125 years of iron ore from Hibbing’s Mahoning mine

At sunrise on Friday, July 3 workers raised a 44-star American flag at the edge of the the Hull Rust Mahoning Pit in Hibbing. The historic flag commemorated the day in 1895 when the first shovel lifted iron ore from the Mahoning Pit. “That open pit of course started with a single scoop of ore… Read More →

Same letters, new words

In June of 1998 I covered Legion baseball games for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. One hot summer night some kid threw a no hitter. The kid was my age but I pretended to be a grownup to interview him. Afterward, I typed up the story in the newsroom. All of a sudden Christina Hiatt, one… Read More →

Regaining a lost year

The year 2020 will go down as the strangest of my life so far. But I have something to compare it to. For younger people these strange times will provide the experiences they’ll draw upon the rest of their lives. That’s why decisions they’re making right now will profoundly influence times yet to come. The… Read More →

Competitive legislative races slated across Northland

NOTE: This post appears in today’s Hibbing Daily Tribune as part of a news sharing arrangement. Generational change. A historically contentious presidential race. Not one, but two major parties devoted to legalizing marijuana. These factors and more will influence several interesting northern Minnesota legislative races that formed after last Tuesday’s filing deadline. Though the presidential… Read More →

We all fall down

Masked men pelted cars with rocks. A mob stopped all traffic from entering or leaving the city. An opposing horde accosted people on the street, including women and children. Smoke bloomed on the horizon. “Who started the fires?” “Whose side are they on?” This isn’t Minneapolis in 2020. This was Hibbing in 1916. That summer,… Read More →

Hear preview of ‘Power in the Wilderness’ on June 14

For almost four years I’ve been writing a book about the late Hibbing Mayor Victor Power and some really wild stories from early Iron Range history. It’s not done yet but it’s getting there. I can give you some exciting news, though. Along the path of my research I got to know a New York… Read More →

Even northern towns under curfew tonight after chaotic week in Minnesota

UPDATE June 1: A peaceful night passed on the Iron Range. Further review indicates that internet rumors prompted Range towns to set curfews. Efforts to organize peaceful protests in these towns became wildly misinterpreted. Original May 31: Today, peaceful demonstrations took place in towns across northern Minnesota, including Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Virginia. In… Read More →

The rise of post-commute opportunity in northern Minnesota

Around 1960 my grandfather Marv Johnson quit the Keewatin police force to work at the Erie taconite plant in Hoyt Lakes. He told me that his take-home salary doubled that day. It was the first time he felt confident he could provide for his growing family. There were downsides. For one, the job almost killed… Read More →

Another giant awakens

Photographs of early Mesabi Iron Range mining are in black and white. We may identify the gray material in the rail cars as iron because, well, why else would those sturdy mustachioed gentlemen have shoveled it up? But the early open pit and underground mines were very much driven by color — bright, vibrant hues… Read More →

Mail voting safe, secure and simple

The first time I voted in a general election I was lying on a set of dorm room sheets that wouldn’t be washed until spring. Cigarette dangling from my lips, I marked my ballot for Jesse “The Body” Ventura as Minnesota’s next governor. Democracy prevailed. However you gauge the wisdom of my first ballot, it… Read More →