February 1896, the newspaper reported the news that Hibbing’ new hostelry, the Hotel Hibbing, was formally opened on Washington’s birthday and that the invitations to the event read in part: “Ye aire commanded to repaire in persone — clad I purple linen – to ye sacred precincts of ye hotel on Saturday nite, ye month of February, ye twenty-second day, at early kandle lite.”

It was the proud duty of the Sentinel to proclaim a year later, on February 6, 1897, that Hibbing had a band. In outlining the organization, the article said, “There is some excellent material in the following membership – John Haapassari, leader, Jack Rando, E. Castran, John Johnson, John Wirkkala, Oscar Bay, Matt Kangas, John Kartio, Eric Supola, John Petry, Matt Jacobson, Gust Jarvi, August Natson, Albert Adams, Weljam Lergger, Alex Beckman, John Huckla, John Bock, Herman Johnson, Gust Riotsa, Gust Lippi.”

Hibbing’s Bell Telephone system was started in 1900 by W.J. Power, a Hibbing attorney, mayor, and brother to another mayor, Victor Power. The Company was first known as the Northern Electric Company. In 1901, the system was sold to the Iron Range Telephone Company. The Northwestern Telephone Exchange acquired controlling interest in 1918 and merged with the Mesaba Company in 1919.

When an old-time lumberjack was found dead by the roadside near the Mahoning Mine in 1908, the Sentinel said this in its headline: “Rattle His Bones Over the Stones, He’s Only a Pauper Whom Nobody Owns.” The account explained that the old fellow “had been on a carousal” before his death, although that really does not explain that headline!

The following year, on October 20, 1909, The Hibbing Tribune reported: “The first garage on the Range has been completed, and one of the finest housing places for automobiles is now established on Pine Street.” The garage belonged to the Mesaba Auto Company.

In November of 1909, the Hibbing Tribune, in company with the rest of the nation’s press, was worried by the rumor that President Teddy Roosevelt had been killed while hunting in Africa. The rumor was false.

In 1910, the Iron Age Newsletter reported that the “Hull-Rust Mine at Hibbing, operated by the Oliver Iron Mining Company, broke the world’s record for a single mine. It shipped 3, 039, 911 tons in 1909.

Apparently there was only one way to erase a disorderly district – burn it! The Tribune in April, 1910, reported : “Since the purchase of all property within the city limits north of the tracks and east of Fourth Avenue by the Oliver Iron Mining Company, there have been a number of shacks on the east end of Pine Street recently tenanted by a number of men who have been keeping bachelor quarters there. Of late they have become a public nuisance, indulging in brawling, shooting, and general rioting on a small scale. Their actions have become so annoying that Special Officer Harry Cole of the Oliver Company has been instructed to notify the men to vacate the premises, and the shacks will then be burned.”


Looking Back

The following items are taken from the Hibbing Daily Tribune or the Mesabi Ore, which are on microfilm at the Hibbing Public Library and/or Iron Range Resource Center at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.


October 21, 1941

A small start on one of the largest criminal calendars was made this morning at opening of the October term of district court. Between 20 and 24 criminal arraignments were made today with three entering a plea of guilty and given sentences of six months plus parole.


August 14, 1953

Three cots will be available at the St. Louis County Fairgrounds for use in emergency illness, it was disclosed today. Two of the cots will be located in the 4-H Building, with the third in the Education Building.


July 2, 1960

Members of the Chisholm Chamber of Commerce are reminded that the semi-monthly meeting will be held on July 11. The luncheon meeting will begin at noon in the O’Neil Hotel. Important business is slated and officers have planned a program for the session.


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