Reading the memoirs of people who grew up in mining locations on the Iron Range never gets old for me. I do hope that readers of this page enjoy those stories, too, as I have a couple more to share today.
Since it is the beginning of the school year, the following memories include details about Webb Location and its school.
The Hull-Rust Mine View had to close in the fall of 2017 due to mining activities. In the final years of that mine view, visitors there saw a lot of mining activity going on where the Webb Location and its mine used to be located to the far right or east from the mine view.
Work in Webb area over the past few years revealed the timbers that framed the long-ago shafts (the vertical columns) and drifts (the horizontal tunnels) of the Webb mine. When the wonderful new mine view is open, visitors will be very close to where the Webb Mine was located.
~ Mary Palcich Keyes
This first article is one of several memoirs published in the Hibbing Daily Tribune, Dec. 6, 1992. It was submitted to the newspaper by Elizabeth Muhar of Hibbing. In the article she mentions that the Webb School had “rooms upstairs for teachers to live.” This area is called a “teacherage” and it was common for location and country schools to have these rooms for teachers.
Our school had four rooms. Each teacher taught two grades except for kindergarten. Teachers were Beatrice Prince (kindergarten), Clara Stavn (fifth and sixth), Helen Erspamer (third and fourth) and Miss Harvey (first and second). They were all wonderful. I also remember a Minnie Erickson. She married a Van Munter. She taught tap dancing and perhaps other things. There were also rooms upstairs for teachers to live.
Every Tuesday was bank day. We were all taught how to save. We mostly had two or three pennies and also a bank book. My father was a janitor at the school. Hot soup was delivered every day at noon. Mondays was tomato soup and Fridays corn soup. I remember those two because I didn’t like them.
Games were played including baseball, duck-on-the-rock, ante-ante-I-over and roll hoops. We made our cross for the hoops out of lath sticks. We had our own skating rink. We used to go down to the pit and ride the pushcart on the tracks, swim in the Butler pit and catch pollywogs and frogs.
These were the Depression years. We all worked in the garden. My father picked mushrooms. We cleaned a gunny sack full of the mushrooms. My sister and I would bring them to town for prominent people. We had potato gardens in the Nassau Location. Everybody in the family worked these. Also, berry picking time meant all day work. Wash tubs had to be filled with berries before leaving.
Living in the locations was great. People were kind. Everyone helped each other. My mother died in 1928, leaving my dad with four children, the oldest being six. The people with the largest families always had time for us. When pigs were butchered and sausage made you always found neighbor helping neighbor.
We learned to get along with all nationalities. Discipline was strict and you never talked back. By today’s standards, our discipline would be called child abuse. In school, the teacher was the boss and you never came home and complained.
Economically, although I never thought about it at the time, I guess we were considered poor. We were the only ones with no indoor facilities. We carried our drinking water from the boiler house at the mine. On wash days, the workers in the laboratory let us run a hose through the pantry window to fill the machine with hot water. We used to pick coal on the tracks for the stove. We lived in a big, cold house. Our water used to freeze in the pails. There was one heat register in the hallway that heated the upstairs.
We left the location Oct. 4, 1942, the first time we had running water and an inside toilet. My father taught us values. He preached education and respect to others. He sewed our clothes and knitted many slippers and mittens for the teachers and other people. He sent three of us to college. He worked hard, but he never let on that things were tough — we always had food on the table.
Life on a mining location
The following article is part of a series of essays donated to the Hibbing Historical Society from the Hibbing Parks and Recreation Department. Oral histories were collected and incorporated into these essays by an unknown author. This section of a longer essay concerns the Webb Location.
From ex-Hibbingites, Mrs. John Maney and her daughter, Mrs. Patricia Kolu, we glean an insight into a typical, fascinating cross-section of the Iron Ranges known as Webb Location. The Webb was situated on the northern edge of the Big Pit, only about three-quarters of a mile from North Hibbing as the crow lies, but 2.8 miles away by the public road, winding around the giant man-made canyon.
Mrs. Maney, widow of Captain Jack Maney, superintendent of the Webb for over 30 years, had lived much of her life on locations, beginning on the western Mesabi, moving to Shenango near Chisholm, and finally to the Webb. Her daughter Patricia spent her entire pre-college life as a “Webb Location kid.”
The Webb community was comprised of a cluster of houses constructed, owned and maintained by the Shenango Furnace Company near the Webb Mine shaft. Most structures were similar, though the homes assigned to higher ranking employees were somewhat larger and equipped with more conveniences. The rents were nominal and the utility services generous.
The community was the typical melting pot. Side by side lived Irish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Italian and Slovenian families.
In addition, a company boarding house was provided for the single men. An expert in cuisine, Mrs. Doyce, provided the meals. A rare privilege for a location child was being taken to dinner at Mrs. Doyce’s table with its seemingly infinite variety of delicious home-cooked foods.
The company was conscious of the location dweller’s welfare. A location school was provided for the elementary grades, and children from the Laura, Pool, Morris and Nelson communities shared this facility. The older children were bussed to schools in the Village of Hibbing. The Webb School was the hub of community activities, a rallying spot for dances, picnics and an extremely active baseball team. The teachers resided in a teacherage upstairs from the classrooms.
In the winter the company flooded and maintained an outdoor skating rink for children and elders; family skating was a commonplace recreation. Christmas, indeed, was a memorable event, featuring a giant outdoor Christmas tree trimmed with colored lights around which stood virtually the whole population singing Christmas carols. Small gifts were presented to all the children by a local Santa Claus.
In the spring, a May Day celebration was held in the superintendent’s house yard, with school children dancing around the Maypole and the parents hanging over the fence doting in admiration.
Life was surprisingly harmonious in this multinational settlement. Occasionally Captain Jack would be called upon to settle some dispute, but since this Irish mining superintendent could speak some Swedish, Finnish and Slovenian, misunderstandings could be ironed out.
The women often exchanged their culinary secrets. One Italian miner’s wife could make the most delicious spaghetti and meatballs and the Slovenian women would show others how to make the delicacy potica. One could go on indefinitely with these epicurean delights.
All in all, resident after resident regretted the ultimate movement of both miners and homes to the more formalized villages.
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.
September 4, 1958
From column entitled “Footnotes” by Pauline Walle:
It’s out of jeans and back to school. Down from the treehouses and out of the dollhouses. Back from the lake and into the classrooms. For the teens, it’s back into a social world that’s highly organized. For collegiates, it’s a “brave new world” that is more than books and book learning. College is people. It’s a stepping-off place we never quite come to again. We have to look around and absorb some of the extras.
July 13, 1960
Initiation of new members will be conducted at the meeting of the World War One Auxiliary Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Serviceman’s Quarters of the Memorial Building. All signed up members are urged to attend this initiation. The charter will be closed at this time. Members are asked to bring lunch sufficient for three people.
July 21, 1971
The Hibbing High School Band, under the direction of James Baldrica, is continuing its busy summer program promoting Hibbing. “If you’ve been awakened to the familiar strains of ‘Sunny,’ it’s been the band’s 100-plus members practicing their marching on the side streets at 8:30 in the morning,” Baldrica reported.