Leonidas Merritt

The family of Leonidas Merritt had lived in New York and Pennsylvania before arriving the Oneota Settlement, which later became part of Duluth, Minnesota in 1855.
When the Civil War began, Merritt enlisted and was a member of Brackett’s Battalion, a cavalry unit that fought extensively in Missouri, Tennessee and Alabama before being sent to the Dakotas and Montana late in the war years to put down Indian uprisings. After his discharge, he returned to Duluth.

Lewis Merritt, the father of Leonidas, had predicted iron ore would be found in great abundance in Northeastern Minnesota. Leonidas and four other of the family’s eight sons joined two other relatives in timber cruising and a search for iron ore and other minerals from the 1860s to the 1880s.

In 1887 the “Seven Iron Men,” found a rich vein of iron ore near what is now Mountain Iron and, on Nov. 16, 1891, found the first large body of ore. They worked quickly to bring rail service to the location and develop the ore. The process succeeded, but John D. Rockefeller, who had invested in it, later foreclosed on the Merritt family loans and took over the operation.

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