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Ely, Minnesota is in eastern Saint Louis County, in the Vermillion Iron Range of northeastern Minnesota. The first Europeans who came into the area were fur traders, but the Lake Vermillion gold rush brought large numbers of people to the region in 1865. Although its gold deposits didn’t last very long, iron ore was discovered in the process. Before long, immigrants were coming into the iron range looking for work. When the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway laid its tracks from Tower to Ely in 1888, mining operations began in earnest, beginning with the opening of the Chandler Mine. Miners incorporated their settlement near the east side of Shagawa Lake, where Spaulding now is, and named it Florence. When ore was discovered further west, the village moved and changed its name to Ely, for Samuel B. Ely, a promoter of the Vermillion Range who never actually visited the town. Soon, other mines were opened in Ely, including the Pioneer Mine, the Zenith, the Savoy, and the Sibley. Today, the Pioneer Mine, which closed in 1967, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the community depends largely on outdoor recreation, although logging continues on a limited basis. Ely serves as an entry point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the International Wolf Center, and the North American Bear Center. Minnesota Highway 169 and County Road 21 are the main routes to and from the city. Nearby localities include Winton, to the northeast, and the small community of Burntside, to the southwest.


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