City of Keewatin - Comprehensive Plan

City of Keewatin, Minnesota - Comprehensive Plan

Statement of Purpose

Keewatin lies between two cities with industrial parks and has no need to create one of their own. Therefore, our main purpose is to remain primarily a residential community.

In order to make our city inviting to new residents, we must work with our Keewatin Economic Development Authority to upgrade services for all citizens. We must work with the schools to ensure a continued high standard of education. We must instill a pride in the community that will encourage all to maintain their properties and we must cooperate with neighboring communities in their efforts to attract new industry. Ojibway name, spelled giwedin by Barga's Dictionary, meaning northwind. It was the name of a former large district in Canada at the west side of Hudson Bay. This word is spelled Keewaydin, as it should be pronounced, in Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha; with translation as the Northwest wind the Home Wind - MINNESOTA GEOGRAPHIC NAMES, By Warren Upham Minnesota Historical Society 1969.

Lumbering was the industry that first attracted laborers and settlers to the Keewatin area, but it was the development of the mining industry by the Pillsbury, Longyear, and Bennett families that built the village and gave it stability and permanence.

To serve the needs of the miners of the recently opened Saint paul Mine in 1905, a town was platted just south of the mine and near the Great Northern Railroad spur built in 1902 to serve Nashwauk - despite the fact that this located the town in a huge Cedar swamp. The Saint paul Mine was located just north of the platted village limits, but the limits actually went north and west enough to incorporate any mining locations that might become involved. Main street was placed in a North - South direction, since most of the early business and travel was northerly to the Stevenson mine and on to Hibbing. This has caused confusion with many visitors now because the present roads were built to connect Keewatin with Nashwauk and Hibbing which places trave in and East-West direction. Our Main Street still is considered the North - South First Street.

The name Apollo was first decided upon for this new town, but the name of Keewatin prevailed. Keewatin means "Northwest Wind" in Ojibway Chippewa and is also the name of the area rock formation which contains the iron ore. The filing for incorporation was done December 30, 1905, and this created much controversy until an election to adopt the incorporation was approved July 31, 1906. The Pillsbury family, also know as the Sargent Land Company, joined the Longyear and Bennet families in incorporating the village near the railroad. Most of the original records and abstracts were held by the Sargent Land Company.

The mining history of Keewatin is a part of the general survey of the western Mesaba Range. In 1886, Mr. D.T. Adams tested for iron ore across the Range as far as Coleraine. His maps were the basis of the initial mining operations and their accuracy insured use for many years. In 1900, the Stevenson Location was the commercial center of the area immediately west of Hibbing. Many of the early settlers of Keewatin originally were residents of Stevenson. The Forsest Mine began shipping iron ore in 1904; it was located just south of Stevenson Mine, but about a mile and one half north of Keewatin. Saint Paul Mine, which began shipping ore in 1905, was started as an underground mine, as were most of the mines in the area. Mr. E.F. Remer was the mines's Superintendent. The underground operations were so wet that enormous amounts of water had to be pumped out. Stripping the mine to prepare for open pit operations began about 1911. A total of 5,670,939 tons of iron were shipped from the Saint Paul Mine before it closed in 1964.

The education concerns of the village resulted in the formation of School District #9 in 1907. A two story wooden school building was erected and by 1910 there were 194 students and five teachers. In 1910, afour-classroom school was approved for the Saint Paul location. The cost of this structure was $22,000 and it was made available for night school classes. The first brick school building was built in 1914 for 150 pupils. Also established were the School Gardens under the Agriculture Department of the District. An early concern of the City Council that first year was where to hold meetings where it was warm. Most of the early meetings were held at the Saint Paul Mine offices because Mr. Remer was the first elected Mayor. The next order of business seems to have been providing health officers and liquor licenses. Of course there was prostitution, which was legislated against by Ordinance #4. Most of the 24 ordinances dealt with behavior. It is interesting that even in 1906 the licensing of dogs was considered essential. After the usual ordinances to try to control human behavior, the council let bids for wooden sidewalks to not only connect the Main Street but also the schools and Saint Paul Location. Since there was no community water available in 1910, it was considered a necessary daily chore to haul water from Welcome Lake. Those with horses usually were very cooperative but some were greedy and charged for their services. Eventually, the Saint Paul Mine installed water for their Captain and Foremen in their houses and placed spigots on the streets for the miners' families. Outhouses were the normal toilet for everybody until a sewage system was installed with a water system in 1910. Mr. Frank Harrison was hired in 1906 to install some gas lighting on cedar poles along the Main Street. The Bray Mine and the Mississippi Mine opened about 1910 and each had locations which needed service from Keewatin. The boardwalk was extended to the Mississippi Location.

Most of the early settlers talk about mud on Main Street and early immigrants were very discouraged when they first located in Keewatin. This has been the explanations for why they only bought twenty-five foot lots - they all intended to return to Europe.

Early settlers were of English and Irish descent with a lot of Scandinavian people thrown in. This changed as mining changed and the demand for more workers brought many from Italy, Croatia and Slovenia to this area. There were many boarding houses to house the miners and the Finish people ran the best ones. They usually provided saunas also.

The only means of transportation available for the early settlers of Keewatin besides walking, was either horse and buggy or train. Most of the supplies came by way of the Great Northern Railroad which at the time made only three trips a week. As there was no depot at first, the freight was dumped along the track to be claimed later by the storekeepers. A box car was finally brought in to serve as a depot, and a real one was built in 1911. Ther merry Wido made its daily stop and people would run down to meet it.

Life in the early days was decidedly primitive according to our present ideas. There were many fights which included guns and knives. Murder was not uncommon. The good times were usually get togethers in the homes of friends where they talked about the country andsang or listened to accordion music. The early dances wre held in the Wooden School, in the Finn Hall, and in the Village Hall after it was built in 1910.

With the advent of modern transportation, mining locations wre no longer needed, and the people moved to Keewatin with their houses. The entire community can be traced to its origins at various locations. Each Location had a certain style of houses and as one drives through the streets of Keewatin one can see homes that originated at the Bray, Bennet, Mississippi, Sargent and Saint Paul Locations. There are Captain houses and foreman's houses and miners houses but they all mix well to make Keewatin an interesting community.

The first shacks are still present on Fourth Street even though they have been stuccoed over to meet current needs. The first real home that was built in Keewatin is still occuped and on Fourth Eavenue East you can still find original wooden paving blocks that were laid in 1910 in the main part of town so that the horses hooves would be protected and the mud eliminated. There are still remnants of the guard posts at the entrances of the schools which together with the fencing kept cows out of the school grounds. Everyone had a cow and a pig and chickens because there was no refrigeration even after electricity became available. Because cows were herded whereever there was grass, all homeowners fenced their property - even today there are many fenced yards.

Most of the Italian immigrants were particularly fond of wine, and many of the early grocery operators offered railroad cars of grapes every fall together with tons of sugar so that wine could be fermented and the population could forget the hardships of living in a mining town.

Keewatin today is a triving bedroom community of Hibbing with National Steel Pellet Plant enjoying a busy year of mining in Itasca County. The population of Keewatin remains stable at 1,164 people, even though the business area is quite diminished. Keewatin is a Star City indicating that it has many local citizens trained in promoting economic growth. Keewatin is an official member of  "Celebrate Minnesot" and looks forward to many years of good living.

Economic Development Plan

Keewatin is looking for some services to make it more acceptable as a convenient residential community. Needed in our community are an eating establishment, a hardware store, other conveniences to consider would be a barber/beauty shop and a possible outlet to distribute perscriptions.

Keewatin does have building lots available for some light industry on the South side of Highway 169 and the west side of 7th Street. Keewatin also has building lots available for new housing and some Main Street lots for retail businesses. The Economic Development Authority has money available for economic development and actively searches for businesses to meet the needs of Keewatin.

Keewatin has no traffic problems with three entrances into the City. The completion of the Range Expressway from Highway 65 to Coleraine, should be pushed. Keewatin should make the access to the land South of Highway 169 a high priority.

Keewatin has a variety of recreational areas. O'Brien beach, a sliding hill west of 7th Street, hockey rink, skating rink, baseball and softball fields, hiking, biking & snowmobile trail, library a city park, basketball courts and playgrounds are available.

 Public Utilities

The electrical system has been upgraded and is now adequate for the community. Water is provided from two separate wells and is also adequate. There are some problems with the sewer system during spring run off and heavy rains but the problem should be corrected by August 2002 when all property owners will be required to have sump pumps installed and all drains which currently connect to the sanitary sewer carring this rain water are disconnected.

Streets and sidewalks have been repaired as needs have arisen. Most streets are now in good condition and sidewalks and streets continue to be improved in areas as funds are budgeted for these projects.

Public Protection

Keewatin has a Volunteer Fire Department we are very proud of. Most of the Volunteers are trained as First Responders. They are well equipped and take pride in keeping all their equipment in good repair.

Keewatin's Police Department has three full time officers and some part-timers when needed. They are also well trained. The City should be encouraged to keep the staff at its present size.

Public Works

Keewatin is recognized across the entire area for it's city crew. They all take great pride in their city and are all aware of it's needs. Their efforts at snow removal keep the city viable even after large snowfalls.

Business and Commercial

Keewatin has two convenience store/gas stations, an American Legion Club, three bars, a plastic fabricating business, a bank, and a post office. A taxidermist has a shop on Main Street, as well as a business that deals in used goods. Outdoor wood furnaces are also built in Keewatin. A auto repair service, a repair service for boat, ATV, and snowmobile motors are used by many people throughout the west range area.

A log cabin in the City Park is opened around the Fourth of July and before Christmas to sell local crafts.

We have a number of home businesses including, daycare, carpentry, sign making and photography. These businesses should be encouraged as long as they do not interfere with the residential priorities. Keewatin will remain a residential community. Its small businesses and light industry should be encouraged. Other businesses which would increase the attractiveness of the community should be encouraged. Keewatin has a Star City Plan that was updated in 1992. It also recommended that Keewatin remain a residential community with some light industry that will not create problems for the infrastructure of the city.

It would be necessary to create a visually pleasing, open and safe atmosphere with adequate parking and traffic circulation, in order for such a reuse concept to succeed