The early days of Mesabi Iron Range were rough and tumble. Men came first as traders, prospectors and lumberjacks. However, there were women who also came up to Northern Minnesota and they, too, worked at developing our Iron Range towns as more schools, libraries, churches and paved streets were built.

One of Hibbing’s early community leaders was Arthur Parks Silliman. Born in Minneapolis, he graduated from high school in Hudson, Wis., and went on to the University of Wisconsin. After college graduation in 1890, he attended the Houghton (Michigan) School of Mines.

While there, he heard about a large iron ore formation being found in Minnesota. He left school on his 25th birthday and traveled to Mountain Iron, Minn.

From there he walked 20 miles over the “execrable tote road” (his words) to Hibbing, which was just in its early development. Hired by Frank Hibbing to survey the area, legend says he was the only engineer to have a transit — and his was a borrowed one.

The following is part of an article published in the Hibbing Daily Tribune on Nov, 19, 1980. It was written by then-editor Al Zdon based on research shared by the Silliman family.

Arthur had met a young woman named Emma A. Arnold. This story is a reminder to us that people met, fell in love, courted and married, and all without any electronic media.

~ Mary Palcich Keyes

A.P. Silliman, always called “A.P.” by his friends but “Arthur” by Emma, was an engineer. Silliman was the son of an old Baptist family by way of Connecticut and New York State. He found his niche on the early Iron Range as a consulting engineer and chemist for the New York & Missabe Iron Company and its successor the Lake Superior Consolidated Iron Mines.

His friends and contemporaries were the pioneers of the Minnesota iron mining industry: the Merritt Brothers, Frank Hibbing, Edmund J. Longyear, A.J.Trimble, John Hearding and many others.

In 1900, he went into business for himself with a log cabin office in old North Hibbing. He helped engineer the Hull-Rust complex and many of the other great mines that supplied America’s iron ore needs.

Emma Frances Arnold arrived in Hibbing in the fall of 1900 to be the teacher of the first grade at the East Center Street School. Her parents were immigrants from Bismarck’s Germany, staunch Lutherans, who settled in Mankato.

Cupid’s arrow struck the young couple during the summer of 1901, and by October, when Emma had returned to Mankato, letters show the development of their relationship. Emma wrote to Arthur:

Oct. 7, 1901

My dear lover,

Your dear and most excellent letter with the revised plan of the upper floor of our home was received Tuesday and indeed it was a great comfort to me. If you had been here I would have given you several good kisses, but since you are not, I’ll send the most affectionate kind of kiss.

Everyday you grow dearer to me and in every letter I seem to understand you better and better.

What you said about President McKinley was fine and every word was true. Mr. and Mrs. McKinley’s tender devotion to each other and kind thoughtfulness of each other ought to help every family and especially married people.

A.P. was busy constructing their home at 430 E. Mahoning St. They shared plans and designs for the home through their letters.

On Oct. 10, 1901, Emma wrote again from Mankato:

Our lawn has been recently clipped and looks fine. It has rained again, but we have had no frost and the vine on the porch is blossoming and the blossoms are so fragrant.

Tuesday we canned two crates of large blue plums. Through the kindness of friends, we got them for 50 cents a crate. Four quarts fell to my lot, so dearest, we now have 56 quarts of fruit – enough to last all winter and summer.

Emma wrote of different colors of paints the house should be covered with, about furnishings and all the other details of the new home. In that letter she also named the date of the marriage, Dec. 26, in Mankato. She hopes that Arthur will be able to appreciate the German cooking, and she compliments him on his remarks about an evil vice:

I was glad to have you say what you did about smoking. While, dearest, I do not want to oppose anything that adds to your enjoyment and comfort, yet I feel that smoking is not good for you and I am going to give you a dear loving kiss for trying to stop.

A.P. wrote back Oct. 24, 1901, with a plan to rent out the upstairs of their soon-to-be-completed home to a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Ahbe, just moved to Hibbing with no place to stay:

He comes down here to open a mine about 5 miles east of here near Mr. Longyear’s camp.

Arthur tells her that the Ahbes will be willing to pay $20 a month rent, and also that Mrs. Ahbe is the adopted daughter of D.D. Kinney of Duluth:

Mr. Kinney is interested in banking on the Range and mining.

Kinney later founded the Village of Kinney.

A.P. then goes on to tell dear Emma of the success so far in his new business:

Say, dearest, I made $30 a day all by my lonesome for about 4 days last week. How’s that? If everyday was like that, we would live on the top shelf, wouldn’t we?

He goes on to tell her of the difficult time the city is having in constructing a sewer line to their house and how the workmen “encountered the worst nest of boulders you could imagine.” The 6-foot ditch later filled with water and caved in, he wrote.

The sewer line was eventually completed, and so was the house.

A.P. traveled to Mankato to celebrate Christmas with the Arnold family, and he and Emma were married in the living room of the old homestead the day after Christmas 1901.


The Sillimans eventually had six children. He surveyed and laid out the area of Brooklyn on land he owned. He oversaw the street layout there, along with the sewer and water lines. As the family grew, he and Emma decided to build a large house in Brooklyn. It still stands proudly there today.

Emma died in 1946 and Arthur in 1964. Both are buried in the North Hibbing Cemetery, true Hibbing pioneers.


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.


May 24, 1918

Changes in the staff of the Oliver Iron Mining Company were announced today. W.F. Pellenz, superintendent of the Kerr mine at Hibbing, is made superintendent of the Fayal mine at Eveleth. F.R. Mott, superintendent of the Rust mine at Hibbing, is transferred to Virginia.


Oct. 17, 1923

Now if the nation could only take as much interest in the fall political campaign as it has taken in the World Series, a good many political problems might be settled. (Taken from editorial column)


Nov. 10, 1958

On Thursday, Nov. 27th, the Union Thanksgiving Day service will be held at the Wesley Methodist Church at 10 a.m. with the Rev. Kaltenbach delivering the sermon. Also, two student assistants at the church delivered their first sermons last week. Last Sunday, James Coombes preached the sermon at the morning worship and Konrad Laltenbach, son of Rev. and Mrs. G.A. Kaltenbach, preached his first sermon at the Sturgis, Michigan, Presbyterian Church.


Nov. 3, 1964

The New York Stock Exchange and most other major securities, commodity and mercantile markets in the United States were closed today, election day. A notable exception was the Chicago livestock market, which remained open.


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