Erie Mining oral histories will be available to the public |

Erie Mining oral histories will be available to the public

Updated: February 01, 2021 06:47 PM
Created: February 01, 2021 04:35 PM

The Erie Mining Company History Project Team, in conjunction with the St. Louis County Historical Society, is donating more than 150 oral history interviews to seven organizations in northeastern Minnesota.

This donation is the culmination of the area’s largest oral history project covering Minnesota’s taconite industry. The interviews are now in seven sets, that were picked up from Twin Ports Mailing on Monday.

The interviews were conducted between 2014 and 2019 to collect first-person research material for the book, “Taconite: New Life for Minnesota’s Iron Range – The History of Erie Mining Company.” These oral histories provide intimate, real-world insight about the company, its operation, the communities and, most importantly, the lives of the people who were part of the Erie story. 

“Oral histories are first-person information,” said Barb Sommer, a noted oral history scholar who was contracted to assist with the project. “With oral histories, you get memories you wouldn’t get any other way. They often fill in gaps in the written word.”  

The Project Team and the SLCHS are donating over 125 hours of audio recordings, more than five days of recorded interviews, and 2,800 pages of transcriptions. The individual interviews average about 50 minutes in length, with some extending to as long as 2.5 hours. 

By the end of February, the interview audio recordings and transcripts will be donated to the following:

•    St. Louis County Historical Society, Duluth
•    University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library, Duluth
•    Hoyt Lakes Public Library, Hoyt Lakes
•    Aurora City Library, Aurora
•    Minnesota Discovery Center, Chisholm
•    Ely-Winton Historical Society, Ely
•    Cook County Historical Society, Grand Marais

The interviews were conducted across a wide spectrum of people associated with Erie Mining Company, including employees, spouses, corporate and civic leaders, local business owners, and community members. They cover the entire life of Erie, from the early 1940’s investigations into taconite, through construction and startup in the 1950’s, to its operation and eventual closure in 2001.  

The interviews will be available locally to family members, friends, the general public, and specifically those interested in researching the taconite industry and learning about one of Minnesota’s great mining companies. 

Sommer said: “Organizations doing oral history projects often complete at most 15 to 20 interviews. The Erie Project Team conducted over 150 interviews. That is a major commitment of time, energy and effort. The team was very organized, knew what they were after, and knew how to get it done. Quite an accomplishment.”  Sommer also said, “these oral histories will be a valuable source of information for future researchers.” 

Erie Project Team leader, Ron Hein said: “These interviews provide a fascinating look at the early days of Minnesota’s taconite industry and the people who made it happen. They were pioneers in every sense of the word, and their stories need to be preserved. We were privileged to accomplish that task.” 

Through these oral histories, the Project Team collected and preserved a broad range of social, corporate, union, educational, and manufacturing records and artifacts that will be available for future research. 

The book, “Taconite: New Life for Minnesota’s Iron Range – The History of Erie Mining Company,” is available from the St. Louis County Historical Society ( for $45, including tax and shipping. Proceeds from the sale fund scholarships for area students.

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