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Keewatin is in eastern Iasca County, Minnesota. Along US Highway 169, Keewatin is east of Nashwauk and west of Hibbing. Other nearby communities are Bengal, Calumet, Chisholm, Grant, Kelly Lake, Marble, Pengily, and Silica. The area’s early settlers came for timber, as the the land was covered with White and Norway pine trees, along with cedar in the many swamps. Large logging companies began operations there before 1900, and by 1910 most of the large timber had been removed. The Swan Logging Company was the most active company, and it maintained logging camps near the current townsite of Keewatin. John Bush had a camp near where the Mesabi Chief pit now is, and there were camps near the Bennett Mine, Welcome Lake, the current school site, and at Moore’s Siding on the Great Northern Railroad tracks about a mile west of Keewatin. Logs were sometimes loaded onto rail cars to be shipped, or they were hauled by team to Big O’Brian Lake and, from there, they were floated down O’Brian Creek to Swan Lake, then down the Swan River to the Mississippi. The first homes in what was to become Keewatin were log shacks in a cedar swamp, and life was rugged. Most of the early loggers were Finnish immigrants. When the larger timber was exhausted, smaller trees were cut for posts, mining timber, and pulp. Because these activities required more people, the lumber companies created the town of Keewatin. The first business in town was in a tent, where a man named Logan sold bottled whiskey until he could built a saloon. Max Shuirman opened the first store in Keewatin shortly after he arrived in 1903. There were several wells that produced drinking water but water for washing had to be carried from Welcome Creek. When the St. Paul mine was started, all of the wells went dry except for one near Welcome Lake. Keewatin’s population peaked at 1,942 in 1940, and it has generally declined since, but is still above a thousand.

 

 

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