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Keewatin Minnesota History

Page 1  (mostly family and personal history)
Page 2  (general history, sporting, band and church history)
Page 3  (school, organization and union history)
Page 4  (mining history)

Excerpted from
Printed by the Eastern Itascan, Published 1956


THE Village of Keewatin was platted by members of the Pillsbury, Longyear and Bennett families, and a petition for its incorporation was filed December 30, 1905. For some reason there was considerable opposition to incorporation and at an election held July 31, 1906, the vote was against incorporation. Max Shuirman and P. J. McGuire hired lawyers to investigate. The investigation showed errors in the election and the district court declared that the vote to incorporate had carried 47 to 40.

The town was named Keewatin. From the Duluth Herald 1906, "Keewatin has been selected as the name for the new town on the Nashwauk branch of the Great Northern Railway. The Township Company originally selected the name 'Apollo' but later the name Keewatin was substituted".

The name Keewatin means North West Wind in the Indian language and also is the name of a rock formation found near the Mesabi Range. The company probably had the latter in mind when they decided on the name. The land was surveyed by the Duluth Engineering Company and the lots were 25 by 125 feet, with all mineral rights reserved.

The first election was held and the first Council met March 12, 1907 in the office of the St. Paul mine. Members of the first Council were: President, E. F. Remer; Clerk, Roger Hickox; Trustees, Frank Dellwo, Jack Bush, Pete Bergstrom; Treasurer, Charles Adams.

Martin Hughes was appointed Village attorney at $35 per month. Ed Claffy was the first Chief of Police at $75.00. The clerk received $50.00 and the treasurer two per cent of all monies handled. The Street Commissioner and Fire Chief were paid so much a day "when working". The first health officer was Dr. Kane of Stevenson.
The first business of the new Council after the regular appointments was to approve seven liquor license applications.

Next they contracted with Fred Culver to build board walks in town at 78 cents per foot for an eight foot walk and to build a walk to the St. Paul for $875.00.

They also contracted Frank Harrison to furnish and erect five cedar poles and install gas lights on same.

John G. Johnson was awarded the contract to build a jail on the lots where the Village Hall is now. The jail cost $455.00.

They levied taxes for the general fund in the amount of $9,000.00, and adopted the first set of Village ordinances, twenty-four in all.

The next few years saw a rapid growth for Keewatin. The Bray, Mississippi and Bennett mines became active, bringing many new people to town. Various bond issues were approved by the voters for the sinking of a well, the establishing of a public water works system, the installation of an electric light plant and the sewer system. The first cement walks were laid on First Street in 1913 and the first paving in 1914. The first white way was also established that same year.

The Village Hall was built and accepted as completed April 15, 1910. Spina and Hayes Additions were opened and the Bennett Location was annexed to the town. The municipal heating system was begun in 1912 when the exhaust steam line was installed to the Village Hall.

The first Water, Light and Power Commission was created in 1918.

Adequate police protection was provided from the beginning of the town. There have been many who have served as Chief of the Police department. Among these were Ed Claffy. Pat Carmody, John Webb, Joe Hurley, and Charles Vadnais. The present chief is Sig Lindahl.

The Health department was also established early with out of town doctors in charge.


Keewatin had no resident doctor for two years and had to depend on the mining company doctors from Stevenson or Nashwauk. In 1907, the Rood hospital established a branch office at the St. Paul, and Dr. N. O Pearce became our first doctor. In a few years, he was succeeded by Dr. Carstens who lived here until he was transferred to Hibbing in 1914. Dr. Carstens was a great favorite of the first settlers here, and they still remember his kindness and friendliness. The first baby that he delivered was Ernest Schutte.

Dr. E. H. Loofbourrow

Dr. E. H. Loofbourrow established residence here in 1914 to become the best known of the Keewatin doctors. Coming here from Chisholm in October of that year, Dr. and Mrs. Loofbourrow lived first at the St. Paul where the Rood hospital office was situated. In 1918, they moved into their new home on Third Avenue which was next to the newly constructed Rood office. The only way that a doctor could secure a telephone at that time was to have a pay booth installed in his office. Naturally, this was very inconvenient.

Because so many of the roads over which the doctor made his calls in a horse and buggy became impassible in the winter, the mines frequently sent a team of horses to see him through. He made one such trip to the Stevenson in the company of a Catholic priest who also had been called to see the patient.

Helen Churchich, who is now Mrs. Sam Grcevich, was the first of a large number of babies to be delivered by the good doctor.

Dr. Loofbourrow always took an active part in the affairs of the community. Besides being the Village health officer and school physician for all the years he spent in Keewatin, the Doctor served on the Library Board, Red Cross, the Water and Light Board, and the building committee for an enlarged Village Hall.

When Dr. Loofbourrow decided to retire, his many friends in Keewatin gathered at a farewell party and presented him with a gift in loving appreciation of his kindness and faithful service to the town.

The Loofbourrows retired to Northfield to be near their children, Ralph and Mary Louise. Mrs. Loofbourrow still resides there, but Dr. Loofbourrow passed away on September 20, 1949.

The last resident doctor at the Mesaba Clinic was Dr. Lorton. Since he resigned, the clinic has followed the policy of sending a doctor over from Hibbing on certain days.
The Adams Clinic, which moved from the Gentile building to the Conte building several years ago, follows much the the same procedure as the Mesaba Clinic. That is, they do not have a resident doctor, although Dr. Raattama does have regular office hours.


Before Dr. H. C. Kreiger set up the first dentist's office in the bank building, there were various itinerant dentists who came to town for a few days at a time. These dentists usually made the hotel their headquarters. Dr. Kean was the second permanent dentist here. In 1924, Dr. Hallock bought him out and established his office in the same location he has today. Dr. Hallock came to Keewatin with a degree from the University of Minnesota. In 1937, he married Miss Ida Benedict. At present, they are living in the former Loofbourrow home. Dr. Hallock has been keenly interested in scouting in the community. Hehas been instrumental in fostering the Boy Scout program in the Village. At the present time, he holds an area office in the Nakehichi Boy Scout District being one of the vice presidents. Dr. Hallock has also served on the library board for nine years.

Another practising dentist in Keewatin is Dr. J. J. Morrone, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Morrone, who are local residents. Dr. Morrone is also a graduate of the University of Minnesota. In 1947, he set up his first office in town, and a few years ago he opened a new office in the Conte building in conjunction with the Admas Clinic.


Among the numerous lawyers who have practiced law here since the beginning of the town, were Martin Hughes, W. E. Crangle, who in 1908 was the village attorney at $40 a month, and F. Price who took care of village affairs in 1909 and 1910. However, these lawyers came in from other towns. As the town progressed, there was an urgent need for a permanent lawyer. The first resident lawyer was E. H. Bither followed by Phil Stone. They established their offices in the bank building. Mr. Stone was interested in town politics and was elected mayor in 1915. John Naughtin, Joe Henley, Thomas Zauhar, and James Abate are a few of the others who had offices here. At the present time, there is no established law office in the village.


Since 1908, Keewatin has maintained a volunteer fire department that has consistently rated high in efficiency, morale, and effectiveness. The first "fire fighting foreman" was F. A. Culver appointed in May, 1908. at the salary of $2.50 per day when working. The next year, P. J. Carmody was appointed chief at $15 per month. The office of Fire Chief has been filled at various times by W. R. O'Connell, Jacob Jaffe, C. J. Reppe, Anton Logar, James Henley, Anthony Fox, Amos Olson, W. T. Nelson, and Clyde Chappell. Percy Burns took over the office of chief in 1947 and will hold that office until his retirement in the summer of 1956.

The first official expenditure of the Village of Keewatin for fire purposes was the purchase of three fire extinguishers in 1908 for $15 each. Soon afterwards the village purchased a hose cart and fire hose for $535.10. In 1910, the fire equipment was modernized with the purchase of a ladder wagon.

First hose cart bought in 1908 by the Keewatin Minnesota Fire Department
First hose cart bought in 1908. Displayed by Joe Verrant, Carlo Comparoni, Peter Michelich, and Ludwig Maverle.

The first fire truck was purchased in 1920 for $12,860. This was a 500 gallon pumping truck. In the same year, the fire alarm system was installed.

The fire department had 40 members until 1940 when it was cut to 25 members. In 1938, a First Aid Squad and rescue squad were organized within the department. A pension plan was drawn up in 1935.

Some of the great incendiary landmarks that called for extreme exertion from the Volunteer Fire Department was the fire of December 21, 1924, involving the St. Mary's church and the Jeannette residence; the John Hecomovich home at the St. Paul location in January 16, 1925 with the loss of three children, and the fire involving the Gentile, Cusciotto, and Perry buildings on Main Street on September 1, 1953.

The fire department has also maintained community interest by sponsoring the Boy Scout troop for the past 15 years and by providing the Anion Award for the past seven years to the outstanding music senior.

Keewatin Minnesota Fire Department's first fire truck
Keewatin's first big fire truck bought in 1920. Firemen on truck are Amos Olson, Harold Doyle, and Cal Bardine.


City athletics have run a varied course of emphasis including baseball, basketball, hockey, and bowling. All four sports have had their day in the course of 50 years with baseball dominating the early years; city basketball and hockey occupying the "middle period; and organized bowling pushing hard to become the dominant city sport in the recent years. Emphasis on sports has always been high in Keewatin and a detailed account goes beyond the scope of this memorial handbook. Only highlights will be recorded.


In 1911, baseball was first organized with John Webb serving as secretary, and P. Carmody as manager. The first games were played on a field scattered with stumps. The local lineup included Kearney, Stadt, Dearing, Rossiter, Shapiro, Morrison, Johnson, Cannon. The years 1913 to 1918 saw baseball teams that were mighty tough with many of them being played for large sidebets. It was in this period that Charles Exstrum started his long tenure as baseball scorekeeper. The 1919 season was organized on May 2, 1919 with the first game played with Marble on June 2. The locals lost a close one, 5 to 4 in the rain. The lineup included Holt, Ayotte, Kaasa, Kreiger, Hetherington, Golden, Kuro, Larsen, Millaney, Shuirman, Hoskinson, and Beecroft. On June 13, 1919, the locals won a thriller over Marble in a return game with Golden coming through in a storybook finish. The score was 1-1; 2 men out; 2 strikes on himself; one man on base in the last half of the ninth inning when Golden lined out a smashing triple to score the runner and to win the ball game. The 1920 team managed by C. W. Extrum included such stalwarts as A. J. Boudreau, Kepple, Beecroft, Donlon, Benton, Hauserand, Sincock, and Schaefer.

Baseball on the city level since the 1930s has been carried on by the Junior League Legion Baseball. In 1934 the Legion Baseball team won the district title by beating Marble but lost the game due to the use of an ineligible player. The team won the McClethan Trophy by beating two Duluth teams with T. Emanuel pitching both games. The roster included Vic Spadaccini, Tony Emanuel, Pete Gentile„ Joe Emanuel, Vic DeFonso, Nick Grcar, P. Waara, T. Rebrovich, Rocci Spadaccini, Russell Nelson, Steve Grcevich, and Frank Yugovich.

In 1935, the top sport news was the winning by the Legion baseball team of the District Regional titles with Tony Emanuel as coach, A. J. Boudreau as manager. The team lineup included George Matakovich, Jack Schaefer, Louis Filippi, Joe Emanuel, Louis Cernjar, Pete Panyon, Joe Stanich, Charles Schweiger, Tuovi Salo, Clarence Doyle, R. Waara, Jack Vendetti, Tony Stockovich, Louis Yugovich, and Francis Anderson. In 1950, there was a resurgence of City baseball. A city baseball team moved into the West Mesaba League and captured the championship. The team won the regional title but lost at the state meet in St. Cloud.

Keewatin Minnesota Baseball Team 1915.
Keewatin. Baseball Team 1915. Front row: Glenn Lewis, Gabe Shuirman, Henry Wigen, Edgar Gallina; Second row: Unknown, Lloyd Allen, Tony Fox; Third row: Phil Stone, Frank Gallina, Art Burk, Unknown, Joe Shuirman.


On December 13, 1918 Bennett Mine location organized a hockey team. On the following February 17, 1919 a town team was organized with Edgar Gallina, Dick McEachin, Pete Billotti, Richard Kuro, Jack Beecroft, and Frank Gallina. Hockey continued to flourish with a peak team in 1926. It was called the unusual team because of the 6 regulars there were only four names. There were the two Spadaccinis (Pete and Mike), the two Shuirmans (Neil and Muxie), Percy Burns and Clyde Chappel. Pete and Mike, who were Italians, were the wings where dash and versatility were needed. The two defensive men were the Shuirmans; they were Jewish and their job was to protect home territory that had already been gained. The center was Chappel from merry England, and his job was to direct the attack. The goalie was Percy Burns, who was an Englishman, a clan noted for sturdy resistance. The team played in the state and fared well.

Keewatin Minnesota Hockey Team 1926 - 27
Keewatin Hockey Team 1926 - 27. Left to right: Perry, P. Spadaccini, Chappel, Anderson, Nord, L. McEachin, M. Spadaccini, J. Anderson, and P. Burns.

By 1931, a new generation had taken over the city team hockey. A strong club drew capacity crowds at all games. On the team were Frank Matosich, P. Smarzea, Nick Spadaccini, Albert Vendetti, Jack Doyle, Tom Ganarelli, Mike Spadaccini, and Horace Ellefson.

City team athletics is closely connected with the success of the various high school teams. A brief mention will be made of some of the high school athletic highlights.


In the early 1930s when city basketball was at its zenith, high school athletics were also at their prime. In 1931, the high school football team finished near the top of the league with one of the standout games being a 45-0 romp over Tower. The high school girls' swimming team compiled a very good record in competition. Athletes honored at a banquet in April of 1931 included Julian D'Andrea, Joe Morrone, Tom Ganarelli, Ted Renfors, Clarence Nordstrom, Leore Sarff, Joe Theodore, Mike Vranesh, Olaf Olson, Mike Rico, Pete Gentile. For swimming, the girls honored were Mildred Falbo, Rose and Mildred Prebonich, Ellen Lapinoja, Rose Rizzio, and Mayme Vranesh.

Keewatin City Basketball Team 1926 - 27. Standing: W. Ress, A. Milani, W. Petroske, V. Pintar, L. DeForest, W. Nelson, Manager; Sitting: R. McKay, C. Chappel, E. Kaminen, E. Petroske, N. Shuirman.

In 1937, the high school basketball team won the first baseketball title in the history of the school by defeating Buhl 37-35 in the district tourney. On the team were Jack Schaefer, Louis Filippi, Louis Cernjar, John Hoskinson, Tuovi Salo, Frank Schweiger, and George Vranesh.

Keewatin High Champs 28th District, 1937


The Keewatin Tigers won its first Little Eight football title in 1947 with Williams as coach. The team consisted of Rebrovich, Rebrovich, Blair, Olson Serratore, Lindahl, Morris, Cornparoni, Grahek, Chappel, Kukich, Blair, Emanuel, Toman, Gannarelli, Elich, Williams, Falbo, Verity, Dasovich, Schneider, Cappeletti, and Jackson.

Keewatin Minnesota High School "Little Eight Champions" 1947-48
Keewatin High School "Little Eight Champions" 1947-48
Back row—Robert Comparoni, Joseph Cernjar, Bernard Blair, Douglas Lindahl, Alvin Blair, Rudolph Grahek, John Rebrovich, Lawrence Maloney. Third row—Gordon Olson, Conrad Lucas, Patrick Adams, Richard Eckstrom, Dennis O'Brien, Duncan Kerr, Donald Mayerle, John Lott, Coach George P. Williams. Second row—Gene Cortese, Richard Pulka, George Elich, Frank Serratore, Norman Williams, Donald Rebrovich, John Toman, Darrell Gannarelli, Dominic Emanuel, Neil Falbo. Front row—Roger Johnson, Clyde Chappel, Robert Morris, Terrance Schneider, Ernest Verity, Stephen Dasovich, Geno Cappelletti, Daniel Kukich, Kenneth Jackson Seasonal record—Buhl 0, Keewatin 7; Tower 0, Keewatin 41; Biwabik 0, Keewatin 13; Aurora 0, Keewatin 14; Gilbert 7, Keewatin 33; Nashwauk 7, Keewatin 20.

In 1949, Keewatin won its second Little Eight football title with a team including, Jackson, Falbo, Perrella, Johnson, Dasovich, Cappeletti, Schneider, Kukich, Boben, Morris, Bardine, Adams, Boudreau, Chastan, Brletich, Woods, Gentile, O'Brien, Johnson, D'Andrea, Verity, Fazio, Cortese, Zauhar, H. Johnson, Quayle, Sprague, Karpan, Marinello, Toman, Maki, and Gannarelli.

An account of Keewatin's athletics is not complete without some mention of the names of our athletes that have gone on to make names for themselves in the great national arena. Such a list would include Claude Extrum, who played professional baseball; Vic Spadaccini, who played university and professional football; Tony Emanuel and Joe Emanuel who made all college conference teams in basketball; Geno Cappeletti, who achieved prominence at the University of Minnesota gridiron and played pro football; Tom Gannarelli who starred in sports at Stetson University at Florida; Louis Filippi who made all conference mention in both football and basketball; and Pete Filippi who fought professionally in Minnesota, Florida, and Hawaii.


The Keewatin City Band over the years has been an integral part of the life and spirit of Keewatin. It has furnished concerts every Thursday night during the summer months for almost 30 years. It has regularly furnished music for all patriotic occasions such as Memorial Day and the 4th of July. The City Band has been an active marching organization winning numerous honors and bringing musical fame to our village.

The history of the present band as now constituted goes back to 1927 when voters approved an assessment to establish a Band Fund. Band activity, however, is much prior to this date. The earliest mention of music in the official village records goes back to 1909 when the Council authorized $50 for musical entertainment. In 1914, the Council gave F. V. Wakkinen $50 to start a village band. The band as then constituted, consisted of Director Victor Taipole, Ed Sarff, W. B. Steenstrup, Gabe Shuirman, John McEachin, Ira Lewis, Axel Nelson, L. Tiberio, Alex Eckstrom, J. Suzick, Art Hall, W. King, Albert Gallina, Edgar Gallina, Frank Gallina.

In 1928, a new band was organized on the basis of the new appropriations voted the year before. D. J. Rochon was the first director. There were 32 original members including Art Hall, Chas. Kaminen, Edgar and Albert Gallina, Walt Younkins, Jim Golden, Lawrence Tiberio, Horace Ellefson, George Maki, Lionel and Glen Sarff, Albert Milani, and Julian D'Andrea.

In 1929, C. H. Bordwell became director of the band and held the post for 21 years. Since 1950, the band has been under the leadership of F. J. Raniele.

Keewatin Minnesota City Band 1930
Keewatin City Band 1930. First row: J. Golden, M. Martin, R. Passi, V. D'Andrea, A. Sandberg, J. Marrone, E. Gallina, L. Sarff; Second row: H. Kiockers, 0. Martolin, H. Ellefson, A Shomento, F. DeMarco, J. Shomento, L. Tibero, W. Youngkins, J. D'Andrea. Third row: V. DeFonso, A. Hall, G. Sarff, L. Lund, H. Jensen, C. H. Bordwell, T. Shuirman, A. Gallina, W. Raattama, C. Kaminen.


The first movies were shown in the Village Hall in 1910 by A. K. Wyand
of Nashwauk. Soon a movie theater, the Unique, was started in a building near the present Post Office. The Unique had various managers including, Johnson, Roberts, and Crockett Brown of Nashwauk. When the saloons were closed Tom D'Andrea started the Grand Theatre in his building. In 1923, Tom built a new theater and the grand opening was December 7, 8, and 9th, with Jackie Coogan starring in the opening picture. A contest was held to choose a new name for the theater, and the
name "Our Theater" was selected.

In 1928, Charles Raniele bought out Mr. D'Andrea but did not start to operate the movies until 1932. In that year, the present Itasca Theater was opened with the Marx Brothers starring in "The Four Coconuts".



THE Francis Higgins Memorial Church was the outgrowth of a spiritual need among the Protestants of Keewatin. It was named after the great lumber-jack preacher known throughout the North Country as the Sky-Pilot. Several of his converts, who held evangelistic services in Keewatin in the summer of 1915, requested that the church be named after him. His untimely death from cancer at the age of 50 was caused by the chafing of pack straps on his shoulders. Prior to this date, the Rev. Ben Donovan, a Methodist minister from Marble rode the freight train to con-I duct services every seven weeks in homes at the St. Paul location and later in the St. Paul School. The names of Mrs. Ole Wigen and Mrs. Charles Extrum were associated with this early church effort. More frequent services were requested by Robert L. Downing, superintendent of the Bennett Mining Company. The
Range Parish, which was a federation of churches and mission work on
the Mesaba and Vermilion Ranges was organized in 1913 under the Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church. The Range Parish answered the appeal of Mr. Downing. Rev. Sears Thompson and Rev. Nicola Santella, Parish workers who resided in Hibbing, walked the railroad tracks to Keewatin to see what could be done. Encouraged by the F. V. Wakkinens and the Charles Extrums, more frequent services were planned. The Methodists gladly yielded the field to the Presbyterians.

Francis Higgins Memorial Presbyterian Church, Keewatin Minnesota
Francis Higgins Memorial Presbyterian Church

The formal organization of the Francis Higgins Memorial Church was on October 5, 1915 at which time a building committee was appointed to make plans to erect the church on the lots which had formerly been obtained through the generosity of the Russell Meridan Bennett Company of Minneapolis. Mr. Alfred Johnson and Mr. Glenn Lewis were the first elders. Among the Range Parish workers who conducted services and organized the Sunday School and other church organizations prior to 1917 were Rev. Franklin J. Barackman and Rev. Charles H. McCaslin.

The Rev. William J. Bell, located at Mt. Iron and a minister in the Range Parish, served the church from 1917 to 1931. It was under his leadership that a small group of men and women with determination and vision and much hard work saw the church completed. The first Baccalaureate service ever to be held in Keewatin was planned and conducted by Rev. Bell in 1921. The vocal group for the service consisted of John C. Hoskinson, Jess Madsen, Misses Carr, Wenstrom, Jones, and Steinhoff.

Charter Members of the First Ladies Aid, Francis Higgins Memorial Presbyterian Church, Keewatin Minnesota
Charter Members of the First Ladies Aid. Left to right: Mrs. Extrum, Mrs. Wigen, Mrs. Nickerson, and Mrs. Pinkham

Miss Louise E. Murray came in 1918 as the first resident worker of the Range Parish. At that time, one out of every ten people in the community were American-born or of American-born parentage. Thus the women and children with whom she chiefly worked spoke only one of nineteen languages. Learning a greeting in three languages opened the door into many a home. Her friendship and understanding was a great help to those shy, timid, and lonely women in a strange land. She brought happiness and beauty into their lives by bringing Christ into their homes. Many in the community still remember the classes she held in her small home before and after the church was built. She taught among other things, homemaking, scouting, Bible study, story-telling, children's band, Daily Vacation Bible School.

Because of the shortage of materials and exorbitant prices during the war years, the church was not completed' until the fall of 1923. It was dedicated September 30 - October 7, 1923 at which time one hundred and fifty people attended each service. Rev. William J. Bell continued as pastor until 1931, when he was replaced by Rev. Edwin Knudsen who served until 1938. He was young and energetic with a special appeal for the young people, both in their church organizations and in summer activities at Perch Lake where the Parish Camp was located.

Rev. Ernest Tremblay served from 1938-1945 as our first resident pastor. His daughters, Deborah and Martha, were a great help with the choir and youth work.
When the pulpit was filled by Rev. Robert O. McLeod (1946-1949), a young Princeton Seminary graduate, a manse was built on the church property. Much of the labor was furnished by volunteer workers of the congregation. It was dedicated with V a formal ceremony in 1947.

On November 9, 1948, many of the former members who had left the community returned for the 25th anniversary of the church.

The congregation felt extremely fortunate in securing Dr. J. Henry Irwin to fill the pulpit after Rev. McLeod's resignation. Dr. Irwin had served a large church in Britton, S. D., for 25 years. His desire to fill the pulpit of a smaller congregation for a few remaining years before his retirement has resulted in a very fruitful and harmonious period in the life of the church showing marked spiritual growth as well as an increased membership. At the time this book goes to press, the church is confronted with filling the pulpit following Dr. Irwin's resignation effective as of July 1, 1956.


Four years after the community was incorporated, the first Mass was offered in the Village Hall at Keewatin in 1910 by the Rev. Fr. Clement Gamache, who lived in Nashwauk and held services on alternate Sundays in the two towns.

Twenty or thirty was considered a normal attendance. This small number was due to a combination of circumstances. The mines generally worked on Sunday, and the automobiles were not yet in use in Keewatin, so unless one owned a driving horse one walked. In winter walking was often over snow-covered roads or wooden sidewalks.

As the number of Catholics increased, the need for a church became evident. The trustees bought lots on Second street and Third avenue for $150.00 in October 1911. Work started in May, 1912. Nels Lindahl, with the help of his son, Sig, built the frame building. It was completed in 1914 and dedicated to St. Mary, the Mother of God.

Old Catholic Church in Keewatin Minnesota

To help defray the cost of the new church, bazaars, and suppers were held. The first sale and supper were held in the Village Hall. Mrs. Savoy and Mrs. McEachin had charge of the food; Mrs. Milan and Mrs. Skogland of the sewing. Father Gamache urged the women to extend the affair over three afternoons, serving coffee and one other article of food. The affair was a huge success at a profit of $75.

In those days, a dollar was worth a hundred cents in any market. It was in 1915 that the first class of boys and girls, between the ages of eight and eighteen, received their First Solemn Communion. This group also received their Confirmation the same day in Hibbing. Some of the members of this group were Pearl Murphy Geving, Dick Murphy, Marie Delwo Johnson and Dorothy Savoy. Their religious instruction was given in a private home at the St. Paul location. The following year Mrs. Golden and Mrs. Donlon taught catechism in the church on Saturdays.

Father Gamache cared for the parish as a Mission attached to St. Cecilia's parish, Nashwauk from 1912 until May 1922. The McEachin brothers assisted him by serving Mass. They attended the fires in the huge stove located at the front of the church. It's a matter of opinion as to which parishioners were considered the more fortunate during the services—those who sat near the stove and roasted or those who sat near the door and froze.

July 4, 1922, the Rev. Fr. Joseph Coyle was named the first resident pastor. At this time, St. Anne's in Kelly Lake was attached to the Keewatin parish as a Mission.
So far, religious training for the children left much to be desired. The public school teachers did their bit, but in those days, they were few. Father Coyle had the Corpus Christi Sisters come for two weeks during the summer vacation. One summer they came for six weeks. They came by train to Hibbing and were met by some of the parents. Their expenses were paid from social affairs given by members of the Aid.

Father Coyle served the parish until November 1924. He was succeeded by the Rev. Richard O'Gorman. Before the close of the year, the frame church and all the parish records were destroyed by fire. Father O'Gorman did save the Blessed Sacrament. A couple of weeks previous to the fire a dozen chairs had been borrowed from the Finn Hall. The chairs burned with the church. On being questioned as to the cost of the chairs, the Finnish representative said, "You could not help the fire. Your church went too, so put the cost of the chairs toward the next church."

A new site on Main Street was selected for the erection of a new church and rectory. The rectory was completed, and the basement of the proposed church was built in 1925 under the direction of Father O'Gorman. Completion of the church was postponed because of the depression.

Father O'Gorman was succeeded in June 1929, by the Rev. Austin Turbiaux who cared for the spiritual needs of the congregation until his transfer in August 1930.
The Rev. Patrick Maloney was pastor of St. Mary's from August 1930 until June 1936, when he was followed by Father S. Frederick.

St. Mary's Catholic Church in Keewatin Minnesota, 1956
Present St. Mary's Catholic Church (1956)

Construction of new brick church was begun under the supervision of Father Frederick on May 8, 1949. It was completed in late December of the same year. Midnight Mass on Christmas, 1949, was the first Mass offered in the church. Father Frederick was celebrant of the Mass. Deacon was the Rev. James Golden, son of Mrs. Lucy Golden, native of the parish. During the construction of the church, Mass was held in the Grade School Auditorium.

Father Golden celebrates his first mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Keewatin Minnesota
Father Golden celebrates his first mass. Left to right: Fr. Kinzer, Fr. Frederick, Fr. Golden, and Fr. Cashman.

In the spring of 1952, Father Frederick was succeeded by the Rev. Mirko Godina, now of Aurora. He served the parish until September 1952 when the Rev. Fr. David Taylor came to St. Mary's. Under his direction the church basement, with a fully equipped kitchen and recreation hall, was completed.

The present pastor, the Rev. Patrick McEnery, succeeded Father Taylor in December 1953. In June 1955, four Benedictine nuns from Duluth taught religion to the youngsters of the parish. In October, the interior of the church was attractively decorated. Later in 1955, the parish house was remodeled and painted.

During the half century of the churches existence, many clubs and societies had been organized, discontinued and reorganized. In 1923, at the request of Bishop McNicholas that a council including every Catholic woman be formed in every parish of the diocese, a group of women met in the church basement with this object in mind. Later the new born council merged with the established Ladies' Aid. This became known as the Council of Catholic Women. Mrs. E. W. Leach was its first president. The present head is Mrs. Tony Perrella.

During Rather Frederick's pastorate, Women's Study Clubs and Circles were formed. At present there are seven circles—St. Mary Margaret, St. Bernadette, St. Clare, St. Bridget, Little Flower, St. Anne, St. Frances Cabrini. The circles assist in raising
money by putting on different projects during the year.

In the early 1920s Father Coyle organized the Blessed Virgin Sodality for the high school girls. It was discontinued after being active for a few years. Father Maloney reorganized the Sodality, but it became inactive again. Then in 1948 the Council of Catholic Women reorganized the society under the direction of Mrs. W. O. Anderson, Mrs. Dan Dasovic, Mrs. Palazzari and Mrs. Geving. The first prefect was Diana Branca. The present moderator is Mrs. Dasovic and the officers are Rozann Uremovich, prefect; Mary Margaret Fazio, first vice prefect; Mary Alice Adam, second vice prefect; Jackie D'Andrea, secretary; Mary Ann Quayle, treasurer. There are about fifty members who meet once a month at the church. The main purpose of the Blessed Virgin Sodality is to help the girls in spiritual development.

The Holy Name Society for men was organized several times in the last fifty years. It was reorganized in 1954 by Father McEnery. The members of this society have helped to raise money for the large projects such as the redecoration of the church and purchasing of bells. When the Holy Name Society was reorganized, Mr. Donlon was chosen president. Mr. John Muhar is the president now.

A few men of St. Mary's are members of the Knights of Columbus, belonging to the chapter in Hibbing.

There has been a choir almost continually from the time the first church was built to the present. One of the first directors was Miss Margaret Ryan. Others were Mrs. Neal Shea, Mrs. Joe Grcar, Miss Josephine Kaus and Mrs. Arthur Palazzari. The Senior choir which sang the Mass for Sundays, holidays, weddings, and funerals and had a membership of about twenty has dwindled down to five. These members now sing only for week-day High Masses. The Junior choir, under the direction of Shirley Golla has taken over the work of the Senior choir. Mrs. John Matosich has organized a choir of younger boys and girls.

In 1914, there was only one class in religion taught by one teacher in the home of a parishioner. Now there are nine teachers in charge of nine classes which meet in the church on Mondays and Fridays for one hour.

Many changes have taken place in St. Mary's church from its small beginning in 1910. Many thanks go out to the "old timers" who worked so hard to make a strong foundation. We thank all the parishioners who helped through the years in making the church what it is today. We are deeply grateful to the priests who gave so much time and effort in helping the congregation spiritually and materially. We are especially proud of a native son, Rev. James Golden, who was ordained a priest June 5, 1948 and who sang his first Mass in St. Mary's church the following day.


Calvary Lutheran is a young congregation organized December 2, 1951. The first Ladies Aid was formed as early as October 26, 1950. In the spring of 1951, Mrs. Orest Banal wrote to the president of the Minnesota Augustana Conference asking about the possibility of establishing a Lutheran church in Keewatin. It was decided at the annual state convention that a survey be made of Keewatin and this was done by Arnold Lack, field missionary. On Sunday July 29, 1951, in the Dougherty Chapel with 26 adults and nine children present a permanent Lutheran Congregation was established. On Sunday September 2, 1951, Sunday School classes were held for the first time with 15 children present and Mrs. Walter Johnson as Sunday School superintendent.

In September 1951, when Mr. Lack left to enter Rock Island Seminary, Mr. Ted Tinquist, field missionary of Cohasset, came to serve here. In November 1951, the Ladies Aid was reorganized with Mrs. Walter Johnson, president and Mrs. Orest Banal, secretary-treasurer.

The first officers of Calvary Lutheran Church were elected January 2, 1952, with Rev. Bomgren, vice pastor; Mrs. Walter Johnson, Financial Secretary; Mrs. Howard Myrum, Mr. Walter Johnson and Mr. Harold Sprague, Deacons; Mr. Orest Banal, Mr. Sverre Omtvedt, and Mr. Herman Erickson, Trustees. Later that winter, the Luther League was organized with Eleanor Lindberg, president and Beverly Kruchoski, Secretary-Treasurer. The first Confirmation Class was confirmed June 2, 1952. The 11 members of this class were Beverly Kruchoski, Marvin Waara, Robert McBride, Judy Omtvedt, Eleanor Lindberg, Diane Weberg, Dean We-berg, Nancy Carlson, Robert Carlson, Orville Erickson and Ronald Sprague.

In the summer of 1953, a building committee was formed and during the following months a study was made and tentative plans made for a church building that was finally launched in April, 1954. Under the guidance of Mr. Marvin Larson, the ground breaking ceremonies were held Sunday, June 6, 1954, and the active construction of the first unit was started June 17, 1954. Due to a shortage of labor and materials, the work was slowed down, but by September 1954 the rough construction work was done and Mr. Larson left to do construction work elsewhere, and Mr. Charles Nelson, a student, came to carry on the work.

Calvary Lutheran Church, Keewatin Minnesota, 1950's
Calvary Lutheran Church

By November 1954, the church was finished enough so services could be held in the new building. The finishing work has gone on, and now after a year and a half of untiring effort and long hours of labor by the entire congregation, the church is completed. Dedication of the new church was held Sunday, March 4, 1956. At the present, Rev. Bey of Nashwauk is serving the congregation. The other present officers of the church are:


Gerhard Fry Sverre Omtvedt
Harold Sprague Oscar Lundquist


Mr. Walter Johnson Howard Myrum
Mrs. Walter Johnson Robert Hughes
Howard Myrum Secretary
Robert Hughes Treasurer
Mrs. Howard Myrum Financial Sec.
Mrs. Walter Johnson Sunday School Supt.
Mrs. Sverre Omtvedt Week Day Supt.
Joel Omtvedt Organist
Bruce Bevacqua Acolyte
Mrs. Leslie Hartmann Ladies Aid President
Mrs. James Bevacqua, Jr. Ladies Aid Secretary-Treasurer

The first baby baptized in the new church building was June Lorraine Norby, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Norby on September 18, 1955.

During the Dedication services the lights blinked and a spuddering voice was heard from the kitchen, and word came that the stove had burned out; but fortunately the coffee for the reception, which was to follow, was already made.

The plans for the church were drawn up by Mr. Leslie Hartmann of Keewatin.

During the first winter, the congregation was blessed with what is now fondly called organitis. The first organ that was used belonged to the owner of the Chapel, and one morning during the services, he came in and took the organ as he needed it someplace else.

The next organ was loaned by Mrs. Erickson of Hibbing, who had use for it after a short time. The third organ was brought from a church in Onamia, and soon became terribly out of tune. Next, an organ was secured from the Grand Rapids church that had been motor driven. The organist couldn't pump enough air into it and having no building of their own it was impossible to connect a motor to it. Finally, a few members of the congregation went to Duluth and purchased the present organ, which is in fine shape.

The last confirmation class was confirmed July 24, 1955. There were only five members in this class: Joel Omtvedt, Doris McBride, Judy Bevacqua, Delbert Waara, and Theodore Banal.

Interior of Calvary Lutheran Church, Keewatin Minnesota, 1950's
Interior of Calvary Lutheran Church

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