Early history of St. Louis County townships—part 2

An A-to-Z chronicle of the county’s rural areas as of 1921
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Bassett Township

The Township of Bassett now embraces four congressional townships, 58 north, range 12 and 13, and 57 north, range 12 and 13 [south of Babbitt.]

The township was erected in May 1913, following petition of Victor Beck and twenty-four other residents of townships 57-12, 57-13, and 58-12, in which three townships it was then stated that not more than thirty male freeholders lived. Said petition which bore date of April 14, 1913, sought the granting of township jurisdiction over these three congressional townships.

At session of May, 1913, the county commissioners approved petition, and ordered election to be held at the residence of the Rev. A. J. Lehner, in section 28 of township 57-12, on May 24, 1913.

A movement was started in August, 1917, to attach to the Township of Bassett, as an integral part of it, the adjoining Township of St. Louis, 58-13. Petition signed by a sufficient number of the freeholders of that territory was presented to the county commissioners on August 31, 1917, J. M. Palinsky taking oath to its accuracy and legality. Only five signatures were appended to the petition, signers being G. E. Wolfe, Berndt Peterson, R. E. Jefferson, J. M. Palinsky and Adolph G. Peterson, but a footnote certified that these five men constituted “all the legal voters and freeholders in the Township of St. Louis.” Petitioners stated, as a reason for consolidation with Bassett: “That the territory may be better developed by the construction of roads.” On December 7, 1917, the county commissioners agreed to the consolidation, and on December 20 the clerks and treasurers of both townships were requested to deliver to the new township of Bassett the records and funds of the old organizations.

Real and personal property in the Township of Bassett, when organized in 1913, was assessed at $198,348, and taxes levied in the amount of $4,530.12. The addition of St. Louis Township to its boundaries has not materially increased its value, which in 1919 was assessed at $223,150, for the four congressional townships of Bassett. Tax levy in that year was $16,556.74.

The population of Bassett Township in 1910 was 314, but in 1920 only 235. St. Louis Township, according to federal census report, had a population of 218 in 1910.

The township officers of Bassett in 1920 were John A. Beckman, chairman; Alex Nisula and Thomas Holmes, supervisors; Victor Beck, clerk; Jacob Hakala, assessor; and John Perry, treasurer.

The township is in two school districts, Nos. 36 and 70. School District No. 36 covers townships 57 and 58 north, range 13 west. There is only one schoolhouse, a frame one, valued at $3,600, and situated at Skibo. The enrollment in the 1919-20 school year was only five. The teacher was paid $100 a month, for a school year of nine months. The school tax, in 1919, was $2,008.50, for a school to which went only five pupils. The school board officials of that district, in 1920, were Mrs. Albert Erickson, chairman of directors; Charles Monstroth, Skibo, Minn., clerk; Mrs. Frank Gravelle, treasurer.

School District No. 70 covers townships 57 and 58, of range 12.

There is only one schoolhouse, a frame one, valued at $5,000. The enrollment in 1919-20 year was 48. There were four female teachers, who received an average salary of $72.50 a month. The school levy, in 1919, was $4,448.80. School board officials were John Gustafson, chairman of directors; William Ahola, Toimi, Minn., clerk; Mrs. Catherine Martin, treasurer.

Beatty Township

The Township of Beatty [north of Cook] takes the name of one of the pioneer mining men of the Mesabi Range. Noble A. Beatty was the first signer of a petition, dated at Tower, February 20, 1906, praying for the organization of a township under chapter 143, of the General Laws of the State of Minnesota, 1905, said township to have jurisdiction over sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of congressional township 62-18, and the whole of townships 63-18 and 64-18, the erected township to take the name of “Vermilion.” The petition met the approval of the commissioners, at session of April, 1906, and election was ordered to be held at the schoolhouse situated in the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 34, township 63-18, on April 21.

On May 8, 1906, at the request of the state auditor, the county commissioners changed the name of the new town to Beatty, with the sanction of the petitioners, there being another township of the name of “Vermilion” in the state.

The boundaries of Beatty Township have remained unchanged since organization. In 1906, the assessed valuation was $69,207, and the taxes levied $2,020.84. The valuation in 1919 was $68,567, and the tax levy $5,725.34 for all purposes.

The township at one time was in School District No. 41, but that district has apparently been abandoned, it perhaps being more economical to let the township be served by what is known as the unorganized school district, which comes directly under the supervision of the county superintendent.

Beatty had a population of 12, in 1900; in 1910, it claimed 53 residents; and in 1920 the censustaking showed that 139 persons lived in the township.

The township is in process of development, much of it now being cut-over land.

Township officials in

1920 were Thos. Wikely, chairman; Chas. Lappi and Albert Larson, supervisors; J. G. Larson, clerk; A. L. Whiteside, assessor; Robert Beatty, treasurer.

Biwabik Township

The township of Biwabik, which is limited to the congressional township 58 north, range 16 west, and includes the villages of Biwabik, McKinley, and Merritt, and is the center of a rich mining field, was organized in 1892. Petition to organize was circulated in April 1892, and was signed by 34 men resident in the area for which township powers, under the provisions of chapter 10, General Statutes of 1878, were sought. The first signature put on the petition was that of John B. Weimer. The petition was presented to the county officials and sworn to by A. P. Dodge on April 28, 1892.

At the May 1892 meeting of the county commissioners, the petition was granted, and election ordered to be held in the store of A. P. Dodge, that being situated in the northeast quarter of section three, township 58-16. Election was accordingly held on May 25, 1892. The voting brought the following men into office as township officers: J. G. Cohoe, A. P. Dodge, and H. Duggan, supervisors; W. A. Housel, clerk; D. W. Freeman, treasurer; A. J. Carlon and Harry Spence, assessors; Robert Fausett and Carrol Corson, justices; Archie McComb and L. Lewis, constables.

The boundaries of the township have remained the same since the first organization. The census statistics do not credit congressional township 58-16 with any population in 1890. In 1900, Biwabik Township had a population of 574; in 1910 it had 778; and in the 1920 census-taking shows only 304 in the township, exclusive of the population of the villages of Biwabik and McKinley.

The assessed valuation of Biwabik Township for the year 1919 was $3,057,081, and the taxes collected in that year $191,937.43. There are two school districts, independent No. 18 and district No. 24.

The township officers for 1920 were K. S. Johnson, chairman; Edward Kinney and Grover Helsel, supervisors; Wm. J. Lundgren, clerk; Wm. Dopp, assessor; Oscar Strom, treasurer.

Breitung Township

The Township of Breitung was the first of the central townships of St. Louis County to come into prominence. It has historic interest, in that it is the center of the mining on the Vermilion Range, the first iron range to be discovered in Northern Minnesota.

The “Proceedings of the Lake Superior Mining Institute,” for 1895, in which year its meetings were held on the Vermilion and Mesabi ranges, gives the following summary of mining conditions on the Vermilion Range:

On the Vermilion Range is quite a different set of conditions than those on the Mesabi. Instead of nearly flat deposits of ore we find them nearly vertical. Instead of a layer of ore of limited thickness all over a 40-acre tract, with no hanging wall to work under, we find steeply inclined lenses of ore confined between walls of schist and extending in a series downward to an indefinite depth. In the place of ore so fine and powdery that it is objected to by the furnace operators, we have here ore so solid and massive that it must be artificially crushed by powerful machines before it can be sold (at the Chandler mine, the ore has been crushed by nature). In the place of covered deposits, which must be sought for by drill holes and test pits, there were originally bold bare knobs of hard jasper and hematite projecting in polished peaks and domes a hundred feet above the surrounding, more easily eroded, schist. It must be admitted, however, that there is more regularity in the occurrence of the Mesabi ore beds than those of the Vermilion; and more can be told of the probable occurrence of ore in a given locality by a study of the surrounding geology and typography than can be predicted in any way on the Vermilion.

A historical review of mining on the Vermilion Range will have place in the chapter regarding Tower and Soudan, which places, chartered city and unincorporated village respectively, owe their existence to the mining operations begun on the Vermilion in the early ‘80s.

The Township of Breitung was organized in 1883, to have jurisdiction over unorganized townships 62 north, ranges 14 and 15 west.

It takes its name from that of one of the pioneers of mining on the Vermilion. Vermilion Lake covers more than half of township 62-15, and apart from the ceaseless mining operations at Soudan, there is very little activity in the township. Or at least there was until quite recently when negotiations were completed to work valuable beds of peat in the township, which in places is very marshy.

The roads of the township are moderately good, and the district is well served by the Duluth and Iron Range Railway, which passes through to Ely. Breitung Township is famed for most beautiful lake and most majestic mountain scenery. In parts the township is absolutely in the wild state.

In 1883 the Township of Breitung had an assessed valuation of $20,133; in 1919 its assessment was on $543,069. The total taxes in 1883 were $251.62; in 1919 the total was $46,944.67, exclusive of Tower, which city had a tax-levy of $18,109.78 in that year.

Breitung Township is in School District No. 9, which centers in Tower. A review of the school history will be part of the Tower chapter, and therefore school matters need not be further referred to here.

The present township officials are Walter Wellander, chairman; Nels Bodine and Matt Karvala, supervisors; J. Nyberg, clerk; Ben P. Johnson, assessor; John Helstrom, treasurer.

The population of Breitung Township has shown a decline since the opening of this century, although the decline has not been proportionate with the decline in mining operations, which 30 years ago totaled to 500,000 tons a year, and now is not much more than one-fifth of that yearly output. The population of the township in 1900 was 2,034; in 1910 it was 1,214; and in 1920 it was 1,227. The population of the City of Tower is now only 706; in 1900 it was 1,366.

Cedar Valley Township

A petition, signed by Mike Snyder and 25 others, dated October 22, 1908, was duly presented at the St. Louis County Courthouse. The instrument sought to secure the organization as a township, under section 451, chapter 7, Revised Laws of Minnesota, 1905, to be known by the name of “Rosemount,” all of congressional township 53 north, range 21 west [at the western edge of St. Louis County west of Meadowlands.]

At the February 1909 session of the Board of County Commissioners, the petition was approved, and the first town meeting ordered to be held at School House No. 2, on Saturday, February 26, 1910. After the election, the county commissioners were advised by the state auditor that there was another township in the state named “Rosemount.” They therefore resolved that the name of the newly organized territory be “Cedar Valley,” their action being eventually confirmed by the residents of that township.

In 1912, a petition was circulated among the freeholders of township 54-21, and signed by a majority of them, the petition seeking to include that unorganized township in the boundaries of Cedar Valley.

Mike Snyder, chairman of the supervisors of Cedar Valley at that time discussed the matter with the county commissioners at session of the county board on February 6, 1913; and the matter was further discussed by the commissioners at meeting of June 6, and August 6, of 1913. At the August session, the commissioners resolved to add township 54-21 to Cedar Valley. So, the Township of Cedar Valley is at present constituted.

Assessed valuation of real and personal property in Cedar Valley Township in 1910 amounted to $66,555. Tax levy, for all purposes, was $1,590.66. In 1919 the assessed valuation was $141,136 and the tax levy for all purposes, $8,919.79.

Population in 1900 was 98 persons; in 1910 it had increased to 234; and in 1920 to 323 persons.

The Cedar Valley school district is No. 23 of the county system.

There are four frame schoolhouses, valued at $8,000 in the district, which covers the whole of townships 53 and 54, range 21. Total enumeration in 1919-20 school year was 99. The school term was eight months, and the four teachers received an average salary of $82.50 a month. The school levy, in 1919, amounted to $4,730.63.

The school board officials were Wm. Gustafson, clerk; Jalmer Perkkijo, treasurer; Erick Hill, chairman of directors.

The township officials in 1920 were Matt Maki, chairman; Peter Myllykangas, and Jonas Hietala, supervisors; Mike Siermala, Jr., clerk; J. Perkkijo, assessor; Andrew Tuola, treasurer.

Clinton Township

The Township of Clinton [south of Mountain Iron,] which borders onto the rich mining territory of the Mesabi Range, embraces the township 57 north, range 18 west.

Organization came in 1892, following the presenting of petition, dated October 13, 1892, to the county commissioners, said petition being signed by Frank M. Zeller and twenty-three other voters within the territory, praying for the organization of township 57-18, as the Township of Clinton, under the General Laws of the State of Minnesota, 1878.

The petition came before the county commissioners at their October 1892 session. It was then resolved to grant the prayer, and public notices were posted calling upon the electors to assemble for the first town meeting, at the Section Car House, situated on the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 15 of township 57-18, on Friday, the 28th day of October. Election was duly held, and organization of Clinton Township duly perfected. Since that time, its boundaries have remained the same, and it is somewhat surprising to note that its valuation is now less than it was in 1892. In that year, the real and personal property of Clinton was assessed on the basis of a value of $107,184, the tax levy then being $2,599.21. In 1919, the assessed valuation, exclusive of Iron Junction, was only $105,979, although the tax levy had materially increased being in that year, $7,227.77. Also, the valuation of Iron Junction, which is only $11,575, adds very little to the wealth of the township.

Clinton Township population, including Iron Junction Village, in 1900 was 221; in 1910, the census showed 316 residents; and the 1920 census tabulated 752 persons, then resident in the township. The township is developing agriculturally. It is in school district No. 25.

The township officials in 1920 were J. S. Soine, chairman; Edward Berg and J. P. Johnson, supervisors; Jens Jenson, clerk; Eli Hautala, assessor; P. W. Thompson, treasurer.

Colvin Township

The Township of Colvin [south of Aurora] came into being in 1910. Its boundaries are those of congressional township 56 north, range 15 west, and was organized by the county commissioners in answer to the request of inhabitants within the territory, as set forth in petition, dated April 14, 1910, of John J. Ljung and 24 others.

The projectors at first thought of naming the new township “Markham,” but the name of “Colvin” was decided upon before the petition was presented to the county commissioners. The document was filed in the St. Louis County Court House on April 27, 1910.

It was considered by the commissioners on May 6, and adopted by them on that day, they ordering election to be held on Monday, May 23, 1910, at the schoolhouse situated on section 27, of the township concerned.

In 1910, the assessed valuation of Colvin Township real and personal property was $87,437, and the tax levy $4,503.01. The 1919 valuation was $72,986, and the tax levy $5,700.21.

The population of Colvin in 1910 was 252; in 1920, it was 370. The growth is gradual, and will be stable with increase of agricultural development.

The township officials in 1920 were Anders Anderson, chairman; Manu Ekola and Emil Waltenen, supervisors; John Carlson, clerk; John J. Ljung, assessor; and Eekki Nieminen, treasurer.

Cotton Township

The Township of Cotton was erected in 1903. The congressional township (54-17) it then constituted was formerly part of the township of Kelsey, and the separation came as the result of a petition circulated among the residents of that region. The petition was dated May 7, 1903, and signed by C. J. Keenan and others. Its object was to bring about the division of the then township of Kelsey into three, as follows: congressional townships 53-18 and 53-19 to form the Township of Meadowlands; township 54-17 to form the Township of Cotton; and townships 54-18 and 54-19 to remain as, and to constitute the Township of Kelsey.

The petition came before the county commissioners for consideration at the board meeting of June 8, 1903. Hearing of remonstrances were set for the next monthly meeting of commissioners, and no opposition of consequence then arising the commissioners resolved to divide the five congressional townships as asked by petitioners, and ordered notices of election to be posted.

Election was held on July 31, 1903, at the Miller Trunk Schoolhouse, Jacob Weingast being elected “moderator” of that first town meeting of Cotton. The balloting brought the following named residents into office, to constitute the original administrative officials of the new Town of Cotton: Jacob Weingast, chairman; N. Salin and N. M. Nelson, supervisors; Ole Mark, treasurer; W. T. Jenkins, clerk; P. A. Johnson, justice; Hy Moberg, constable.

On November 5 of that year the boundaries of the township were enlarged, to include the adjoining township, 54-16, which up to that time had been unorganized territory. The action of the county commissioners followed petition of residents of township 54-16, said petition being filed in the County Court House on September 17, 1903.

Cotton Township assessed valuation in 1903 was $88,734, and the tax levy, for all purposes, $971.29. In 1919, the valuation for the two congressional townships of Cotton totaled to $124,436, and the tax levy $7,702.12.

In 1910, the population of Cotton Township was 325 and there has only been a slight increase in 10 years, the 1920 census recording only 376.

The township officials in 1920 were William Soderlund, chairman; O. A. Hoag and L. J. Larson, supervisors; W. T. Jenkins, clerk; W. Wickstrom, assessor; and E. A. Nelson, treasurer.

Part of Cotton Township is, for educational purposes, in School District No. 49. That district has two schoolhouses, of frame, valued at $2,100. The enrollment in the year 1919-20 was 25 scholars. Each school is directed by one teacher, female, and the average monthly salary is $82.00.

The school board and officials are Chauncey White, Cotton, clerk; Claus Lorentzsen, treasurer; M. E. Nordstrand, chairman of directors.

Source: Walter Van Brunt, Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota; Their Story and People (Chicago: The American Historical Society, 1921).

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