The LaRue Mine (Armstrong Bay Mine)
The LaRue Mine was a small mining operation northeast of Lake Vermilion, located along the same ridge as the larger Soudan Mine and the Consolidated Vermilion & Extension mine. It ran from 1916 to 1924, in a few different incarnations; first known as the LaRue Mine and later changed to the Armstrong Bay Mine. It became a shipping mine in 1923, sending various high grades of ore out to Two Harbors to be shipped to the steel mills.
There was an early argument over who owned the land. Nicholas Lonstorf, a financier in the mining industry, had a scrip claim on the property based on the 1854 treaty. Petter Armstrong, who was living on the land at the time, had a Preemption Act of 1841 claim that predated Lonstorf’s claim. Lonstorf made an offer, reportedly counting the money out on a rock, but Armstrong refused. Armstrong later decided to work with George C. Stone and the Minnesota Iron Company, who then settled with Lonstorf for shares in the site.
Before the mine was developed, logging was done in the general area. As holes were dug for outhouses for the logging crews, the loggers found old pottery, quartz, pyrite, and traces of gold among the black sand. One of the loggers had a friend, nicknamed “Shorty” LaRue, who was a geologist. “Shorty” surveyed what the loggers had found and agreed. Soon after, “Shorty” and his brother George staked 6 claims and started digging test pits.
By 1891 the site was being explored but it’s not apparent that work was continued at that time. The workers who worked the mine were mostly Civil War veterans who gathered under W. G. “Shorty” LaRue. Most were single and looking for adventure and riches; only a few brought families with them. In 1892 they formed a partnership and started digging into the hill. Exploratory drilling was carried out for a time afterward but otherwise things were quiet. Work on the mine was officially picked back up in 1915 when work on a tunnel into the hill was started, and more modern equipment was brought in to help the miners.
In 1920, the Chippewa Mining Company moved its operations from Ely to the LaRue Mine. New work was planned on the mine, drilling the shaft deeper to meet the ore body. At this point the mine’s name was changed to the Armstrong Bay Mine to prevent confusion with another LaRue property on the Mesabi Iron Range, southwest of Tower. A large amount of ore was found deeper and to the west, which the crew worked on all winter between 1920 and 1921. The ore was stockpiled in anticipation of the rail line that was to be run from McComber. By the spring of 1923 ore was being shipped.
During the winter of 1923-1924 the mine was not in operation, and by spring of 1924, the St. Louis County mine inspector reported that the mine was no longer in operation. Not all of the ore was shipped, and there is still a stockpile on the site.
The LaRue Mine is located northeast of Armstrong Bay on Lake Vermilion, in sections 7 and 8 of 62N, 14W.
Workers would come from Tower by boat to Armstrong Bay, then make the mile walk to the mine. From Ely they would ride the train to Robinson or McComber and walk from there. During the week, miners would stay in a bunk house at the mine, and they would go home on weekends. Miners were well-fed during the week. Supplies were brought to the mine by Aronson Boat Works’ barge.
Topographical map showing the LaRue Mine’s location, and a matching photograph map of the immediate area. The photograph map of this area is a bit blurry so no buildings can be spotted in the site pinned on the topographical map.
Early loggers at the LaRue site, circa 1891. Later, in the 1910s, mining picked up steam, with a tunnel cut into the bluff in search of ore.
The big fifteen ton air compressor for the LaRue mine on Armstrong Bay was sidetracked in the yards here Sunday. Later it was unloaded at Soudan and will be hauled out to the camp as soon as it can be taken across the lake on the ice. The task of unloading was no small one as the big machine is a heavy one. The motive power for the machine is a kerosene engine and it wilt-handle fifteen air drills.
Drilling at the McComber (excerpt)
Matt Cundy, captain at the LaRue mine exploration work on Armstrong Bay, was in the city Monday and states that he has eight men at work now and that they have begun to drift and are going after the metal. The big air compressor has not been taken out yet on account of the ice on Lake Vermilion not being heavy enough for safe transportation of the machine. This will soon be remedied and before long the compressor will be at work aiding in the prospecting work.
Much Exploration Work Under Way at the LaRue
Capt. Matt Cundy is hard at work searching for iron ore at the LaRue mine on Armstrong bay. He has a crew of seven men at work on single shift going after the metal. At present this number is all that could be profitably employed. Until such time as an air shaft may be arranged for, a single shift is all that is possible. This air shaft will soon be begun as the tunnel is rapidly approaching the point where it is proposed to place it. The tunnel under the bluff runs due north and south, with two crosscuts. The men are blasting some 180 feet back from the entrance and in material that looks most favorable.
In fact the whole bluff is largely iron ore. One may pick almost pure samples almost anywhere on top of the ledge. Even the novice would say that no better outlook for a deposit of iron ore existed at any place. The very camp site is certainly an ideal one for mining. Mr. LaRue, the man who is doing the prospecting, has had this location in mind for more than twenty-five years. At that time he was on this same ground with his prospecting outfit, more simple than the ample outfit of today. Always he has been optimistic over this outlook and today is as sanguine as in the years gone. The camp is now modernly equipped. Instead of the old sledge and drill and black powder, as in the early days, a splendid air compressor, run by kerosene, is handling the drills, and dynamite does the rest. The air compressor is in charge of Geo. Kinney, and the machine is the very latest of its kind. Even the various houses needed at the mine are nicely built, and scrupulously clean. The bunk houses have been made warm and last winter were as comfortable as needed. Steel bunks, with springs and mattresses are furnished the men. The place is about five miles from Eagles Nest lake and it is of easy access by rail should a mine be found.
The ore found here has been assayed and Mr. Cundy says that the assayist reports it to run from 65 to 68 per cent in iron ore. Much of it resembles exactly the famous Soudan ore. The familiar pigeon blue color, together with the weight, would take an expert to distinguish which was Soudan samples and which came from the LaRue mine. However, as yet no great ore body has been encountered. The next shot may lay it open to view. It may never be found, but, every indication points to a possibility that it is there somewhere. There is every sign and every incentive in sight to go ahead and blast and dig. The Soudan mine, together with the Consolidated Vermilion & Extension, the LaRue and the Scott-Bevier exploration camps are on a line with the great iron ore formation of the Vermilion range. Tower is directly interested in the success of all these exploration camps and mines that are. They are all tributary to us and many of the dollars spent in operating them will be seen later in Tower.
THINGS ARE LOOKING GOOD AT THE LARUE
INDICATIONS POINT TO THE FINDING OF A BIG BODY OF IRON ORE
No small optimism prevails today at the LaRue mine on Armstrong Bay. A News man visited the place this week and he too came home with newer ideas and also mentally in line with the spirit which prevailed among the workmen employed there.
Certainly, to say the least, things are looking good out there. With no desire to exaggerate or to misrepresent, the writer, who is not a miner, or has he any interest in the mine whatever, but merely a seeker of news for this paper, believes that something has been met up with in this exploration shaft, or rather tunnel, which indicates perhaps a shipping mine in time. For twenty feet or so the terminal of the tunnel has been in Bessemer ore which assays up to at least 60 per cent, It is soft and not of the Soudan hardness. It is necessary to timber the shaft. Previously to striking this the way led through solid, hard rock with no need of timber. About ninety tons of this ore were in the stockpile and the verdict against it was that it was “good stuff.”
Today the pick and shovel are tracing its dimensions at the end of the tunnel. Whether it is a big body or a pocket, remains to be discovered. No one knows that. It will take money and dynamite to find out. Mr. LaRue is greatly encouraged, yet he says it may be only a pocket. Naturally it is hoped that it is a big body, for much money has already been spent. But it looks good and a short time will tell the tale.
A crew of a half dozen or so of men is all that can be used now in development work on account of room in the tunnel. The equipment used is of the best and ample for all needs at present. A trip to the exploration camp is one well worthy to take and to see. A launch landed at the mouth of Armstrong River, and then a good trail of a mile brings one to the camps. Mr. LaRue has purchased the North American boat, the “Margaret Ellen,” to be used during the summer to ply between Tower and the camps. A new dock has been placed this week at the Armstrong Bay landing to receive it and a boat house is to be built as well.
Good Reports From the LaRue
P. F. Chamberlain, formerly superintendent of the Soudan mine, and later in charge of the North American, was a caller at the LaRue mine on Armstrong Bay the first of the week, going out to inspect the work going on there. Mr. Chamberlain is now located at Virginia. Some good reports are coming in from this exploration work. Parties coming from there state that a railroad will undoubtedly go in soon as the mine is showing some splendid stuff. That they have struck the best of ore is beyond question. How much of it not even the miners know for they have as yet failed to reach the end of the present vein, or ore body. For weeks they have been following it and are now cross cutting trying to find its width, but the end is not yet. The outlook is most encouraging and it looks today as if the La Rue was a winner. The mine is situated so that Tower will receive benefits from it, and largely so. The ore is not of the hardness of the Soudan, but is said to have as great a content of iron. It can be mined cheaper than the Soudan as there will be no hoisting or is the drilling and blasting so expensive. It is sincerely hoped here in Tower that there are billions of tons there awaiting the arrival of the miner to uncover it and ship it to market. Now that the Mud Creek mines are in operation, and with the La Rue a possibility, the McComber and Soudan also employing a large number of men, the Scott-Bevier exploring for ore, Tower will soon be surrounded by mines in action or in prospect. The North American, it is reported, will be unwatered as soon as the Mud Creek mines are well under way, and these are now about in motion. Tower’s outlook is not so gloomy as some folks would have you believe.
Believes the LaRue will prove a winner
Those in Charge of Exploration Work Feel Greatly Encouraged
Capt. Matt Cundy was in the city Thursday from the La Rue exploration camps on Armstrong Bay arranging for supplies for the camp during the coming winter. He says that the tunnel is now ventilated by an air shaft, the last shot for which was made on Wednesday night. The work of exploration can now go on more rapidly as powder smoke will vanish quickly and without loss of time. The ore formation is now disclosed in one direction almost one hundred feet. A shaft is to be sunk from now on to disclose the depth of this ore body. A boiler and a pump are expected to arrive at any time now to be used in this proposed shaft should water be encountered. So far the work has been dry, but to forestall what may happen as the work goes down, a boiler and pump will be placed to handle any flow of water. Fuel oil for the air compressor engine is going out for the winter and lumber has been ordered for mine work and other needed matters. The same old rejoicing over prospects in sight is going on at the mine as since the pick and dynamite revealed the first ore body. The La Rue is claimed by many to be the most promising proposition of its kind in this vicinity.
To build road to LaRue
That the LaRue exploration camps would be a shipper in 1917 was forecasted in these columns some time since. As a verification of this a crew of D. & I. R. engineers have been at work for some time looking for the most accessible route for a railroad to the camps. They have run over several lines and it is probable that the start for the camps will be made from Eagles Nest, or that vicinity. But the railroad will go in, this is assured. Enough ore has been laid bare to merit the building of the road and it has been ordered in by the officials of the D. & I. R. railroad. This will be good news for the mine owners and also Tower as well, for, the benefits of a shipping mine are not entirely for its owners. In many ways the success of the mine will drift in our direction. The exploration camps have been of great help to our merchants, and our workmen are employed in the work of exploration. As the camps grow into a shipping mine, more men must be added. The fact that this road is to be built is good news and Tower will hope for its success, at least from a financial viewpoint.
What’s doing at the LaRue
W. J. Keese, captain at the LaRue exploration camps has been in Duluth a few days this week /on a business trip. A breakdown in the kerosene engine which runs the air compressor and drills occurred this week and necessitated a shift from that to steam. The miners are now down about forty feet or more in the winze and still going in the same material as at the start but that the ore is becoming considerably harder. A little water is encountered but not to any extent. It is learned that the railroad to the camps will not be commenced until some time in the spring. It will be built then, after which machinery will be sent in over it with which to make a mine. It is more than probable that ore shipments out of there will be made some time during the present year, if all goes as expected it will. Twenty men are now employed there and the force is being added to from time to time as room is made for them.
Strike Vein of Hard Ore at the LaRue
Possibility That There Will Be a New Mine Opened On The Vermilion
Last week at the LaRue exploration camps the miners cut through some fifteen or twenty feet of what is known as black rock and immediately upon crossing this they came in contact with a glistening wall of hard ore. All the work done so far has been in soft ore, but the new find is described as being as hard as the Soudan ore. This is good news and Tower people will be pleased to hear it. Nothing but good reports have come from the LaRue. At first at times they were not so universally favorable, but always they got back to the same good news, that ore in a considerable quantity was in sight. The tunnel has lengthened as the months have gone by and now comes this report of hard ore. The soft ore was very rich and easily mined, but the harder material denotes that there is a body of it. The LaRue will no doubt become a shipper this year or as soon as the railroad can be built to it. The mine will be tributary to Tower and we shall receive many benefits from it. Three shifts were put on Monday, making a total of 20 men now at work.
Experts representing the steel corporation are said to have visited this property a few weeks ago and to have reported most favorably upon it.
Prospects at LaRue Mine the best ever
Indications Are That This Property Will Soon Enter The List of Shippers
A visit to the LaRue exploration camps by a representative of the News this week, inspires this article. As this company has no stock for sale what is said in this article is merely the observations of a disinterested spectator and not a boom for the sale of stock. The camps lie about eight miles up Lake Vermilion on Armstrong Bay and are almost isolated. However, a railroad some three miles long, leading off from the Murray siding, which has already been surveyed, will soon connect this property with the outside world. It is thought that as soon as weather conditions permit, work on this road will be commenced.
Exploration work has not been long under way out there and already some marvelous results have been obtained. The casual observer, be he of the proletariate and unsophisticated in mining affairs, knows at once that they have struck something. And to one who has visited the camps from time to time, it is a marvel the amount of work that has been done. Also up to the present time it has been a dry mine. No water had been encountered as the mine entered the bluff more than sixty feet above the level of Lake Vermilion. It was a tunnel proposition until work began on the winze in the main tunnel. An assay of the material, which the winze has penetrated perhaps forty or fifty feet, shows an average of 58 per cent iron, Bessemer, all the way down. It is proposed to sink the winze 100 feet. The sinking is proceeding rapidly. The crew numbers twenty-seven men and the working conditions are certainly fine. The stockpile now contains about twenty-five or thirty thousand dollars worth of ore and is a substantial testimonial of what is being revealed, as the pick and drills advance. The striking of hard ore was rather unexpected but it is there and of the finest quantity. Its depth is as yet unkown as it has only been penetrated for a short distance. It compares in hardness with the Soudan ore and time alone will tell its magnitude. All work done out there has been done along the lines of exploration only. Everything from the dry house to the blacksmith shop is temporary and made only for the immediate convenience of exploration work. But now the blueprints will change from tar paper to cement and steel and in a few months after the road comes in, a great change will come over the little camp in the rock ribbed hills and the stuff which will never go out of fashion will be handled in a manner commensurate with its importance. No one can doubt but this is the greatest and best strike of ore since the Soudan was discovered. There is but one thing yet to determine and that is its extent. Each day sees its size extended and its wonderful wealth laid bare. Already enough tonnage is in sight to merit almost any amount of an outlay in developing it. It will be a gold mine to its discoverers and owners, and an asset to Tower which will increase as the years go forward.
The name of LaRue has been changed this week and hereafter the concern will be known as the Presquelle Iron Mining Co. W. G. LaRue of Duluth is the manager and W. J. Keese is the superintendent. Mr. Keese is from Ishpeming, Mich., and a mining expert. Under his direction all work is going along smoothly and he is handling the situation in a masterful manner.
Looks good at the Consolidated (excerpt)
The Presquelle (formerly LaRue) exploration work on Armstrong Bay is progressing nicely and is looking better each day. Those in a position to know say this is going to be a shipping mine in the near future. A good sized stockpile is already awaiting the cars and more ore is piling up as the exploration work continues. Even the novice can see great possibilities ahead for this concern. The secret of the hill is being laid bare and it looks like a ‘gold mine’ to the average observer.
Building spur to the McComber
Grading for the spur track to the McComber mine, between Tower and Robinson, has been begun and as soon as possible now will be completed to the mine. The distance to be covered is a trifle over a mile and the track will leave the main line of the D. & I. R. at a point near the McComber station. This company has a big stockpile already on the ground and it is understood that it has been sold, but delivery cannot be made until such time as the road is completed. No word has as yet been received in regard to a proposed railroad in to the LaRue exploration camps. A stockpile there is also being piled up ready for shipment when a railroad comes, and which it is stated will be built very shortly.
Much exploration work is under way (excerpt)
There is certainly plenty of iron ore in this country, if we can but find it. And today it is being found on nearly all sides of us. The smoke is rolling over the Mud Creek hills and the ore is going out of there on the run. The LaRue exploration camp out on Armstrong bay also looks like a winner. At least four or five thousand tons of good clean ore is laying out in sight on a stockpile made while tunneling up to the bluff which covers the ore body. A stranger going through the various parts of the exploration work is impressed with its apparent richness. And the work of exploring still goes on in the ore body. No one as yet knows how much there is, but enough is already in sight to merit almost any forecast as to the future of the property. Ore now being mined at this property averages along about 65 per cent metallic iron. The matter of determining the extent of the ore body is the paramount issue just now and exploration work with that end in view is now under way on an extensive scale. A railroad was recently surveyed in to this property but so far actual construction work has not begun.
Drills working on all sides of Tower (excerpt)
Exploration Work Being Carried on Successfully in this District
Twenty-five men, working on three shifts of eight hours each, are now employed at the LaRue exploration camps at Armstrong Bay. All work is being concentrated in sinking the winze, which is now some eighty feet in depths. On Monday a News man visited the camps and was shown through the works. A car loaded at the mouth of the winze, and tome sixty odd feet below the top of the bluff into which they have tunneled, showed that the men are working in ore, the exact counterpart of our famous Soudan ore. The miners have passed through the soft ore which was first struck and are now hard material. As they go deeper this ore seems to be cleaning up and getting better. There are now some 3,500 to 4,000 tons in the stockpile and it is all good stuff. The blue, hard ore stands out distinctly from the soft ore which was first encountered in the tunnel some hundred or so feet from the beginning.
The water problem in this mine is an easy one so far. That which comes up from the bottom of the winze might have come from the Soudan mine for it is the same color a blood red. This is considered as a good indication of what is below. It seems the policy of the company to first lay bare what they have before building a railroad into the camps. A survey has been made but it is now thought that it will not be built this year. Many thousands of tons of iron ore are already in sight and a road would be justified, but Mr. LaRue considers that first it is well to determine the extent of the ore body, then later proper preparations may be made for all developments. Even the layman knows upon looking at this exploration camp that it is to be a rich one. What is on ahead of the drills of course is not known, but that there will be a mine there some day is not to be questioned.
The place can be reached easily and without great expense by a railroad. At present all supplies are being taken in by boat to the landing at the mouth of Armstrong river, then transported a mile by team to the camps. There is no wagon road to the mine from the outside world. This year they have a “war garden” there and will raise spuds enough to last them through. They also have a flock of black bears out there which it is desired to remove but this being the closed season, from March first to October 15th, the animals are unmolested and the bear trap is rusting on a hook at the cabins. A new office, built of logs standing upright, is under way and also a new root house has been built to receive the result of the war garden. Cords of wood are being cut and the quarter mile of corduroy road to the boat landing is being covered.
It is authoritatively stated that Coates & Tweed have taken over the LaRue mine at Armstrong bay. The Cole & McDonald Exploration company have placed a diamond drill there and the property is to be thoroughly explored. The LaRue is claimed to be one of the most promising iron propositions on the range.
LaRue has a romantic history
Title to Nearby Mining Property Eagerly Sought After In Early Days
The LaRue Exploration company, which has been taken over by Coates & Tweed, involves one of the Vermilion range properties with a romantic history, not an uncommon thing, by any means, says Skillings Mining Review. This LaRue property is situated at the eastern, extremity of Lake Vermilion, on Armstrong bay, and is described as follows: South half of southeast quarter of section 7, and south half of southwest quarter of section 8, 62-14. There is every prospect that this property will become another important Vermilion range iron ore producer.
There was a dispute as to the title in the early days of what is now known as the LaRue property as to priority of right. The property was scripped by Nicholas Lonstorf, who figured prominently in Lake Superior iron mining ventures in the early eighties, even as his son, George Lonstorf, does now. The late Peter Armstrong, however, claimed to have located the land as a pre-emption prior to Mr. Lonstorf locating it with scrip. There was every prospect of long and bitter litigation, but a settlement was effected out of court. The locating by Mr. Lonstorf, and the contest by Armstrong, all took place in the spring and early summer of 1882.
Armstrong was residing on the property with his wife and little son, and while the litigation was still pending, it is related by old timers of Duluth and the Vermilion range, George and Arnold Lonstorf, both sons of the elder Lonstorf, carried $25,000 in currency to the Vermilion range, over the old Vermilion trail, to effect a settlement with Armstrong. According to local history, the Lonstorf boys and Armstrong held their little business session near the Armstrong cabin, where the visitors counted out the $25,000 on a rock, and told Armstrong that the money was his if he would just go away and forget about his claim to the property. In other words, he was to drop the contest. The Lonstorfs had no question of their rights, but they wanted to be rid of the long drawn out contest which so often resulted in litigation of this kind, But Armstrong concluded that he would not accept the money. Later he assigned his interest in the property to George C. Stone of Duluth, who in turn effected a compromise with the Lonstorfs for a one half interest. Mr. Stone subsequently assigned his interest to the Minnesota Iron Co. (Steel Corporation) which still retains it. The Lonstorfs assigned an interest to R. N. Marble and S. D. Allen of Duluth for attorney’s fees. The fee of the LaRue property is owned as follows: Minnesota Iron Co., one half; Lonstorfs, one sixth; R. N. Marble, one eighth; and S. D. Allen, one twenty-fourth.
The Lonstorfs reside in Milwaukee. S. D. Allen is now a resident of Oregon.
New work started at the LaRue Mine
New Concern Acquires Control And Will Begin Active Development Work at Once
The interest of local people and others owning prospective mineral land on this range has been aroused through the announcement that prominent eastern interests have taken an option on the La Rue property, four miles northeast of the Soudan mine, and will at once begin active development work. A railroad spur connecting the mine with the D. & I. R., main line at Murray, will be one of the first moves made by the new company, it is said, and work on a 4-compartment shaft is to be started at once.
Concerning the transfer of the property to new hands Skilling’s Mining Review says: “The La Rue property,”named after W. G. LaRue of Duluth, who controls it, and who with a number of associates have spent considerable money in exploration and development, is described as the South 1/2 of the Southeast 1/4 of section 7, and the South 1/2 of the Southwest 1/4 of section 8, 62-14.
“The La Rue gives much promise of development into an important producer of high grade iron ore. The development work done by Mr. La Rue and his associates consisted in part of a tunnel 140 feet into the outcrop, and a winze 117 feet in depth. At a depth of 104 feet in the winze ore was encountered and a crosscut disclosed 60 feet of ore averaging 65 per cent metallic iron. The product is a hard ore, with bunches of soft hematite.
“The announcement that this important shaft improvement is about to be undertaken will attract fresh interest in the Vermilion. This range is doubtless going to attract men in their search for high grade iron ore. There is no other district that offers greater possibilities.”
Prepare to sink shaft
Out at Armstrong Bay matters are looking up in a mining way. At the LaRue property the Chippewa Iron Mining Co. is said to be about ready to sink a shaft. This with mean something to Tower as it is known that iron exists there and no doubt but now a railroad will go in and a large number of men be employed. H. E. Walbank is there overseeing the work of sinking the shaft, building the necessary docks and buildings. Mr. LaRue, the discoverer of the ore has spent much money and time on this property and has laid bare a body of ore which is as good as any mined. Its extent has been fairly well outlined, enough so that the shaft sinking is no experiment. Matters are now on a business basis and something may soon be expected to come out of the LaRue.
Officials Visit LaRue Property
President Farnsworth is Pleased With Showing and Orders Sale of Stock Discontinued
The Chippewa Iron Mining company, which is developing the LaRue property, northeast of Tower, expects to ship some ore this season, according to officials of the company who were here recently. Those in the party were: President F. W. Farnsworth, E. S. Durrell and H. F. Williams, all of Cincinnati, Ohio, and W. G. LaRue of Duluth, who originally began the exploration work there several years ago.
That the drills have encountered a large tonnage of high grade ore at moderate depth is the assertion of Mr. Farnsworth and so great is his faith in the property that he has discontinued the sale of stock. A contract has been let for the building of a branch railroad from McComber to the LaRue, a distance of slightly less than 5 miles, and when this is completed heavier machinery will be installed at the mine and shipping begun. The railroad will be completed in less than 90 days, it is said.
Skillings’ Mining Review last week said of this property:
The Chippewa Iron Mining Co., which is developing the La Rue iron property, Vermilion Range, has entered the ore with the drift which it has been driving in an easterly direction. The ore was encountered 200 feet west of the ore shown by W. G. LaRue and is at an increased depth of 40 feet. Getting the ore 200 feet west of, instead of immediately under the ore developed higher up, is regarded as a fact of much importance. If the ore opened by the drift proves to be of the main deposit opened above it will indicate the presence of unexpected large tonnage at moderate depth.
Vermilion Range Mines Working
Mining Conditions Here Much Better Than on the Mesaba Range
Of all the ranges in the Lake Superior iron ore region, the one showing the most activity is the Vermilion, according to Skillings’ Mining Review. There has been some curtailment among the smaller operators but the leading producers are working large forces of men.
The leading operator on the range is the Oliver Iron Mining Company, which operates the Pioneer and Sibley mines at Ely, and the Soudan mine at Tower. The Pioneer mine has the reputation of being the largest underground mine in the state, and it has had a long and notable record of production. From its present capacity of production, and showing underground, the Pioneer might be said to be at the height of its career. First opened in 1889, it has since 1896 forwarded heavy shipments of iron ore annually. Its largest shipment was in 1907 when the impressive total of 830,700 tons of Pioneer ore went to the furnaces.
The Sibley mine at Ely, which is also operated by the Oliver Iron Mining Company, is a large property, which was first opened in 1899 and has shipped a total of 3,115,575 tons’ since then. It has not been worked heavily in recent years, its 1920 shipment being only 52,576 tons but in years past it has been a heavy producer, its record year being 1912, when 309,076 tons were shipped. The Sibley ore enjoys the distinction of being the highest grade in the Lake Superior district.
The third Oliver property is the Soudan at Tower, the real old timer of them all. First opened in 1884, the original iron mine of the state, it has for 37 years never missed a substantial shipment. Its grand total is 9,440,625 tons. Back in the nineties the Soudan or “Old Minnesota” was some mine. In 1897 it recorded its heaviest shipment, 592,196 tons. Several shafts were then operated and as the ore is very hard, and was hand drilled at that time, it can well be imagined what a large force of miners was employed. The miners in those days were largely English, Irish and Scotch, and it is said that Tower was a very live mining camp.
In its 37 years of operation the Soudan has been conspicuous as a school for mining men, and its graduates have gone forth to places of prominence all through the U. S. To attempt to enumerate the men who got their start at the “Old Minnesota” would be a long story. Among them were W. J. West, now District Manager for the Oliver Iron Mining Company; W. P. Chinn, now assistant General Manager for Pickands, Mather & Company; Ed. Ball, later in the Southwest and Mike McCarty who became prominent in Arizona before his death.
The grade of the Soudan ore cannot be equalled in any other district. The cargo analyses of the Vermilion Lump shipped from the Soudan mine a year ago averaged 63.49 per cent dried iron, and .95 per cent moisture, giving a natural iron of 62.89 per cent, truly a wonderful ore. The phosphorus is high, making it a non-Bessemer, but its structure so desirable that it is perhaps the most valuable ore mined in the Lake Superior district, and a small portion of it is used in most of the furnace mixtures of the Steel Corporation plants.
There is some exploration work going on continuously on the Vermilion Range and some encouraging showings are being reported. Most active of them at the present time is the work being done on the LaRue property, located in Sections 7 and 8-62-14, by the Cincinnati people who formerly conducted the Chippewa exploration work. A force of men has been engaged here all winter, and considerable ore has been developed. Recently a survey was made for a railroad spur into the property. Those in a position to know state that the LaRue is a very promising property.
New name for the LaRue Mine
Will In the Future Be Known As the Armstrong Bay Mine. To Ship Ore Soon
The La Rue Iron property, on the Vermilion range, will in the future be known as the Armstrong Bay mine, to avoid confusion with the La Rue mine on the Mesaba range, according to Skillings’ Mining Review. The Chippewa Iron Mining Co.. of which F. W. Farnsworth of Cincinnati is president, is the lessee and operating company.
Mr. Farnsworth was expected to arrive in Duluth late this week to open bids for the construction of the spur track to serve the Armstrong Bay mine. This spur will be 4 1/4 miles in length, running from the end of the McComber spur, and thus connecting the property with the main line of the Duluth & Iron Range railroad. The sealed bids for the construction are now in the hands of W. A. Clark, chief engineer of the railroad, and it is expected that a contract will be awarded soon.
The Vermilion range is thus brought to fresh attention by the arrangements of a new mining company preparing to enter the shipping list. Mines on this range are not readily located, and a great deal of money may be easily used without success. But it is accepted by the mining community generally that the Vermilion is a range of very long life, and once a mine is developed there it is a valuable property. The ore is not only of good quality but lies deep. The excellent quality of Vermilion ore is as widely known as the iron and steel industry served by the Lake Superior district. The number of mines operated there is limited, but they are notable. The Soudan mine at Tower is notable for the fact that it was the first iron ore producer in the state of Minnesota, and is still a great mine. The Pioneer and Zenith mines at Ely are notable for their large ore deposits as well as for their high grade.
The future of the Armstrong Bay property will be watched with much interest. If this property shall prove to be another great iron mine, and it is regarded with much favor by some men who know much about the Vermilion range, it will do much to encourage a renewal of exploration and the investment of capital there. It is the purpose of the Chippewa Iron Mining Co. to make initial shipment of ore this fall.
Tower-Soudan Historical Society – Research Letter
The first people on the site of the LaRue Mine were loggers in 1853. They logged all of the big timber off the site and floated it from Armstrong Bay to a temporary saw mill near the town of Tower on the entrance of the twin rivers.
While they were cutting the logs they had a small logging camp 1/2 mile inland from the northwest end of Armstrong Bay on the flat land. When they dug a hole for an outhouse they found quartz, old pottery, burned charcoal, and a lot of pyrite (Fool’s Gold). Digging the second outhouse northeast of the first – on an area of flat ground they found more quartz and small shiny gold in with the black sand near an old stream bed.
One of the old loggers had a friend named Shorty LaRue from Texas who was schooled in geology. He examined the site and verified a small amount of gold both in the old stream bed and attached to the quartz outcropping on the side of a big hill.
Shorty LaRue and his brother George staked 6 claims and dug 11 test pits near and around a mile from the first gold discovery.
As time went by – all the trees were logged and the ground was pretty much barren with additional test holes as far as you can see. The area also has signs of volcanic matter near the top and on the northwest slope of the big hill.
Both Shorty and George came from a large family of 6 boys and 3 girls. They had friends that came up to their site after the Civil War ended in 1868. Most of the men came out of Missouri, Kansas, and Texas that were loyal to the Confederacy and some rode and fought with Quantrill’s Raiders. They were rough and hardy men. Only three brought women with and only one had a family – all or most were loners looking for excitement and gold.
In 1892 they formed a partnership – helpers formed a crew and started digging into both the west and southwest side of the big hill. After two years of slow digging with 8 men that hired a drill team from Duluth to do a series of bore holes in the side and the top of the hill. The hole v? was finished from Pollas? Morge? – small amounts of gold and Morge? from a stick they had.
Ken Kube & Associates
881 Ohio Street
West St. Paul, MN 55118