A Small Minnesota Town by Jennifer Hendrickson


A Small Minnesota Town

There is a small town up north that is sure to catch your eye. It is 130 years old and the town has quite a history. The name of this town is Tower. About two miles down a winding highway is another small town called Soudan. Tower took its name from the town’s founder, Charlemagne Tower, and was the third town in the United States to be named in his honor. The town of Soudan was named after the African region of Sudan. Later a Frenchman changed the spelling from Sudan to the French spelling Soudan. Back then, the town known as Breitung Township and was rarely called Soudan. Today the small towns are known collectively as Tower-Soudan.

Tower-Soudan was once a booming mining town. Charlemagne Tower was said to have used around 3 million dollars of his own to get the railroad and mine going in the area and he continued to pump money into the small town. During the 1880s the miners around town would make from $1.96 to $2.55 a day for their hard work. To build the railroad which stretched 68 miles from Tower to Lake Superior cost around $12,519 per mile. It wouldn’t take long for the mining industry to spread across the Iron Range of Minnesota.

At one time there were about 5,000 people living in the Tower Soudan area, and it was once projected to expand to 80,000 people. In 1887 there were about 1000 people living in the Soudan area. Today there are only 500 people living in the area. The small towns had a lot more to offer people during the 1880s. There were movie theaters, grocery stores, restaurants, a hospital, and many shops and stores.

Tower and Soudan were once booming mining towns. Today, they are one small town with a lot of history. In this town everybody knows your name and where you live. These days you can go underground in the Soudan mine and see what the miners’ lives were like so long ago. It would be kind of nice to go back in time and see how this small town once was, with all the people and the different shops that were here. There are only a couple of old brick buildings on the main street of Tower from the early days. One is the old firehouse, and the Soudan hospital is now a small hotel/boarding house. But if you walk around town and chat with a few people, you will realize what these places once were.

Map Credit: Wikipedia, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Minnesota_in_United_States.svg
For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/

The North Star Project Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School, Dodge Middle School and other schools around the world to the North Star Project. The North Star Project has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see recent articles in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:



The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. We have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star Project students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2013-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

7 responses to “A Small Minnesota Town by Jennifer Hendrickson

  1. Maija

    I have lots of family from the Tower area, and go there multiple times a year. I know quite a but of the history, because everyone likes to say how important of a town it really was. It was entirely different way back when, but there is still so much pride in those that live there. It is always interesting to talk with people who have been there their whole lives, or even have had their ancestors involved with the mining. Tower might not be as well known or visited, but there is still something special and different about being there.

  2. Miranda King

    I loved reading this article because it relates so close to home. I am from Alborn and I have visited Tower many times including the underground mine. I remember playing the high school in sports. Growing up in a small town I know exactly what this article is talking about. Especially in the high schools where you not only know your classmates but generally their whole family too.

  3. It is always cool to find out the meaning behind why a place was named. I have once snowmobiled in Tower, MN with my father. It was a neat place to drive through. Even if the population has went down dramatically, the history is still very interesting.

  4. Morgan Young

    It’s interesting that this town was so populated in the 1880’s, and was projected to support 80,000 people. I think it’s sad yet interesting that the town is now supporting 500 people. It’s nice to know that everyone in the town knows who you are because then there is a sense of communal safety, but it could also be quite problematic. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Kyle Stepka

    Like stated above I think this is crazy how people the town was suppose to be big in the near future. But now it is only a size of 500 people in the town. I also come from a small town and mostly know everyone in my town. If thats a good thing or a bad thing. Good article.

  6. Emily Schiro

    This was a great read because I have been through those towns and to me it’s always fascinating to learn why and how towns receive their name. That is incredible how at one point the town was booming with a ton of people and not it is considered a small town in Northern Minnesota.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.