Many factors have contributed to the growth of Crow Wing County. The greatest, however, was the discovery and development of iron ore on the Cuyuna Range.
The Cuyuna district is named in honor of Cuyler Adams of Deerwood and his fellow prospector, his dog, Una -- "Cuy" and "Una" Adams discovered the first ore.
Interests in the deposits began in 1903, following the appearance of a rough sketch in a report put out by the United States Geological Survey, which described the probable course of the Mesabi Ore District if it was continued westward.
Prospecting began. The Ore-lands Mining Company was formed, but at first, Brainerd men were reluctant to invest in stock. A few did, however, and were surprised when their stock was actually bringing dividends.
Although the major developments were near the present towns on the North Range, some prospecting and mining were carried out south and southwest of Brainerd. William C. White. R. R. Wise, George W. Hollano and a few others purchased land.
In 1905, they interested W. A. Barrows and a man named Pope from Pittsburgh, Pa. They later leased 80 acres to M. A. Hanna & Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, who sunk shafts and began mining near Barrows, but production on the South Range has totaled only a few thousand tons.
The coming of the mining industry marked one of the best things that ever happened to Brainerd and Crow Wing County.
It literally lifted the community "out of a rut" and much of its provincialism, said Ingolf Dillan in "Brainerd's Half Century."
After Cuyler Adams discovered the first ore, about four miles southwest of Deerwood, numerous town sites were platted on the range including Cuyuna in 1908, Crosby in 1909. and Ironton in 1910.
It was not until 1911 that the first iron was mined and shipped out on a new railroad line at Crosby. Early prospecting was centered south of Deerwood and an iron-bearing area some 100 miles long from eastern Aitkin County through Brainerd beyond Randall in Morrison County. This was ultimately called the south range and contributed little ore.
North of Deerwood, a smaller iron area was found, ten miles long and six miles wide. This became known as the "North Range" and is regarded as the Cuyuna Range. It was in this north range that most of the villages were founded and most of the mines started.
Mining grew rapidly during the early years, from 147,000 tons in 1911 to 1,128,000 in 1915. High points came during the two world wars with 1917 and 1918 production totaling about 2,500,000 tons each year and 1941-1945 production averaging slightly under 3,000,000 each year.
Iron mining has helped balance the economy of Brainerd and Crow Wing County which was based once entirely on logging and railroading.
The Cuyuna Range's two producing iron mining companies-- Hanna and Pittsburgh - Pacific still play a vital role in the economy of the area. Employment over the past year totaled about 200 men with payrolls from the two firms running to above the $1 million mark.
Still being watched closely is progress, however slow, on processes for pelletizing plants which can use low-grade, non-magnetic ores such as those found on the Cuyuna Range.
In 1968, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation commission granted a $100,000 loan to assist with such a plant to the Hallett-Harrison Co. Founders of the firm are E. W. Hallett, long-time Crosby businessman and civic leader, and Hugh Harrison, Wayzata, former range resident and long active in mining circles.