Great Northern Iron

RCHS is pleased to present a new ground-breaking publication!

Great Northern Iron: James J. Hills’s 109-Year Mining Trust

James A. Stolpestad
Published by the Ramsey County Historical Society

For more information and to order the book, see the website at:

Revealing for the first time a story hidden from public view for a century, award-winning historian James A. Stolpestad and the Ramsey County Historical Society present the history of Great Northern Iron Ore Properties formed in 1906 by James J. Hill and Louis W. Hill to acquire, manage, and lease 67,000 acres on the 100-mile long Mesabi Range.

Great Northern Iron accounted for 15% of all iron ore and taconite that came from the State of Minnesota. Investors received their interests FREE because they owned stock in the Great Northern Railway (known today as BNSF) and received more than $500 million in distributions over 109 years (unadjusted for inflation).

Great Northern Iron supported tens of thousands of miners and their families from 43 different nationalities. Many descendants are nationally recognized figures of today.

The book presents the unique story of Minnesota’s iron country:

  • the hardships of opening the Mesabi Range
  • the discovery of iron ore and how it was mined
  • the stupendous iron ore production during 4 wars
  • the perfection of taconite at the University of Minnesota
  • the replacement of depleted iron ore with taconite pellets
  • the IRRRB and mine land reclamation efforts
  • the rise of scrap iron fed electric arc furnaces

The encyclopedic 348-page Great Northern Iron has original documents, photos, maps, and detailed tables taken from historic records woven into its narrative. The book also presents original maps and cross-sections that fold out 36 inches from its pages to depict the entire Mesabi Range in exceptional detail and color.

The book sells for $60.00.
For more information and to order the book, see the website at:

For a review of the book published in Mining Engineering journal, see the page here.

For the Pioneer Press review of the book by Dave Beal, see the article here.