COMMENTARY: Hope for the Iron Range economy, but we must put the past behind us – by Aaron Brown (Minnesota Reformer – January 9, 2023)


At the hunting shack this year, my grandfather Ward Brown, Jr., told how a high school friend saved him from getting beat up by a Chisholm gang back around 1952. Not long after, this friend lay dead in the wreck of his restored ’32 Chevy on the road between Side Lake and Hibbing.

No “Leave It To Beaver” utopia here; the 1950s were wild on northern Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, wild because it seemed like it was all coming to an end. This happened more than 70 years ago. But it’s not just grandpa’s friend who’s gone, it’s also the road where he died.

This well-traveled highway between Hibbing and the Sturgeon Lake chain witnessed the eight-cylinder glory years of high powered American automobiles. But then, long before I was born, it succumbed to the blasts and shovels of the Hull Rust-Mahoning mine pit north of Hibbing.

The destruction of people, roads and the very geography of the region characterize the unflinching march of progress that dictates life on the Range. Enormous outside powers ultimately shape the lives of whole families. Families like mine. This happened before and it’s happening again right now.

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