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Situated in the southeast corner of Iron River Township, the City of Iron River, Michigan extends south into Stambaugh Township, in southern Iron County, in the central-southern Upper Peninsula.

As of 2000, Iron River includes the former city of Stambaugh and the former village of Mineral Hills. Its current boundaries abut the city of Caspian to the south. The center of Gaastra is 4.2 miles from the center of Iron River, while Crystal Falls and Alpha are fifteen and sixteen miles to the east, and the unincorporated community of Beechwood is about eight miles to the northwest.

The chief route through the city is US-2, which runs west to Ironwood and southeast to Crystal Falls and Iron Mountain. Other routes include M-73, which runs southwest to Wisconsin, and M-189, which runs near Caspian before continuing on to Wisconsin.

European-American occupation of the area of current-day Iron River was driven by iron mining in the late 1800s. Iron ore was first discovered by Harvey Mellon in what became Stambaugh in 1851, and the extension of the railroad encouraged the migration of prospective miners to the region, leading to the establishment of the original village of Iron River in 1885.

Iron mining led to rapid growth for several years, but it stagnated in the 1890s due to a struggling national economy. During that time, logging emerged as a significant driver of the economy during the late 1800s, but there was a resurgence of mining in the early 1900s, while logging continued to be important, even today.

Iron River was incorporated as a city in 1926 but, as this date roughly corresponded with a long-term decline in both the mining and logging industries, Iron River has lost population every decade since, the only exception being in 2010 when the populations of Stambaugh and Mineral Hills were added to its rolls.

The cities of Caspian, Gaastra, and Stambaugh were located just south of Iron River, while the village of Mineral Hills was to the north. In the 1970s, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development commissioned a study on merging the region's five adjacent municipalities, a project that was assisted by the Michigan State University Extension. These five municipalities were already sharing police and fire services, and cooperating in other ways. However, consolidation was unsuccessful in Caspian and Gaastra, but Stambaugh and Mineral Hills voted to consolidate with Iron River in 2000.

After the mining period ended, the chief industry of Iron River was logging. While still playing a significant role in the city's economy, general retail and service industries, largely in support of tourism, have become dominant.

The community that eventually became Iron River was formed around the profitable Nanaimo Mine. A post office was established there on April 21, 1882, with John McDonald as postmaster, although the post office was then known as Nanaimo. In 1878, two brothers, Donald C. and Alexander MacKinnon acquired land in the area, sensing its value as a potential town site. They engaged J.A. Van Cleve to plat the village as Iron River in 1881. An inn built by James Innis during that year was the first permanent structure. The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad opened a station there, and the post office was renamed Iron River on September 8, 1882. Iron River was incorporated as a village in 1885, and became a city in 1926.

Elizabeth Slaten, the widow of a War of 1812 veteran, became the first landowner in what became Stambaugh in 1855. In 1855, Escanaba speculators, Dr. Louis D. Cyr, Louis Stegmiller, and Richard L. Selden, purchased the land and had John V. Sydam plat the village in 1882. On May 18, 1882, a post office was established, with Mr. Selden as postmaster, and named for John Stambaugh, president of the Todd Stambaugh Company, which had recently acquired the Iron River Mine, also known as the Stambaugh Mine. Stambaugh was incorporated as a village in 1890, and a city in 1923. In 2000, it was merged with Iron River.

Just north of the original Iron River townsite, Mineral Hills was named for the iron-bearing hills in the area, and incorporated as a village in 1918. The village was made up of six clusters of twelve houses each, developed as housing for miners at a particular mine. These housing developments were known as Locations. However, Mineral Hills never developed a commercial district, and was merged with Iron River in 2000.

The focus of this category is on the City of Iron River, Michigan, and may include topics relating to either of its components, whether the former city of Stambaugh, the former village of Mineral Hills, or any of its Locations, which are still indicated on many maps.

Online resources for the city itself, or any businesses, industries, schools, churches, organizations, attractions, or events, are appropriate for this category.


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