A note on the historical accuracy of this [Iron Range] novel – by Megan Marsnik (Minneapolis Star Tribune – May 20, 2015)


“Under Ground” is a work of fiction based on actual events that occurred in northern Minnesota during the tumultuous iron mining strike of 1916.

All of the local characters are fictional. Although some were inspired by actual Iron Range natives, their lives and words as portrayed in this novel are imagined, placed in historical context of the times. For example, fictional character Milo Blatnik was inspired by two miners: Joe Greeni and John Alar. On June 2, 1916, Greeni led the strike walkout at the St. James mine and was followed by more than 20,000 men.

On June 22, Alar, a husband and father of three, was fatally shot in the yard of his Hibbing home as picketers marched nearby. As with the fictional character Milo, Alar’s funeral procession followed a black banner that read “Murdered by Oliver Gunmen,” photographs of which are available at the Iron Range Research Center in Chisholm, Minn. Thousands attended and his death marked a turning point in the uprising.

The “What we want is more pork chops” speech delivered in the novel by fictional character Andre Kristeva was a real speech delivered June 22, 1916, by mining clerical worker George Andreytchine.

The real names of national and state figures are used in this novel, with their words and actions captured as closely as a work of fiction would allow. Strike organizers did declare war on U.S. Steel. Frank Little, Sam Scarlett, Carlo Tresca, Arthur Boose, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Big Bill Haywood and other International Workers of the World (IWW) labor organizers played a key part in the 1916 strike, although their roles are fictionalized in this novel. Minnesota Gov. Joseph Burnquist and his actions during the strike are accurately presented within the context of a fictional story.

Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs did not speak in Duluth, but wrote extensively about the Mesabi strike and was a major advocate for the miners. The speech he gives in this novel is excerpted from an article written by Debs, titled “Murder in the First Degree.”

Dr. Andrea Hall was an Iron Range doctor remembered as a great friend to miners and lumberjacks, but the events in which she is portrayed are fictional.

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