To celebrate Hibbing’s 125th birthday, the Hibbing Historical Society devoted its most recent newsletter to celebrating several of the oldest businesses in town.
The following article was researched and written by Erica Larson Zubich, Historical Society museum curator, and Linda Suihkonen, Society board member and museum volunteer. Among their sources was Jeff Douville, grandson of W.C. Barrett, who provided them with much material for their article.
Hibbing is lucky to have several long-time businesses and to also have people who appreciate the wonderful history in our town.
~ Mary Palcich Keyes
Seated in a shay drawn by one “hoss” which clopped over rutty roads leading to the infant village of Hibbing, Mr. W. C. Barrett arrived here from Mountain Iron in the fall of 1893. He was accompanied by his wife, the former Mary E. Hurley, whom he had married on June 21 of that year in Turtle Lake, Wis.
The Barretts lived in a three-room wooden structure. Neighbors included Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Haley and Mr. and Mrs. B. O’Rourke. “Walking the plank” was a daily occurrence for these pioneer residents as they had to keep their feet on wooden boards to avoid stepping ankle deep into oozing mud in their swampy yards.
One of the earliest businessmen of this city, Barrett opened a livery stable on the corner of Second and North Streets in 1893. According to a 1981 interview with John Dougherty, the Barrett Livery at one time had over 100 horses which were loaned out to businesses, loggers and mining companies.
Barrett, “Billy” to his friends, also worked as an agent for the Fitger’s Brewing Company. As a sideline, Mr. Barrett had the agency for the delivery of ice to Hibbing’s earliest pioneers. Twenty families were customers for this first refrigeration service.
Then, in 1895, according to a document written by Barrett himself, he entered the undertaking business and had three horse-drawn hearses — one gray, one black and a small white one for infants.
John Dougherty stated that Barrett had the first telephone in Hibbing which is confirmed in the Mesaba Telephone Directory dated October 1904. Callers just had to tell the operator to ring “number one.” According to John Dougherty, Barrett’s Livery and Undertaking Parlors also had the first motorized hearse north of Chicago.
In 1909, Thomas R. Dougherty joined W. C. Barrett Livery and Undertaking. A fire destroyed the livery barn and many of the horses in 1914. Three years later, Barrett retired and Dougherty entered into partnership with Barrett’s son, Russell.
In 1921, when all of Hibbing was on the move to the south to make way for mining operations, the firm relocated to 1925 Fifth Avenue East, across from the Immaculate Conception Church. Then on Jan. 1, 1925, T. R. Dougherty purchased the Barrett interest and later, in 1934, the Dougherty Funeral Home moved to its current location of 2615 First Avenue. The present building, the former Morton Mine office in the Kerr Location, was moved to its present location in South Hibbing and the funeral home moved into it.
Included in the historical society’s collection is an invoice from the T. R. Dougherty Funeral Home dated Oct. 24, 1935. A list of services provided were: a casket, embalming, barber-work, hair-dressing, washing and dressing the remains, folding chairs, catafalque, prayer rail, candles, candelabrum, door badge, gloves, hearse, pallbearers coach, transportation and flower delivery for a total cost of $180.
In 1956, T. R. Dougherty’s sons, John and Joe purchased the business from their father. Just three years later, a fire burned out the inside of the funeral home, which was then repaired, expanded and remodeled. The building was further remodeled in 1974.
John has authored “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep: Vignettes from the life of a small-town funeral director,” in which he celebrates the funeral industry in an immigrant-rich mining culture from an era now past.
Today, Dougherty’s is owned by T. R. Dougherty’s grandsons, Patrick Dougherty and Christopher Dougherty, both licensed funeral directors. Chris’s son, Brennan, is the fourth generation to follow the family tradition at Dougherty’s in Hibbing. They are joined by Jeffrey Douville, also a licensed funeral director and a grandson of W. C. Barrett.
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.
Oct. 16, 1912
The Misses Ethel and Margaret Slattery and Miss Louise Whyment, students at the Hibbing high school, had a rather unpleasant experience last evening when they found themselves locked in the building at 6 o’clock to study. Last night the janitor forgot them and left the building locking all the doors. They did not discover their plight until nearly 6 and were compelled to use some strategy to call attention to their unfortunate predicament and be liberated.
July 7, 1953
Northliner, the North Central Airlines publication, has a story on “See the Big Hibbing Mine,” describing the Hull-Rust-Mahoning pit. The airline makes three flights over the big pit in daylight and one at night.
July 27, 1960
A.A. Koskinen, president of the Security State Bank, showed the public the new electronic bookkeeping machine recently installed at the bank to provide faster and more accurate data computing. The machine, along with previously used machines, representing 1930, 1940 and 1950, is on display at the bank all week.
July 16, 1970
The Circle H Riding Club will hold its monthly meeting today at 7:30 p.m. at the Circle H club house on Highway 37. Reports on the last two playdays will be given. Further plans will be made for the August horse show with committees to be selected.