‘Lost Iron Range’ airs tonight on public television

Lost Iron Range airs on WDSE/PBS North

I am sometimes asked to explain why I chose to stay in northern Minnesota instead of chasing some faster life under brighter lights of some big city. My answer is simple: I am a writer at heart; writers need stories; the Iron Range is teeming with past, present and future conflict; and the complete story of the Range remains unwritten. What more does a writer need?

So I’m pretty interested in this project my friend Greg Grell produced with host Pamela Fish for WDSE/WRPT (Channel 8/PBS North) out of Duluth, Minnesota: “Lost Iron Range.”

WDSE/WRPT’s newest historical documentary premieres this March. In many ways, the story of the Iron Range of northern Minnesota is the story of America. A melting pot of cultures, once home to a vast white pine forest, the Iron Range is best known today as the iron mining capitol of the United States.

Lost Iron Range
Monday, March 3 at 7pm on PBS North
Encores Tuesday, March 11 at 8:30pm on PBS North

“Lost Iron Range,” tells the story of the people and the places that have faded from memory. It’s the place that helped build a nation, and win two world wars. Join us to learn about entire towns that were moved so the ore beneath their streets could be mined, and of a giant sawmill that set all-time records for board feet of lumber milled. Discover one of the nation’s first interurban street car lines that connected Iron Range towns and locations. And marvel at the pioneers who helped build America with the resources found above and below the ground in northern Minnesota.

Grell and Fish have been working with editor/videographer Judy Morrissey and videographers Nick Clingman, Lance Haavisto and Ted Pellman since last July to produce tonight’s show. Notable northern Minnesota historical characters Marvin Lamppa and Jack Rajala are among the interviewees. Topics range from the vast timber empire of early Virginia, Minnesota, to the story of Hibbing’s big move at the hands of the Oliver Mining Company, the important but mostly lost Jewish community of northern Minnesota, and various other stories.

It looks really good. Channel 8 did a fantastic job with the Bobby Aro Story a while back. It’s important to document these stories now because the Iron Range is changing faster than people realize. We’re a generation or so removed from a very different way of life, and these stories aren’t all recorded yet.


  1. Do you happen to know if there’s a way to view it if you don’t live in northern MN anymore? Do they post it to their website or anything?

  2. Nicki,

    Lost Iron Range will eventually be viewable on the WDSE website. First, it will be broadcast a few times for our public television viewers during our membership drive. The fundraisers help us raise the money it takes to keep the station on the air and producing local content. If you are interested in Iron Range history, check out “Stage to Screen” on the website, it has some fascinating stories of old range theaters.

  3. Pamela Hakomaki says

    Greg ,
    I heard about your documentary from a friend. I love to see it. I have direct tv and don’t get local channels. I grew up in North Hibbing. Richard Stoner was my neighbor. He is older than me. I spent a lot of time with his parent Stoner and May. I went to old Washington school and got books from the Carnigie Library. I lived across the street from the court house and witness its destruction. My dad was a mining engineer for a fee holding company so I lived in several different houses on Garfield Street. We moved out in 1959. I have llived in West Concord Mn for forty-six years. I have been retired for nine years after teaching 3rd grade for 38 years in Lake City , MN. Miss Wiley Nelson ( 4th grade ) Brooklyn School is why I chose to be a teacher

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