100 years young, a new Iron Range century

Matt Nelson has a nice story in the Saturday, July 9 Hibbing Daily Tribune about a woman celebrating her 109th birthday in this Iron Range town (subscription link). Here’s a excerpt:

Signie Burke has lived through two world wars, 19 U.S. presidents, and has been retired for 44 years.

Hibbing’s oldest native celebrated her 109th birthday yesterday with cake, visitors and accordion music at the Guardian Angels Health and Rehab Center.

Burke was born at home in July 1902 in a mining location which is now part of the the Hull-Rust Open Pit Mine. When she was two years old, her house was propped onto logs and pulled by horses into Hibbing, where she attended school at the old Lincoln.

Burke spent a career teaching at Range-area schools that closed decades ago, long after the old Lincoln. The memories she shares in the interview pulse with the rich details of the early 20th century on the Range — meat hanging off hooks in the storefronts, running from wild horses on her way to school.

109 years is a lot for one person, but it’s not insignificant for a place either. Burke’s life has spanned nearly all of the modern Iron Range. Not long before her birth the Range consisted of some remote logging camps (including one over old north Hibbing). These pioneers had taken territory held for thousands of years by successive Native American tribes, who had each been displaced by politics, disease and tribal wars stemming from Eastern relocation. And with this came 40 years of intense immigration for the mines, 40 years of relative prosperity, and the last 30 years of economic stagnation in the Iron Range as we know it today.

I offer this merely as a suggestion that this region is labeled “old,” our demographics show aging, but that the region’s modern history is very, very recent. With turbulent times seemingly on the way, and our fresh water and low prices at the ready, I hope for a similarly interesting and long-lived century for my children here in the woods outside the Iron Range.


  1. Thanks for the shoutout!

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