Since very much of the early history of this region was handed down by word of mouth, or can be recalled only in a hazy fashion by some of the pioneers, there may be a few errors in the account of the early history of Gilbert and Sparta.
Before Sparta and Gilbert were ever thought of, John B. Weimer, a mine prospector and cruiser, had established a small settlement of a handful of people, which was located on the spot where Sparta later stood. The post office was named Weimer and the settlement was known as Weimer, Minnesota.
After the opening of the Genoa mine in 1896, Mr. G. G. Hartley of Duluth platted a town site at Weimer and called it Sparta. Tradition has it that Elwood E. Raab was one of the first men located at Sparta. He was an old timber cruiser, and was an unsuccessful candidate for the State Senate on at least one occasion. Hence he was "Senator Raab" to the people of Sparta. W. E. Bender, who operated the Sparta Mercantile store, was one of the first residents of Sparta, and he was closely followed by A. R. Anderson who, with Mrs. Anderson, came into Sparta on a flat-car to open up a store there. It seems that the first building in Sparta that suggested any permanency was the hotel or inn, known as the Tanner House, operated by Frank Tanner.
With the platting of the Townsite, lots were sold rapidly, and on August 7, 1896, a petition seeking the incorporation of Sparta was signed by A. W. Fuller, A. R. Anderson, and others. The petition, which set out that two hundred persons were residents of Sparta, was approved by the County Commissioners on August 20, and on September 26, 1896, at an election held in Anderson's store, lot 11; Block 8, Townsite of Sparta, forty-three votes were cast for incorporation and twenty against. Soon an election of officers was held and W. W. Fuller was elected President, and his son, Walter Fuller, Clerk. Frank Klink was elected Treasurer and he was later succeeded by Norris Colvin. Fred Powell was appointed Chief of Police. He was followed later by Nick Licari, Joe Hallup, and P. R. Cosgrove. Joe Haley was the first Fire Chief, and he was replaced by Nick Differding, Joe Hallup, and P. R. Cosgrove, in order named.
Soon Sparta was a thriving little town of one thousand people. Edward McHale, a partner of William Hogan in the Livery business, was Mayor for several years. His lengthy administration being interrupted but once, when Fred Winter, woh owned Lake View Hotel, became Mayor for a term. D. M. Mouser was the depot agent for the D.I.R. [Duluth & Iron Range] and also acted as Clerk of the Village. Bobby Trotter, Warner, and a few others had charge of the Duluth Missabe and Northern at Sparta. A. H. Hamilton, who had been appointed postmaster, was also agent for the Sparta Townsite; and served terms as Justice of Peace with Clyde Campbell. Joe Leach and Ed Williams also served terms as Justices of Peace. Mr. Campbell with the Talboys of Aurora operated a grocery store. John Saari later owned an interest in the store, as did Mike Kraker. After this firm moved to Gilbert, it was known as Saari, Campbell, and Kraker, and was one of the first in the new town. Sam Keller was the Village Blacksmith, while Carl Frederickson was the tailor. Mike Kohler with his mules operated the first dray line, and Richard Lakso ran the boarding house. William Fritchler, of Virginia, assisted in the installation of the municipal light plant. James Connor, brother of John, and father of James Jr., the boy who was destined to cover Gilbert with glory on the basketball floor, was the first barber in Sparta, but he sold out to Julius Bordeau and became manager of the Municipal Light and Water Plant. C. G. Fulton operated the Bayview Hotel for a few years apart from his teaching, and A. E. MacInnis who, with Peter Cosgrove, later opened the first store in the first addition of the Village of Gilbert. Louis Rubenstein did most of the banking in his place of business until part of this was taken care of by Shirley Hopkins, who was cashier of the first bank in Sparta. Anton Indihar served a term on the Council and for a few years, Anton Erchul was a policeman.
Rumor has it that the mail was carried from the depot to the post office in Sparta by an old character named Dan Lagraw. This cheerful individual never failed to whistle "Home Sweet Home" while going between the depot and the post office for the mail. John A. Juten and John N. Carlson operated a department store known as Juten & Carlson. These partners were incidentally married at the same time at a double wedding. Speaking of couples that were married, P. R. Cosgrove claimed that he was best man for not less than forty couples, for whom Justice of the Peace, Clyde Campbell tied the knot. While on that subject, it might be added that most of the young bloods of that period roomed at Bordeau's up above the barber shop before their marriage.
D. M. Mouser with others owning the Sparta Lumber Company operated the sawmill. Norris Colvin of course was also in the lumber business at that time. P. J. Murphy was in the real estate business. The medical needs of the Vilage were first served by Dr. Shaw, and later by Dr. Frederick Pratt, who later became a famous eye, ear and nose specialist at Minneapolis. The Village Attorney was C. O. Baldwin, a prominent attorney of Duluth.
The Finnish Lutheran Church was first erected at Sparta, and Rev. John Rankila who lived there served as minister. Father M. Bilban came over from Eveleth to conduct service at the Catholic Church which was erected in 1902. The Methodist minister of Eveleth came over to hold service for those in Sparta of his church.
One of the interesting incidents in the history of Sparta was the strike of miners in 1907 under the supervision of the Western Federation of Miners. Men marched past doors with red flags.
In 1907 and 1908, the Oliver Mining Company, desiring to clear the Sparta Townsite of surface property, in order to work the ore body underlying the town, made arrangements through their agent, D. M. Mouser, for the purchase of property of the residents. In 1908 the moving from Sparta to Gilbert had started, and all during 1909 up until 1910 residents and business buildings of Sparta were moved to the new town of Gilbert. The last active President of Sparta was Otto Haenke, and on an election held on February 20, 1911, which was attended by only three people, voting was unanimously in favor of the dissolution of Sparta - Thus begins Gilbert as we know it.
An interesting sidelight on the purchase of the Townsite of Sparta by the mining company was the Sampson affair. Joe Sampson and the mining company could not agree on what Joe should be paid for his house and lot, so the mining company proceeded to mine all around Joe's property. It was discovered that Sampson's house was merely resting on rock and the company did not need the property for mining purposes. It was alleged that one night Sampson fired several shots at a steam shovel crew that was loading cars near his house. Sampson was arrested and taken to Duluth, but nothing much came of the affair. Another story has it that one day later on, Sampson came to Gilbert and dragged a cross behind his team and horses, alleging that he had been crucified in his property deal.
Mining operations in the vicinity of what is now Gilbert led a number of Eveleth men to believe that this region had an important future, and W. J. Smith, J. A. Robb, E. E. Bailey and D. W. Freeman organized the Gilbert Townsite Company in 1907. Gilbert was named after Giles Gilbert, who was one of the fee owners in the mine bearing his name. It was then believed that Gilbert was destined to be the center of the mining boom that would make it the principle city on the Range. In order that the town which gave promise of such a pretentious future might have a proper beginning, the concrete block, known as the Bailey Block was the first building erected. The Bailey Block was razed in May and June of 1958, fifty years after it was built. It had a 300-foot frontage and was situated on Broadway. Before the Bailey Block was finished, however, John Proznick and John Francel had erected buildings, and what later was called the La Duc Boarding house was completed.
In 1908 the exodus from Sparta to Gilbert was well on its way, so corporate privileges were sought in a petition dated March 4, 1908, signed by John Siegel and twenty-nine other residents. The petition sought to make the bounds of the incorporated village some 2,240 acres, including not only the platted sections of the townsite but hundreds of acres of unsettled territory as far as the old La Belle mine. On March 6, 1908, the petition was approved by the County Board and in an election held at Sweet and Barrett's Drug Store, Lot 4, Block 11 in Gilbert Townsite, April 7, 1908, sixty-seven voted in favor of incorporation and twenty-seven against. John Siegel, Clinton Welch, Anton K. Kapeller were inspectors of election. On the day before election a remonstrance was filed with the County authorities by C. E. Moore, general superintendent of the Pitt Iron Mining Company which operated the La Belle mine.
Although a court action followed the protest of Moore, the people of Gilbert went ahead and completed the organization of the village. The voting for village officials took place on April 23, 1908. D. C. Caine was elected president, Frank Vertin was elected clerk, C. H. Matthews, Joseph Brula and John Seilf were trustees. John Carroll was appointed Street Commissioner at the salary of $2.50 per day, the salary of the Village Clerk was set at $35.00 per month. Charles Murphy, later Mayor of Mountain Iron, was appointed Chief of Police, M. M. Sweet was the first Treasurer, J. C. McGilvary, Village Attorney, and Frank Bowman was appointed Village Engineer.
Acting upon the proceedings started by the Pitt Iron Company, the Supreme Court declared the incorporation illegal and void from its inception and granted a writ of ouster against the Village officials. The council of which D. T. Caine was president held its last meeting on March 25, 1909. The first official act of this Council had been to grant a liquor license to Victor Steh, the last official act was to pass a motion made by the newly appointed clerk, C. F. Liscombe, and seconded by John Siegel to lay upon the table immediately the matter of the franchises of the Gilbert Electric Company and the Gilbert Light & Power Company.
By this time Gilbert had already given evidence of becoming one of the important mining towns of the mining region. The first child born was a baby girl, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Matt Doyle. Mr. Doyle was a steam shovel engineer at the Gilbert mine. The baby was christened Gilberta in honor of the new Village, and was born in July, 1907. The Gilbert Townsite Company donated a lot to Gilberta shortly after her birth.
John Siegel probably had the first business in town. A. K. Kapeller operated the first meat and grocery store and he later sold out to MacBeth and Gardiner and served in the capacity of manager for that firm. William Hogan moved his livery from Sparta. George Mihelich opened the "Gilbert Cash Store," while A. R. Anderson, who had moved over from Sparta operated a grocery store in partnership with Simon. Most of the tradesmen and business people moved over from Sparta, including Juten, Carlson, Saari, Campbell & Kraker, Carl Frederickson, Mike Kohler and others. Monoghan & Trenholm operated the first barber shop in the new village, followed by Scott, and T. P. Clifford. Frank Reid, depot agent at Petitt for the D.I.R. was appointed Postmaster, but he never served in that capacity, and A. K. Kapeller assumed his duties as first Postmaster of Gilbert.
After the first ouster by the Supreme Court, the residents of Gilbert were not inclined to let the matter rest. On April 5, 1909, another petition praying for incorporation was prepared. It was signed by J. B. Thompson, C. O. Welch, and others, and instead of seeking powers over thousands of acres, merely asked for the incorporation of the platted portions of sections Twenty-three and Twenty-six, in all a little over one hundred forty-three acres. In that area, petition set out, lived 491 persons. The petition was approved by the Board of Commissioners on April 6, 1909, and in the election held at the Bailey Block, April 29, 55 votes were cast for incorporation and two against.
In the election of May 17, 1909, which followed, M. A. Masterson was elected president, L. L. Sutton was elected clerk, and Harry Silver, George Rattenbury and P. R. Cosgrove trustees. A. J. Noble was elected treasurer and served in that capacity for several years, when he was succeeded by Carl Frederickson. P. J. Boyle was appointed village attorney, Frank Bowman, engineer, William Dolan, patrolman, and Charles Murphy (later Mayor of Mountain Iron) chief of police. W. O. Welce and William Trenholm were Justices of the Peace, and Harry Silver was elected fire chief of the Volunteer Fireman. The Eveleth Star was named for the official publication for the village.
Gilbert was first served by the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad at the Petitt Depot where W. J. Luke was one of the early agents. Later the Gilbert station was established and Elmer Pryor became the first agent. Ben Hoyer succeeded Pryor and later came A. C. Henry, who remained at the Gilbert Depot and others who followed him. Paul Covert was the last agent.
In 1910 the Water, Light, Power and Building Commission was created and the Council appointed C. L. Newberry, O. H. Haenke, and James Dowling members of this Commission. Ed Johnson was the first Superintendent of the Water & Light Department, and he was succeeded by P. R. Cosgrove, who in turn was followed by Joe Spitznagel, and Thomas Connor.
Dr. Baker was the first health officer of the Village of Gilbert. He was followed by Dr. Francis, who was the first resident doctor of the Village of Gilbert. Dr. Barrett, whose father was one of the pioneer newspaper publishers of the Vermilion Range, was an early resident of Gilbert, coming first to the Gilbert Location as resident doctor, representing the Fabiola Hospital of Eveleth. In 1910 Dr. Barrett set up a private practice in Gilbert. Dr. M. L. Strathern came to Gilbert in the early days of the town as resident physician for the More Hospital. Gilbert had its first dentist in 1910 when Dr. H. A. Radermacher settled here. The same year Walter Radermacher, an attorney, opened law offices in Gilbert and was appointed Village Attorney.
For sure Gilbert was blessed with other fine doctors down through the time. Dr. Moses L. Strathern, a flashy young gentleman with a football All-American background at the University of Minnesota, came to Gilbert with his little black bag and served the community for many many years. He was the first of the doctors in the community that went out far and wide, and lived about the community with a great deal of respect.
The last of the resident doctors was a man that surely could never be forgotten, Dr. Edward R. Addy. He gave all of his life for the care of Gilbert. His office was not necessarily his office, nor was his home a home. He worked day and night, in and out of the office, and gave unselfishly to the community. He was in every way, a doctor. He was most surely respected by his colleagues because of his tender nature and unending willingness to advance with the times of medicine. He gave, like not too many would, or could. And, when his death came, the community mourned the loss of a friend indeed, as well as a healer.
Both Strathern and Addy are members of Gilbert's Hall of Fame, which they so richly deserve.
Dr. F. J. Zallar filled the needs of the dental community for many many years. He is now semi-retired and Gilbert has two new dentists, Dr. Mark Erickson and Dr. Ken Holbeck.
Gilbert's spiritual needs were very early provided for. Reverend George Turner was the first Presbyterian minister in town, coming here in 1908, remaining as Pastor of the local Presbyterian church until 1923, when he was succeeded by Rev. T. S. Thompson. Rev. John Rankila came to Gilbert from Sparta and established the Finnish Lutheran Church here, when Gilbert was just beginning. Father J. E. Schiffer was the first Catholic priest in Gilbert, coming here in 1909, after the Catholic Church was moved from Sparta. He was succeeded by Father A. L. Pirnat under whose direction and charge a new Catholic Church was erected in Gilbert. After Father Pirnat came Father Kastigar, who was here for a short time, followed by Msgr. M. Bilban. The Rev. Father Francis Schweiger followed Msgr. Bilban. Father Michael Popesh served as priest for several years followed by Rev. John Kausek. Rev. John Sustarsic, Rev. Steven Savinshek followed Rev. Kausek, and Rev. Francis Gaber.
Incidentally, Mgsr. Bilban was one of the oldest priests in the State from the standpoint of years of service, and was a pioneer of both the Vermilion and Mesabe Ranges. Rev. Palmer from Eveleth conducted services first for the Methodist Church. Later when the Methodists purchased the Catholic Church building, Rev. Thomas Shorts became the minister. Rev. Shorts was succeeded by Rev. Smith and Rev. Reid.
In 1914, an important annexation fight took place. This was perhaps the hottest political struggle that the village experienced. It resulted in the annexation of what was the Gilbert location with other important mineral land, and increased the valuation of Gilbert from less than one million dollars to over five million. Space will not permit the writer to discuss in detail the important battle between the officials of Gilbert and the mining company, but he might conclude that the matter was taken up to the Supreme Court, and that body decided in favor of the Village. W. H. Radermacher, who was the first resident attorney of Gilbert, together with Warner E. Whipple and O. J. Larson represented the Village in that legal victory.
Other additions had been added to the Village since 1914. This was the property covered by the Village Ordinance No. 31. At the request of the owner the Oneida Iron Company, the Southeast Quarter of the Southeast Quarter of Section 23, was annexed on January 16, 1917.
In 1975 Gilbert doubled in size as it reached out into the area toward McKinley and Virginia and Genoa became part of Gilbert. This came about on an agreement by Gilbert, Eveleth, and Virginia when Mesabi Mountain Township was dissolved.
An interesting story might be told of the famous election of 1910, when P. R. Cosgrove defeated Martin Masterson for President. For several years the residents that were living in the section that was known as the Sparta end of the Village, and the citizens of what was called the Gilbert end, were engaged in bitter political quarrels. During this conflict between the two sections, the famous battle between the blue and white ballots was held. It was during this time, also, that Sam Keller enjoined the village officials not to place the Village Hall, which had been moved from Sparta, on the property between his Blacksmith Shop and the new school. The famous dead-line of those days ran diagonally across Broadway, between the intersection of Broadway and Iowa Avenue. The bank was in the Gilbert section, but the store of Saari, Campbell & Kraker across the street was considered within the Sparta division. It is alleged that if a resident of Sparta chanced to wander into the Gilbert section without proper protection, he would be roughly treated and vice versa.
P. R. Cosgrove served as Village President for two years and he was followed by Dr. Frederick Barrett, who. with the exception of one year when he was defeated by Cosgrove, had served Gilbert as President 19 years, establishing an enviable record that will stand for a long time among Village residents on the Range. Some of the Village Clerks who served Gilbert were: D. M. Mouser, Clyde Campbell, A. E. MacInnis, T. H. Sharp, Timothy Shean, A. W. Indihar, D. D. Rutherford, Frank J. Indihar, and Louis J. Indihar, Martin Godich, Gene Lopp, Robert Kivela and Leo Moglein, who was the last elected clerk. James Sandstrom became Gilbert's first appointed clerk followed by Gary Garret and the first woman clerk, Hazel Griffith. A partial list of those who served on the Village Council in early years included R. E. Jutten, Sam Keller, John E. Carlson, Leo Kukar, T. F. Flannigan, T. P. Clifford, John Connor, Julius Bordeau, David Moykyynen, Peter LaDuc, John Kern, Frank Bowman, Richard Lakso, Anton Erchul, Jacob Korpi, Clyde Campbell, Mike Kohler, Herman Frajola, and Nestor Laine.
P. R. Cosgrove, Jack Hurley, Sam Keller, A. R. Anderson, George Connors, A. I. Lopp were some of the men who followed Harry Silver in the position of Fire Chief. Ole Saline, James Teller, Frank Schweiger, John P. Shean, P. R. Cosgrove and N. T. Bergen were among those who had served the Village as Chief of Police.
In addition to the first members on the Water, Light, Power and Building Commission, Louis Rubenstein, Anton Erchul, Norris Colvin, Nestor Laine, Jacob Piri, Sam Keller, John N. Carlson, R. T. Dukelow, Dr. J. A. Radermacher, T. A. Gahan, A. C. Henry, and T. P. Clifford were on the Commission.
Before Gilbert had a Municipal Court, C. O. Welch, William Trenholm, Tom Oliver, A. R. Anderson, and Tim Burns served as Justices of the Peace. In 1916 the village established the Municipal Court, and W. J. Dowling was elected first Judge. He was succeeded to that office by A. E. MacInnis who served for many years.
Tradition has it that the first hotel was the Gilbert Hotel, operated by Logue and Fitzgerald. Later the Commercial Hotel was operated in the Bailey Block, and this was operated by George Grange who was followed by Anton Zolakar. The First National Bank was established in 1908, being organized on May 12, of that year, and opened for business on October 28. The first Board of Directors consisted of J. C. Poole, D. W. Freeman, C. E. Bailey, James Robb, W. J. Smith, Dr. C. W. Moore. The first president was John Saari and J. B. Thompson was the first Cashier. Thompson later became President, and was followed in that office by F. B. Meyers; J. C. Faith under Meyers served as Cashier for a few months. In 1912, Alfred Hoel became Cashier at the Bank and was elected President in 1916. Under Mr. Hoel, Harry Lindahl first served as Cashier, and he was succeeded by John Seman. At that time Miss Lillian Havila was promoted to the position of Assistant Cashier.
In 1910 the State Bank was established with W. B. Chinn for President, George Whitman, Vice President, and Roy McQade, Cashier. In June 1912, this bank was taken over by the First National Bank, and since that time Gilbert has had but one bank, known as the First National Bank. This bank, measured by all the rigid standards of good banking and assets that could rapidly be turned into cash, had established a reputation for strength that was not surpassed by many in the State.
The Gilbert Herald, which was established by P. E. Dowling, was the first newspaper, and known as the "Booster" and came to life in the early days of Gilbert. Later J. Rupe, Norris Colvin, with J. Beresford took over the Gilbert Booster, and from that time it was called the Gilbert Herald and Booster. George Beresford was Editor, and he was followed by a Journalist by the name of Hughes. He was followed by Harry Nicholson. In March 1912, Ed Kearcher, Clyde Campbell, Norris Colvin, Alfred Hoel, and J. C. Faith filed Articles of Incorporation for the Gilbert Publishing Company. Herbert Rosenbloom was the first editor for the publishing company. He was followed by E. J. Anderson, who in turn was succeeded by D. A. Craig, William Fisher, Emmett Slyder, and M. D. Hinshaw. In 1918 John R. Krause served as editor of the Gilbert Herald and later gained ownership. Under the supervision of Mr. Krause, the Gilbert Herald has forged to the front as one of the leading weeklies in northern Minnesota. The newspaper is now in its 75th year.
The newspaper is now operated by Mr. Krause's son and his wife, James and Kathie Krause.
The present Village Hall was built and equipped at the cost of about $24,000.00 in 1915. A year later the village erected at Ely Lake one of the most modern Water Plants in the State of Minnesota. Many permanent improvements of value have been made in the village, the principal ones being the Broadway street pavement, the pavement of the Gilbert-Genoa road, the Gilbert's famous Whiteway. Evidence that the founders of Gilbert planned with great foresight can be found in the fact that Broadway, the main thoroughfare, is one of the widest business streets in the State. Thus we might add that the builders of Gilbert anticipated the almost universal use of the automobile with its attendant traffic problems.
The stock market crash of October 24, 1929 eventually affected everyone in the nation as it was the forerunner of dark days ahead. As factories and shops closed, unemployment increased and everything seemed to go from bad to worse. Gilbert, being directly dependent on iron ore mining as a sole industry, felt the economic pinch very strongly. Many solutions were tried and discarded or held up in debate with the Democrats being satisfied the fault was with President Hoover and the Republicans. By 1930-1 Gilbert was suffering from an acute unemployment problem.
Sam Keller was named the first president of the Gilbert Commercial Club in May 1930. This was a direct forerunner of a Chamber of Commerce. Other officers elected at that time were J. N. Carlson, first vice president; N. J. Colvin, second vice president; Joseph Rubenstein, secretary; A. R. Anderson, treasurer; Rudolph Shusterich, R. T. Dukelow, and Nestor Laine, trustees.
Prohibition ended December 5, 1933 and almost immediately empty buildings were occupied by an old business with a new name. The old "saloon" was out and the new "tavern" was in business as usual.
Gilbert, once proclaimed the "prospective principal city of the Iron Range" and often called "the Village of Destiny" began to falter a bit. In just a dozen years time Gilbert had risen from what was largely a pine studded hill to a community of over 3,500 population. Barely twelve years later Gilbert watched the population dwindle to barely two-thirds of what it had once been.
January of 1934 brought on the alphabetical jargon of Roosevelt's New Deal administration. There was WPA, PWA, NRA, TVA, AAA, and CCC, with more of the alphabet to follow. The motto of a southern high school graduating class in 1934 was "PWA here we come," but this attitude found little favor in Gilbert.
Government-made work soon began to appear in earnest. Gilbert received many benefits as some of the projects were located within the village. Numerous Gilbertans enlisted in the CCC. With the aid of the WPA a program of improvements began in the village. Many new sketches of sidewalks were built and old ones were being repaired and replaced. The streets and avenues of the village were blacktopped during this period. The area around the school was alive with activity as work on the athletic field was begun.
One project which has truly proved its worth in recent years is the Community Center, a modern structure of cream colored brick located at 18 N. Broadway. This is truly a community center around which are centered almost all of Gilbert's social activities. The Community Center houses the Public Library and the Veterans' Rooms. It also boasts a modern kitchen with dining facilities for 250 persons. On the first floor is a large auditorium with removable seats. This multi-purpose building serves the needs of the community very well.
Economic activity in Gilbert experienced an upturn when war broke out in Europe. The population of Gilbert was on the increase once again, this time it was not so rapid. The 1940 census showed that Gilbert's population had surpassed the 2500 mark. At this time it became evident that Gilbert could broaden her tax powers if she changed her status from that of a village to a city. On September 9, 1941, Village Attorney Carl Shuster and Village Clerk Frank J. Indihar met with the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of getting the opinion of the Chamber on the advisability of the change in the form of government. The information provided by Indihar showed inescapable logic and a resolution pledging wholehearted support was quickly adopted.
A petition for the appointment of a charter commission was circulated and presented to the district judges for action. On October 2, 1941 the charter commission held its first meeting at which they elected Judge Frank J. Erchul as its chairman. John Krause was elected secretary and Frank J. Indihar selected to serve as stenographer. Carl Schuster was engaged as the commission's attorney. Other members of the commission were Mike Kohler, John Ocepek, Anton I. Lopp, Nestor Lain, A. K. Kapeller, Jacob Korpi, Leo Kukar, P. J. Hogan, Dr. F. J. Zallar, Dr. M. L. Strathern, John T. Nolan, John Palki, and Joseph Cristiano.
On November 6, 1941 another important chapter in the history of Gilbert was written when village voters approved the change of municipal government from that of a village to a city. The vote was 562 to 284 in favor of the change. An extremely heated election followed as confusion reigned as Mayor Arlin B. Carlson filed an appeal in district court to invalidate the result of the village election. The result of the election showed that Anton I. Lopp had received 626 votes compared with 599 for Carlson. In his complaint Carlson alleged that, "errors were made by the election officials and the canvassing board," which deprived him of a large number of legal votes cast for him and credited a large number of illegal votes for Lopp. Later the appeal proceedings were dropped and Lopp assumed the position as mayor.
The threat of war was growing greater day by day as 1941 drew to a close. Many of Gilbert's young men were already in uniform when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The war struck home almost immediately when word was received that Donald Kraker had been killed in a bomber crash in the Hawaiian Islands. Many Gilbert youth were in the immediate war zone and the war was truly close to home. Nearest to the concentration of Japanese power was William Strathern, a first lieutenant stationed at Clark Field in the Philippines.
Following the outbreak of war scores of Gilbert's young men, and some women, entered the various services, many of them never to return.
Mining activity in the Gilbert area increased during the war and new methods heretofore undreamed of were put into use to remove the precious ore from the earth. The inflationary spiral that comes with war was present with prices on a steady rise and wages right behind. People on the "Home Front" felt the shortages of many materials when rationing of food, gasoline, etc. went into effect.
In 1945 the end of the war was foreseen. A second front had been established in Europe and Japan was weakening. With the end of the war in sight an unprecedented boom was foreseen for the entire nation. The great increase in consumer demand and the population growth pointed to a new era for American business.
At the end of the war Gilbert was in a natural position for great growth and business development. As it happened, however, shrewd speculators drove prices sky high and lack of foresight by some officials led Gilbert to be somewhat passed by in the complexity of the post war era. Once again the "City of Destiny" was a victim of the fickle finger of fate.
Following the Second World War, Gilbert took a new face. After a brief period of adjustment, the town once again began to boom. New industry moved in Gilbert, and mining firms enlarged to produce needed ore to help the nation get back on its feet.
Cluett-Peabody, Inc. manufacturers of Arrow products located one of their plants in Gilbert that employed several hundred people from the area. The C-P plant was located in the old red school known as the primary building. Gilbert's main street began to thin out. Many of the old buildings began to come down via the wrecking crews. Then, too, new buildings began to go up, and a new look was being given to the town.
During the 1970's and 1980's fire claimed more than half a dozen business establishments and the once famed Broadway further declined. Age taking its toll during the past 30 years, many of the original stands of buildings now vanished.
In 1977 Arrow left Gilbert and the Iron Range, and in 1981, after several small businesses made use of Gilbert's first school, down came this magnificent edifice.
With progress came many a new face in the public's eye. At this time we would like to fill in on the men that have helped make the city what it is.
Since 1930, the following have served as public officials: First of all, Barrett became mayor and was followed by Jacob Korpi. Kohler took over for 5 years and was succeeded by Arlin Carlson whose predecessor was A. I. Lopp who was in office for 10 years. John Ocepek took office in 1952 and was succeeded by Jack Klobuchar. The next 12 years were destined to be a battle between Klobuchar and Ignatius Kramar. Klobuchar, elected in 1958 served six years and then was defeated by Kramar in 1964.
With 1966 came a new mayor but a familiar face. Klobuchar was destined to serve another four years as mayor. These years were to be the beginning of a stormy political and economic upheaval in Gilbert's history.
By virtue of a tremendous loss in mineral valuation due to the depletion of natural ores, Gilbert citizens received large boosts in property taxes. Citizens tax committees were formed to lobby for tax relief and to scrutinize means of public service financing.
One of the key leaders in the lobby movement, Ben Verbick, was elected mayor in 1969 and was unopposed for re-election in 1971.
Following this, James Sandstrom became Mayor by a flip of the coin over Robert King in a tie vote. King then followed Sandstrom as mayor when Sandstrom did not run 2 years later. Phil Gulan then served one term, and Herbert Ocepek was elected in 1982.
In 1930 MacInnis was judge. Frank J. Erchul became the judge in 1933 and served in that capacity until his death in March of 1947. Jacob Korpi finished out his term and Carlo Paciotti became the head in 1948 and continued in the office until it was abolished by vote of the people on December 31, 1965.
There were so many councilmen in the past 28 years that we will not attempt to give much more than a list of their names.
The Councilmen were Toivo Silda, Frank Schweiger, Joe Potocnik, Joe Vukelich, Steve Paun, William Kohler, Anne Paun, Leo Kukar, Herman Frajola, Nestor Laine, Martin Zanna, Ted Grahek, Alfred Aho, Frank J. Brula, Joe Shega, H. Pauline, Nick Skenzich, Tony Jakel, Robert King, Tony Kochevar, Tony Kramer, Joseph Kauchick, Jack Kapeller, Marge Bozich, Carlo Paciotti, Charles Mattson, Edward Schneider, Robert Perpich, Thomas Gentilini, Kay Koubsky, Marco Biondich, Marge Kiser, Dan Gerovac, John Primozich, Jack McDonough, Ron Edblad and Joe Egger.
Among the fire chiefs since the 30's are Bill Much, Anton Lopp, Frank Koshar, Nestor Laine, Stanley Bonkoski, Arvid Palso, James Connor, Joe Mohar, Joseph Moren, Louis Indihar, Arnold Rankila, Frank Zganjar, John Pike, George Kobe, Ed Kobe, William Kern, Joe Vukelich, Joseph Rebovich, Anton Pike, John Sternisha, Alvin Koroshec, Gene Lopp, Frank Koroshec, Richard Erchul Sr., Joe Kodunce, Jack Sandstrom, John Kodunce, Jim Sandstrom, Ken Anderson, Tom Indihar, and Gerald Koroshec.
Thirty-one men have served on the Water and Light Board since the year 1930. Included are A. C. Henry, Tom Clifford, T. A. Gahan, M. G. Kraker, I. F. Gianotti, A. R. Anderson, Isaac Koski, George Kobe, Iver Kallio, Ed Kraker, Joe Cristiano, Joshua Saari, Jacob Korpi, John Koritnick, Mark Lucich, Arne Sandstrom, Frank Zganjar, Tony Champa, Peter Buncich, Angelo Gentile, Ted Heikkinen, Andrew Barle, John Sternisha, Al Koroshec, Paul Plesha, Joseph Rauh, John Tomsich, Reno Angeloni, Allan Marsyla, Gene Lopp, and Jim Gentile.
In recent years the Water and Light Commission was abolished and an advisory board now exists.
In 1951, Gilbert's big wide main street got a face lifting. Complete resurfacing made the widest main street in the state look as though it was just constructed. In 1952, at the cost of $72,000.00 a new whiteway was installed with 40 new mercury standards. $20,000.00 was put into a new sub-station and a like amount into a new circuit breaker at the same time. The city in recent years has constructed a new sewage disposal plant south of the city.
Sports played a big role in Gilbert in 1951. The Gilbert Buccaneers finally succeeded in bringing home a state basketball championship. The Bucs were spearheaded by 6' 11" Bill "Boots" Simonovich who later went on to be a star at the University of Minnesota. Simonovich, along with Tom Richardson and Andy Synder were rated all-State players. The Bucs ran up a win string of 33 wins in that season under the coaching of Wayne Keto.
Following the state tourney, the Gilbert school board floated a bond and constructed the new Gilbert High School gym at the cost of $120,000.00. The building was completed in 1954.
I. Frank Gianotti brought home a great honor not only to himself but to the city of Gilbert. He was elected state commander of the American Legion.
The City of Gilbert formed a recreation commission that is now working a year around program for the youth of Gilbert. One of the great projects was the purchase and building of a beautiful beach on Ely Lake that is known from one end of the Range to the other. On hot days this beach looks like Coney Island.
In 1956 it brought a new baseball field to Gilbert to house the ever winning Gilbert Pirates. The Pirates dominated the League since 1951 when they entered it until it folded.
Third Addition and Vets Addition are proof of "Gilbert's Growing Pains." The city had these two new additions that enlarged every year.
1958 brings us up to the 50th Anniversary of Gilbert. Governor Freeman attended the 50th Anniversary Kick-Off Banquet held at the Community Center on January 30 and he gave the main address. Over 300 people attended this banquet from all over the state. This was the first time a Governor has been in Gilbert to give a speech since 1938.
The City of Gilbert built an addition to City Hall. It was a $29,000.00 garage and office space.
In May and June of 1958 the Bailey Block that had housed many businesses and sports for the past 50 years was razed. The building was 50 years old and was the first brick building built in Gilbert.
To replace the old Bailey Block, the present Curling Club was built.
In the early 1970's a 1.4 million dollar project, Broadview Manor, was built to house Gilbert's Senior Citizens. The project also provided decent housing for the low income by building 20 family units around the city. The total cost of the project was incurred by the federal government.
1972 also marked the construction of a 100 thousand dollar recreation building that serves as the activity center for a Bubble that was bought in 1980.
Happiness and strife have marked 75 years of Gilbert as a location, village and city. If the author of the first 75 years of Gilbert history should be present 75 years from now, we know that there will be as much, if not more progress.
For the past 75 years, Gilbert has been proud of its educational system and its graduates. Four school buildings measure up to the standards all over the nation.
From the hallowed halls of GHS have come over 3500 graduates in classes running from two students [to] as high as 111 in 1936. The two students that graduated in 1910 were Richard Chinn and Ray Nolan. 1911 produced 6 more, namely: Gladys Caine, Oscar Engstrom, Bill Matt, Floyd Murray, Nelle Shean, and Florence Tengrove.
In 1909 Gilbert was organized into a common school district. In 1912 it became Independent School District No. 18 and remained that way until 1957 when it was changed to IDS No. 699.
Gilbert has had 10 superintendents in the past years, C. I. Newberry was the first. K. K. Tibbets followed, then William J. Ryan, L. L Hagie, and A. R. Holst. Since 1940, G. A. Moe, Herman Jacobson, L. T. Lechner, Myron E. Fahey, and new Superintendent Mike Lang.
Gilbert's school system, successful in education for the years gone by, takes a back seat to no one. Many of our students have gone far and wide to be very successful in many fields. Surely this is a tribute to fine teachers, among them not to be forgotten is Miss M. M. Feyereisen, who dedicated her life to bettering others. Miss Feyereisen was paid tribute in 1954 when she retired at which time they named the High School auditorium in honor of her.
Also not to be forgotten are the many school board members that have voted our school to the success it is today.
The following is a list of the members that have taken their seats since the institution began:
A. J. Sullivan, W. P. Chinn, W. S. Dundas, L. J. Webb, D. T. Caine, C. G. Fulton, T. B. Rutherford, H. S. Sherman, P. R. Cosgrove, J. C. Farmer, O. A. Walstrom, T. A. Flannigan, J. T. Nolan, Florence Johnson, Mike Kohler, Herman Frajola, M. L. Strathern, John Kramerich, Joshua Saari, John Ocepek, John Dreshar, Emil Oberg, Rudolph Isaacson, A. W. Indihar, Elmer Jarvela, Joseph Moren, Frank J. Zganjar, Uno Kivela, Matt Marolt, Arnold J. Rankila, Anerva Rankila, Hilmer Holmes, Dr. F. J. Zallar, James Connor, Ernest Pontinen, Ervin Kieren, William Kern, Pete Malkovich, J. A. C. Kapeller, Edward Kosteliz, Heral Larsen, Anton Kramer, Philip Gulan, Carl Nemanich, Jack Sandstrom, Eli Pontinen, Edward Schneider, George Mihelich, Thomas Juth, William I. Novak, Nicholas Skenzich, John Paciotti, Hjalmer Anderson, Edward Devich, Joseph Vukelich, Mike Gentile, Ron Muster, Marge Bozich, Kathie Pontinen, Loretta Greben, Brian Hiti, Art Maki, Bob Lind and Tom Kramer.
TO BE CONTINUED AND ILLUSTRATED
Page Created: August 15, 1999
Last Updated: January 29, 2002
ęCopyright 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Gary L. Gorsha