Ship maneuvers into Iron ore dock Two Harbors MN

If it weren’t for the discovery of nearby iron ore, Two Harbors would not exist. The Minnesota Iron Company bought 17,000 acres (69 km2) of land in order to build their railroad. In Agate Bay (Two Harbors) most of the land was bought from Thomas Sexton, who by that time had owned the land for twenty years.

Although different locations were considered for the railroad terminus and shipping port, Agate Bay was chosen because it was closer to the iron ore site and provided a clay bottom bay, while most others were rocky.

At the time when the track was being developed the main transportation route was Lake Superior. This proved difficult when heavy loads such as railroad engines nearly sank the scows, or tugs, that carried them. The contractor, John. S. Wolfe, was told he would receive a bonus of $50,000 if the railroad was completed by August 1st, 1884. Because the first of August was to fall on a Friday, and construction workers had strong superstitions about Fridays, it became important that the construction be completed by Thursday, July 31st. On that day, the first iron ore cars left Agate Bay early in the morning, along with a caboose for President Tower to ride in on the return trip. The completion of the railway between Duluth and Two Harbors did not occur until 1886.

Iron ores
are rocks and minerals from which metallic iron can be economically extracted. The ores are usually rich in iron oxides and vary in color from dark gray, bright yellow, or deep purple to rusty red. The iron itself is usually found in the form of magnetite (Fe3O4, 72.4% Fe), hematite (Fe2O3, 69.9% Fe), goethite (FeO(OH), 62.9% Fe), limonite (FeO(OH)·n(H2O), 55% Fe) or siderite (FeCO3, 48.2% Fe).

Ores containing very high quantities of hematite or magnetite (greater than about 60% iron) are known as “natural ore” or “direct shipping ore”, meaning they can be fed directly into iron-making blast furnaces. Iron ore is the raw material used to make pig iron, which is one of the main raw materials to make steel—98% of the mined iron ore is used to make steel.[2] Indeed, it has been argued that iron ore is “more integral to the global economy than any other commodity, except perhaps oil”.

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