Strong magnetic variations were reported on what would become the Cuyuna Iron Range as early as 1869. The Cuyuna Range name was taken from a combination of range founder Cuyler Adams' name and his faithful dog, a St. Bernard named Una.
Orelands Mining, founded by Adams, drilled and hit iron ore in 1904. The first iron ore shipment wouldn't take place for another seven years. The Cuyuna Range was the last and smallest iron range discovered in Minnesota.
A first shipment from the Kennedy Mine at Rabbit Lake in April 1911 of 147,649 tons was the largest by a first shipper from any of the original ranges in the Great Lakes District.
By 1918, there were 32 mines in the Cuyuna Range. The range gave birth to seven towns in Crow Wing County. After the mines opened, Crow Wing County's population grew three times its size in 10 years. Cuyuna was the first of the range cities established after iron ore mining began.
The entire range was about 80 miles long from northeast to southwest and was 30 miles wide at its largest section. The North Range - about 10 miles long and 6 miles wide - began 4 miles northwest of Deerwood. Hematite, manganiferous and high-grade ore were taken from the mines.
The South Range ran through Aitkin to a mile south of Deerwood and through southeast Brainerd and 10 miles south of the city. The line of ore ran across the Mississippi River and into Morrison County ending just west of Randall.
Producing limonite and brown ore, the southern end of the range was most productive near Barrows and extending back toward Deerwood.
The last underground mine to produce ore in the state, Inland Steel's Armour 2 mine near Crosby, closed June 1, 1967. Strip mining continued but the hey day of the Cuyuna Range mining was past. Stockpiles were created but left unshipped. Finally, the mining inspector's report stated no iron ore was shipped from the Cuyuna Range in 1985.
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